Expert tips by Jan Jones (Early Childhood Educator)
Do you find that it is difficult to find someone you trust to look after your children?
Do you feel guilty asking friends or relatives to baby-sit?
Do you feel you often need to pay for a baby-sitter?
A baby-sitting club is the ideal way to solve some of these issues.
No money needs to change hands and you choose who you would like to look after your children. You are not obliged to directly reciprocate with that person, as time you have accumulated while your children are looked after is debited from your account with the club.
Let me explain how a baby-sitting club works.
A group of friends (about 6 families is ideal) get together and talk about whether they would be willing to baby-sit for one another. If they decide to go ahead, they set up a system which can be a simple book with a section for each family or, more likely, an online file. There are now websites that will allow you to do this online.
Each family has a debit and credit listing in their file. If you use a baby-sitter you are debited one point for each hour you use. When you baby-sit for someone else, you are credited with points. Your club may decide that there is a penalty for after midnight and this usually equates to double points. It is your choice, you may make it 1am, if the club members don’t mind being up too late.
Exchange of email addresses or phone numbers allows you to contact each other and ask who can baby-sit when you need a sitter. You may decide to ask people one at a time if you have a preference or send a group message if you don’t mind which of the club members baby-sits.
The members of your club will need to decide if partners are going to be included as available sitters as well. Some partners may not be comfortable with this and some families may prefer that other people’s partners do not look after their children. The baby-sitting club to which my family belonged, allowed partners to sit and about half of them were willing to do so. When our family had been through a particularly busy time and had accumulated a large number of debit points, it was sometimes easy to repay those points when two people needed a sitter at the same time and my husband and I were both home. We would each take one of our two children to the baby-sitting with us while we looked after the other family’s children. This meant we were credited with points for two lots of baby-sitting on that occasion.
Keeping track of the points
One member of the club should volunteer to keep track of the points and give everyone an update each month of their credits or debits. It is essential that you rotate this position every one to two months, so that it doesn’t become too onerous. The website I have included above allows you to do this online without having to set up your own system.
What do I do if a child becomes unwell or has an accident?
Just like any casual baby-sitting for friends, the parent of the children you are looking after would be expected to leave an emergency contact number with you.
The members of a baby-sitting club do not need insurance to look after other people’s children as they are doing it free of charge as a casual arrangement between members of that club. The baby-sitting club does not need to be registered with any organisation.
What if someone wants to leave the “club”?
People should be free to leave if they wish and the group may decide to ask someone else to take their place. It is important that the whole group is involved in the decision of whether a new person should be invited to join. If a member decides that they do not want a particular person to look after their children, they have that right. The simplest method of doing this is if that member asks people individually whether they are available to baby-sit rather than via group messages.
It is a good idea if the members of the baby-sitting club get together once every 6-12 months to discuss as a group if they want to make any changes.
I wish you many happy baby-sitting moments and the relief of knowing that there is a group of people on whom you can call to look after your children.