Thursday, 28 August 2014

how to get free babysitting for life // organise a babysitting swap with friends!





I don't know about you, but 'date nights' around here have always been pretty sparse and sporadic. As much as we would have liked otherwise, of course! As important as we know they are to keeping the marriage relationship strong, especially during these crazy years 'in the trenches' with young kids... the reality is it's just plain hard to make it work. Basically 'cos of those golden dollar signs!! For our family, on a single income, paying a babysitter is just not an option on any regular basis. Unless we want to spend our date sitting in the car in the driveway because we can't afford to go anywhere after paying the sitter ;) I know, I know, we could somehow cough up the cash and just make it work, but in reality it's just hard to spend that kind of money, and especially to then go out while thinking 'Are we having $100 worth of fun and romance yet??' Haha ;)

I should add that we are very blessed to have my parents living in town who are wonderful and involved, but we don't really like to ask them to babysit for us just because we happen to feel like going out to dinner. Just feels like too much of an imposition, if you know what I mean. And so.... we have our weekly cosy Friday 'date night in', which is lovely and often all we have energy for anyway... buuuuutt.... there is something nice (esp for a SAHM!!) about getting dressed up and heading out on the town with your beloved once in a while!! Amiright, ladies?! Just to have a complete conversation, hang out amongst grown ups, maybe even wear heels!? Time, glorious time, to focus on each other, and really talk. We all know how important it is to keep that relationship connection strong through these years when most conversations in the home surround topics like bath-time strategies and whose turn it is to read the bedtime stories. I'm happy to say even after almost a decade of marriage I still loooove spending time with Mark, just the two of us. But the chance to do so was few and far between. (insert sad face)

And so one day a year or two ago, I was flicking through a  magazine (yes, they still exist apparently) and read a brief mention about the idea of a babysitting swap between friends/parents. "Light bulb!" I had also heard of large group systems, with a bunch of parents swapping babysitting services and using some kind of token or points system and complex calendaring. But, it just always seemed too difficult to orchestrate and with so many people involved, I worried it would get too hard/ripe for issues to crop up, or just take too much time to maintain, especially amongst people who perhaps didn't know each other too well.

But it got me thinking. I wondered about simplifying it and scaling it back to just one other set of parents... and so I decided to chat with my lovely friend Amber (who doesn't have any family in town) and see if she was keen on the concept. Um... she sure was :) Let's be honest, most of our Saturday nights are spent just sitting on the couch these days, so why not just do it at a friend's house so at least they can go out and have some fun??

So, here are the basic principles we came up with for a successful, long running, non-burdensome 'babysitting swap' between friends....

  • Take turns having a date night (duh!). 
  • Sitter goes to the home of the couple getting to head out for the night.
  • Kids are fed, brushed/bathed, PJed and otherwise ready for bed. They are either in bed already or just need a quick bed time story and tuck in (The idea is not to make it a lot of work for the sitter/mama who has already been kid-caring all day!!). Usual start time is about 7pm.
  • Babysitter provided with TV remote, Wi-Fi password, cuppa and block of chocolate (essential!!) What more could you want?! :)
  • After each turn babysitting, we just book in the next session for the other person when it suits both parties.

As we are dear friends and there are just two of us, it is easy to keep things flexible. After one person has done babysitting, they just suggest the next night they would like to go out and we work it out between both our calendars - usually for a Saturday evening. We don't worry about things like curfews or tracking precise hours and we keep it flexible e.g. once we had an early outdoor movie session so Amber kindly started around 6pm instead, another time we had her kids sleep over here rather than me go there so they could have a whole night off and all the kids enjoyed a sleepover! 

We have been having roughly one date night a month each for about a year now!! It's awesome :) Seriously awesome!! SERIOUSLY AWESOME!! ;) 

(Ok, you get the idea about how much we are all loving this arrangement!)

The best thing? The date night is guilt free (because you are reciprocating the favour, so there is no guilt or pressure or rushing home) and also cost-free :) So you can splash out on dinner AND a movie, haha. 

It's also been such a blessing to give dear friends a regular night out they wouldn't otherwise get. And we are so grateful they do the same for us!! Yippee.

