Babysitting is expensive, y’all. I don’t know about you, but we live on a pretty tight budget, and factoring in an extra $50 for a babysitter puts a huge damper on our date nights. As in, if we had to pay someone every time we went out, well, we wouldn’t go out very often.
We are blessed to have family that live nearby, but our parents live 30 minutes and 60 minutes away. That means that there have been times where we have spent three or four hours in the car on a date night, simply dropping our daughter off, driving to a restaurant, driving back to grandma’s, and back home. Again, it’s wonderful to have them nearby, but man, that’s a lot of driving.
Enter our Babysitting Co-Op. Free babysitting. Close to home. Every single month.
It all started when some friends from church moved one street over from us. We had just had our daughter, they had just had their third, and we asked them if they would be interested in trading free babysitting regularly. The Co-Op was born.
Here’s how it works:
1. Couple #1 goes on a date, while Couple #2 keeps the kiddos.
For us, even though we had one child and they had three, it was still worth it. We would show up at their house in our grubby clothes (their house had all the good toys, which is why we always went there), watch movies, eat pizza, and just hang out with the kids.
2. When Couple #1 gets home from the date, everybody pulls out their calendars and Couple #2 picks their next date night. Right there.
This was the key to our success because it meant the co-op never ended. There was never that weird gap of time where nobody planned a date. There was never that weird “Am I being a burden” thought. It was always, “Yea, it’s our turn!” kind of mentality. We cherished our free date nights. We guarded them and celebrated them.
3. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
It was so easy, and yet so life-changing. We did it every single month for two years. We even cleared our calendars for Valentine’s weekend so each couple got a date night, as well as birthdays, weddings, and everything else.
Here’s what I didn’t expect.
We got so much more than free babysitting. We ended up getting best friends.
I didn’t expect that when we got home from each date night, we would sit and hang out with our friends in their kitchen for another hour, laughing and talking about our kids, and marriage, and life while the kids slept peacefully (or sometimes not so peacefully).
I didn’t expect that my friend would teach me so much about being a mom. That she would get to know my child so much that she would say things like, “Oh yeah, she’s definitely teething – I can tell by her poop,” or lend me diaper rash cream, or turn into the person I would call with the “Have you ever seen THIS with your kids?” kind of question.
I didn’t expect that I would love their kids so much. That their older kids would start calling me “Aunt Beff” and that I would get so excited when the oldest started kindergarten, or that I would come to learn all about their favorite super heroes. That spending an evening every month with those kids would make them my kids too. Or that my daughter would cry and ask for “Aunt Coco.”
I didn’t expect that babysitting together would turn into a kind of second date night with my husband, as we corralled four kids together and looked at each other like, “Are we SURE we want a big family?” And then as we all cuddled up in front of the latest Disney movie, the thought of someday having a big family became attractive again.
I was hoping our Babysitting Co-Op would go on forever. At least, until the older kids were old enough to watch the younger ones and then we could just go on double dates instead. But, the last time our friends came home from their date night, they broke the news to us while we stood in their kitchen that they were moving halfway across the country. We’re grieving the thought of our friends moving away. But we’re also already sizing up friends to invite for our next Co-Op. After all, Mr. Right and I are very serious about those monthly date nights. So, are you free one night this month?
Is the co op still in operation? I remember being in one when I was younger. All my childhood friends were from the co op. We grew up together. We still love each other as grown adults. I want my kids have something like that too.