Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Babysitting Exchange!

Being as budget conscious as we can be leading up to the birth of baby-girl and of course once she is here - I am so excited that I've been able to arrange a babysitting Exchange!

Y'all babysitters are flippin' expensive! I would know, I once was one and I remember just how much money I would rake in! An average night out can run you $50 in babysitting fees, that's more than the cost of the meal we would have gone out for!

We have friends & family that will be more than willing to watch baby girl, but I certainly don't want to wear that welcome out. So, my friend Sonya who has two little ones suggested we set up our own little babysitting exchange between the two of us! 

I haven't found a lot of other moms around here who do this; or if they do, they don't put this name on it. I of course don't mind the "hey can you watch my kiddo tonight and I'll watch yours when you need it" but that can easily become one-sided and one of the parties becomes very used and feels abused by the constant request of "favors".  I personally would much prefer an arrangement that we both stick to and can both use and honor.

From doing my research, I've found two tried and true methods of co-ops and exchanges - the Equal Time Arrangement or Coupon Method. Equal time is exactly as it sounds... more on that later. The Coupon Method is a little more complicated, but would be really effective in a co-op of 3 or more people. When you join the co-op, you get "coupons" for a set amount of time and you buy babysitting with the coupons from another family in the co-op. To arrange the sitter, you post in a group setting, like a mass email or much more up my alley, in a facebook group that you need a sitter for X number of hours for Z number of kids & any other details relevant to the situation. Susie Q is running low on tickets and is available so she says she will take your kiddos.

Sonya and I have agreed to an equal time arrangement. If I have her two for 3 hours, she will in-turn watch my little one for 3 hours another day. (2 kids are more work than 1 baby you say?!? - Never fear, I address that later.)

 Since Sonya and I are friends, we don't need too many rules to start our little exchange out, especially since it will just be the two of us. I'm hopeful though that we will find a network of moms and kiddos after baby-girl comes and we can set up a complete co-op or a few other individual exchanges so that we won't always have to rely on Sonya in the event that she isn't available.

Variables to Consider when setting up your own exchange or co-op:

Equal work - Other babysitting co-ops or exchanges I've found will charge more "time" for babysitting multiple children. So they charge 'per child hour', if they have two kids that you watch for 3 hours, you've just earned 6 hours babysitting from them. While others charge more time against babies in diapers. 
For our arrangement - we figure that her well behaved 2 children are "cost equivalent" to my (hopefully) easy-going single baby who will need diaper changes. 

Picky, picky - In a co-op situation, you can find yourself faced with the difficult situation of needing to say "no" to a family that has a disruptive, misbehaving, or otherwise poor behaving child. This is when the Coupon Method would be perfect! (I hope to use this if I can gather enough parents into a co-op) The  problem family with the disruptive kiddo won't be able to really earn any tickets, therefore can't really ask for services. 
In an exchange situation, I can't forsee this really being an issue simply because you will very-likely know the family and child before entering into the exchange agreement. If their kiddo is a little toot, you know better than agreeing to this!

Familiarity - This is an issue we haven't given much thought to because as far as we can see it won't be an issue for us. However in larger co-ops there may be members that you simply don't know. This can be avoided by setting up the co-op in your mom group at church or child's class at church but that isn't a sure fire answer to knowing without-a-doubt that your child is in safe hands. To this I've found two answers, I think they would work best when used together.  
Background checks! They aren't fun, but important when picking the person you are entrusting your child's life with. I've also seen home checks by the co-op administrator being suggested  before a family can be admitted to the group.  
Socials Who doesn't like a fun yard party for the adults while the children have a playdate?!? Get to know the other families in your co-op by having monthly get-togethers at different houses!

Location, location, location - Sometimes I may be available to have an extra kid or two tag along with me on a Saturday afternoon while I run errands, or deal with things around the house. It's entirely different if keeping that kid means that I have to have a totally free afternoon to go sit at someone elses' house and entertain their child. Worse yet, if I have to make other arrangements for my children during this time. The only solution to this I've come up with is charging extra tickets or "time" against the bank if they require you to keep the child at their home.

We're so excited for this opportunity, even if we won't be using it for a few months... you know until little girl makes her appearance and I have managed to un-attach myself from her enough to leave her with someone else...

Do you participate in a Babysitting Co-op or Exchange?

What are some pros/cons you've run across in a structured setting like this? 

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