This post is brought to you by the Fred Rogers Company and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.
I love my neighborhood. We’re all very supportive of each other and are truly a community. One example of this is our neighborhood babysitting co-op. When my kids were young, I joined on the recommendation of another neighborhood mom (and friend) who was already a member, and it was the best decision ever! Using a points system, we’d swap babysitting time with other parents… quality childcare at no cost! Being a stay-at-home mom, my husband and I just couldn’t afford to hire a sitter for date nights and such, so this was an awesome group to be a part of. We saved money and got to know neighborhood families at the same time.
Starting a neighborhood babysitting co-op takes some work, but it’s definitely worth it! It’s a great way to support the children and families in your community. These are some of my tips:
- Develop a system to track hours. We use a points system – 1 point equals 1 hour – and keep track of them with a spreadsheet.
- Assign an administrator. We have both a president and secretary. The president’s term lasts for 6 months, and involves running the bimonthly meetings, overseeing group events, welcoming new members, and making sure everything is going smoothly. She is then compensated for her time with points – each member gives her one half hour. The secretary keeps track of all the hours that members report to her; the position rotates every 3 months.
- Determine how you will schedule sits. It can be as basic as a phone chain, or all online via a listserv like a Yahoo! group, which is what we use. Members report the sits to the secretary by email.
- Set a membership limit. If you make it too small, members will have trouble finding others to sit for them. Too big, and it’ll be hard to get to know each other well and maintain that community feel. Setting a geographic boundary will also help keep the group from getting too big. 25-30 families works well for our large neighborhood!
- Have a buy out option. There were some instances where a mom had to leave the co-op immediately – her family moved out of the area, for instance – so we have a ‘buy out’ option where she can pay the bank $10 for every hour she owes. This money is then used for neighborhood events.
- Hold regular meetings and functions. This way members can get to know each other, you can welcome new members, and address any issues. We alternate meetings in members’ homes and organize frequent events, like a holiday party, Easter egg hunt, Halloween parade, etc.
- Decide how you’ll admit new members. We have a rule that the potential member must already know at least one other person in the co-op and attend one meeting before using the co-op services.
- Get the word out. Include a blurb about the group in your neighborhood association’s newsletter, or put up fliers at your local church and preschool.
- Don’t limit it to just babysitting children! This system can be used for pet sitting, rides to the airport, and more.
Of course, a babysitting co-op doesn’t have to be a formal arrangement with all the rules I’ve mentioned above. It could just be you and a few other parents, swapping babysitting duties on date nights! Because this is about so much more than just free babysitting – it’s about building long-lasting friendships and getting some ‘me’ time every now and then without the guilt.
Won’t you #bemyneighbor?
Remember how Mister Rogers began each program by asking viewers to be his neighbors? Now, we’re asking you to do the same! WontYouBeMyNeighbor.org is a wonderful online destination that celebrates neighborliness all across the country. You can share a special story, like mine, about being a good neighbor or recognize someone else who has demonstrated neighborliness! Submitting your stories for WontYouBeMyNeighbor.org is easy – simply post your story to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #BeMyNeighbor. Your stories will be shared on the site, inspiring others to do neighborly acts of their own!