By Phoebe BillingsBabysitting co-ops are organized by a group of parents that share an interest in getting some guilt-free time without their children and want to encourage social skills for their kids. While it is a cost-effective solution to childcare (it's free!), many parents, despite their economic situation, prefer the social and personalized aspect of cooperative childcare.
|Advantages of a co-op include: |
The first thing you need for a babysitting co-op is a group of parents with children. Babysitting co-ops have been started with as few as two women; others have membership as high as 50.
|So where do you find members? It's likely there are other at-home moms right in your own neighborhood, local place of worship, gym, or even an older child's school. The Internet provides many local boards that you can use to advertise for potential parents free of charge. Another good option is parenting education programs for mothers as well as mommy and me classes. These groups offer you an instant connection to prospective members. Don't be shy! You will be surprised how receptive other stay-at-home moms will be to the concept.|
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:
The Bookkeeper System
|No matter what system is used, members need to pay attention to totals. A rule of thumb for the Bookkeeping or Funny Money system is that once a member has a total of 25, it's time for her to start babysitting. Members with totals of 60 or more are urged to get out and go more.|
|All co-op members receive membership lists from their co-ops which contain the name, address, and phone number of each member, their children's names and ages, an emergency contact number, and the name and phone number of the children's doctor. This list should also include important medical information such as allergies or any other information that a sitter would find helpful on your child's temperament or personality. Some lists may include the number of the poison control center or columns designating members who may be willing to babysit evenings and weekends. If all members receive email, you can create a list to keep each other up-to-date on all these issues.|
|Periodic membership meetings should also be held—monthly or quarterly. You can arrange periodic meetings to discuss problems that arise and issues among the co-op. But who will watch the kids? Some co-ops opt to have a party where kids can join in on the fun, or for a more formal discussion, they choose hours that fit with each others' schedules.|
As with any organization, a few rules should be in place that are clear to each member to help keep things running smoothly. For example:
|You will find that your group's needs will be specific to your varied interests and personalities, and the rules list can be an ongoing document reflecting the special interests of your particular co-op.|