Thursday, May 28, 2009

The reason I am not a hostage negotiator

I am the worst negotiator, like, ever.

I could give any of numerous examples of this failing, but I have a horrible memory and I don't remember enough of the details to make an interesting story. I'm sure DH remembers, but he doesn't have a blog (that you know of, HA! ... okay, no, he really doesn't have a blog), so you'll just have to call him if you really need the entertainment. Let's just say that one time probably 10 years ago, when future-DH and I were outside a sporting event, we were buying tickets from a scalper (and we probably drove slightly over the speed limit to get there, we bad), and the scalper actually charged us LESS than the stupid price I first offered. I will never forget the look on that scalper's face, he was shocked at the depth of my idiocy. I could almost hear him thinking, "In all my years of illegal scalping, I have never seen such an enormous moron." I guess that's why he took pity on me. Whatever.

Fortunately, as DH and I merged our finances, he decided that my negotiating deficiencies were no longer funny because it was his money I was losing too, so he skooled me. And I'm proud to say that I negotiated TWO raises at my former employer when my coworkers said it couldn't be done. *takes a bow*

Despite my vast improvement, I still sometimes get an Attack of the Brainless when I'm negotiating. It's hard, and I hate it. I get emotional -- often in favor of the other side of the table. I much prefer looking at the tag on a shirt at the mall, deciding it's too expensive, knowing I can't haggle the price down, and purchasing it anyway. I may have a large credit card bill, but at least I can sleep at night knowing I couldn't have done any better. Except if I had remembered to bring that 20% off coupon I stashed in the cupboard above our telephone. Damn it.

Which brings me to the point of this post. (Did I have one? Oh yes, that's right.) I have decided that It's Time, we are getting a babysitter. On our last day of preschool for the year *sniff sniff* the teacher passed around contact info for the 19-year-old daughter of a former teacher. She's taking classes three days a week at a salon academy nearby and is looking for babysitting hours on the other two days and the weekends. Score! I called her up and set an appointment for today for her to come by and meet Bean. And give me styling tips. Seriously, my hair is so embarrassing right now.

My first challenge was cleaning the house. It suddenly occurred to me that throughout my own 10-year babysitting career, I could not recall any house that suffered in the cleanliness department. Sure, I may not really have been paying attention, it probably would have taken a giant cobweb blocking a doorway to make me stop and say, "Hey, maybe they should dust and vacuum this dump." But still... how did they keep it up? For this first meeting, yes, I was happy to make the house presentable. But regular visits, I'm just not so sure about the feasibility there. Hopefully she doesn't mind sticky floors and linty carpets.

She came over today and was perfectly lovely. She has a lot of babysitting experience, and I was completely assured that she was mature enough to handle an active 14-month-old and an obnoxious Schnoodle. Bean took to her immediately, generously holding out some of his magnetic letters to her in offering. He's going to be a ladies man, like his papa.

Then the second hurdle, negotiating the price. A few months ago, we moms had this discussion in preschool: what's the going rate for a sitter these days? Now, as background, when I babysat in high school (1994-1998), I made $10 an hour for two kiddos. In college, it was $12-$15 for two to three kiddos. So with inflation and cost of living figured in, I estimated I was looking at around $35 an hour. Imagine my shock when the final consensus among the moms was that it was appropriate to pay around minimum wage. Our fair state has the highest minimum wage in the country at $8.55. I was actually pretty pleased with this and figured I would try to negotiate the sitter down to $9 an hour. So maybe I wouldn't be among her high-paying clients, but Bean's outrageous adorableness would make up some of that difference.

Imagine my surprise when I asked her how much she usually got paid for babysitting one toddler.

"Five or six dollars an hour," she responded.


"Oh, I can pay you seven," I responded quickly.

Look at me, the big shooter!

I don't know what came over me, but even I was insulted by five or six dollars an hour. Maybe I was feeling some mama pride, that surely My Son was worth more than that. But I think I just felt bad for her. I mean, she's here for two hours and would get paid enough to buy one tall latte and a croissant from Starbucks on her way home. At least now she can get a venti.

I am either the biggest sucker in the world, or a very generous rich woman. (There are no in-betweens in my world. Sorry.)

How much do you pay your sitter? Am I insane? (These questions may or may not be related.)

PS In other news, Bean is now consistently sleeping through the night (~12 solid hours) and starting to maybekindasorta try to take his first steps.

PPS I am super pissed at all the moms out there with infants who started sleeping through the night after only a couple of months. Because this effing rocks.

PPPS I am trying not to get too attached to it, though. Next week (!) we head back to Michigan for a visit, and if our last trip was any indication, I will be awake with him every 1-2 hours all night every night, then our schedule will be totally screwed up when we get back. Worth it, though. Or at least, so I tell myself.

PPPPS No one ever told me that it's not so easy to identify a "first." Like Bean's first word or first steps. It wasn't like one day he was babbling nonsense and the next day he was asking for a drink of juice, please, mom. Okay, so I didn't expect that exactly. But I wasn't expecting "ball" to sound like "booa" either. Same with walking. Did he take a few steps, or was he awkwardly propelled forward by some bad gas? Your guess is as good as mine!


