Thursday, April 03, 2008

5 Money Lessons From an Unpaid Babysitter: Toddlers Invade My Home

Three times a week I watch a toddler in my home for about an hour. I don't charge for my time, but as an unpaid babysitter, I've learned a lot about life, money and secret treasure while watching a three-year-old and (more recently, one of his friends also!)

The mother of the first child, a good friend, has repeatedly offered to pay for my services, but I have refused. It's not about the money, and besides she helps out in so many other ways, including driving me to a journalism class that I teach in the late afternoon. In a past post, I wrote about the lessons I have learned from this child. Here are five more financial insights that I have acquired:

1. Always ask questions: "What's this?" That's what the pre-schooler asked this week as he picked up a preserved scorpion that is set in Lucite. (It's a paperweight.) The Lesson: Don't be afraid to ask questions. Too often we sign off on warranties, purchase agreements or lease arrangements without asking enough questions.

2. Ask follow-up questions: "Does it have a name? Does it have a face? Does it move?" Those are the other questions, the pre-schooler asked about the scorpion. He didn't settle for my quick, automatic replies. He wanted in-depth answers and real conversation.

3. Get the right tools: I gave the kid an ice pop. To avoid a melt-down disaster, I put the ice pop in a bowl with a fork. The kid tried to eat the ice pop with the fork, but then looked at me with raised eyebrows. "I think I need a spoon," he said. The Lesson: We need the right stuff for specific tasks. From computer software to appliances, energy-efficient materials will yield better results and possibly improved savings.

4. Safeguard your treasures: "This is my treasure. Can you hold it for me?" the kid asked. Okay! Let's be serious: His treasure was a rubber, super-bouncy ball that is quite durable. It looked like a trinket from a bubble-gum machine or a dollar store. Yet, he wanted to protect that valuable treasure. The Lesson: Take better care of your stuff. Following his example, I should be more careful with my possessions, including DVDs, musical instruments, jewelry and clothing.

5. Safety in numbers: I love my little friend, but sometimes the babysitting gig demands more of my time and attention than I initially anticipated. The solution? Another three-year-old visitor and her mother! Let's call them "Toddler B" and "Mom B." For the about 30 to 45 minutes, "Mom B" watches my three-year-old friend and Toddler B in another apartment. (Both kids are in the same playgroup that ends at 1:30. )

With the new arrangement, my babysitting duties begin when Mom B has to go work at 2:15 pm. ) The new set-up requires less babysitting time for me and reduces my need to entertain since the two pre-schoolers play together. It's fun and I'm even beginning to wish I still had younger children, which is still an option. The Lesson: Find diverse sources of income, investments and assistance. There's really safety in numbers.

Bottom line: I make an effort to learn from the babysitting duties. As a responsible adult, I try to be hands-on with the young children in my home, which means I have plenty of time to watch, learn and take notes.

My hidden agenda: I actually wait and watch for the kids to do something that I can translate into a blog post or a story. Note to self: Always pay attention.



1 comment:

Chief Family Officer said...

This is great - it's all so true!