Care and Feeding

Is a Babysitter an “Essential Worker”?

My friends seem to think so.

A nanny playing with a young girl.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Liderina/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

Our friends are able to work from home during this time, but they still have their sitter come in every day to take care of their 7-year-old daughter. Aren’t they violating some social contract? I mean, we’re supposed to be isolating. There’s a reason schools are closed! They also often complain about having to take care of their kid—but that’s what all parents have to do. Am I right? Aren’t they in the wrong?

—Judging Them

Dear JT,

“Judging” is the absolutely correct thing to do in this situation. It sounds highly possible that your friends are not only violating the best practices for social distancing that we’ve now heard over and over again from the experts at this point, but that they may be taking advantage of an employee who is in a dire financial situation and/or fearful of losing her job if she refuses to work. Politely remind them, as often as you can, that each interaction that they have with people outside of their home (which includes grocery delivery and grocery store trips alike) means risking exposure to COVID-19, and that they are both exposing this sitter and risking being exposed themselves by bringing her in and out of their home. This can be dangerous to both their household and hers; furthermore, I hope she isn’t taking care of other families right now, because things could get terribly ugly.

Or perhaps all of these people are just gonna be super lucky and either manage not to contract the virus or get it and have a speedy, simple recovery. But the risk is too great for them to deem a babysitter an “essential worker,” in my opinion, when the rest of us are stuck doing the best we can without endangering a likely underpaid and uninsured employee’s life.

Alas, I’m not super confident that a couple that has taken such action thus far can be swayed, but I hope that you are committed to scaring the shit out of them accordingly in the meantime. Cheers to you and boooo to them.

—Jamilah