“I was the neighborhood babysitter. When I was in sixth grade [in Cranston, Rhode Island], I started working afternoons after school and on the weekends. I knew all of the younger kids in the neighborhood and I had younger siblings, so I was an old sixth grader. I had three jobs a week through high school. Despite it being one of those informal jobs, the essence of being responsible for someone’s children really taught me a lot about how to earn and hold that responsibility in confidence.
At some point I realized all the parents I babysat for were working hard, and if I just went a little extra mile I’d get paid better, so I’d do the dishes or make dessert or organize. My friends got mad because I was the first babysitter on everyone’s speed dial because I tried to be helpful in other ways.
I was one of those kids who people called bossy as a girl and I liked to say it’s because I showed initiative and leadership, and I tried to [emphasize] that to young girls all the time. When a young person shows leadership, there is some initiative and thoughtfulness there, and part of that, for me, came from learning how to manage groups of people when I was little.
I’ve kept in touch with some of the kids I babysat over the years who are now graduating from college and have their own families. It taught me how to build relationships and how to be stern and educating but also friendly and kind.
I think babysitting has given me a lot of patience. I’m probably whatever the opposite of what judgmental might be. I recognize we don’t all do things the same way, but it doesn’t mean we don’t have value. I also just love little people, and I think babysitting and having younger siblings spurred some of that for me. I want to treat little people like big people because they’re going to be active and engaged citizens when they grow up.”
-As told to Melanie Pagan