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Babysitting Circle - anyone a member?

(17 Posts)
Amymum Wed 21-Nov-01 09:48:47

It is now nearly 10 months since dd was born and I feel the need to get out of an evening with dh! As I have no family locally and few friends finding a babysitter that will not cost a fortune is proving difficult. As only dh is working, there is only enough money spare for the odd night out and even less for a babysitter. I looked at the Babysitting Circle site - it looks like a good idea and a great way to make new friends. Does anyone have any experience of the service, setting up a circle or any other useful info re: babysitters? Any advice gratefully received.

Crunchie Wed 21-Nov-01 10:32:43

Well I'm a member of one that has been established in our village for years. To become a member you have to have a baby or toddler at one of the toddler groups in the area, or to go along to a meeting and meet other members. Is there a toddler group in your area, I would start there.

Scummymummy Wed 21-Nov-01 10:48:58

I started a circle on that site but only 2 families have joined!

Rhiannon Wed 21-Nov-01 15:21:05

Your local branch of the NCT may well have a babysitting circle. You will need to become a member of the charity but it's also a great way of meeting new friends. If they don't have one, approach them with a view to setting one up. R.

Alison222 Thu 22-Nov-01 14:20:11

Hi, I've just been involved in setting a new one up. I was asked by a mum I met regularly at one of the singing sessions i go to if I was interested. After asking around we came up with 2 v similar sets of rules for running one and were advised that about 20 people is an ideal number - large enought that you should be able to get a sitter when you need one and not so large that you don't know them all.
if you would find it usefull I could post the "rules" for you. I have to say that we have just literally agreed everything yesterday so I have yet to see how it works, but I can't imagine any problems. We were all mums with only 1 child under 1 so that we felt that we had enough experience to cope with the others children.

Anibani Fri 23-Nov-01 23:41:56

Alison 222 - please do post the rules on here. I'm interested in setting up a babysitting circle too. Does anyone know the protocol if members of the circle have different numbers of children ? I have 2 whereas most of the mums I know only have one - would someone babysitting my 2 children count as me babysitting their 1 twice ?

Suedonim Sat 24-Nov-01 01:08:27

Hi, Anibani. I've been in loads of babysitting circles over the years and not had a problem with any of them. They've all been run on the basis of swapping tokens (though there was someone who made forgeries, until we cottoned on!) or collecting 'points'. In that scheme, you phoned that month's organiser, who gave you the names of the three or four people who were lowest on points. When they'd sat for you, they called the organiser back to say they'd sat for x hours and that number was added to their tally, which was kept on a card file (pre-computer days!). We always earned the same amount of points/tokens regardless of the number of children in the family, but got double-time after midnight. We had meetings, so the children could get to know the mums (& dads) and also girlie social evenings. I enjoyed baby sitting, with a simple supper provided and usually, peace and quiet. I can only remember a couple of times when the children played up, mostly they were asleep or curious to come and talk!

Anibani Sat 24-Nov-01 21:53:43

Thanks for the advice Suedonim.

Alison222 Sun 25-Nov-01 10:44:40

Will post them shorly - I'll get typing when DS is asleep.

Alison222 Sun 25-Nov-01 15:58:24

OK the rules that we are using are as follows:

1.Each person starts with 10 tokens.

2There is an agreed currency of one token an hour before 11.00pm and 2 tokens per hour afterwards.

3.One person is responsible for maintaining the book for a period of time so that everyone would get to share the burden and no-one would end up with too much to do.

4. If you want a babysitter you phone around yourself until you find someone and make the arrangements directly with them. If possible start with the person with the fewest number of points.(We decided to do this rather than letting the person with the book do the telephoning as otherwise it might become like chinese whispers if the for instance time might become negotiable)

5. After you have babysat for someone you are responsible for letting the person running the book know so that your points and those of the person you sat for can be updated.

6.All children should be in bed (if possible) or at least ready for bed before the babysitter arrives.

7.The mums do the babysitting unless someone has agreed in advance that it will be dad.

8. Everyone must leave a contact number

9. The babysitter is resonsible for getting to/from where they are babysitting

10.All parts of hours are charged as full hours

11. You cannot have less than zero points

12. At the end of the month the book is handed on to the next person/ It must balance before this is done. Also the current level of points is distributed to all members so that they have an idea of who to contact first when booking a sitter.

