As her baby sister’s whines begin to pierce the air, STA freshman Viridiana Hernandez knows it’s feeding time for 7-month-old Viviana. She gets up from where she was watching TV on the couch and gently moves her sister to the blue and white baby jumper hanging from the doorway. Viridiana keeps a watchful eye on the baby girl balancing on shaky legs as she prepares a warm bottle for the youngest member of the family.
Prior to September, Viridiana’s weekends were virtually babysitting-free. She had the elbowroom to make plans as she saw fit. But since the arrival of her bouncing baby sister, she has had to adjust to the new addition in the house. Before Viviana, it was just Viridiana, her mother, step-father and her ten-year-old brother Juan.
Viridiana said that adjusting to having a baby in the house has been difficult and a little weird, but the babysitting is even newer for her. She says that her mother just started leaving Viviana with her “like a month ago.” Before Viviana, Viridiana was never required to watch Juan.
“My mom is usually here . . . so I just take care of Viviana to give her a break, not really because I have to,” Viridiana said.
According to Viridiana, babysitting Viviana has not interfered with hanging out with her friends; her mother respects her plans, and Viridiana usually volunteers to watch her sister. From Viridiana’s point of view, babysitting Viviana is away to bond and spend time together.
“I have never had to cancel plans to babysit,” Viridiana said. “If [my mom] needs to go somewhere, I [babysit], and I would probably cancel some plans if they weren’t important. Usually I just do it to give her a break, you know?”
Viridiana isn’t the only one to play mother’s helper: freshman Caroline Angles, the oldest of five (ranging from 3 to 15 years old), has an agreement with her mother concerning the weekends.
“My mom and I usually work out a plan, where I will babysit Friday and hang with friends on Saturday, or vice versa,” Caroline said. “I have had to cancel plans with my friends a couple times, but not very often, because my mom tells me beforehand when she needs me to babysit.”
Ms. Christina Angles, Caroline’s mother, started leaving the younger kids with Caroline when they lived in Texas, and Caroline was about 11 or 12 years old.
“It’s very helpful because you don’t have to call and schedule a babysitter, but sometimes it works to a disadvantage because they’re so comfortable with each other . . . they fight with each other a little too much,” Caroline’s mother said of having her oldest daughter watch the other kids.
Even though the siblings may fight, Caroline looks on the bright of the situation.
“I don’t mind babysitting my siblings, because I get to spend a little bit of time with them,” Caroline said. “During the school week I don’t get to talk to them very often because of homework and sports practices.”
Caroline’s friends are aware of and accept her occasional cancellations for babysitting.
“I have been in that situation before and I understand,” said Anna Marie Fiorella, another freshman at STA and a close friend of Caroline’s. “It’s hard because you want to make money, but you also want to spend time having fun with your friends, so teenagers really have to plan [their free time] carefully.”