Forget the Teens; Parents Are Starting Their Own Baby Sitters' Clubs

Filed under: Childcare, Books for Kids, Baby-sitting

Baby-sitting rates too expensive? Try a co-op! Credit: Getty Images

Sure, Carrie can watch the kids Friday night -- if you don't mind paying her $8 an hour to watch TV, talk to her boyfriend and eat the last of the potato chips.

That's not sitting well with many parents, however, and they're banding together to beat the high cost of teenage baby sitters by forming cooperatives.

It's hardly a new idea, but it's getting revisited in a tight economy when parents want to save money and spend their baby-sitting budgets on an actual, honest-to-goodness grown-up.

Where does one find such a cooperative? Hey, you can find anything on the Internet.

The Kansas City Star reports hundreds of co-ops have sprouted in more than 40 states, thanks to HiveMoms. The website, started last year, is dedicated to helping parents find baby-sitting co-ops and play dates.

"The greatest number of members are in California, particularly the Bay Area," website founder Karen Looi tells the newspaper.

According to the Star, Looi got the idea for HiveMoms as she tried to get pregnant. The 39-year-old wondered how she and her husband could afford a date night after the baby arrived.

"You can spend more on baby-sitting than you do your date," Looi, now expecting her first child, told the Star.

Looi's website helps parents start co-ops and suggests setting up a point system to accrue baby-sitting hours. She suggests one point per child per hour. As you gather points you can then, in turn, redeem them for another parent's time watching your children.

Gary Myers, author of "Smart Mom's Baby-Sitting Co-Op Handbook," also has a website and suggests a point system that gives four points per hour for the first child and two points per hour for each additional child.

A mechanical engineer who lives in University Place, Wash., Myers tells the Star he wrote the book to help his wife, who stays at home with their three children, keep her sanity.

"I tease her that her tantrums were getting worse than the kids'," he tells the newspaper.

Myers says he decided the idea of a co-op had merit well beyond his family "because everyone is looking for a way to cut costs in baby-sitting."

Myers tells the Star he suggests starting a co-op with two or three friends, then expanding to at least 10 people.

"You'll have coverage at all times," he says.

HiveMoms does a lot of the work for parents. The site enables a co-op to post its specific baby-sitting needs and automatically tracks points.

There's only one problem: The system hasn't spread throughout the country. It might work well in a densely populated city such as Chicago or New York, but out in the middle of Idaho? Not so much.

Terra Colson tells the Star she discovered that problem even after moving to the good-sized city of Sacramento, Calif. Her co-op there remains small and slightly frustrating, she tells the paper.

"The idea is great, but because there's not more of a push behind it, it's not as big as it could be," she adds.

Related: Do You Feel Your Babysitter Judges You?

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