About a year ago, I responded to a message from my local family network. A babysitting exchange group was starting, with the idea that a group of local parents barter childcare. That’s all I knew about it, but I emailed the leader, attended an open playdate, and was hooked.
Logistically, this system is brilliant. Up to 20 families join the group, which has some very basic by-laws outlining the basic functioning of the group. We use babysitterexchange.com to facilitate babysitting requests. Through that website, we keep track of tokens: every 15 minutes of watching a child, you earn one token. So one child for 2hrs is 8 tokens, three children for 2hrs is 24. It’s all tracked through the website, making it very convenient. We meet every two months for a “business” meeting and during the opposite months meet up for a mom’s night out type of thing. We also have a get together for all the families (partners and kids), and a playdate or other get together most weeks. So now when I have a dentist appointment, school conference, or even a pedicure (haha) scheduled, I can get free childcare. Have I mentioned that I love this??
Emotionally, this group has been a life-saver. The members of our group (11 families so far) are all interesting, wonderful people. They’re different than most of the moms I see daily at the playground, with whom I chat but often fail to actually connect. While our parenting philosophies are not all the same, they somehow align enough that it works. The babysitting exchange has somehow managed to attract people from all walks of life. Since one of the stated goals is to build intentional community, we attract people who are looking for that. Some weeks, the scheduled playdate feels like a lifeline for me. Knowing that I’ll see these women, who have become such good friends, has vastly improved the quality of my weeks. We’re slowly becoming almost like an extended family to one another, as we intimately know each others’ children, support each other through struggles, and regularly get together just for the sake of spending time.
When I first became a SAHM 19 months ago now, I prayed to God to help me find community. The Babysitting Exchange has been a true answer to prayer.