Good idea to offer free babysitting?


I was thinking of parents who were overly stressed and short on money and I though it would be nice if I offered a free night of babysitting to let them get out of the house and relax a little. So I posted an ad on that Craig’s list deal and I’ve got replies, but I was wondering if it’s a good idea.

I don’t have that great of a problem with it, in fact it gives me a lot of joy to serve but I’m only concerned with one thing, really. I like to do things for people in hopes that it will help myself be a better person and also so the person I do a good deed for will follow the example and so on, you know. But sometimes some people just don’t get that and take advantage of me, and it makes me feel like I’ve failed in teaching a lesson and that they think I’m stupid. It feels bad, but I have such a problem with saying “no”.

I just don’t want people to think that they can call me up any day of the week and expect me to babysit for free. I would love to help relieve stress every once in a while, but I hate when people use me. It doesn’t do any good for them (maybe financially, but not morally) and it makes me feel like a horrible failure. I know this is sounding very selfish and I’m sorry! Money is not an issue to me, but time sometimes is and all I really want to do is help but people like this make me think twice and sometimes a little bitter about the moral status of society.

Is this a good idea? I will follow up with the people who have already emailed me, but should I take the ad off or what? I kind of don’t want to but I have a feeling if I leave it up then I will probably have to deal with this. What should I do? I’m sorry if this is selfish of me!


A good alternative to offering free services is to offer cheap services. I do math, science and computers tutoring for AUD$10 an hour, which is half the price of even the cheapest private tutors other than me. I enjoy teaching people and am happy with this rate. And it means that, one the one hand, because the price is low, people will be able to get tutoring if they really need it without having to worry that they can’t afford it, but because the price is non-zero, they can’t just take advantage of me and ask me to tutor them for a 5 hour stretch.

This could solve your problem too. Find out what the cheapest babysitters charge, half that rate, and charge it. People will appreciate such cheap services.

Because the problem with offering free services is twofold - firstly, as you mention, some people will take advantage of it. But then there are also others who just don’t feel right having a service done for free for them. When I used to charge less than $10 an hour people used to insist on paying me more because they didn’t want to feel like they were taking advantage of me.
It’s just the way the world works, that people pay for services, so you may as well stick to the model to avoid trouble.

And you may worry - There might still be some few people who can’t even afford such low rates - as this is actually the case, I’ve found this too. But there are always charitable works (like SVDP) who have been providing essential services to these poorest of the poor for years, and such people are used to having to go without non-essential services, so don’t worry so much. If these are the families you really want to help, then you could approach them privately and offer them free babysitting rather than advertising it in a public space.

If you don’t like my suggested solutions and really want to offer free babysitting to everyone, though, I guess your best solution would be to include in the ad “subject to availability / discretion” so then you can turn down whoever you like. Learning to say ‘no’ is an important skill to have.


First of all, I think it is a wonderful idea to offer help to couples that may need it!
Do you personally know any couples that are stressed out etc that you can offer babysitting to? The first thing that came to mind when I read your post was that this could turn into a safety issue. I don’t mean to scare you or anything, but listing on craigslist that you will go to someone’s house for free to take care of kids could attract some people that may not have the best intentions. First of all, I know some people may be in dire needs and would love your service, but I know I would never hire a babysitter I have never met and is offering free services. It would just seem to suspicious to me. My guess is the people responding are overlooking this because they are either, 1. really in need, so they are the group that you are targeting,
2. neglectful, etc. so they are the ones taking advantage
3. could have something else in mind (hopefully no one is in this category) but you must keep this in mind if you are going to be going to people’s houses that you are not familiar with.

I would definitely pull the add and, if you don’t personally know any couple, I would go to your parish and ask if they know any couple or if they could keep your name and number just in case. Maybe you could call other parishes too. Hopefully they will give you names of people they know and can refer to you. You could also ask around friends and family (if they need help or personally know anyone that does).

I dunno, there are so many wackos out there…


I would contact my parish and have them offer my free babysitting to families in need–those who’ve just had a baby (babysitting the older siblings), lost a job and need to go interview, just had a death in the family, going through divorce, babysit while parents can do volunteer work, etc.


the last suggestion is the best. Whatever you do, comply with whatever regulations are in force for in-home child care services in your state, take red cross first aid training, and child protection training from your parish, or the agency that licenses home child-care providers. Also ask your insurance agent or financial advisor about an umbrella liability policy. Why has a simple act of charity become such a legal nightmare? ask a lawyer. DD tried to organize a baby-sitting co-op on lines OP suggests, but found either parents are so into attachment parenting that they can’t trust anyone else with their little ones, or that the laws in her area are so strict that it is nearly impossible to offer such a service except for free and to relatives.


People only take advantage if you let them :wink: .

Be very specific about your limits. No more than 2 hours, no more than once a month, kids have to behave to your standards or you don’t come back etc.

Set boundaries and stick to them. It’s when we don’t stick to them that we’re taken advantage of, IMO. —KCT


I am considering offering babysitting for stay at home moms and dads in my parish area that want to go to confession during the week during the day but have no one to watch the kids when they go. A parish close by offers confession during the day once a week, and its not easy to pull off unless someone is watching the little ones. I would go weekly myself if there was someone to help me. I am hoping a group of us could alternate and then more would be able to take advantage of confession more often.:slight_smile:


I would only do this with people that you know well. As others have said there are safety and liability issues to consider.

Also you cannot offer a service like this to the general public and then be upset if they don’t follow your example of charitable giving. If you want to give in that way, you need to do it without any expectation of return–even if the retun is to go to someone else.


I know a mom who has a 5 yo who is in school all day and enjoys attending daily mass at 8 am. She watches a little boy one morning a week so that his mom can get to a daily mass without having to struggle with him throughout the entire hour. This is a small sacrifice for one mom that is a bit gift to another. Good idea about confession!


Good idea about Mass when my child is in school full time!!!:smiley:

I love these forums!

And, thank you for the kind words!:o


Pull your ad. Your area is not safe. Then come back and we can all brainstorm how to best fulfill your wonderful desire to help. Half price would be a great idea to keep people from taking advantage. If you really want to do it for free, do it on referral. That way people will be recommending needy folks to you instead of the people addressing you directly causing you to have to make the judgment call.

You have such a wonderful spirit. God bless you for your many gifts!


Great Idea!
Our neighbor has a boy with Downs, and 3 other “normal” youngsters. They’d been switching off “duty” to go to Down’s support meetings for years, due to the lack of trained “sitters”, and they hadn’t had a night out together in years!

My daughter arranged for “Down’s Specific” training (via the Down’s Parent’s support groups) and got her Troop “certified”.

Now there’s a group of 10+ girls that are trained “sitters”, and these Down’s families can now call and get a responsible teen to watch their kids - free of charge for 2 hours - so they can attend Down’s Parents meetings.

These families now can also contract the girls for “regular babysitting gigs” at the going rate (knowing that they are competant) when Mom & Dad just need a night-out!

For you the only caviat would be training! Just to CYA you should have at a minimum a current Red Cross (or other sanctioning body):
First Aid Certification
CPR & AED Certification
And… offer this to only to families in your neighborhood that you know.


Alright. I took the ad off. It was silly of me to not be cautious about that, I guess I’m still kind of used to small town life where everybody pretty much trusts each other.

I’m thinking of putting a bulliten up at the local parish like you guys suggested, but I’m not Catholic and my own church isn’t that fond of me anymore. I think I’ll still talk to the priest and ask him if that would be ok, though, because I don’t think my religion at this point would matter, would it?


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit