For moms having a baby sitter who is reliable and available is priceless. However paying a babysitter to stay with your kids, especially during the day can make going shopping alone or having privacy at the doctor’s office just a pipe dream for a- home parents. A babysitting co-op can help to ease the financial burdens of a babysitter by allowing parents to barter for services they need.
Babysitting coops are small groups of people who trade babysitting with some form of tracking. The basics are simple – find a group of people, decide on a currency, make sure everyone has contact information, and you are good to go!
Who should join?
You need a few families to join in so you have a critical number of people in the co-op. About a dozen is a good place to start. It is a good idea to have a play date for everyone at the beginning and to do that every few months so that kids are comfortable with the other parents. This helps parents feel more comforatable leaving their bundle of joy in the hands of someone they know as well.
You will need a coordinator who will help keep track of the hours everyone spends, send out regular updates, and keeps medical forms on hand. This doesn’t take a lot of time - but it does need to be regular. The coordinator will need to make sure that everyone has a current directory of members. Make sure you have a plan in place for this position to get rotated every year or so.
Co-ops use many forms of currency. Some just keep track of hours on the computer and others use poker chips. The poker chips are usually color-coded to represent different portions of an hour. To get started, many co-ops give everyone a few points or chips to start with. This can be based on number or age of children or it can be a flat start up amount.
Once you have a group of friends who want to do this set up a play date for everyone interested. At that meeting the secretary should provide hand outs such as a directory with everyone’s contact information, medical forms and a safety check list so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to baby proofing your home. The medical forms can be more or less detailed depending on your group and could be as simple as emergency contacts and food/pet allergies.
Once everyone agrees to join, you need to decide on schedules. Are members going to email the group when they need someone to help or are they going to sign up at monthly meetings? What happens if someone cancels or has a sick child? Are all hours equal or if there are two or three kids is the fee/payment higher? Taking time to decide these questions at the outset can help save headaches later.
If you plan to accept new members at some point in the future, consider setting up geographic boundaries so that no one is having to travel far to drop their children off.
A babysitting co-op can be a huge blessing for parents who need a hand and are on a tight budget. One bonus is the life long friendships that can develop between families within the co-op.
Image Credit: Flickr – loyaldefender2004