How to go out


We all look after each other's children through our Babysitting Circle.

Most of the time I’m very happy to stay in, but when I really want to go out what’s the hassle-free way to manage (especially if my own family aren’t willing or able to help out)? This post is by Nicola Baird

I’m 100 per cent convinced that the answer to this conundrum is the babysitting circle. It has one major drawback – it only works well for coupley households – but for those people in a pair this is a brilliant, neighbourly, pretty much cash free solution. (And if you are not currently joined at the hip, then letting your toddler or bigger kid sleepover with a friend is a pretty good alternative).

Here’s the definition: a babysitting circle enables a group of locals, who mostly know each other, to swap childcare. For every hour you babysit (usually sleeping children between about one and a half years and 14 years) you earn tokens that can be used to “pay” a babysitter from the babysitting circle at your house while you go out.

Beautiful money (drawn by Berin) used to buy an hour of babysitting.

To make babysitting sessions fairer – or the worst stints more tempting – you have to pay slightly more tokens if you leave the house early (eg, to go to the theatre), go out on a Friday or Saturday night or stay out past midnight.

There are about 10 families in our babysitting circle although Pete and I tend to ask the five families we know best to do specific swaps. When we joined our nearest Babysitting Circle (after nearly two years waiting to take part!) we were given 18 tokens to use. We felt rich knowing that we could go out even before we’d started agreeing to babysit ourselves. And going out with your partner more than you have been (but perhaps still less than you did) is the main reason you sign up to this type of neighbourhood scheme.

There’s more detail about how to set up and run a babysitting circle in my new book, Homemade Kids: thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children – although it’s not due to be published until 1 July 2010. It’s also a logical progression for National Childbirth Trust (NCT) tea groups if new parents stay living in the same area. Or if you’ve moved, try asking at your nursery or Sure Start centre or school to see if anyone knows about a locally run Babysitting Circle.

It’s not just that I love the chance of a night out, I also love the way a babysitting circle lets us be part of someone else’s home world for a few hours every fortnight or so – a unique way to see children growing up.

Over to you
How do you handle resistant kids who don’t want Mummy/Dad to leave before they’ve fallen asleep? How do you budget for expensive and/or not very experienced babysitters? Have you tried a babysitting circle? Any tips?

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One Comment on “How to go out”

  1. […] how to set up your own babysitting circle so you can go out – if you want – this Valentine’s […]

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