Before I moved last year I was part of a local MOMS Club group. One of the best parts of being in in MOMS Club was the Babysitting Co-Op, a program within the club for local moms to swap babysitting for points rather than pay.
Because we already knew each other from club playgroups, it was easier to find other moms you knew you could trust to watch your kids. We used a website called Babysitter Exchange to post sits and keep track of points. Last minute doctor’s appointment that you’d prefer to not take the kids to? Post a sit request. Want to go out for a date night without breaking the bank on just paying the sitter? Post a sit request.
The website handled all the backend organization. As soon as someone posted a sit request, a notification would go out to all the members. If someone was able/willing to pick up the sit, they’d mark themselves available on the site. Then the person who posted the original request could choose whom to offer the sit to. After the sit, you go online to award the other the agreed upon points and call it a day.
Seriously. Such an amazing concept. Moms helping moms out with free babysitting. Dads too! The group I was part of was moms only (and mostly stay-at-home-moms), but babysitting co-ops are for any parents who want to form a local group and participate.
Why is this not a bigger thing??
I assuming that not enough people know about them, in which case I am making it my personal mission to SPREAD THE WORD about babysitting co-ops!!
What is a babysitting co-op?
A group of local parents who swap babysitting services – for points – not money. Yes, FREE babysitting from other parents you trust. It’s actually a thing, and it’s actually as amazing at it sounds.
So I agree to watch some of my kids’ playmates while their parent runs errands, and then another day another kids’ parent watches mine? For free?
Yep. And you exchange points to keep it all fair and organized and structured. I’m telling you. It’s great.
What if I don’t want someone in the co-op group to watch my kid?
Look, I get it. Sometimes there are situations or people where we’d like to remain cordial in person, but we also don’t necessarily want them watching our kids. Or maybe your kid doesn’t get along with their kid and doesn’t want to go to their house. It’s ok. ?
When you post a sit request, and others mark themselves as available, you can choose whom or whom not to give the request to. It’s your discretion who you choose. Or to choose no one. Your call. You should never feel obligated to put your child into someone else’s hands you don’t trust!! The websites below are great facilitators for childcare swapping, but by no means are you expected to share childcare with someone you don’t feel comfortable with.
How much does it cost to join a babysitting co-op?
The actual babysitting sessions are FREE, that’s the beauty of co-ops! But…if you use a management service (which I strongly suggest you do), then there will be a small fee for the website. Every site/app is different, with different options, and different pricing. See below for more info.
How do I join a babysitting co-op?
Well, that’s the slight catch – you gotta get enough people in your area involved in order to have a successful co-op. Check out the listing below for more info on how each website works. Some offer “matchmaking” services to help you find an already established co-op (or others who are also interested in starting one). Some require you to already have a few interested friends and all join together.
If you already have a local group of other parents that you think would be interested (through your church/synagogue, preschool group, homeschool group, ballet class, scouting group, etc) – talk to them. Send out an email. Post the idea and see if you can get people involved. Most parents (ESPECIALLY those of us who don’t have a nanny or family nearby or a go-to for occasional/sporadic childcare needs) are very interested in the idea of a babysitting co-op, but either a) aren’t aware of them, or b) don’t know how to get one organized.
For real – why are babysitting co-ops NOT a bigger thing??
I DON’T KNOW. They need to be. It takes a village, right? Let’s be a village and help other parents out! Let’s help other stay-at-home-moms retain their sanity by giving them some occasional time off to you know, get a pedicure. Or grocery shop alone. Let’s help other marriages by letting them get out on a date night where they otherwise couldn’t afford to do so. Let’s help single parents be able to go out on job interviews. Actor parents to go on auditions. Doula parents to attend a birth. Basically, let’s help lighten other parents’ burdens!
Oh, and major bonus: Not only do you get to help other parents in your community – but they get to help you!! YOU get some much needed childfree time out of it too!
Ok, ok, ok. You totally sold me – where do I sign up?
See the babysitting co-op websites below. Check them out. Figure out if you already have a group of friends/acquaintances you can start a group with. Or search for an already established group near you.
And share this post!!! Pin the nice rectangular, “pinterest-y” image at the top of this post. Post this on your facebook wall. And to your local moms facebook groups. Tweet about it. However you prefer to do the social media thing. Either way – help me get the word out about these AMAZING babysitting co-op solutions!!
