While many Bowdoin students work with professors in laboratories or as teaching assistants, some find themselves doing a different kind of work: babysitting for a professor’s children. 
Babysitting isn’t listed on the student employment website, but students and professors nonetheless find various ways to connect.

Genevieve de Kervor ’18 found a babysitting opportunity with Chair of English Department Aaron Kitch and Assistant Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and Cinema Studies Allison Cooper.

“During my first year I was having a hard time and needed to be part of a family,” she said. “So [Dean of First Year Students] Janet Lohmann said ‘I have a perfect idea,’ so she contacted Allison Cooper.”

Recommendations from faculty members are one way that Bowdoin students begin babysitting.

“It’s a pretty small world, a pretty small campus,” Kitch said. “Colleagues have had students they recommend to us, and we try to get a hold of them. Good babysitters are a valuable commodity.”

Laura Henry, John F. and Dorothy H. Magee associate professor of government, says she occasionally picks babysitters from her crop of former students.

“If I’ve had a student who seems really sympathetic and energetic in a class, then the next semester I might just send a note and say, ‘Are you ever interested in babysitting?’” she said.
Henry has also found babysitters through the Bowdoin Children’s Center, where some psychology students work.

“Sometimes it would be clear that my children were really happily engaging with a particular student, and then we might follow up to see if the student was interested in babysitting,” she said.

Aviva Briefel, professor of English and cinema studies, said she doesn’t worry about mixing academic and personal relationships with her student babysitters.

“Whereas I initially made it a personal rule not to ask someone whom I was currently teaching, I don’t worry about that as much now,” she said in an email to the Orient. “I feel that both I and the student are able to keep our classroom and babysitting relationship separate.”

Sarah Frankl ’16, a biology major and an English minor, sometimes babysits for Briefel’s kids. Although she took several classes with Briefel, who was her pre-major advisor, she likewise finds it easy to keep academics and babysitting independent of one another.

“I have her phone number, but I’m not going to text her and be like, ‘Are you late to office hours?’” she said.

A pre-established academic relationship also means that professors understand their students’ workloads.

“I would never ask a student to babysit if they had a paper due in my class the next day,” Briefel said.

The academic relationship also makes it easy for professors to trust student babysitters with their children.

“I have never had a bad experience with a Bowdoin babysitter,” said Briefel. “I feel that the time that my kids have spent with their sitters will be some of their best childhood memories. They are always thrilled to hang out with Bowdoin students.”

In addition, the opportunity to connect with a professor’s family is a welcome break for Bowdoin babysitters. Frankl said she enjoys the opportunity to spend time with people who aren’t college students.

“It’s really frustrating to only be with one age group all the time,” she said. “It’s nice to have a conversation that’s completely off-the-wall random because kids will say the cutest things.” 
For some students, babysitting can create a bond that extends beyond childcare duties. 

“I feel like they’re my second family,” de Kervor said. “I walk their dog when I have the chance... I always go to their birthday parties and family events, and whenever I need anything I go to Allison and Aaron.”

This connection isn’t limited to a student’s time at Bowdoin.

“We had a student—she must have graduated in either 2010 or 2011—who babysat for us when my younger son was an infant and a toddler,” Henry said. “I didn’t have any academic relationship with her, but she was just amazing and we keep up with her and see her if she comes to Maine.”

While graduation poses one obstacle for professors using student babysitters, another problem is that Bowdoin students aren’t on campus year round. 

“The one problem with Bowdoin babysitters is they go away,” Henry said. “Not only do they graduate, they’re not here during the holidays, they’re not here during Spring Break, they’re not here over the summer.”

Even during the school year, scheduling can be difficult for many students and professors.
“[Students] are busy,” said Henry. “So you might have someone babysit once and they’re lovely, but if just turns out scheduling-wise it’s challenging to ever have them again.”

But when babysitting does work out, both students and faculty enjoy the benefits.

“It’s a great perk of living so close to Bowdoin,” Kitch said.