I moved to Hoboken, New Jersey when I was eight months pregnant, about to embark on life as a stay-at-home mom, knowing no one. I describe this place, a tiny one-mile city, minutes outside of Manhattan, as magical, although I didn’t know it yet. Urban and completely kid-friendly, the streets runneth over with strollers and babywearing mamas. At the time, I had no idea how much support a new mom needed, but it was here in Hoboken, that I found my circle of moms, the women who got me through daily life as a first-time mom.
When we finally came up for a breath from mommyhood and realized how much more we could accomplish without children in tow, it was only natural that we decided to create our babysitting co-op together. At first, it allowed us to get that overdue haircut or make a doctor’s appointment, but soon we progressed to date nights with our husbands. This co-op proved so successful that I did not hire my first official babysitter until my son was close to two-years-old. And, with a sitter costing 12 to 15 dollars for one child, that added up to quite the savings.
WHAT YOU NEED TO CREATE A BABYSITTING CO-OP:
- You need a group of moms that have similar parenting styles: Would you let your child cry-it-out? Do you limit your child’s TV viewing or diet in any way? Obviously, flaky friends need not apply. Reliability is key.
- A group large enough to accommodate your requests. We had nine moms in ours, although I usually relied on the same two or three.
- A method of “payment.” What you don’t want is one person becoming the default sitter. In our case, we paid in “gold” coins (available here on Amazon). Moms took their stash seriously, volunteering when their supply of coins ran low.
- A clearly defined set of rules
OUR RULES:*These were the actual rules used by our co-op
- Every participant starts with 30 coins
- One 1/2 hour of babysitting=1 token
- One hour of babysitting= 2 tokens
- Night-time babysitting= regular token rate plus a “penalty” of 3 tokens. For example, if you went out for 3 hours, that would cost 6 tokens + 3 token penalty= 9 tokens.
- Daytime: presume babysitting includes drop-off at “sitter’s” home unless otherwise requested
- Nighttime: presume babysitting takes place at child’s home unless otherwise requested
- Provide “sitter” with emergency numbers, including doctor information as well as a schedule of the nightly routine
- No baths will be given
- Requests for babysitting should be sent to the group as a whole (mainly to ensure that everyone is actively participating in the co-op)
- (We lived in a city where we walked everywhere so this may not apply to you). If you return late at night, provide cab fare
At night, before we went out, we tried to feed our children and put them to bed before our friend arrived to babysit. I really looked forward to the nighttime sessions, to the peace of someone else’s home. Rather than spending my nights folding laundry, loading dishes, and thinking of all the other tasks I should be doing, I would watch TV, read a book, and organize my photos.
I should mention that once most of us got pregnant with our second child, this co-op, unfortunately, fell apart. As more and more of our co-op members fled to the suburbs, our original pool dwindled. As I sit here now, years later, I wonder if that wasn’t the case if this co-op could have continued.
In fact, revisiting this subject, I think a co-op could still work for me. Now that my kids are older and I live in the suburbs, I may just start one up again!
Have you tried a co-op? Did it work for you?
Read more from her at her blog, My Purse Strings