baby with sidewalk chalk

We’re lucky enough to have a [very energetic and doting] grandmother two doors down and a handful of neighbors who love to entertain Bee when we’re in a pinch, so finding reliable babysitters is rarely an issue for us. But for those of you in larger cities where babysitting fees are outrageous (seriously, $15/hour?) or finding a trustworthy sitter has been trying, here are a few tips gathered from the oh-so-wise mothers who have shared their smart alternatives…

  1. Try an at-home date. My friend Tsh‘s oldest child is nine – not old enough yet to babysit, but old enough to be chomping at the bit to babysit. So, to both give her experience and to give Tsh and her husband a cheap date, they host Tate Nights. (It works out well that her name is Tatum, or Tate for short.) Here’s how it works, in Tsh’s words: “On Tate Nights, we have our date upstairs—we get some dessert and watch a movie or play a game while Tate is in charge of her two younger brothers downstairs. She feeds them the simple dinner we made, then gets them dressed for bed and puts on a quick movie. After the movie, she reads them a bedtime story, tucks them in, then knocks on our door so that we can give everyone goodnight kisses. She gets babysitting experience with the safety of us being only a door knock away; we get an at-home date for $2 an hour!”
  2. Consider timing. A smart girlfriend of mine recently admitted she was doing date night all wrong. “Think about it,” she shared. “On typical date nights, we’re paying $10/hour for someone to put our kid to bed and then sit on the couch and watch loads of TV!” So instead of scheduling date nights, she schedules date days. She hires a babysitter to play with her children – making art, playing tag outside, etc – while she and her husband sneak away for the day and come home to exhausted children and a babysitter that’s earned her keep. “It’s like an extended date,” she says, “because we come home relaxed and rejuvenated, and then still have the whole night ahead of us after the kids go to bed.”
  3. Snag a mother’s helper. Similar to Tsh’s date night above, a mother’s helper is a genius solution for affordable babysitting if you’re in a pinch. I’ve shared our experience with our mother’s helper right here, and gracious, what a difference it’s made in both socializing Bee as well as gifting me a free window of time to cook a nice dinner, fold laundry or work on a project uninterrupted (I know, can you imagine?).
  4. Arrange a babysitting swap. My girlfriend in Seattle has a babysitting swap with her best friend – she watches her friend’s newborn for an afternoon and a few days later, her friend hangs out with her 5-year-old son. The mothers love the change of pace in learning another parenting stage/style, and it’s great for bonding the families together. Plus, a free window of alone time on your “off” day? Genius.

Tell me, what are your secret babysitting tips and tricks? I’d love to hear!

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