Dec 04

I Love The Kids I Babysit, But Hate the Hours. Is it OK to Quit?

This semester, I took on an early morning nannying job (from 6 am to 8 am) to make extra money. I like the kids, and the extra cash each week is helpful. But the early hours mean I’m always exhausted! Being tired all the time is taking a toll on my happiness. I’m torn: Do I suck it up and keep going, because I made a commitment to this family, or is it okay to quit?

—  Mary Poppins Needs More Sleep


Dear Mary Poppins,


As a working parent, I’m pleased to hear that you value your commitment to the job. It sounds like you’re responsible and reliable, and that the situation has a lot of benefits for both you and your employer. But I also think this is a time when it’s truly okay to put your own needs first. Wanting to prioritize sleep isn’t lazy or selfish, it’s smart.


How you’re using the money matters in your decision

I noticed that you said that the money you make is “extra” cash. “Extra” cash is different than the money you need, say, for school tuition. In general, research suggests that giving up time in exchange for more money tends to be a bad trade-off.


Instead, studies have found that people who tend to prioritize time over money are generally happier. I would think about how you’re using that money now and consider ways you might be able to live without it. I also want to remind you that getting a solid night’s sleep isn’t time wasted!


Be proactive when you give the news

Of course, it’s important to provide plenty of notice and offer to help find a replacement, if you can. Bring up your concerns with your employers sooner rather than later. In all likelihood, your feelings aren’t coming out of left field. Together, you may be able to find a solution that works for everyone. For example, maybe five days a week is too much, but two or three spaced-out days works well. Maybe you’d rather do occasional evening babysitting instead. Or maybe you can be their designated pinch-hitter going forward, for the times when the new person they find can’t make it. Of course, if you know a friend who would be interested in the gig, you can offer to connect them with your employers. Talk through the transition plan that makes the most sense. Just be honest about your needs.


Finally, even though this job may not have worked out, it’s far from a failure! It sounds like you learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work for you in a job and can use that info in future positions. Good luck — and get some sleep!


Elizabeth Dunn, Ph.D. is a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia who researches how time, money, and technology shape human happiness. She is also the scientific advisor for Happy Money, a financial company that combines psychology and money to help people live happier lives. Have a question for Liz? Write her at and check back every Tuesday for her next column.



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