By Sara Benson
The idea came to us during a routine play date. We realized that none of us could routinely afford a nighttime babysitter (one due to a husband in school and the others due to the expenses associated with child care). We realized that a babysitting cooperative was a win-win situation.
We could ask one more family to join and then two times a month two sets of parents could go out while the other two sets watched the kids. Now, we all have rather small families, so it is easy for even one set of parents to watch all four of the children — who range in age from 1 to 4.
We originally offered to chip in for pizza for the parents watching the children, but so far each set of parents have offered to make a homemade meal for the kiddos. Even better! So, I can happily go out with my husband for a date from about 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. once a month — and not have to worry about finding a sitter.
The other night we usually have a family play date with another set of parents and the children. It is fun! I enjoy both nights, and I get to spend more time alone with my spouse. Plus, we don’t have to pay a babysitter so we can afford an extra-nice dinner (Bacaro anyone?)
I highly recommend this arrangement. There are a few downsides, of course. You can’t stay out very late because the children need to go home and get ready for bed. But, a few extra hours once or twice a month is plenty, especially if you can afford to hire a sitter at least once a month like we do.
This extra time away is great for my entire family. My daughter gets to play with her friends, and I get to put on some make-up and have an adult conversation with my husband.
Let the babysitting play dates begin!
Sara Benson is a lecturer in Law at the University of Illinois College of Law and the mother of Avery, her precious 2-year-old daughter.