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Join a Babysitting Co-op

babysitting co-op

With babysitters expecting to be paid $10 or more an hour, it is hard to justify a night out when you are living on a budget.

Consider using a co-op (co-operative) for free babysitting!

Babysitting co-operatives are usually organized groups of families from the same neighborhood, church, or circle of friends who take turns watching each others' children free of charge.

Benefits of Babysitting Co-ops

A babysitting co-op gives you:

  • no-cost, quality childcare

  • a support network of other parents who deal with many of the same daily issues as you do

  • the opportunity to spend time on yourself

  • possibly a new group of friends for you and your children

How to Start a Babysitting Co-op

If you want to start your own babysitting co-op, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Start out small. You can start a co-op with just two or three friends or neighbors who live within a driving distance of 15 minutes or less, then later grow to a group of 10 to 20.

  • Be selective. Try to find parents who have a parenting style that is similar to your own and make sure their homes are safe and clean.

  • Use the point system. Most co-ops work because they run on a point system. Every time you sit for someone, you earn points. When someone sits for you, you lose points.

  • Set day and night rules. If you request a sitter during daytime hours, you should drop your children off at the sitter's house. If you request a sitter in the evening, you should expect the sitter to come to your house so your kids can go to sleep in their own beds. You will be charged more points for an evening sitter.

  • It isn't daycare. Most babysitting sessions last just two to five hours, long enough to run errands, meet up with friends or go on a date.

Get Started

The first thing you need for a babysitting co-op is a group of women (or men) with children.

Babysitting co-ops have been started with as few as two women; others have membership as high as 50.

Where do you find members?

There may be other parents in your neighborhood or who attend your church.

Early-childhood community education programs for mothers and children can also give you a connection to prospective members.

Start a conversation with others about a babysitting co-op.

You may want to agree to start on a trial basis at first.

Get Organized

Because a co-op is a give-and-take proposition, it's necessary to have a record keeping system so that all members benefit from the co-op. Here are two examples of record keeping systems from other babysitting co-ops that you may use or modify to meet your needs:

1. Each member begins with a 30-point base and is charged one point for one child per hour and an additional point for each additional child per hour. Members who do the babysitting call in their earned points to a secretary who debits and credits the member "accounts." The secretary is a position that rotates among members monthly; she is paid five points for keeping the books updated.

2. There is no need for a secretary to keep track of hours with the hour-card system. Each member receives 30 hours worth of cards in one, one-half, and one-quarter hour increments. She pays whoever babysits her children with these cards—a one-hour card for one child per hour and a one-half hour card for each additional child per hour.

  • All co-op members should be given a membership list of the name, address and phone number of each member; their children's names and ages; an emergency number and the name and phone number of the children's doctor. Some lists may include the number of the poison control center or columns designating members who may be willing to babysit evenings and weekends.

  • Periodic membership meetings can also be held—monthly or quarterly. Larger co-ops may have educational meetings with expert speakers who talk about first aid or other child-care related topics. Some have annual or bi-annual family picnics or other types of social gatherings.

  • Another idea is to hold quarterly evening meetings which have a social and business mix. Members work cooperatively to solve problems that may arise from meeting to meeting, assessing how well the co-op is working. They also build friendships among their members.

  • Small co-ops can host monthly meetings in different members' homes and bring their children along. These meetings allow mothers and children to get to know each other better and become familiar with the different homes where they will stay. Although primarily social in nature, a meeting like this can also serve to increase the group's cohesiveness.

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