I’m starting with Komae (means “village” in Greek) because they seem the most on top of things with how modern Millennial (or “Xennial” ?) parents do things – through an app. Their tagline: “Old School Co-Op. Modern Day App.
Cost: $5/month per member, w/1-mo free trial. You don’t have to pay to register or create your village – you only have to pay for membership in order to post or accept sit requests.
~~ 1/29/19 update: Komae gave me a PROMO CODE to share! If you sign up with the code SWW40, you’ll get 40% off a monthly or yearly membership!! —>> Just fyi, the code ONLY works if you purchase through the website, NOT through the phone app!! ~~
Do you need to have your own group first? Yes…mostly. Komae does have an option to search for your Facebook friends that use the app, as well as already established local groups. However, if Komae isn’t popular in your local area yet you might not have many, or any, connections. In which case, you’ll need to bring in your own IRL friend group. So spread the word!!
Komae however, has your back on this. They have lots of ideas on how to create a group with your local friends or moms groups HERE. To be honest, I think *I* might take the plunge and work to put something together locally. All in the name of my own desperately needed childcare! 🙂
What is the point/child/hour rate? 1 point/hr if you take your child to their house. 1.5pts/hr if they come to yours. 1 bonus point is added to the total if there is more than one child and/or if the sit is on a weekend.
Komae is focused around setting up your “Village” – people you know and trust. Your Village can be made up of those who will swap sitting, those who will watch for free (i.e. grandparents), and paid sitters (your favorite babysitters). This helps you keep all your childcare options in one place, so it makes it easier to go down the list and find the perfect sitter for you each time.
You can set up “Groups” which are already established connections, like moms groups, preschool groups, etc. In order to offer a sit to someone in one of your Groups though, you must first add them to your Village.
2. Sitting Around
Cost: $5/month or $15/yr per member, w/60-day free trial.
Do you need to have your own group first? No. SittingAround offers the ability to search for already established co-op groups in your area and request to join. In my area (Los Angeles) there seemed to be several established groups…but many of them only had 1-2 members. I don’t know if these are newer groups starting up, or old groups that never got off the ground.
If you have a group of friends, you could probably have them all join and then set up your own co-op through the site.
What is the point/child/hour rate? Each co-op sets its own rules for how to award point values.
3. Babysitter Exchange
Babysitter Exchange is the program we previously used in the MOMS Club babysitting co-op I was in. It was created in 2000 and not gonna lie, the website feels a bit dated. However – it works!
Cost: FREE for up to 5 co-op members, $14.95/mo (or $165/yr) for unlimited members. What’s nice about Babysitter Exchange over the other services above is that this fee is PER CO-OP GROUP, not per member. If you’ve got 15 friends in your co-op, divide that up and it’s $1/mo/member or $11/yr/member.
Do you need to have your own group first? No. But it may be best if you do. There is an option to search for nearby communities to join, however, my only background with this website is with an already established community, and I don’t know how active this site is for “matchmaking”. Especially due its more dated feel. I have a feeling all the hip moms without groups are using phone apps to find each other. Just sayin.
What is the point/child/hour rate? Each group can set their own token exchange rate, however, the general suggestion is 1 token(point) per child, per 15 minutes. Which means that if you have 3 kids like me, it costs me 12 tokens/hr. But if I only watch 1 kid, then I only earn 4 tokens/hr. So if you have more kids than most of the others in your co-op, it might be harder for you to keep up your earnings. But then again, each group can make their own rules.
Babysitter Exchange doesn’t have to be JUST for babysitting swaps. They also offer options to exchange tokens for things like pet sitting, carpooling, meal preparation, tutoring and housesitting.
4. Babysitting Coop.com
Cost: $30/yr per member, w/1-mo free trial.
Do you need to have your own group first? Yes. There doesn’t seem to be any other option to search for local co-ops. You have to create or be privately invited to an already-established (and non published) group.
What is the point/child/hour rate? Not sure. I couldn’t find out any info. It looks like you may be able to decide the amount of points you will offer each sit, rather than a standard rate.
If you know of any other babysitting co-op services out there, please let me know and I’d LOVE to add them to this list!! Have you ever used a babysitting co-op?