Local News

Babysitting co-ops can be a win-win

Posted June 10, 2009 6:30 p.m. EDT
Updated June 10, 2009 9:54 p.m. EDT

— For parents with young children, finding a babysitter you trust can be a challenge. Over time, it can also get expensive. Babysitting co-ops can save money on sitters, while also giving you peace of mind that your child is being looked after by someone you know and trust.

A year ago, mother Kristin Curtis started the Mordecai neighborhood babysitting co-op. It works as a trade instead of a paid service – members get free babysitting in return for providing the same for others.

“It is truly a co-op because there is a whole group of families sharing the workload,” Curtis said.

Curtis' group includes 17 Raleigh families, all neighbors, or friends of friends. The co-op is registered with babysitterexchange.com. The Web site keeps track of tasks using a system of points, or virtual tokens.

“You can earn tokens by doing things for people, whether it is babysitting, or loaning them your truck, or doing yard work, or helping them make meals,” Curtis sad.

You spend the tokens by getting people to help you.

“I just put in a request for two times a month (so) my husband and I will be able to go on a date, and two times a month we would watch their child,” co-op member Katie Aitken said.

Requests can be a regular arrangement or made-at-a-moment's notice. Rarely are they turned down. It doesn't cost money, just someone with a willingness to help.

“It's nice because we've been able to economize a little bit. We're not paying someone to pick up these extra hours,” co-op member Sean O'Neal said.

The co-op even helps with tasks beyond babysitting, such as with moving.

“It helps kind of brings back that old time feeling that people used to have when they were helping each other out, and there was more of a neighborly feel,” Aitken said.

If you want to start a babysitting co-op, begin by asking a neighbor or friend. Then add others you personally know and trust.

“The sense of community and support is wonderful,” Curtis said.

If you don't want to try babysitterexchange.com, check out HelpingHero.com and Smart Mom's Baby-sitting Co-op Startup Kit.