The Answer: Try Co-operative Babysitting.
Raising children without the aid of an extended family nearby can be challenging. Looking back on those preschool years, it was my local babysitting co-op that helped keep me sane. Those dear co-op members became my extended family; sisters for me and aunties for my children.
A co-op exists to support its members by trading childcare hours, holding playgroups, swapping clothing, circulating clothes for young children, and whatever else meets membership needs. The greatest benefit is a cure for the sense of isolation experienced while making a transition from one career to another from the career you had, to that of becoming a professional mom (for some of us it was the addition of an extra career).
My co-op experience began when a friend invited me to a meeting to see if it was something I’d like to be part of. She acted as my sponsor when my answer was an emphatic, “YES.” The founders of this particular group were women who met at a recreation center mothers’ morning. They networked with other women until they reached a comfortable number, [group size] (in this case 30 families was the cap.) Along with the growth in numbers was an evolution in structure. A sponsorship system, which was in place by the time I arrived, served to keep childcare safe and at an acceptable standard. A member basically vouched for a new member and the group voted on new applications.
The co-op held monthly meetings that usually turned into socials. The adult company and resulting friendships were sanity savers. We had monthly playgroups in winter and weekly ones in summer. Summer playgroups took the form of field trips. A few of the places we visited were: Fort Rodd Hill Historic Park, local beaches, and a Wading Pool Yard Party. Some winter fun: a winter party at a member’s home held in January with the consuming of Christmas leftover goodies, a Valentine Skate Party and an Indoor Picnic in February to name a few idea.
To help those of you who think a co-op is a great idea – if you can’t find one – starts one. Begin by making a list of what your group guidelines would look like. Here is a sample of some goals and guidelines that have been used by other:
Goal: To act as a support group for families of young children by providing high quality, occasional home-based child care on a time exchange basis.
General Guideline Ideas: Sitting is generally in the sitter’s home, daytime hours. Weekends and evening are only by mutual agreement and is not mandatory as this is considered family time.
- No more than 5 (five) preschoolers at one time, that are not blood-related. President and Treasurer are six-month term positions rotated throughout the membership
- President’s job will be to coordinate and chair the meetings, while Treasurer keeps track of exchanged hours.
- Secretary is drawn each month from a member in attendance
- Parent arranges their own sitter. Call Treasurer after you have babysat at one point per child per hour with the third child in the same family credited straight point to the sitter, no charge to parents.
- Hours are to be read at monthly meetings.
- Emergency/medical and maternity – free time for mom and full credit to the sitter, subject to the discretion of the Treasurer and/or President.
- Alumni are welcome at all social functions, and are permitted to use co-op in emergency and can use their credits or work off debt hours until their balance is nil.
As mentioned already, these are sample guidelines. Use them as a springboard to launch your own co-op. Chances are that if you’re at home feeling isolated as a mom, you’re not alone. It took initiative to start the one I belonged to when my children were pre-schoolers, but the number of families who benefitted was, at last count, approximately 90. The group has gone through three cycles of families who have grown past the need for a babysitting co-op. We have become alumni, which mean annually we attend a social or two. Those of us whose children are older still have many of the friends we made in the co-op.
It’s really encouraging to see what one person with an idea accomplished.
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Article is∗Revision- from Published work April 1996 “Island Parent Magazine” pg 15 Title: Co-op Babysitting” – Author Moira Gardener