Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tips from the North Austin Mother's Club (NAMC) Babysitting Co-op

Children of the NAMC babysitting co-op
Photo courtesy of Nicole Kanda

The North Austin Mothers' Club was founded in 1989 as a chapter of the Austin Preschool Mothers Club, which has been around since 1925! The club meets once a month for socializing and community service, and it offers several sub-groups to meet members' individual interests and needs. One of these subgroups is the babysitting co-op, and I had the privilege of interviewing Nicole Kanda, one of the co-op's coordinators. She discussed the following questions with members of the co-op, and they've generously offered tips and advice from their experiences in their thriving babysitting co-op.

1. Why do you participate in a babysitting co-op? What's your favorite thing about babysitting co-op?

NK - My family moved here with no extended family so I was eager to find/build community.  There are often times I want/need care for one or both of my children - doctor's appointments, date nights, errands, etc.  The Coop has become my community of friends and sitters and friends for my children.  My mom actually participated in a Babysitting Coop when I was a child, so the concept was familiar to me when we formed this Coop from the North Austin Mother's Club (NAMC).   

BJ - I participate in the babysitting co-op not just to have free babysitting but to nurture a community of families with an intentional commitment to the well being of one another's children. I feel that it is one thing to have friends with kids and for all our kids to be friends with one another, but it is entirely different thing to sacrifice one's own time to care for one another's children; it creates a thread of connectedness and even if you are not close friends with all the other families, you feel a sense of security in the interdependence you have all shared.
The children grow a bond between the other families apart from their parents and get to experience what life is like in another family, learn how to get out of their comfort zone for a bit in a safe way.

JC - So that I can have several people that I know and trust to babysit my kids when family members are not available.  My favorite thing about the co-op is the flexibility of the members.  It is easy to find someone to sit for me and I can sit for others based on my schedule.

MP - It's really helpful to have babysitting at no cost, with people we know and can trust, and that our child knows too. 

LQ - knowing that my kids with be with another Mother, some one with experience.    

2. Has your babysitting co-op changed much since it first started? If so, how has it changed?

NK - We haven't changed much yet as we're still less than 2 years old.  We've grown from 6 to 12 members but haven't changed in structure, membership or operations.

JC - Other than adding new members, it really hasn't changed.

3. What have been your co-op's biggest challenges? How have you overcome them?

NK - It's been pretty smooth but we could always use more sits.  Also, we work on a point system and people are sometimes nervous to request sits and go negative.  So we give each new member 20 points to begin with so she doesn't feel hesitant to request her first sit.  We want members to feel free to get a sitter when they need one - that's what we're here for!

JC - Probably getting people to use the co-op more frequently.  We try to have quarterly meetings to remind everyone of their points and come up with ideas for when people might need to use the co-op.

LQ - I haven't noticed any challenges. But, I've only been with the co-op for 5 months. 

4. How do your children feel about babysitting co-op?

NK - My children love the playgroups, especially in the summer when NAMC takes a break in many activities.  Babysitting Coops helped both of my children work through their separation anxiety and stranger anxiety.  I felt secure leaving my sad/crying child with a fellow mom who had helped her own children through the same phase.   

BJ - My littlest one always has lots of fun and loves his friends; he is learning how to play with other kids and getting some time apart from mommy is a great way to begin.

JC - They like it.  All the moms in the group are very nice and my kids have enjoyed having opportunities to play with other kids.

MP- She's fine, and it helped a lot to get her used to be without me. She loves to play with the other kids of the babysitting co-op.

LQ - My oldest son (4) LOVES hanging out with his buddies and playing with their toys when I bring him with me to a sit or he is sat at someone else's house!

5. Does your co-op plan whole-family activities from time to time? If so, which ones have been the most successful?

NK - So far we have not planned whole-family activities because NAMC hosts dinners and parties that Coop members often attend.  We have planned various playgroups, field trips and an Activity Day last summer.  We also have done a few Group Sits where one or more moms offers for other members to drop off their kids around the holidays for shopping/errands/cleaning. 

BJ - Not yet but that would be lovely! Eating out, backyard BBQs, campouts, they'd all be fun!

MP - It will plan some for the spring if I'm not wrong... Picnic at a park for the whole family for babysitting co-op families.

LQ - We are looking at planning a family activities in the summer, when our club is on summer break. 

6. What advice would you give to parents who are just starting a babysitting co-op?

NK - Start with a few committed people who can help guide the formation of the coop.  Agree upon some of the details ahead of time (we have Membership Guidelines) and remain flexible to changes that need to be made as the Coop progresses.  Keep opportunities for members to meet, with or without kids, to get to know each other better.  Give an extra welcome to new members.  Keep it active and fun!  

BJ - Keep at it, and offer to watch kids when the sit requests are slow. Make the first move!

JC - Don't be afraid to be the first one to ask for a sit.  Sometimes it takes some nudging to get people started.

LQ - Have a well organized "head" of the co-op! 

Much thanks to Nicole Kanda and the members of the NAMC babysitting club for offering their great advice and tips! We love to see thriving babysitting co-ops and their great feelings of community. If you live in the Austin, Texas, area, get in touch with the NAMC to learn more.

No comments:

Post a Comment