7 smart tips for babysitters juggling school and work
If you babysit while you’re finishing high school or working toward your college degree, you’re not alone. There are many reasons to squeeze babysitting gigs into your busy schedule, including the ability to earn extra income, build up your resume and references and gain some valuable experience.
“Having babysitting jobs gives students life skills,” says Elizabeth Malson, founder of the US Nanny Institute in Bradenton, Florida. “It also sets them up for employment opportunities for summer and holiday breaks and even to work over spring break.”
But to keep up your grades and score great babysitting gigs, you’re going to have to be strategic.
“It all comes down to time management,” says Malson.
Try these tips for juggling work and school.
Don’t expect to study while working
Some babysitters make the mistake of assuming they’ll get schoolwork done while on the job, but don’t count on it. Babysitting requires 100% of your attention.
“When on the job, your only focus should be the kids,” says Rachel Charlupski, founder of The Babysitting Company in Miami. “Sometimes the parents will tell the sitter the child will be sleeping and that it will be a really easy job and that it’s OK to bring schoolwork. But when you come to work, always be prepared to work. Because of a time change, having new person in house or not feeling well, that child could be awake the whole time. It’s important to know that the child might not be sleeping.”
So make sure to give yourself enough time to study and complete assignments outside of babysitting hours.
But bring study supplies just in case
That said, in case the kids do sleep while you’re sitting and you have time to crack the books, come prepared.
“Bring your laptop, and ask for the Wifi password,” suggests Tatiana Cruz, of Bergenfield, New Jersey, who babysat part-time throughout her college career at Montclair State University. “When the kids slept, I did as much homework and studying as I could. Doing this allowed me to finish assignments before even getting home.”
One hack that worked for her as a college student? “Get e-book versions of your textbook,” she says. That way, you don’t have to lug around heavy books in order to always have them with you.
Factor in extra time
Pad your schedule so that you have more than the minimum amount of time to complete all your jobs and all your schoolwork.
“Plan ahead and be realistic,” says Malson. “Even though you’ll be babysitting from 3 to 6, really plan that you’re not going to be home until 6:30, for example. To be fair to your employer, you should always arrive on time, and make sure travel time is part of your schedule.”
And know that sometimes, you’re going to have to be flexible.
“This isn't your regular part-time job at the mall,” says Cruz. “Kids get sick, parents get time off, and things can sometimes change. Expect the occasional ‘I'm stuck in a meeting. Can you stay with the kids longer?’ Also, be open to helping out during the weekends and holidays. Being flexible meant I sacrificed going to various events and parties, but the extra cash to pay for books and other expenses really helped me!”
Strategically schedule your classes
College students can sometimes schedule courses to make themselves better available for sought-after babysitting gigs. For instance, when it comes time to sign up for your courses, aim to have them earlier in the day, rather than late afternoon, when babysitters tend to be in high demand.
“A lot of babysitting gigs are after school, so being available at 3 p.m. and on is really important,” says Cruz. “I liked getting classes out of the way early in the day. During the semesters that I babysat, I would take classes as early as 8 a.m. This way, I was out early enough to get to a gig.”
In fact, sitters hired for after-school care may be paid nearly $2 extra per hour than those hired for evenings and weekends, according to a Care.com babysitter survey. On the flip side, if your regular babysitting clients have a different schedule — they want to you sit in the morning before school, for example — you might want to schedule courses around that, if possible.
Know when to say no
“Put yourself first. Yes, you have a responsibility to the family you sit for, but your education needs to come first. Learn to say no if you can't handle it,” says Cruz. “I'd often get asked if I could sit during the weekends, but if I knew that I had a big midterm coming up that Monday, I might have to say no.”
Scale back when your course load is heavy
“In order to keep academics in the forefront, leverage your schedule between work and class, so you can scale back on sitting during more intense times, like exam week,” says Malson.
Not only does this keep your studies manageable and a priority, but it also prevents you from finding yourself in a situation where you need to cancel your babysitting gig at the last minute because you’re stressed about school.
Take good care of yourself
Juggling school and work should never mean compromising your own well-being. In addition to saying no, that also means making sure you’re getting enough rest, eating right and finding ways to relieve stress.
“Sometimes parents will ask a sitter to watch the kids 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. and then ask them back at 8 a.m.,” says Charlupski, who points out that that’s not a good idea. “Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Don’t take on more than you can handle.”
“Parents want to see that you’re making good judgment all around. If you’re overrun, you’re not going to give anything your all,” adds Charlupski. “You’re not going to be healthy for school or for work, and it’s going to be a big problem.”