When I was growing up in a small Nova Scotia town, there were very few summer jobs for a girl with no particular skills. Babysitting was one of the ones I turned to to make a little extra money.
Between us, I think babysitting is one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Let me explain.
My first babysitting job was for our neighbour, Mary, who had 5 little girls. She worked at the local cinema selling tickets. Her husband would stay with the children in the evenings, but on Wednesday afternoons there was a matinée and I was volunteered by my mother to watch the little darlings. They were great kids although child number four, a sweetheart named Patrice, was mentally challenged. It made the job a little more difficult but it wasn’t too bad.
When Mary got home from work, I handed over the little girls and she handed me a quarter. Yes, $0.25. I was thrilled. A quarter could buy a lot in those days in the 1950s. I ran all the way home with the precious “pay” in my hand and excitedly told my mother about the quarter. My Mom was shocked and told me that I had to RETURN the money to Mary as I couldn’t accept money for helping out a neighbour! I can tell you I trudged up the hill to Mary’s house and handed over the quarter with a mumbled explanation that I really couldn’t accept the money. I learned something about my mother that day. I didn’t really need the money and Mary and her husband did.
For a few years I occasionally babysat for Mary and never accepted money for the job. I really liked her and her children and was saddened when I was away at boarding school in my last year of high school when she died at the age of 29 during surgery to correct what was supposed to have been a minor heart defect.
In university, I babysat frequently, mostly for a family of 4 girls. Their father was a professor at my university and he and his wife were great party goers. I was there until the wee hours of many a Saturday night and was always paid the same amount – $2.00. If I was there a couple of hours in the middle of the day, I got $2.00. Four hours in the middle of the night? $2.00. One time I sat for a whole weekend while they went to a conference. I remember that the youngest child was eating her carrots because I had told her to. She didn’t speak for the rest of the day and in the evening when I went to help her brush her teeth, I found the carrots still in her mouth!
A little note. I invited the parents of these little girls to my wedding and said to Mrs. W., ” I want to have 4 little girls just like you.” And I did!
At the end of fourth year university I was asked to babysit another gaggle of kids, this time a family of 6 boys, whose father was my geology professor. They went away for a few days and I remember that my pay that time was $20.00. It was 1965 and I felt rich!
I must have done a good job because another professor’s wife called me because she wanted my to be her MAID for the summer. I was to do ironing, light housework, and babysitting for her group of 5 kids. The pay was good so I accepted the job, but asked for a day off the first week and was told, “No.” She needed me because she had to attend the university graduation the next day with her husband. I told her, “No.” I also would be attending the university graduation the next day where I would be receiving my teaching degree. I never went back to work as her maid.
It was a short career!