Trading Money for Time: Our First Babysitting Hire

Those of us working jobs and earning an income are “trading time for money.” This is explicitly obvious if you are an hourly worker, but it’s still largely true for salaried workers. The alternative to trading time for money is to have money come in based on your investments – monetary, property, or perhaps time. It’s a less direct exchange of time for money, and sometimes frees you to spend little to no time on an ongoing basis to passively generate your income.


I have plenty of experience in trading time for money, but in September for the first time I traded money for time so that I could trade time for money.


Here’s what I mean: I am the primary caregiver for our baby daughter, DPR, during the day. I work on my business in little snatches of time when she is sleeping, amusing herself, or with Kyle. But in September, I had my first speaking engagement of the 2016-2017 school year, and I had to travel to the host university. Thankfully, it was a day trip, so I was only away from DPR for about fourteen hours. However, since it was a weekday and Kyle also had to work, we hired a babysitter.


It’s actually a bit of a mind-bender that I had to pay someone so that I could get away from my house/family for a day. (Well, Kyle could have taken the day off – and wanted to – but I think his vacation days are worth more than the sitter cost!) I literally paid someone money to free up a workday’s worth of my time. I knew theoretically that my time caring for DPR is worth something and that people pay daycares and nannies every day so that they can go to work, but it was still a strange experience to have to do it myself.


The direct upside to paying a sitter so that I could travel was that I then traded my time for my speaking fee. But the sitter provided me with much more than just the ability to earn some money. I felt, while I was speaking, much more like my ‘old self’ professionally than I have at any other time since DPR’s birth. I’m not exactly mourning the loss of my previous identity – I don’t think of it that way – but it was nice to know that I still had the ability to submerge my mind completely in my work – and do an excellent job.


reunited post-travel and post-babysitter

reunited post-travel and post-babysitter

While I had a marvelous day traveling and speaking (my hosts were wonderful!), DPR didn’t have such a hot time. She has always been with either Kyle or me since a couple days before her NICU discharge when she was three weeks old. Even when our parents came to town, we didn’t leave her fully alone with them. And we didn’t completely leave her alone with the babysitter, either – Kyle worked from home that day. However, he was shut up in the office most of the time while DPR was out in the living area, and as she doesn’t yet have object permanence she probably didn’t know he was there. All that to say, she spent 7 hours with the babysitter, who was before that point a complete stranger.


We’re still pretty new to Seattle and we don’t have family in the area, so we decided to use a service for the finding-of-babysitters process for a quarterly fee and a booking fee. I looked at a few different companies that hook families up with babysitters and narrowed my choices down to two that cater to people with irregular childcare needs. We ultimately signed up for the less expensive of the two. We hire the babysitter directly for a rate set by the service. What the service does is create a collection of available babysitters and a collection of families in need of care and interfaces between the two. All the sitters and families undergo background checks, and furthermore the sitters have to provide references and be CPR certified and such. Essentially, we have outsourced the searching, interviewing, and booking processes to the service.


The downside to our choice was that the sitter we ended up with for this first experience was more of a child-sitter than a baby-sitter. It wasn’t that she did a poor job or anything, it was just that it was clear that she didn’t have a lot of experience with infants. We left detailed notes on how to care for DPR and Kyle was there to answer questions, but even so we’re going to have to leave much, much more detailed notes for future sitters. This downside is basically what we chose, though, when we went with this service and forewent interviewing sitters ourselves, so we are accepting it for the time being.


We ended up paying $135 to the babysitter for the 7-hour day – a $17/hour base rate plus a tip. Depending on where you live in the country, that amount might seem reasonable for a non-professional nanny or shockingly high. The more expensive service that we were considering just increased their rate to $24/hour – a $20/hour base rate for one child with a $4/hour extra charge for babies under 12 months. We’re going to see this quarter through with our current service, but will consider switching either to the more expensive service if we decide the experienced hire is worthwhile or to a sitter we meet through local networking.


Thankfully, I increased my speaking fee over what it was last year to account for our increase in childcare costs, so at least I’m compensating for the fact that I now have to trade money for time when I trade time for money.


What happened when you traded money for time for the first time? How much do you pay for childcare?


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6 Responses to "Trading Money for Time: Our First Babysitting Hire"

  1. Leigh says:

    Last week, I went to the gym while the house cleaners were here and that really felt like trading money for time! I wrote a check for $110 and then went off to the gym, came back, and the apartment was fully clean and they were gone! It was perfect. I definitely plan on continuing to do that going forward. It was SO much less awkward than hiding away in another room while they were here.

    Babysitters are sure more expensive than when I was a kid! Maybe it’s a factor of the minimum wage where you guys live as well as being in a city, plus 20 years.

    1. Emily says:

      Yeah going to the gym seems like a much better use of your time than hiding! Great example of another way to trade money for time.

      I think it’s mostly the high minimum wage in Seattle and that these are ‘professional’ babysitters. Not as professional as full-time nannies, but definitely more so than me as a 13yo.

      Our second babysitting hire seems to have gone better than the first – DPR decided to sleep for 5 of the 7 hours! What a lucky babysitter!

  2. Josh says:

    My wife and I are starting to talk more and more about finding a non-friend babysitter that we plan on paying for. It’s an intimidating task to find someone that you trust with your children, but at least ours are older now and out of the infant/toddler phase. Kid-care is much easier than infant-care! If you had more friends that had older children they are the perfect mix of trust/cheapness.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Emily says:

      Infant care seems to oscillate between easy (sleeping) and difficult (wailing) with not as much in between as there is with older kids!

      Eventually I think we will swap babysitting sessions with local friends for date nights or something, but for now I don’t feel comfortable asking any friends to care for DPR, especially as it is an all-day affair when I travel. Why are you thinking of using a ‘professional’ now when you didn’t earlier?

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