Parents helping parents: Bringing back the Co-Op!

I recently had a discussion with my mom about the differences in parenting nowadays versus when she was a new mama. I was lamenting on the absence of flexible childcare options, specifically for those of us with alternative careers in which we may only need a few hours to go meet a client or get some writing done. Everything is so formalized and strict nowadays and flexibility seems like an alien concept when it comes to childcare. My mom told me about their old neighborhood Co-op- a group of neighbors with kids all around the same age that decided to work together to provide safe, reliable and free childcare. What an awesome idea!! But why hadn’t I heard of on one in my neighborhood? I mentioned the concept to a few of my mama friends who all stared back at me with wide as moon eyes, “you can do that, what a good idea!” but then , “yea but what if the neighbors are weird… I’d rather pay someone and have a background check”. Whatever happened to community guys?! I understand safety is a priority but I don’t think we are any more un-safe than our parents were 25 years ago?! I think with the right mix of like-minded people looking to achieve a common goal there is incredible opportunity to make lemonade out of life’s childcare lemons : )

Steps to setting up a neighborhood babysitting co-op:
Find out if there is interest: I did some more “market research” and talked to more families in my neighborhood by way of story time at the library and discovered that many people were looking for a solution to their intermittent childcare needs as well. We have a great social networking website called Next Door that most of our neighbors belong to and are active on. I posted a little blurb about trading babysitting hours to gauge interest in establishing a neighborhood co-op.

Organize your list:
Once I got all the responses back I created a group in our Next Door app and added everyone to it. If you don’t have Next Door try getting everyone on a group email.

Host a meeting:
It’s always good to get people together face to face so you can build trust and rapport. See if you can rent out a room at the local library, meet outside in the park or if you feel comfortable meet at someone’s house. Get everyone talking by starting with some sort of introduction so families can express their unique needs and talk about their kids: ) Name tags are awesome for helping people get to know one another. Talk about mutual expectations for the Babysitting Co-op, figure out who may be interested in taking a leadership role or if that role will rotate between participating families. Talk about the best ways to communicate news about the group and how people want to be contacted.

Decide on some guidelines for the group:
How will you track hours used or hours logged by families? Will someone from the group do a “home visit” to make sure all participating neighbors have safe + clean houses? Will you have rules about family pets while watching someone else’s kiddos? Talk about I found some awesome resources on creating a babysitting co-op that got me thinking about the questions I listed above.

Cultivate your community!
Use the group as a resource and make sure you are actvively participating yourself. This is an excellent way to fill in the small gaps for childcare during the work-week, engage with other Primary Parents who are full time at home with the kiddos and take the opportunity to go out on a date with your hunny! No more spending half the date night budget on the babysitter : )

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