Thursday, November 8, 2012

Babysitting Co-Op Revisited

It's been more than 10 months since we made the move from Houston to Austin. Some people said it would take about six months to adjust; others said it would take about two years. Honestly, I think it's both. I think it took six months to feel settled and comfortable; I think it will be two years before Austin really feels like home. 

One of the things we left behind in Houston was our amazing babysitting co-op. Since Matt and I don't have family and town--nor do we have extra money to hire babysitters--we are left to barter babysitting (which I honestly don't mind one bit). I love having Henry's friends over to play.

I've been reluctant to get a co-op going because we'll be moving to a completely different part of town in half a year or so, and I've been thinking a lot about how to minimize our driving. But I finally couldn't wait any longer. I reached out to two acquaintances in the neighborhood, and one of them was very interested in the co-op idea. We're going to follow the same set-up as the co-op in Houston: 
  1. Everyone who wants to participate begins with three tokens. Each token is worth one hour of babysitting.
  2. You contact people in the co-op individually or through the list to find a babysitter
  3. You drop off your child at the agreed-upon time at the babysitter's house, and pick them up at the agreed-upon time as well.
  4. You agree to the following norms:
    -Babysitting can only be done in one-hour increments. 15 minutes or less can be rounded down, but 16 minutes and above must be rounded up and payor must pay an extra hour.
    -All babysitting is done at the babysitter's home.
    -The clock begins at the scheduled time of arrival, regardless of whether the child is dropped off late.
    -Babysitting appointments must be cancelled with 24 hours notice or else payment is still required.
For "tokens," we are simply printing out the norms on 2.5" x 1" cardstock. Then we are putting a piece of magnetic tape (from a roll) on the back. That way, people can keep their "tokens" on the refrigerator for safe keeping.

On my post about marriage after baby, Carrie commented about the importance of spending time along with your partner (away from the children) as a way to keep your marriage strong and vital. I absolutely agree with the idea; we've just had trouble implementing it. 

I'm hoping the new co-op works as well as the old one!

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Anonymous said...

This is such a great idea! I have a few questions:
How do you accrue more tokens?
Why was it decided that babysitting can only be done in one-hour increments? Does this feel like enough time for most of what you need to do?
Do you think 2 or 3 hour increments would work?

Carrie said...

mmc-290: One hour increments includes 2 and 3 hours. It just means you can't say, "I want to use one and a half tokens" to get 1.5 hours of babysitting. You have to say 1, 2 or 3. 16 minutes over 1hr = 2hrs, 16 minutes over 2hrs = 3hrs, etc. Sara, I'm so glad you and Matt will be spending some alone time together! :)

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, mmc-290! It's not that babysitting is only an hour at a time; it's that the tokens are worth 1 hour. If you need someone for an hour and ten minutes, you give them one token. If you need them for 1.5 hours, you round up and give them two tokens. It's just easier to track that way instead of going by the half hour. I found that I would just stretch my time to fill up all the tokens. If I still had a half an hour left, I would fit in one more thing before returning.

You give tokens to the people who babysit your child, and you receive tokens from them when you babysit their children. Does that make sense?

This is just how we did it in my little network in Houston. There are lots of other ways to handle these kind of co-ops.

Take care!

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, that makes sense ;-) So you could save up and have an evening out using 4 tokens. It is a really great way to share babysitting! Where I live babysitting rates are about $20/hr... which quickly adds up.

Whitney said...

I'm in. Since I have two kids, do they each require one token per hour? Also, I'd recognize those red shoes and that hairline anywhere...Jones is in the photo above!

Also, I told your husband we'd look at our old boy's shoes to see what sizes we have for Henry, but I only found size 5 and under and I think his feet are probably bigger than that.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Whitney! It's so great to hear from you! I apologize for publishing a picture of your son without your permission. I figured it didn't show very much of him (and I don't have your e-mail address).

We would love for you to join the co-op! Yes, each kid takes one token per hour. We're actually starting our little co-op with 6 tokens each, since there are only three families involved, so that would give you three hours of babysitting right away.

Will you send me an e-mail to my yahoo account at saracotner so we can talk more?

So excited!


Alison Bernard said...

My parents were part of a babysitting co-op from before I was born (with my brother) until well into my adolescence. there were 7 families including my own. I have many wonderful memories from childhood of times spent with the other kids and families from the co-op. In fact most of my memories of friends involve kids from the co-op. Once we were too old for baby sitting, our families still chose to be friends. I am 29 now and we all consider each other family. We love each other fiercely and protect each other as siblings. Our parents still get together weekly for soup nights. The "kids" are spread out all over the country, but talk regularly and often choose to spend holidays together. I guess what I am trying to say is that it can be a really wonderful way to connect and I hope you have as wonderful of an experience as we did.

Kristen said...

Hi Sara,
We are expecting in May and I am really starting to like the idea of trying to start a babysitting co-op. I had a question I was hoping you could answer about yours. Did you do one token per hour per child? What if someone has more then one child, do they use more tokens?

Just curious - thanks!

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