DEAR ABBY: Regarding “Feels Like a Fool in Gainesville, Fla.” (Aug. 11), who complained that her friend “stole” her baby sitter – I have news for that woman. Baby sitters, even those under 18, aren’t indentured servants who serve only one master. A baby sitter is a free agent who can work for anybody she wants. What is that baby sitter supposed to do – keep her schedule open in the hope this woman is going to call her? What if she doesn’t? The baby sitter loses income.

“Feels Like a Fool” is selfish. It’s a free market, and baby sitters in demand should work for the families who pay them the most, have the best-behaved kids and offer the tastiest snacks. If someone wants an exclusive arrangement, then put the baby sitter on retainer. – FORMER BABY SITTER, ALBANY, N.Y.

You are right. The sitter is a free agent and obviously the “most valuable player” in the baby-sitting game. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: A baby sitter is not something you can “steal.” This is America, and it’s a free, open market. The woman who wrote that letter should call the sitter, offer $2 more an hour and perhaps a signing bonus, along with payment up front. A good sitter is hard to find and worth the additional expense. – JIM S. IN MOUNTAIN VIEW

DEAR ABBY: I think your response about the adults in question was right on. However, there is a third party in play here – the baby sitter. It appears the sitter could stand to learn a little about loyalty to her employer. If she no longer wishes to sit for “Fool’s” family, she should just say so and become “Mimi’s” regular sitter. But if she wants to remain the regular sitter for “Fool,” she needs to act like it. This is an essential life skill to learn. Treat those who employ you with respect, or they won’t rely on you for very long. – RETIRED BABY SITTER, SEWICKLEY, PA.

DEAR ABBY: Your response surprised me. It isn’t normal behavior for a friend to steal a baby sitter or use you for any purpose. Isn’t part of being a good friend that you trust one another? Refusing to share resources with friends implies that other friends will do the same.

The woman who used “Feels Like a Fool” needs to get the message that her behavior is unacceptable. She lied when she said it would only be occasionally; she used her friend and took advantage of her trusting nature. I think you should have advised the writer to dump the friend. – LYN W., COLUMBUS, OHIO

DEAR ABBY: Your reply was way off. A baby sitter (hairdresser or house cleaner) often depends on word of mouth for clients. For someone to suggest the baby sitter is theirs exclusively and a “friend” should check with you before hiring her is immature and selfish.

“Fool” should stop whining, book first or find an alternative sitter. I think “Mimi” should find another friend and I don’t think you should have told “Fool” to stop being so generous. She obviously isn’t either one. – DONNA H., SEQUIM, WASH.

DEAR ABBY: As a sitter myself, I’m not surprised that the friend asked for a recommendation. Parents often tell me how hard it is to find a good baby sitter, and most of the parents I sit for found me though a friend.

But I would have advised “Feels Like a Fool” differently. I would rather the parents I sit for be honest with me. They should praise their sitter and tell her how much they value her services. And if they believe she’s not worth losing, try offering her a raise. – SITTER IN SAN JOSE, CALIF.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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