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The price of babysitting is staggering. When I babysat as a teen (barely a decade ago), I remember earning $4 per hour – sometimes $5 if the family was feeling generous. When I first started searching for a sitter for my son just a few years ago, I made the mistake of asking prospective sitters what their rates were.
“I don’t sit for less than $15 an hour,” a high school sophomore informed me. $15 an hour? For sitting on my couch while my baby slept, eating my food and watching my cable TV?
Finally, I found a reasonable grad student who was okay babysitting Gavin for $10 an hour – the max I felt comfortable paying. While she is great with him, the knowledge that dinner and a movie costs me an extra $60 or so when babysitting is included prevents me from having very many nights out.
Recently, I found myself griping to yet another mother about the prohibitive cost of hiring a babysitter. Her response? “You should join a babysitting co-op.” I had never heard of babysitting co-ops before, but once she explained the concept to me, I couldn’t believe I had spent so long without one.
A babysitting co-op is a group of parents in a community that trade babysitting services with one another. Rather than paying each other in money, co-op members pay each other in points. You earn points by watching your friends’ kids and – when you need a sitter – they earn points by watching yours. The idea of exchanging babysitting services with people you know and trust (and for free!) is beyond appealing to me.
I have just begun researching potential babysitting co-ops in my area, and no leads so far. If I can’t find a co-op in my area, I’m determined to start one myself. Though, I have to say, creating a co-op and managing it myself sounds like a good deal of work…