Every parent knows that childcare can be expensive. In fact, the average working family with children under the age of 13 spends about 10 percent of their income on childcare expenses. I caught up with my friend Nikole at the ballpark the other day to talk with her about an alternative to paid childcare. Nikole is the founder and long time member of a successful babysitting co-op.
A babysitting co-op is a way for families to exchange childcare. Simply put, a co-op is a system that allows families to organize and trade babysitting with other members. One of the benefits of a belonging to babysitting co-op is that it builds a sense of community—both for the children and the parents. Because members exchange time instead of money, co-op members can also save a lot of money.
To start a successful co-op, Nikole recommends that you do a lot of research. There are many online resources as well as a few books on the subject. Talking to members of existing co-ops can be very helpful; Nikole has provided support and guidance to at least three other co-ops in her area. And while Nikole is too humble to say this, I believe the success of a co-cop has a lot to do with having strong and dedicated leadership (Niokle's co-op has bylaw and even a mission statement!)
As wonderful as co-op membership can be, it is not for everyone. I know because I am a failed member of Nikole’s co-op. Because I needed about 20 hours of childcare per week, I found that I was either working or watching other people’s children, leaving little time for anything else. However, for people who are able to successfully participate in a babysitting co-op, I think it is a wonderful alternative to paid childcare.
Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.
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