Now I know you might be thinking this is not a groundbreaking idea - 'Why thank you, Captain Obvious!'... ha. And I know lots of people already do something like this! It ain't original but it's one of those things that if you don't think of it... you just don't think of it! So if you, like me, just hadn't thought of this simple way to get more date nights with your beloved, then I hereby bequeath this concept to the interwebz ;)

You can make it work with a bigger group or more formal arrangements, but between two friends, this relaxed approach has been working well for us for over a year now. I just want to do a happy dance when I think about all the wonderful babysitting-cost-free, guilt-free date nights Mark and I have enjoyed that otherwise would not have happened! It's been such a blessing to our marriage :)

So..... if you would like more outings sans kids, grab a friend in a similar situation and suggest something like this. You can even share this post around on Facebook and whatnot, as a not-so-subtle hint to friends that you would be keen for a partner in this nifty plan.

Whatever way you do it - Date nights! Happy marriage! Happy kids! Helping friends! Win, win, win, win ;)




PS Editing to add another tweak on this plan I wanted to mention. After telling my lil' sister about this, she cleverly came up with a twist that is working so well for her. She teamed up with a friend who also has a toddler, and one day a week, one of them takes both toddlers from morning till after naptime - then the next week they swap. So one week she has a crazy day with two toddlers, but the next week she can bank on a blissful morning of peace and quiet to chill out or get some of that 'to-do' list checked off! Love it!! x



18 comments:

  1. Love it! We actually do this too on a fortnightly rotation so get a date once a month and it is fabulous!! :) :)

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    1. that's wonderful, Bekka, you clever cookie :) how long have you been doing it for? It's such a great system huh!

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  2. We did that too Kate. We even worked up to a 24 hour getaway each once a year. A night in a local hotel, the family caring for the kids hosted them at their place during the day but took them home to their own beds to sleep at night, with one parent sleeping over and their own children staying at home with the other parent. Can you believe it our oldest is now old enough to babysit for us! It happens faster than you think. Love Kathryn H

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    1. oh that's wonderful Kathryn! sounds like an awesome system!! we have actually done overnight visits before (just having each others kids sleep over) but working up to a 24 hour escape sounds preeeeeetty delightful ;) Might have to mention that nifty idea :) Amazing to think our own kids will be old enough to babysit one day... you are right, these days will fly huh! thanks for your lovely comment xx

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  3. This works well as long as you aren't single like me. Unfortunately I can't babysit friends children at night as I obviously can't go to their house and no room at mine (my children already share rooms)

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    1. That's true, much trickier to make it work in those circumstances - I'm sorry. When our friend's kids sleep over when we babysit, we pile them all into a room together, it's rowdy but they love it ;) Otherwise, maybe day time babysitting swap would work better? xx

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  4. I love this system and started it when my eldest was about 2 - it meant at least once a month we could catch a movie and then pick up our sleeping toddler and move her home to bed.. when second child arrived (and we moved house so I started with another friend who lived around the corner) I'd go to my friends house and she'd come to mine... it was a fantastic arrangement as I essentially I got the night off eating whatever little treat she'd left out for me and making my way through her DVD collection! I'd also get an insight into someone else's bedtime routine (her kids are a couple of years older than mine) and also get a mini catch up with my friend when she got home. I highly recommend babysitting swaps!

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    1. that sounds awesome Kate!! I love how you made it work for you - and YES I know what you mean about it feeling a bit like a 'night off' - amber and I would also enjoy a little natter when we got home from our dates. It's such a simple yet genius system huh :)

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  5. Love this idea, and a friend and I were just talking about something like this - I'll be sending her a link to your post, ta!

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    1. oh, hope you gals work something out, that would make me so happy - enjoy some date nights!! :)

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  6. Great idea! I've just resorted to paying a babysitter but it does put pressure on the budget!

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    1. yes it does pressure the budget huh - maybe you can find a friend to do swappsies with :)

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  7. Oh I love this idea. It's not feasible right now, as both kids are very clingy at bedtime / if they wake up, and my toddler is still nursing. But one day....

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    1. definitely something to remember for future!! xx

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  8. We recently started doing this a few months ago and I agree it's an AWESOME way to have date nights :-)

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  9. What a great idea Kate! Could certainly do with a night out ;)

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    1. I hope you get a night out soon!!! And buddy up w a good friend to make it possible :)

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