How many of you are participants in a babysitting co-op? If you are not (or have never heard of one) are you interested in starting one in your neighborhood. Below is the advice of some moms who have found babysitting co-ops to be invaluable.
I’ve done 2 different types of babysitting swaps/co-ops. Both might not be considered a co-op because it’s not a big group – but regardless, I love it and it works!
I have one friend that we swap kids/errands – she will watch the four kids while I go to Target, Safeway or Costco and get both of our lists done. We just decide who is the errand runner and who has the kids based on our load – that is, who needs some alone time 🙂
I also have multiple friends that we will babysit swap – one of us gets date night on Fri night, the other on Sat night. What I really love is the down time when I babysit! When you put your friend’s kids to bed and you are alone in someone else’s house, you don’t have any laundry or dishes, etc to do – so I bring over a book, my laptop or just relax and watch TV – all by myself – it’s great!
We have a point system that we use to keep track of sits and keep it fair. You get 20 points when you join the group. One point per hour for the first child, 1/2 point per hour for any additional children. For example, if someone watches my three kids for 2 hours, they earn 4 points. We exchange popsicle sticks to keep track of our points.
The reason we use popsicle sticks is to make the payments more tangible. We used to take turns being a “secretary” and that person would keep track of everyone’s points (instead of exchanging sticks). This became a problem because one family kept in the “negative” month after month even though she knew that she was in the red. (Even though, according to the by-laws, she wasn’t supposed to even ASK for sits because she was in the red, and she continued to and one of the other very nice moms could never say no. The nice mom became very resentful).
We also keep a directory of which everyone has a copy. This includes parents’ names, phone numbers for home and work and cell, pediatrician’s name and number, hospital preference (God forbid!), childrens’ birthdates & allergies. Also answers the questions, “Is your home child-proofed? any pets? smokers? guns?”
Beside the obvious benefit of free babysitting…the new friendships that we have made have been awesome! These are the neighbors I know I can always count on, and we have so much fun with them.
We used a plus/minus system. Additions/Subtractions were calculated per child (1 hr for 1 child, 2 hr for 2 children, etc.) Each member rotated being the bookkeeper (commitment of one month) and at that time was kept in a binder. Now could be online. The person doing the sitting called in hours and received the credit while hours were deducted from the other. No one could have a debit of more than 10 at any time. We had two dozen members.
The best benefit was meeting other women with children with the same ages as mine. Also, I was a stay at home mom and that allowed me to do things without kids during the day. I rarely used this at night, but did in a pinch.
I would do it again in a heartbeat! I made lasting friends who I still keep in touch with in IL (I am now in TX and my kids are 27 and 30)
She and her husband Roger are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, CA. When she’s not dating her husband or hanging out with her puggle Jake, Kathi is speaking at retreats, conferences and women’s events across the US.