Do you remember life before kids? When you decided you’d go to a movie, or out to dinner, and you just went. No expensive babysitters. No feeling guilty about asking family members to babysit. No worrying about whether the baby sitter will let you down. No need to figure out that with the movie tickets, plus the babysitter, there will be little change out of a hundred dollars. No need to consider that no movie is worth a hundred dollars, so you might as well stay home. Again.
If you want free babysitting, without the guilt, you need to find some other Mums and create a babysitters club. I’m not talking about fifteen-year-old girls trying to make some pocket money here. What I mean is to find a bunch of other Mums who also need babysitters. And that’s almost everyone, right?
The group of you decide who’s happy to be part of the club, and what rules you need. Our group came up with the idea of tokens that represented up to two hours of babysitting. One person cut up strips of patterned fabric and gave about four strips to each member. Then we circulated our names and phone numbers to the group.
Our group is large, so individuals can choose which people they are comfortable to have as sitters. If one person doesn’t want another person to sit for them, they don’t have to say anything, they just ask the people they do like. And the tokens circulate among members, so no one person has all the outings. No one feels they are doing all the sitting, and not going out.
The really great thing about this system is that the person doing the babysitting gets a night off! I actually look forward to going and babysitting. I can take a book, or a video, and get a couple of hours of uninterrupted ‘me’ time. When I’m at home, I find the washing up, the laundry, and all the other chores ‘call’ to me. But at another person’s home, I have nothing to do. Bliss!
When our kids were little we used to put them to bed ourselves, and the sitter would just sit there in case the kids needed something. Obviously we would tell the kids that we were going out but that our friend Cate (or Annie or whoever) would be there while Mummy and Daddy were out.
Now our kids are a little older, the sitter reads them a story and puts them to bed. The kids love the novelty of this, and actually ask us to go out. They enjoy our night out as much as we do.
Whether you have a more formal arrangement, with tokens, or an informal understanding about time management, it’s a great system. It means my husband and I can get a night out, and strengthen our relationship, without it costing a fortune. And we don’t need to rely on favours from family members.
About Cate Scolnik
Short bio: I’m Cate Scolnik, and I’m a sociologist and life coach who supports busy, working parents. I help mums to make their lives easier, and to build family units that thrive.
Qualifications and further background: I hold a bachelor of arts in sociology, am a member of the Australian Institute of Project Managers, I’m a counsellor and a life coach. I’m also a wife, and mother to two boisterous girls.