Kristina P. said...

I would have done the same thing. I guess a lot of people get minimum wage, but you are entrusting her with your child! And $7 an hour seems very reasonable.

Anonymous said...

You crack me up! We pay a college girl $10 an hour for the twinnies but I think we underpay her and she gives us a deal b/c she works as a parttime receptionist at my work.

And Bean may surprise you, the twinnies were awful sleepers at my parents house until this last trip where they sttn both nights, I'm afraid to type it for fear that it was a one time deal!!

Red said...

You made me smile with that post!

Re: the baby sitter thing, I have no idea - Australia wages are significantly higher and I think it would cost a lot more here. Although I guess there is a difference between babysitting and nannying? Maybe babysitters get less, but nannies get a decent pay.

I am with you re: sleeping thing. Just this last week (knock on wood) Champ has not woken once through the night. This has occured in the past occassionally but never 7 nights running. I am so desperately hoping he has just turned a corner with this sleep thing.

Still, 18 months is pretty late for me to be still thinking about sleep. Damn those women whose babies slept through at 6 weeks!

Beautiful Mess said...

I am ashamed to say that my kids have NEVER had a babysitter! Isn't that terrible?! We either have family watch them or one of stays home. I would say that $7 an hour is a good price. Especially since your little guy is adorable and perfect, right?

Kristin said...

Congrats on the sleep!

We usually trade off babysitting with friends so I haven't had to negotiate a babysitter yet. I have been thinking about it lately and was taking to a group of friends yesterday! They all kind of agreed that they pay a minimum of $20 for the babysitter's trouble coming over--if they are an older teen who had to drive over vs. a neighbor kid who just walked over. If it's longer, they go more by the hourly rate like $7 or $8.

Jen said...

Really? It is that cheap? Why are we ever home?

12 hours per night...nice! I hope it continues through the vacation because this whole sleep regression thing really sucks.

Nicky said...

Wow, in the early '90s I got $5/hour. You were getting $10? Perhaps your negotiating skills were better than you thought! (Or I was the chump in high school.)

We've only done babysitting trading with friends, so we haven't hired anyone. But I can throw out there that nannies are typically paid $12-20/hour, depending on experience. An evening babysitter should be something lower. Several of my friends have mentioned that $10/hour seems to be the going rate these days for teenage babysitters.

Soxy Deb said...

I figure that I pay my sitter about $20 an hour; all in ones. And that's *if* he leaves the titty bar after about an hour and a half. Anything more than that is considered overtime.

Totally joking, he doesn't do titty bars, I do.

Coffeegrl said...

Re the sitter: We were paying $12-$15/hour (in Seattle) for sitters who were adults with lots of experience, worked with kids as social worker/speech therapist, had passed background checks (I didn't need to pay for one but verified with their employer that it was true) and were otherwise total strangers to me. At the time, Peanut was one month old and I was totally paranoid (and since my father was a cop my version of paranoid is perhaps even greater than other people's). On the other hand, I had friends in Seattle who found really talented, loving, experienced adults (only difference was that there was no background check involved) for $10/hour. I figured I was getting taken (should have negotiated instead of just saying "$15/hour? OK!") but she was so tiny and our first....

However, upon our return to Seattle I'm thinking we'll shop around. Younger college students would be totally fine with me now (and I think a lower rate for someone that age and with presumably less experience is perfectly acceptable). It's really nice to have a personal connection and recommendation so that the background check on a total stranger (if you're a paranoid type - *raises hand*) isn't a factor. Although I confess at this point I also won't be so worried about a background check for someone who will watch Peanut for 3 hours. I'm hoping we find a much better bargain since at $15/hour we didn't go out very much!!!

Sounds like you found one already! I think you did the smart thing offering her a little "extra." It can't hurt to be the "family that pays the best" on her list of employers. :-) I did lots of babysitting as a teen and you can bet that those were the families whose phone calls I made sure to return!!

And as for the firsts - totally hear you. I have little to no idea what her first words were. Also, she was staggering around with a few tentative steps, then stopped for about 4 weeks as she fought off some nasty stomach bug. Then she basically stood up and started walking around after that. Huh??

And congratulations on the sleep thing. What a marvelous (even if fleeting) thing!

Michelle said...

Wow $5-6 that would pretty good. My sister pays 12 an hour for 2 kids.

My oldest nephew just started sleeping through the night and he is almost 4. Hopefully it will happen sooner for you.

I say definitely do not go into the hostage negotiating business. LOL

Hollyween said...

K. So You're going to think I totally suck when I tell you how much we pay our sitter. Now, here in Utah, it's a bit cheaper. When I used to babysit on the weekends for people in my neighborhood, I made 1.50 an hour. Nope. Not kidding.

I get a sitter once every other Saturday or so. For like 4-5 hours. Max. I pay 4-5 dollars an hour. My sitters are between 13-15. They think I pay great (at least I think so).

But I'm guessing you probably think I suck. Correct?