Jessica Schroeder organizes every minute of a child’s day when she babysits, planning activities such as homework, napping and cleaning the house.
When she babysat in high school, her organization skills earned parents’ trust. One mother said she wished her three daughters would grow up to be just like Schroeder.
“That was by far the most genuine and heartfelt comment I have received,” she said. “The greatest compliment is for parents to trust you with their kids.”
The feeling of being appreciated motivated Schroeder to continue babysitting when she was admitted to UCLA. She and other UCLA students take on babysitting to follow a passion for child care and supplement their academics.
Schroeder, a second-year psychology student who minors in applied developmental psychology, or child psychology, said she thinks being a UCLA student and her minor helped a new client trust her credibility.
“I got (my current) job over the phone without even meeting the parents,” she said.
Montana Epps, a second-year English student who also babysits part time, also said she thinks families in Malibu and Pacific Palisades see her as a more credible babysitter because she goes to UCLA.
Epps said she came into UCLA as a biology student, but changed her major to English because she wants to teach kids about literature and writing someday.
“Babysitting has definitely inspired me to work with kids and help them grow,” Epps said.
Schroeder said babysitting has given her a better understanding of kids, which she thinks will help her as she completes her minor.
As part of her minor, she interns at a UCLA child care center, which gives her hands-on experience working with children of UCLA faculty.
“You’re part of their daily routine and you help take care of them,” she said. “You get a hands-on experience with young kids in that developing age, (which has influenced) how I approach child care,” Schroeder said.
However, she said her minor and her job are more different than she expected them to be.
Schroeder said that though she approaches babysitting by structuring the day for the child and planning activities, the UCLA applied developmental psychology minor follows the Resources for Infant Educarers philosophy, which aims to make children more autonomous. Under the philosophy, children are meant to figure things out by themselves and only receive guidance from caregivers if needed.
“There is still the autonomy factor in babysitting, but I find myself being more straightforward with what ‘needs to get done’ while babysitting,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder also said babysitting is about having a personal connection with kids as their temporary caregivers, while RIE philosophy emphasizes being physically present for the kids.
“If the kids fall and get hurt you try not to show any of your own emotions in RIE philosophy,” Epps said. “In babysitting, it’s a lot about sympathy and empathy and letting the kids know you’re there for them both physically and emotionally.”
Schroeder said the families she works for in Los Angeles are more laid back than her own family in Oregon.
“The families in Los Angeles are a little bit more lenient,” Schroeder said. “A baby that I babysit in Santa Monica, their parents are very well off, and their family dynamic is different.”
Schroeder said she also tends to be more organized and structured in how she plans the day for the child she babysits than the family requires her to be.
“The mom has pointed out to me ‘I like that you are so structured, but our family is not like that,’” she said. “So the kids have a little bit of trouble adjusting to that.”
Epps, however, said families she works for in Los Angeles do embrace structure.
“I know it’s a common misconception that since these kids belong to rich families they must be pretty liberal. … In my experience, it is not true at all,” Epps said. “The kids that I have worked for oftentimes have a strict routine or a strict diet or a strict curriculum. I personally admire that – my childhood wasn’t as structured.”
Both students said they think the families they work for use them as role models for their kids. Epps said parents often use her to inspire their kids to go to college because she is a UCLA student.
“The parents always tell their kids that they need to work hard to get into UCLA,” Epps said. “When the kids ask me what that (UCLA) is … I just tell them it’s a bigger elementary school.”