We all know that date nights are important. And it’s amazing how having regularly scheduled date nights can help to see each other as people, rather than the roommate who helps keep the kids safe. But they can get so expensive! A babysitter in conjunction with a movie, dinner, the theatre, or whatever all add up really quickly. So what are you to do? Spend the money and hope to make ends meet? Or stay at home and save, but run the risk of growing apart?
Babysitting Co-op to the Rescue?
What if I said there was a better way to do date nights? You’ve heard of co-ops, right? There are co-ops for just about everything these days: food co-ops, workspace co-ops, ride sharing co-ops, etc. Did you know there are babysitting co-ops? Well, there are! The gist is you trade sits with other families in exchange for a free date night when someone else sits for you. No more paying for babysitters, no more failed date nights due to freaked out pre-teens / teenagers when your kids are not on their A-game. You can rest easy because you have an experienced parent watching your kids.
That Sounds Like a lot of Work…
You might be saying to yourself, “That sounds great, but how do I even begin to do something like this? I don’t know anyone in the area.” Or, “I don’t have a lot of friends who have kids.” And then there’s the inevitable, “How do I make sure things are fair for everyone involved? I don’t want to spend the time keeping track of who sat for who, etc.” Or maybe the biggest concern of all, “I have a lot of friends who have kids, but I’m not sure if I want to spend my precious time watching someone else’s kids just so I can have my own date nights.”
Actually, It’s Not That Bad
Well, let me tell you, you are not alone. I had the same concerns when I first heard about babysitting co-ops. So let me address them for you.
How do I begin something like this?
First, do you already have a social support system of friends with kids in the area? Yes or no.
If yes, bring the idea up with them next time you talk. See if they are interested. Share this post with them if necessary. Then get everyone who is interested together to set up ground rules.
If you don’t have a group of friends or village yet, you’re not out of luck. Chances are there are other people reading this post who are just like you. Join one of the MMB Facebook neighborhood groups. Ask if anyone is interested in this idea and then if they’d like to get together for a playdate someplace to see if you’re compatible. Once you find a group of about 5 families you should be set.
How do I make sure things are fair?
Set ground rules. They can be simple or complex, but make sure they work for everyone in the group. For example, is there a time limit for how long a sit can be? Or is there a required number of sit requests / offers to sit during a 3 month window? In our group, we have to request / offer to sit at least 1 time every 3 months in order to stay in good standing with the group.
Next, figure out how to handle differences in parenting style. Our group does our best to follow the parenting style of the requesting family. Each family has a document that explains basic situations, how to respond, and has things like the basic bedtime routine info, etc… This same document also lists who to contact in case of emergencies: the family’s address, health insurance info, and emergency contact info. These are just some ideas, figure out what works best for you and your group and then go from there.
Lastly, figure out how to keep track of all the requests and sits. Do you want to use the honor system? Or would you rather use a point system and a site like Sitting Around (https://www.sittingaround.com/)? Our group chose the later because it does all of the heavy lifting for us: it keeps track of all requests for sits, reminds you of when they are, and manages all of the points. Very little effort is required for any part of the process.
Do I really want to spend my time watching someone else’s child all so I can have a free date night?
Yes, Yes, and Yes!!! Our group tends to have most of our date nights scheduled for right after the kids go to bed. So most of the time all the sitter had to do is to make sure the house is safe. And even when you do have to actually work during the sit, it’s different when you’re watching someone else’s child. In my experience, they tend to be on their best behavior. Chances are you’re not really doing anything too much different than what you would be doing at home, so why not rack up some future date night credits?
So What Are You Waiting For?
When you take the cost of the babysitter out of the equation, dates nights become a lot more affordable. They also become less stressful, because you can rest easy knowing that another skilled parent is taking care of your child(ren). Plus, you can use the group for things other than dates. Use it for things like: doctor’s appointments, short breaks during the day to get things done kid-free, or even just for an occasional massage. Regardless of how you use this, you will find it to be an invaluable asset to your life. So what are you waiting for? Start your own babysitting co-op right now!