13. If you want to leave the circle you must get your points back up to their starting level

Azzie Sun 25-Nov-01 18:39:18

My group is made up of friends from our coffee group (originally an NCT group, but now a more loose group of friends). The good thing about this is that the kids know all the mums, so if they wake up they will see someone familiar.

We made tokens (printed then laminated) in 1hr and 1/2 hr amounts. Everyone started with about 10 hrs, and when someone sits for you you 'pay' them the tokens. Our agreement is that no-one should hold more than about 12-13 hrs - if so, it's a good incentive to go out, and if you're running short you tend to ask around and see if anyone wants a night out!

Mums babysit (unless by a personal agreement), and no-one is expected to sit after midnight unless by special arrangement.

Number of children makes no difference. As our children are all similar age groups, mostly we have them in bed by the time the sitter arrives. Obviously as they get older this may change, but as all our kids are similar ages we should be able to cope.

Zaria Mon 26-Nov-01 11:11:05

I have never joined a circle because I think its outrageous that Mums are expected to do all the babysitting. Firstly, why should we be responsible for 'earning' babysitting points so that both me and my husband can go out? Secondly, I am offended that anyone should think my husband is not a suitable babysitter !! (he knows the local children and would expect to be trusted by their parents)

Azzie Mon 26-Nov-01 15:13:28

Zaria, in our group it is mums who sit because they are the ones the children (all under 5) know - I would be quite happy for a dad to sit for my kids, as long as they knew him and felt comfortable with him. Unfortunately because of the way work etc is organised most of us are in the situation where the dads work full time and the mums part time, so it's the mums the children know best.

Anyway, I enjoy my babysitting evenings - I get to sit in someone else's house (a nice change of scenery), watching anything I like on the TV (no husband to compromise with!), with no feeling that I ought to be getting on with some chore or other rather than sitting with my feet up.

Suedonim Mon 26-Nov-01 17:28:25

I agree, Azzie! It's a bit like having a night out yourself. It was bliss to be able to write Xmas cards or letters or read or watch TV without being disturbed. And as a SAHM, I felt it was a way of contributing to the family coffers because we didn't have to pay for a babysitter, which round here is £5 an hour. My DH has babysat and I've had friends' DH's to sit. Also, my two boys babysit for people, although for payment, in their case. It was also a way of getting to know people when we moved (of which we did a lot, at one time) and I'm still in touch with people I met through babysitting circles over 20 years ago!:)

Zaria Mon 26-Nov-01 20:25:13

Suedonim and Azzie - I can see your point but my DH is really offended by the thought that he can't share the babysitting (maybe he wants to be the one to get some peace and quiet in front of the telly!)and its hard not to feel there's a lack of trust here. How can we get our children, especially our sons, to understand nurturing if they don't even see their Dads babysitting?

What we have found works in the past is to find another couple and do straight swaps. Much simpler, the children are happy, no-one counts the minutes and there is no feeling of evenings having to end abruptly at midnight because the babysitters get double tokens after 12!!

Suedonim Mon 26-Nov-01 21:39:06

There's never been a problem with dads doing the babysitting in my circles, Zaria. Maybe that's because we've known each other pretty well, I really don't know. My DH takes little ones to ballet and nursery/school etc and no one bats an eyelid. Even if someone did say they didn't want him to do that, I doubt very much he would be offended. That parent is making a decision they feel is the best for their child and themselves and I don't think they should be criticised for it, even if others don't agree.

Swapping with friends is a good idea, but is awkward if you want to go out with those friends or one couple socialises more than the other. Also, my DH works away a lot,so it isn't always possible for me to do a 'one for one' deal as I would have no one to look after my children, then. I doubt any system is perfect but babysitting circles have been good enough for me, warts and all.:)

Azzie Tue 27-Nov-01 09:49:54

Zaria, I take your point about the example we're setting our sons. However, at the end of the day, however sad it may be, it comes down to practicalities. If my 2-year-old wakes and a stranger (male or female) goes to her then she gets upset and won't settle again. It's not fair to put her or the unfortunate babysitter through that. I would trust the husbands of my friends totally with my children, and would be more than happy for them to sit for us if the kids knew them. Maybe as they get older and see more of their friend's dads through sharing the school run or going round to play at weekends it will happen - I certainly hope so.

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