I sometimes get questions about the babysitting co-op we’re part of, and I thought I’d share some details here! Back when I was on maternity leave with Emmett, I used to pop in at a local postpartum group where we’d talk about breastfeeding, baby sleep patterns, relationships, or do fun activities like baby massage. It was a helpful weekly outing to gear up for, especially in those early days when simply leaving the house with a newborn felt like a major accomplishment. This session was almost exactly two years ago!
In the spot where the group met was a flier on the wall for “FREE BABYSITTING,” and, while it caught my eye, I wasn’t quite sure what it meant. My friend Amy (of Yummy Toddler Food fame) clued me in — it was a babysitting cooperative that she was a part of. As it happens, Amy was moving to a small town outside of Des Moines, and so she introduced me to the group and gifted me with her remaining ‘points’. Essentially, a babysitting co-op is a more formalized structure for parents trading babysitting with other parents who have kids around the same age. You can start a co-op among friends, and it’s a great way to widen the circle and get to know people who are around the same life stage. A babysitting co-op probably not an end-all solution to your childcare issues, but it’s a really nice option for people who don’t have a lot of family in town.
So how does it work? You babysit each other’s kids and attend/host meetings and play dates for points instead of cash. In our co-op, an hour of babysitting “costs/pays” 2 points per kid (or 3 points during a premium weekend night), and additional kids are a point. We offer extra points for sitting at the requesting family’s house, too, which can make bedtime sits a lot easier. Families can also earn points for attending or hosting a meeting or play date (we had a brunch pancake-making play date at our house in February, and in June someone hosted a nature walk at Brown’s Woods). We alternate between a meeting or play date every other month.
At first, I thought the meetings were kind of a pain, because who really needs more meetings in her life? But aside from being a time to plan upcoming play dates and talk about, say, potty training techniques, it’s a nice environment to get to know the other parents and see the homes where you’re sending kids. There are typically drinks and snacks, which elevate any meeting to nearly a party.
Play dates are a bonus activity, and again, a great chance to get to know the parents and kids. I only knew one of the other moms in the co-op when we joined, and in the year-and-a-half since, I’ve come to really appreciate the people in the group as friends. It turns out one of the other moms and I worked at the same Colorado Girl Scout camp, different summers, and live just down the street from each other now. It might have taken years to cross paths with them, or we may never have met at all!
We use a free site, SittingAround.com, for administration of points/sit requests and as a home base for co-op info, and then have a private Facebook group where we post more casual updates, events, photos, etc. We take turns with admin/secretary duties at meetings, and people can participate in the co-op as much or little as they want. But, the more active your group, the better it is for everyone.
Our co-op was started by a woman who attended the Before & After the Birth postpartum group, and involved some of her friends with kids around the same age, and others who had a connection to that group. Martha has since moved to New York, but was super organized and awesome about starting it up, and even attended a meeting when she was back in town this week!