What’s a babysitting group and how can it help you?
Find out how a babysitting group can be your key to a social life
In the first few weeks or months of new parenthood you may feel far to exhausted or involved with your baby to even contemplate going out together. But one day you may find yourselves longing for a night out, or even a weekend away. Or a day doing adult things – going to a car boot sale, taking an extended walk, having a pub lunch without having to worry about your baby. Some of us can occasionally afford babysitters or even nannies – what about the rest of us? How can we manage to get that time for ourselves?
Summon up the rellies! Maybe you live miles away from relatives, so can’t call on them for daily back-up. Even so, most grandparents would love to be on call for some period. If they do live nearby, discuss childcare with them. Would they take over for an evening, an afternoon or even a weekend? How often – be prepared for today’s grandparents to have lives of their own and to be unwilling to do this regularly or in your timetable.
Be prepared to understand if they say “No”, or “Only sometimes.” And, be prepared to discuss your values and idea of child care. Your parents may be happy to dish out sweets for a bit of peace and quiet, or to smack when they feel challenged. Agree you might have different ideas and yes, they brought you up perfectly well…but that these are your rules for your children and could they please do as you ask.
Grandparents aren’t the only ones who might be happy to help. Aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters may all be prepared to lend a hand. Grandparents are likely to be pleased to offer because they want to see and have a relationship with their grandchildren. Other relatives may feel the same or do so on the understanding you’ll help them out similarly. Friendships with cousins, which can begin for your baby in this way, can support them all through life.
Mix and match. If your parents say they’re happy to take on caring responsibilities, don’t let it rest there. Get as many strands to your bow as possible – other relatives and friend can help too. Then if one lets you down you’ll have other people to call on. Plus, your child learns to be adaptable about being looking after by others.
Look to friends and people that share your environment. Many of your own friends, parents as well as those who are childfree, may be delighted to be asked to come into your inner circle by offering childcare. And with friends or people you meet through your little one – like the like-minded parents you meet at ante-natal classes, baby clinics, clubs and classes, your child’s nursery or eventually at the school gate – share your need for help and you may be pleased to arrange a deal. You can ask them to take your child to be with them and theirs in exchange for you doing it sometime. And if you get together with a group of people it needn’t mean a straight swap, yours for theirs. A babysitting group gives everyone points for caring, to be redeemed for a night off with someone who is free or needs the points to take on the job.
Groups tend to work best when you’ve between 5-10 members and tend to follow these basic rules:
Each member starts with 50 points.
When you babysit for someone in the group you earn 1 point for each hour before midnight and 2 points for each ½ hour after midnight.
Decide if this system will only operate in the evening when kids are hopefully in bed or if this will be a daytime arrangement too (in which case daytime hour points may be to alter or at least be negotiable)
Time is rounded up to the nearest half an hour.
When you go out, you are essentially losing points. You may not go above 100 points or below 0.
Each member should be given a notebook and at the end of the night points are recorded at the end of the evening - both the sitter and the sittee write the points gained and lost in their books and sign each other’s books
If someone needs to leave the circle, they should try to bring their balance back up/down to 50 points. If it’s not possible the group will have to agree how they could buy themselves out or simply write it off.
Other things to consider
Agree that one person will buy and set up the books, so they are all the same.
- Stick the list of rules and contact details for all the other members in the inside cover of each book (include all mobile numbers and emergency contact details)
- WhatsApp/email are the best way to communicate to the group. All you need to do is send a message asking for a sitter and everyone gets the same chance to reply. First one to reply gets the points!
- To make things fair and smooth members should only stay in the circle if they both sit regularly and go out reasonably often
- New members can only join the group when two or more existing members approve and it’s best not to go over 12 – or agree to split off in to 2 groups.
Bounty “Sex & Relationship” articles are written by expert Suzie Hayman. Suzie is agony aunt for Woman magazine, a Relate trained counsellor, and an accredited TripleP (Positive Parenting Programme) parenting educator. She makes frequent appearances on TV and radio and as well as writing 31 books, Suzie writes features on parenting, relationships, sex and couples counselling, for a wide range of national magazines and newspapers