I'm a Hamptons babysitter. I charge up to $45 an hour and work at the beach or in magazine-worthy mansions.
- Dahlia Melnick, 18, works as a babysitter for families vacationing in the Hamptons.
- She spent last summer working in a restaurant, but discovered she could earn more by babysitting.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Dahlia Melnick, 18, who works as a babysitter in the Hamptons. It has been edited for length and clarity.
My first memory of the Hamptons was when I was 12 years old and I went to visit a friend there. My mum put me on the Hampton Jitney, which is a bus that kids will usually take to the Hamptons if they're traveling alone. I remember my friend's nanny picked me up and took me to a café, where we waited for my friend while she was having a tennis lesson. It was a classic Hamptons moment.
My friend and I are about to leave for college, so we decided to spend our last summer together in the Hamptons before we go. We both took jobs with the babysitting service Teen Hamptons, which matches parents with babysitters, because we thought we could always go to the beach if we didn't have work.
I babysit for families holidaying in the Hamptons
It's been awesome. I've babysat for families in Manhattan before, but it's not as fun as in the Hamptons. Here, I can drive the kids to the beach, play with them in the pool, and take them for ice cream in town. You really can't do that in the city.
I charge from $25 for one child per hour to $45 for three, and Teen Hamptons takes a 25% service fee. I also tend to leave the weekends free so I can visit my parents in Manhattan.
I spent last summer working as a hostess at a restaurant in New York, where I earned $15 an hour. If I was on the dinner shift, I would work until midnight. I do miss having a team to support me, but at the same time, being a babysitter is far less stressful and now I can be my own boss.
The youngest child I've looked after is 3-and-a-half years old, and the oldest is 6
The most I've looked after at any one time is three kids. If I'm looking after three children, I won't venture far from the house.
My bookings vary from one to four days long. I stay with my friend rather than the family, though. Before I start the booking, I call ahead to find out what the child is like, if they have any allergies, and if they prefer to play outside or indoors. What we end up doing depends on the child's mood. I don't have a strict schedule. I'll wait to see how energetic they're feeling on the day or if they just want to relax.
My day usually starts at 2 p.m. when I pick the child I'm babysitting up from camp and then take them to the beach. I have a baby car seat in my car, and I'll fill a bag with towels, toys, sunscreen, and snacks, such as granola bars that the parents give me. We'll spend time collecting shells, building sandcastles, or going for a swim.
To put the parents' minds at ease, I'll also message them up to 3 times a day
An update might include a photograph of their tot wearing their inflatable armbands. We'll spend about 90 minutes on the beach, then I'll drive them home and serve dinner.
The parents will usually leave a meal, such as a small pizza, in the fridge for me to reheat. The kids may want to play in the pool in their garden, take a bath, or watch some TV. If the kids want to watch TV, I'll switch on children's cartoons, or if they want to listen to music, it'll be something along the lines of Baby Shark.
Although, a kid surprised me one day by asking me to put on Lady Gaga. I've never had a parent set any rules. I think they trust me that I wouldn't put anything unsuitable on.
My shift may end at 5:45 p.m., but sometimes I work until 9 p.m. I'll make sure the kids are tucked up in bed by 8 p.m. and then I'll start to clean up by putting plates in the dishwasher, returning toys to the toy box, and trying to leave the house looking like how I found it.
I've worked in so many beautiful homes
They all look like they've been torn out of the pages of Architectural Digest. These five or six-bedroom mansions I've been in have vaulted ceilings, pools surrounded by landscaped gardens, and ponds with bridges, while still having a beachy vibe.
The basement playrooms are also impressive. They will have endless boxes and drawers of toys, which sometimes include remote-control cars or building blocks. One kid had a poker set, but he obviously didn't know what it was. He just liked the look of the cards.
While I work on my own, I'm usually not the only person who's working at these houses. There's often landscapers, pool people, or cleaners, too.
The biggest misunderstanding about babysitting is that it's easy
You can have challenging days as a babysitter, because the kids are young and they might throw a tantrum if they're feeling tired or overwhelmed. They're really great kids, so I just give them a minute to chill out, and they're usually good to go.
When you're working, you need to be alert. You can't be a laid-back teenager. You need to keep the kids occupied at all times, whether that's building Lego sets or playing with them in the pool.
When I'm not working, there are plenty of other young people in the Hamptons to hang out with. We'll go to brunch, take bike rides, catch some rays on the beach, or play volleyball.
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