It’s happened to all of us. You’ve been handed a wad of cash after a night of babysitting that isn’t quite the amount you thought it would be. It’s an awkward situation for both sides and you’re not sure what to do. What’s the best way to handle this situation?

The New York Post reported that people are more comfortable talking about their weight than they are about money; so we get it—the topic of money is not always the most comfortable thing to bring up. Just because it’s uncomfortable to talk about money doesn’t mean you should avoid it completely, especially when you’ve been underpaid.

Here are some actions you can take if you’re ever paid less than you expected for a babysitting job.

Address the Problem Before It Happens

When a family hires you, have a conversation about pay before you start working. Starting a discussion upfront ensures that both you and the family are on the same page, and can save you both from an awkward confrontation down the road.

Come prepared with a specific hourly rate in mind, so that you can confidently negotiate if need be.

Learn more about the current average babysitter rates in your neighborhood.

Remain Calm and Don’t Assume the Worst

While at first, you may feel frustrated and annoyed, remember to stay calm. There’s a good chance that this was just a simple math mistake. Don’t jump to conclusions by assuming that the family you’re working for has purposely underpaid you. In my experience as a sitter, there have been a couple of times where I’ve been underpaid and every time it has been an accident.

Give the family you’re working for the benefit of the doubt and stay calm.

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Address the Situation Directly and With Kindness

Whether you’ve gone home already or you’re still at the family’s house, address the situation as soon as possible. Remember to be honest, kind, and direct when diving into this conservation. Accept that the conversation is probably going to be a little awkward — and that’s okay.

Remember that kindness and understanding will go a long way. Also, focus on the facts you know, such as what compensation you had previously agreed on, and if possible, refer to prior conversations about pay (whether virtual or in-person).

Initiate the Conversation

Most likely, the family hasn’t realized they’ve underpaid you, so it’s your job to advocate for yourself and let them know your thoughts. Getting into the conversation can feel tricky though, so here are some possible ways to get things started:

  • “Hey, I know this is awkward and sorry for the inconvenience, but I just want to double-check—did we agree on $17 an hour? I think you may have only given me $15.”
  • “Hey, thanks for having me over to watch the kids tonight, but before I leave I just want to make sure we’re on the same page. I believe we agreed to $18 an hour tonight and I’ve been here 5 hours, so that would be $90, right? It looks like you may have only given me $70.”
  • “I really enjoyed babysitting for your family last night! I just noticed when I got home, though, that you gave me $70 and I thought we had agreed on $18 an hour for the five hours I babysat, which would be $90.”
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Recognize That Mistakes Happen and That’s Okay

Most of the time the family you’re working with has made a simple math mistake or just forgot to include the right amount of $20 bills, which could easily happen to anyone.

Everyone is capable of making mistakes, especially busy parents who are working jobs, taking care of their kids, and trying to find a little bit of time to get out of the house for themselves. Being understanding in these types of situations not only makes you an excellent sitter but a more empathetic and compassionate person.

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