How to establish and run a babysitting co-op

Starting a baby-sitting co-op can be a great way to get quality, cost-free childcare. If you have a group of friends and or relatives who are in your same spot, starting a co-op might satisfy, at least some, of your babysitting needs. Be mindful, however, that any type of enterprise among friends can breed animosity. When you start a baby-sitting co-op, you should think of it as an organization. An organization needs structure to succeed.

To start a successful baby-sitting co-op, you should:

Meet with the entire group 

If you plan to babysit on weekends, when husbands will be home from work, be sure to include them in the meeting. Even if the wives plan to do most of the watching, the husbands should be in agreement and aware of what will be going on.

Establish rules

Put down on paper a list of rules and regulations. Initially, this may seem unnecessary, but it will help hinder disputes. Be sure to decide how you will keep track of hours, where kids will be watched. and whether or not you will provide meals. To keep the co-op balanced, you may want to start by requiring that each member contribute x number of hours a month, and then can use x number of hours per month.

Agree on discipline

Don’t forget to decide on discipline. When watching friends’ kids, discipline can create a sticky situation. You don’t want to let them get away with murder, but you also don’t want your friend to be angry with you for yelling at her son. The best way to deal with discipline is to establish how to handle it before the situation arises. If time-out is the agreed upon method, don’t deprive kids in your care of desert because they didn’t listen.

Keep records

Record hours earned and used in a notebook. No one wants to rely on memory for this as this could be a source of conflict.

Children profiles

Create a binder about the children. Have each parent fill out a profile on their child. On this page, parents can list emergency contact info, allergies, favorite foods, bedtimes, and even whether or not kids are allowed to watch certain t.v. shows or movies. Everyone in the co-op may not be completely familiar with everyone else, so this will help bridge the gap, and will prevent the babysitting family from having to ask, “would your mom or dad let you?”

Most importantly, when starting a babysitting co-op, don’t loose sight of the point of doing so. The main idea is to help your friends and to have your friends help you so that you can save money and be certain that your child is in good hands. A successful co-op will not only provide you with child care, it will also allow you to build bonds of friendship that will last a lifetime.