Babysitting is expensive. How many of us never go out on the town or feel like we have to bow out of events because we know that the cost of a date will include an added $15 per hour? Probably a lot. I know I’ve said no to some amazing outings for lack of affordable, reliable, and trustworthy childcare. Now, my kids come first, so I firmly believe that declining with regrets has been the right choice in many instances. But I’m also not ashamed to admit that it stung a little!
As I talk to more and more moms about Mom Meet Mom prior to launch, I’m finding again and again that most of us are facing the same parenting issues. Including a need for sometimes childcare, that is a person to watch our kids for an hour or two when we have a dentist appointment or need to put the finishing touches on a big professional project.
One solution more moms are embracing is the babysitting co-op – also known as a babysitting exchange. What it is is a group of moms who agree to exchange babysitting, for free, within the group. These groups can be as small as five families or as large as thirty, and it’s up to the group whether it’s moms doing the sitting or dads can get involved, too.
How an individual babysitting co-op works varies. Some babysitting co-ops are casual, just a bunch of moms who know one another and can rely on one another for sometimes childcare. Others follow specific programs that lay out rules of conduct, bylaws, instructions for screening and taking on new members, and hourly accounting systems to ensure that everyone is using the co-op fairly. Some even have a schedule of dues, presidents and secretaries, and home inspections.
In either case, the growing popularity of babysitting co-ops proves that we moms need help and that we can find ways to help one another. Starting a babysitting co-op can mean new friends and new freedom. As in the freedom to get a haircut without bribing the kiddies with lollipops. It also means you no longer feel obligated to sit for friends at the drop of a hat because they watched your littles last week – in an exchange, it’s all about accounting. Not to mention, accountability! Not only do you have a group seeing that you do your fair share, but you also have a group making sure you take your fair share.
As for kids, they tend to favor babysitting co-ops over babysitters because the whole arrangement feels more like a playdate than, bleah, an afternoon with a sitter. And when the whole family is happy, you just can’t beat it!
For more information on starting your own babysitting co-op, check out Smart Mom’s Baby-Sitting Co-Op Handbook: How We Solved the Baby-Sitter Puzzle by Gary Myers.