WFMW: Babysitting Co-op

(Thanks to Shannon for hosting the Works for Me "carnival." Check out Rocks in My Dryer today for links to tons of other WFMW ideas!)

A couple of you have asked about this, and I decided it would be great for a WFMW: The Babysitting Co-op.

This is one of the most helpful things in my life. Teenagers these days seem to have a much busier agenda than I ever did, and the ones who are willing to babysit could easily break the bank. (I was lucky to get $15 for a whole evening of sitting, let alone for each hour!) Plus, I love the peace of mind that comes with having other moms tend my kids.

Here’s how it works:

There are about ten families who participate. Most have two children, but some have three or four, and all of the children are under age 12. It would work with four or five families, but the larger the number of participants, the greater the chance of getting a sitter when you need one. And we have a limit of 25 families, but it has never gotten that big.

Each family (mom) takes a turn being the bookkeeper. We have used both a hard copy in a spiral notebook and an Excel file that we posted electronically. Either works fine. On the bookkeeping sheet, there is a line for each family in the co-op and a column for each day of the given month.

Whenever I need a babysitter, I e-mail or call around the co-op list to see who is available. In general, for daytime sits I take my kids to someone’s house and for nighttime sits someone comes to my house.

After the sit, the sitter contacts the bookkeeper and reports the hours of the sit. We round to the half hour. (Hours are not multiplied by the number of children – it’s just straight up, however long you watch anyone’s kids.) The babysitter gets the hours entered as a positive number and the family whose children were tended gets negative hours entered on the same date.

At the end of the month, the bookkeeper tallies the hours, lets everyone know how many positive or negative hours they have, writes in the balance forward for each family, and passes the books on to the next family in alphabetical order. (The bookkeeper balances the hours by calculating the rows across and the columns down and making sure it all equals zero. i.e., the same number of negative hours and positive hours across the board.)

We periodically call the bookkeeper to find who is most in babysitting debt, so that they can be the first person we call for a sitter. That way, no one is over-babysitting or not babysitting enough. No one is allowed to accumulate more than 20 hours (positive or negative).

The co-op I participate in is made up of young moms I go to church with, and they started it almost three years ago. There are written by-laws for it from the early days, but since we have all become great friends, it’s a little more casual than that now. (If you are trying to establish one with your community or in an area where there is a frequent turnover of neighbors/friends in the co-op, I would recommend doing something in writing for each family that participates. I have a copy of the bylaws for ours – if you want it, e-mail me.)

Some important things to keep in mind are:

  • Keep the geographic area of your co-op within a reasonable distance so that it’s convenient for everyone involved.
  • Although the bookkeeper changes from month to month, it’s important to have a member of the co-op that acts as a leader/mediator, just in case circumstances arise that need to be worked through or cleared up.
  • You might want to have penalties/bonus hours in place for times when a sit is cancelled at the last minute by either the sitter or the person who needs the sitter.
  • You will want to make clear expectations of the members on issues such as guns in the home (locked up tight or not permitted), pets (allergies, Rottweilers...), medical release information, and the people in the family who qualify as sitters (i.e., only the mom, only the parents, or is the teenage daughter or au pair OK?).
This is an awesome money, time and stress saver in my life, akin to supper swapping (which DYM blogged about and I dream of doing but no-one will go for - can you believe?!).

Babysitting Co-op works for me!

P.S. If you are in the throes of potty training, head straight over to Katherine’s WFMW at Raising Five – she is a preschool mom extraordinaire, sharing her wisdom in that department today! (Antique Mommy also has a hilarious previous post about potty training here, and I posted what worked for me here, so read up. Sharing our collective wisdom definitely works for me!)


Gabriela said...

Your plan sounds great. How wonderful to have a group of people you trust to leave your kids with. I wish I lived near you!

the lizness said...

Wow, this is so organized. Why don't you pick 3 families from this list to do your food coop? Kathryn blogged about she does it here

Aunt Murry said...

Or you could just have an Aunt Murry who has no social life and LOVES kids. I charge nothing to watch kids and I love it. So if you are ever in the KC area and need a baby sitter, give me a call. I have reference too.

Katherine@Raising Five said...

I'll watch your kids, too. I'll even make sure to have lots of raspberries and markers on hand. Have digital camera, will blog.

Thanks for the nice link!

Millie said...

This is a great idea. I'm surprised by some of the young moms in my ward who feel they can't get a sitter for their kids when going visiting teaching because they "don't know anybody," so they bring them along. A co-op like this would really be nice for them.

Code Yellow Mom said...

Gabriela - You could always move back to the area. ;)

Tess - thanks for the link to DYM's on supper swapping - I meant to find it and put it in and forgot...I'm adding it now!

Aunt Murray - I do come through the KC area on occasion...I'll include you in my national babysitting co-op. :) Katherine, you too.

naddin j - this is perfect for VT. And dentist appointments. And trips to the post office (don't miss my T13 tomorrow).

Amy said...

Can I be part of your babysitters club :)? That is so great and very well organized- I am so jealous ;)

Full Contact, Savior-centric Livin said...

I did this before I had teenagers--worked for me!

Super Happy Girl said...

WOW! I have never ever heard of such a thing. What an awesome idea!

Unknown said...

I remember my mom did this when we were kids. I don't think it was too long-lived. One thing that WFM about babysitting is to get 'em young. True story--the neighbor girl babysat once, and I told her I thought I'd pay her $4 an hour, and she said she was going to charge $1.50! This was only 3 years ago. Now, the girl was only a 6th grader, and it was her first "gig," but she had been watching her brothers who were my daughter's age, and her parents were right next door. . . . In general I try to find 7th or 8th graders. Their social schedule isn't in full swing yet, they usually even like playing with the kids, and their salary demands are much lower, although I pay a good bit more than $4/hour.

Momma G said...

This is a very cool idea...we are going out tonight and it certainly gets expensive FAST!

Gina Conroy said...

We've been doing this since my 12 year old was 3 months old. We love it!