Flickr photo by madmoleculeI've always been a huge believer in a weekly date night. However, our bank account has not always supported my enthusiasm.
Luckily, my very motivated neighbors decided to start a local babysitting co-op when my daughter was around a year old. We lived in money saving bliss for a few years until group dynamic changes meant the demise of our community of care givers. Still, the money we saved for those two-plus years and the friends we still have; made the co-op an amazing experience I'll never forget.
Here are some of the ways we made it work:
1. Team up with parents in a small geographic area.
If one family is too far away, they'll never get the others to come over and sit. It will also make the far-flung family less willing to come to your house.
2. Make sure your children are around the same age.
Especially when you only have one child, you're really familiar with what needs to happen for a kid in that specific stage. It can be too much of a learning curve to babysit a 3-year-old when you have an infant. Likewise, if you're in the toddler stage, babysitting an infant can be jarring.
3. Find a neutral organizer.
Instead of having people call dibs over email, sign up for a service like Babysitter Exchange. It automatically tracks requests and points, taking the guess work out of who's sat where and when.
4. Meet in person once a month.
Having a picnic or brunch with everyone and their kiddos makes you more likely to answer the, "Help! We have concert tickets and no sitter for tonight!" cries, and vice versa.
5. Realize that change will happen.
Once our small group of first-time parents started having second children, the one and dones were not so compatible, babysitting-wise, as the parents of siblings. Know when the group no longer works for you, or you are no longer available to the group.
Are you in a babysitting co-op? Share your tips in comments!