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Teens earn cash, learn lessons on job

SAM GAUSE/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Reagan Rabb, 7, makes Christmas tree ornaments while her babysitter Merritt Murray talks to Rabb’s brother Colton, 5. Murray has been a babysitter for the Rabb family since she was 16. Murray, below, makes Christmas tree ornaments with the children.

SAM GAUSE/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Reagan Rabb, 7, makes Christmas tree ornaments while her babysitter Merritt Murray talks to Rabb’s brother Colton, 5. Murray has been a babysitter for the Rabb family since she was 16. Murray, below, makes Christmas tree ornaments with the children.

By Olivia McClure/The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — On a drizzly gray day, 5-year-old Colton and 7-year-old Reagan Rabb were stuck inside. Fortunately, their babysitter, Merritt Murray, knew just how to keep them happy — cook macaroni and cheese for lunch and busy them with a craft.

Murray, 19, has been babysitting since she was 16. All that practice has taught her a lot about caring for young children — a big responsibility, but one that she and many other young adults are willing to take on to earn money.

Murray started babysitting because it was difficult to find a job at 16, she said. She babysat for approximately 12 families while she was in high school. Now a sophomore studying hospitality management at Ole Miss, Murray babysits for two families in Oxford, and the Rabbs and other families from her church when she’s home from school.

Colton and Reagan’s mother, J.J. Rabb, said she and her husband Bryan both work at Natchez Regional Medical Center, so they need someone to watch their children during school holidays and the summer. Murray has been their go-to babysitter for the past two years. She arrives at 7:45 in the morning and stays until both parents come home from work.

The Rabb children are well behaved, Murray said, which makes her job less stressful. She once babysat five boys, who tend to “feed off of each other when they’re hyper,” she said. Handling those kinds of situations isn’t as difficult now as it was earlier in her babysitting career, though.

“I was nervous when I was 16,” Murray said. “I would text my mom and ask, ‘Is this OK?’ or ‘Is it OK to do that?'”

She has since become better at judging children’s moods and basing their activities on that. She’s taken the Rabbs bowling, watched movies, gone swimming and picked blueberries.

Murray said she doesn’t charge a specific rate, but takes whatever the family offers. Babysitters Madison Newman and Taylor Yates both said they usually make approximately $10 an hour for babysitting, or sometimes more if they’re watching several children.

Newman, a 16-year-old Adams County Christian School student, said she usually babysits children under the age of 1, although she works with 2- and 3-year-olds at her after-school job at Little Blessings Daycare. She also babysits for Ty and Laura McCann, who have five sons between the ages of 5 and 14.

Newman said she learned how to care for children by babysitting her younger siblings. She began babysitting for money a few years ago when her aunt asked, and then word spread. Newman said she would probably continue to babysit through high school.

“It’s not just about the money,” she said. “I love to babysit (my aunt’s) kids, and I really like kids.”

Newman said she’s had good experiences with children overall. She usually stays at the children’s houses so they have access to their toys and she can cook for them.

McCann said her family doesn’t use a babysitter often because she is a stay-at-home mom. When she and her husband are gone, though, it’s usually not for more than a couple of hours. They also try not to leave more than two of their children with a babysitter at a time.

“Different ages need different levels of supervision,” McCann said.

Ty McCann said it’s important that babysitters give their undivided attention to the children and interact with them. They’ve hired babysitters before who “folded,” he said. Often, they were younger and weren’t sure how to handle minor problems.

Yates, 18, said she realized how big a responsibility babysitting is when she watched a baby that screamed the entire time.

“I didn’t want to call the parents and ruin their time out, so I called my mom,” Yates said. “I tried to rock the baby to sleep, and it kept screaming.”

Newman and Yates both babysit two or three times a month. Yates, 18, said business picks up around the holidays when parents have parties and events to attend.

Yates, who attends Vidalia High School, said she tries to find out what children like as soon as their parents ask her to babysit so she can be prepared. One girl she babysits, for example, likes to have her nails painted, so Yates always brings along her nail polish.

Murray, Newman and Yates all learned about babysitting on the job, but the American Red Cross does offer an online training course. Laurie Bullman, a service delivery administrator for the Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina Red Cross offices, said the course teaches basic information on caring for children up to the age of 10 as well as money management. There is a $25 fee, and students can print a diploma after passing the final exam.

“It is a wonderful opportunity, and you get so much more out of it than just how to take care of someone,” Bullman said.

The babysitters say they’ve learned many important lessons by caring for children. Murray said she now knows how to take charge and handle difficult situations.

“When I was a kid, I thought the babysitter was there just to play with me, but there’s so much more responsibility,” Murray said.

For Newman, babysitting has taught her about parent-child relationships.

“It makes me look forward to when I’m older and I’m married and I can have a life like that,” Newman said. “I can see them with their parents and the love they’re giving.”