Kiddoyo

To Co-op, or not to Co-op

Now that there are babysitter apps, finding a suitable sitter is as easy as Tinder. You swipe left if she looks like she might try to eat or marry your children, swipe right because she’s so perfect she might steal your husband but that’d be okay as long as she still watches your children.

But then this perfect sitter never calls back because she’s busy working for 3,000 other mothers who snagged her before you even heard of the baby-sitting app. Now you have to stop calling and texting her so much because you are fast becoming a sitter-stalker.

What I usually do with parenting issues is complain to my sisters. One sister just kept having kids so her kids took care of her kids. The other sister joined a babysitting co-op. Of course this sister made me babysit so she could frantically prep her home to be admitted to the babysitting co-op. I was like, you have doors, electricity, no swords, and a TV so who wouldn’t leave their children here for an hour or two so they can go to Target?

I was right. They were admitted to the babysitting co-op because they wear clothes and use complete sentences, but when you are trying to join an organization that provides free care in exchange for precious freedom from your children and it’s actually free, who wouldn’t want to be in it?

Co-ops used to be called actual families. We never had sitters- we had aunts, uncles, cousins, Grannies, Grandpas and even neighbors watch us- although ‘watching’ is an interpretive definition in regards to what also might be happening on the TV while children are somewhere getting into god knows what.

But now nuclear families are scattered far and wide. The people who live next door used to be neighbors, now they are the people who get our mail by accident sometimes and let us know when our dog needs her bark turned off.  Mom friends are women you think you know because you read their yahoo questions about which formula makes poop less stinky.  But, the internet doesn’t really make it super easy to find someone reliable, available and affordable that you actually want to leave your children with– it’s all just too much like work to actually do it.  So, we stay in a lot.

“Start a co-op” my sister says. Babysitting co-ops sound vaguely like kibbutzes for babies.

“Start a co-op” my sister says. Babysitting co-ops sound vaguely like kibbutzes for babies.  Co-ops have meetings (I hate meetings unless there’s poundcake and then I hate meetings because there IS poundcake), there is a secretary who takes notes (never a good sign) and there are laws and by-laws. And which law-abiding citizen isn’t afraid of laws, especially by-laws?

The Larchmont co-op was about as reliable and famous as a bank and far less criminal.

When my sister and her family joined their co-op, it had been around for 40 years.  The Larchmont co-op was about as reliable and famous as a bank and far less criminal.  They found local, like-minded families with similar schedules and most importantly children who want nothing more than other children and lots of them.

Children crave children more than they crave sugar and TV combined. Children thrive on social interaction and love being in another kid’s house, playing with another kids toys. Play-dates with other children actually help children grow social skills that will help them in life. The Larchmont co-op expanded my sister’s family’s social circle by 25 families and their kids’ social circle was increased exponentially even more.  

The Larchmont Babysitting co-op always seems to have a wait-list of ten families.  Families have taken less desirable homes in less ideal neighborhoods because they won’t leave the co-op.  Families whose kids are off in college still use the co-op for airport runs and pet sitting. They want to pass their co-op memberships down to their children like heirloom china.

Now that I know the value of actual children providing companionship and growth for my child, as opposed to finding just a sitter who will cost more than dinner and a movie combined, on TOP of the price of dinner and a movie… creating a babysitting co-op is better than finding the best sitter ever– it’s finding a family you knew you needed but didn’t know you had. Now if I just had the energy to create the co-op…

Contributed by Kathleen Dennehy

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