When Catie Wertheimer of Sayville and her husband, Adam, both 37, attended a wedding on a recent Saturday night, it cost them more than only a gift for the bride and groom — they also spent $100 for a baby-sitter to watch their children, ages 3 and 5.
Wertheimer typically pays baby-sitter Taylor Starr, 19, a sophomore studying early childhood education at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, $15 per hour. “We try to go out twice a month for a date night,” Wertheimer says. “I think because we love her so much, and we trust her, and we know how much she cares about the kids, it’s worth it.”
Most Long Island parents and baby-sitters asked say the going rate for a date-night baby-sitter is $15 and up to $20 an hour. However, some pay $10 to $12, especially for younger sitters in high school; others pay up to $25 if the sitter is watching four or more children.
Some parents also spring for dinner, and many say they “round up” payments — for instance, if a sitter is working two hours and 40 minutes, they’ll pay for three hours; when the Wertheimers' wedding kept them away for six hours, they rounded up Starr's pay to $100. Some parents pay sitters cash, while others use a mobile app such as Venmo that sends money directly to a bank account or credit card, sitters say.
According to UrbanSitter, a baby-sitter app and website that examined booking data from 28,000 families nationwide, the average hourly pay for a date-night baby-sitter on Long Island is $18.20 for one child and $19.15 for two or more children.
The competition for sitters can be stiff because young people want to go out themselves on a weekend night, parents say. They find sitters through local Facebook groups, online platforms that offer sitters for hire, personal contacts and word-of-mouth from other parents willing to share coveted contacts, they say.
Mecca Baker, 43, a banking executive from Islip, says she found her sitter, whom she paid $15 per hour to watch her 10-year-old twin daughters, by asking guidance counselors at the local high school for recommendations. That sitter has since graduated, and Baker says she would use the same technique to find her next sitter.
Once families employ a baby-sitter they like, parents say they want to keep them coming back.
“We don’t plan our date nights around our schedule, we plan our date nights around their schedules,” Madiha Corning, 35, of Baldwin, a stay-at-home mother, says of her cadre of three sitters. She and her husband, John III, 32, a grip operator, pay $20 per hour because each sitter drives up to an hour to get to Baldwin to care for their 2-year-old son, John IV, she says. Corning says she also wants to pay competitively, in the hope her sitters will always favor her.
All three sitters just graduated from college, Corning says. Two she met when they were younger, and she coached them in cheerleading, and the third is a cousin.
WHAT SITTERS SAY
When the Cornings go out — typically once or twice a month because of the expense — she says she expects the sitter to play with her son, put his toys away, possibly fix dinner for him or give him a bath. “Wear him out for me so he sleeps through the night,” she jokes.
Those tasks are what make baby-sitters deserve more than minimum wage, which is $12 on Long Island, going up to $13 on Dec. 31, says Krystina Kacharaba, 27, of Oceanside, an administrative assistant who babysits to make extra money to help cover her weekday day care costs for her own son, Kyle, who is almost 1.
Kacharaba charges $15 per hour to sit for one to three children; $20 an hour for four children or more. Kacharaba has been baby-sitting for 10 years.
Younger, less experienced sitters may be willing to accept less. "I usually charge $10 an hour," says Brianna Simpkins, 16, a junior at Brentwood High School who gets paid to baby-sit her 2-year-old nephew and also babysits for clients with older children. "It's not really like a job to me," she says. "We play video games, watch movies, get pizza. I never thought it was something that needed to be expensive." She says most of her other friends who baby-sit charge $12 an hour.
One of the tougher parts of baby-sitting is when families cancel, because typically the sitter doesn’t get paid, Kacharaba says. “During the wintertime, that happens more often because of the inclement weather or flu season,” Kacharaba says. On the flip side, if a baby-sitter cancels, parents must scramble to find another sitter or a family member able to baby-sit, or cancel their plans.
The Wertheimers — Catie owns her own business and Adam works in sales — found Starr through a Facebook page called Sayville Sitters when Starr was still in high school. “At the time, I was just looking for a mother’s helper. She came to the house and played with my daughter, so I could do a little bit of work,” Wertheimer says. At that time, Wertheimer paid Starr $10 per hour to watch Maya and Trey.
What made Starr worth keeping on as a sitter? She’s always on time, easy to communicate with, available and reliable, Wertheimer says. And she loves the children, and the children love her back, Wertheimer says.
“They’re so excited when I say, ‘Taylor is coming over tonight,’” Wertheimer says. “They’re like, ‘See you later.’”
What are your Long Island neighbors paying their date-night baby-sitters?
— Many parents say they pay $15 and up to $20 per hour, with prices often varying according to number of children
— Sitters in high school may charge $10 to $12 an hour.
— Some parents also spring for sitter's dinner.
— According to UrbanSitter, a baby-sitter app and website that examined booking data from 28,000 families nationwide, the average hourly pay for a date-night baby-sitter on Long Island is $18.20 for one child and $19.15 for two or more children. The national average is $16.75 per hour for one child, $19.26 per hour for two children and $20.76 an hour for three children, according to UrbanSitter data.
A date-night sitting alternative
Some venues on Long Island offer drop-off nights for kids to be supervised while adults get a couple hours out. Here are three suggestions. Visit newsday.com/family for more.
1310 Middle Country Rd., Selden
TIME AND ACTIVITY 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on the third and last Fridays of the month. The third Friday is for children 5 and older; they paint an item, have pizza, snacks and drinks, and watch a movie. The last Friday is tween night, they paint an item, have pizza, snacks and drinks, and play games, listen to music and socialize.
INFO $22 per child; advance registration required; 631-689-5231, plasterkraze.com
The Little Gym of Rockville Centre
298 Merrick Rd., Rockville Centre
TIME AND ACTIVITY 6 to 9 p.m. once a month on either a Friday or Saturday; Children ages 3 to 8 (must be potty trained) play games, have free play in the gym, do a craft and have pizza.
INFO $35 per child, $25 for each sibling; advance registration preferred; 516-764-1600, thelittlegym.com; check with local Little Gyms in Huntington, Levittown, Merrick, Roslyn and Smithtown for similar programs
212 Laurel Rd., East Northport
TIME AND ACTIVITY Two options. Parents’ Night Out is once a month from 6 to 9 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month; children ages 1 to 8 (bring your own diapers) have unstructured play, participating in gym activities, crafts, bubble play and more, with pizza included. Themed nights are scheduled once or twice a month, for instance, a Minecraft-themed night runs from 5 to 7 p.m. on Sept. 29 for ages 5 and older. “They’ll be doing things based on the game but not playing the game,” says owner Kerry Anastasi.
INFO Parents’ Night Out is $14 per hour for one child, $20 per hour for a child and sibling, and $24 per hour for three or more siblings; themed nights are $30 for one child, $45 for two siblings and $60 for three or more siblings; advance registration required; 631-697-0140, tumblingtunes.com