What is a sitter swap?
Instead of finding a reliable teenager to watch your kids (and pay them a small fortune in return), work out a babysitting exchange with your best mom friend or a group of moms where you watch all the kids one night while she goes out with her man, then she does the same for you so you can have some alone with your man. You can arrange times, dates and frequency however you like.
Erica Grover, mom of three kids ages 8, 6 and 2, has been involved with a sitter swap for years and loves it. She says, "It's amazing for all involved and totally saves money! You get to save the babysitter money and the kids learn how to interact with other kids, take direction from other adults and see friends."
Form your own sitter swap
Stacey Ross, mom and founder of San Diego Bargain Mama , says, "I had a sitter swap twice with my friends for a couple years. I found very trustworthy moms that were my friends and had common parenting styles. We each would have two to four kids at once."
Erica echoes the importance of finding/forming a group with parents whose parenting style is similar to your own. She adds, "If the kids don't like each other it causes stress... same goes for the parents and their parenting style."
When looking for a group, Erica also suggests finding parents with kids around the same age as your own or parents of your kids' friends. (That way you won't have to worry about sitter guilt -- your child will be happy as a clam to spend extra time with her best friend!)
Make it fun
Stacey says she and her friends would make the sitter time fun for kids. She said, "My friends would take them on outings, and I would do crafts, music and PE-type activities at my house."
Feed 'em first
Erica suggests having the kids fed before starting the sitter swap night out. Send your child with a small snack and drink, lovey or special nighttime book to make him comfortable during his first few sitter swap nights until he gets the hang of it.
Set a time limit for each date night/outing to ensure everyone sticks to a fair amount of time away. Erica says, "We usually set 3 hours for the time limit. Granted that doesn't give much time for dinner and a movie. If the group is just a swap between 2 couples it's easier to have the time limit go longer depending on what the date entails... this can be discussed between couples. Make sure all involved agree to the time limit and stick to it. No one wants a couple that decides to show up an hour later.”
Date night is waiting!