Babysitters: The Busy Neighborhood Teen vs. The Hungry Foreigner

Above is Jennifer, from Italy, hugging our boys. She cares about them very much and works very hard. We’re very grateful that we can employ foreign-born help like her.

A few months ago, my wife and I were very pleased to get solicitations from two different neighborhood teenage girls wanting to babysit our kids.

Although we’ve been employing various foreign-born women as babysitters for years, we’re very happy to consider employing neighborhood teens.

After all, they’re neighbors!

They’re smart!

They’re fun!

They’re nice!

Unfortunately, they’re also almost completely unavailable.

You know, volleyball practice, basketball practice, dance lessons, etc. Of course, our kids (and our money) take a back seat to volleyball, basketball, dance, etc.

That’s why we give these neighborhood teens a back seat to those foreign-born women we’ve been employing all these years. We give babysitting jobs to people who place a high priority on showing up for us. Duh…

Our experience with babysitters is consistent with the attitudes of American youth toward working in general. In the latest US unemployment report, young adults (age 20-24) are “participating” in the labor market – i.e. working or looking for a job – at the lowest rate in almost 40 years.

In other words, they’re not very interested in working. Those neighborhood teenage girls may pay lip service to wanting to work, but they’re not actually very interested in working, either. If they were, they’d clear out their schedules more to accommodate work.

I think this is a problem, and I think parents today are partially to blame. Parents strongly influence tweens’ and teens’ decisions on where to place their priorities.

Children need to acquire a good “work ethic” as they grow up, or else they may not have a good work ethic when they’re older. The best way to acquire a work ethic is to do a job, however menial, earn money, and manage that money. School, homework, and activities can keep kids very busy, but they’re different from work in many important ways.

Millions of jobs have gone overseas in the past few years. There are many reasons for this, but one is undoubtedly the disparity in work ethic between America’s youth and youth in other countries.

Those foreign-born women we employ as babysitters are, by and large, very eager and hardworking. I’m very grateful that they’ve found ways to live here, in spite of stringent visa-granting policies of the US government. I’m sad to say that neighborhood teens aren’t adequate for the babysitting jobs we’re offering.

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