Tips on quality, affordable child care

February 9, 2009 3:52:13 PM PST
How much should you pay your babysitter? What about night nannies? Founder and CEO of Sittercity Genevieve Thiers shares tips to help you get great care for your little ones.


How it works: You'll pay your sitter a flat rate for the total time worked, but here is how to determine what that total should be:

Since your sitter will most likely be watching the kids and putting them to bed like a normal sitter, the hourly rate should still apply for that time.


The sitter comes over at 5pm. From 5pm to, say, 10pm, the sitter gets her hourly rate of $10/hour. If this were a normal job, she'd earn $50.

At 10pm, the overnight rate of $40-$100 kicks in. If our overnight rate is $70, that is what the sitter would earn from 10pm until the morning.

The total you'd pay for this job is $120.

What affects the flat overnight rate?

  • Your geographic location and distance from a metro area
  • Your sitter's age, experience and training
  • Unique nighttime factors such as how often your children wake during the night and how much care they may need after going to bed. For example, if you have a child who needs medication each night at 2 am, you'll pay your sitter more.
  • Unique daytime factors, such as what time you'll arrive home, whether or not the sitter will need to prepare breakfast, etc.

    What else to include:

    Sitter's own room and clean linens: It's etiquette. If she can't have her own room, take this into consideration when determining rate. You may have to pay more.

    Access to the shower and clean towels. She may not use them, but it's good to provide just in case.

    Food. Include the sitter in dinner plans (if she's coming over early enough) and breakfast plans.


    In this situation, you'll drive yourself CRAZY trying to figure an hourly rate plus an overnight rate. Not to mention it will cost you a ton of money. So for this, stick to a basic flat rate of $120-$200/day.

    What else to include:

    Own room and clean linens

    Access to shower and clean towels


    Extra money for activities, events, a fun lunch out, etc. ($50/day. Don't worry, the sitter doesn't get to keep it!)

    Money for transportation

    About transportation fees:
    Again, don't go crazy trying to anticipate explicit transportation fees by the mile. Instead, estimate how much driving the sitter will do for the whole weekend (10 miles?) and multiply that by the IRS mileage rate, which is 50.5 cents for 2008. Add that value into your flat rate before you pay the sitter.


    Two options:

  • Hourly rate with overtime pay ($20-30/hour plus an additional $3/hour overtime)
  • Bulk flat rate for however long the event lasts

    Compare the options in these two examples:

    Event begins at 6pm and is scheduled to end at 11pm. It ends on time.

  • Hourly rate @ $25/hour: $125
  • Flat rate: $140

    Event begins at 6pm and is scheduled to end at 11pm. It runs late and ends at 12:30am.

  • Hourly rate @ $25/hour: $125
    Overtime rate of $28/hour: $42
    TOTAL $167
  • Flat rate of $140

    So, if you have an event that could run overtime, it is in your best interest to pay the flat rate. These flat rates should be a little higher than the hourly rates, which is why they don't make sense for an event with VERY specific start and end times.

    As a courtesy, tell your sitters that the event could run late!! Tell her the latest time that the event could run, along with the caveat that everything possible will be done to keep a tight schedule.

    How many sitters?
    For an event, I recommend one sitter for every 3 kids.

    What else to include:

    A binder of the sitters' online profiles and clean background checks for other parents to review, especially if they are nervous about leaving their children with someone they did not handpick.

    Games and activities to keep the kids occupied (board games, a DVD, books)

    Separate children's entertainment, if you'd like (a clown, face painter or magician)

    Coordinated t-shirts for the sitters, if you'd like

    A tip, if the sitters did an especially good job. Something between $10-30 is quite generous.

    Another "exception" to standard rate rules is if you are late to a normal sitting job. It is extremely discourteous to show up later than when you told the sitter you'd arrive home, especially if she has plans after the job and is counting on you to keep your word. If you are more than 45 minutes late, you should not only pay your sitter for the extra time she worked, rounded up to the nearest hour, you should also add an overtime rate in there as well. No need to whip out a calculator. Just add an extra $5-10 for her trouble.

    About Genevieve Thiers:
    What do you get when you cross a former babysitter and a former Big Bird with a professional opera singer, an award-winning entrepreneur and an iVillage babysitting expert? You get Sittercity founder and CEO, Genevieve Thiers, of course.

    As the oldest of seven children, including two sets of twins, babysitting is in Thiers' blood. While pursuing her undergraduate degree at Boston College, she worked her way through school by babysitting for more than 30 families. Endless diaper changes and bedtime stories later, Thiers pitched the idea for to Boston investors in 2001. Their response? "We don't fund babysitting clubs."

    Undaunted, Thiers turned to another "investor," her dad, and begged for $120 to buy the domain name for Using part of her salary from her job at IBM, Thiers hired two friends to design the Sittercity website. While they put their technical design skills to use, Thiers spent her days at IBM, her nights singing and getting her master's degree in opera, and all of her free time distributing 20,000 babysitter recruitment flyers across Boston on foot, including 20 local colleges.

    Years later, Thiers' blisters from those recruitment days have healed and Sittercity, now based in Chicago, has more than half a million users nationwide. This babysitter-turned-entrepreneur has also brought her babysitting expertise to the national media, having appeared as a care expert in multiple television, radio and print outlets including the Today Show (where she even serenaded Mike Leonard!), The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The View, Good Morning America, The Big Idea with Donnie Deutsch, the CBS Early Show, CNN, Martha Stewart Living Radio, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Redbook, Parents, Parenting, Real Simple, Better Homes and Gardens, and Working Mother.

    In addition to appearing in the national media for her expertise on caregiving, Thiers has also been recognized for her innovative vision and unique business-savvy with several awards. In 2007, Thiers was listed as Forbes Junior Power League and in Crain's 40 under 40, recognized by President Bush at the White House as the Small Business Administration Young Entrepreneur Champion of the Year for 2006 and won the Women's Business Development Center Rising Star Award for 2005. Noted for her babysitting expertise and business acumen, Genevieve has spoken at hundreds of entrepreneurial forums, young executive forums, mothers' forums, colleges and conventions across America, and she is a popular keynote speaker. She currently serves as the iVillage babysitting expert, and her first book, Love at First Sit, was released in Summer of 2008.

    To learn more about Genevieve Thiers and her expert appearances nationwide, please visit