*This is a guest post
Imagine a world where mums and dads get well-deserved breaks regularly.
Imagine having extra hours to yourself weekly to do things like pee with the door closed, take a shower (washing more than just the essential parts), and shop in peace without strange items migrating into your cart.
Now imagine doing this with little to no financial cost to you. Before you’re ready to label me a mad woman or some sort of sorcerer, let me introduce you to the parental cooperative.
What is a parenting cooperative?
A parenting cooperative is a group of families within a community who decide to share parenting tasks by swapping time with each other rather than charging money. This system allows parents to get back more of their time without the cost of babysitters and additional childcare.
Starting a parenting co-op sounds simple on paper- just find other parents who want to start a co-op. Now, where do you find these beautiful people?
- Neighbours/Friends – Are there families within your neighbourhood or friendship circle with similar family structure and parenting style to you? Approach them about starting a co-op!
- Playgroups – Do you have a mummy crush on one of the other playgroup mummies? Preach the gospel of a parental co-op to her and ask her to join yours!
- Online sites like Born by One – Families on Born by One are interested in forming parental co-ops in their neighbourhoods. By setting up a profile, you are matched with families similar to yours in a geographical location.
How to make it work
Now that you have your parenting crew, how do you actually start and maintain a good co-op?
- Start small – As much as you may want to go full gusto with your parenting co-op, it’s best you start small. Start with playdates and lots of it! Playdate often and make sure the children all get on. As your comfort grows, start with reciprocal weekend childcare. One day a week, usually a Saturday, one parent of the co-op takes the kids for a few hours while the others enjoy some adult time. All the parents agree to pick up their kids by a particular time. This system moves around the co-op until all the parents have had an opportunity to mind the kids.
- Show respect to all members of the co-op. Remember these people are your friends and neighbours. Have respect for their time, property and child.
- Treat the children like your own. The great thing about a co-op is that it provides parents with an extended network of people who love, care, and will watch out for their child when they’re unable to do so.
- Do your part. Remember back in school when in group projects there was always the one person who didn’t pull their weight? Remember how badly you wanted to tell them off? The feeling triples when it comes to parents who use the co-op without giving back. Remember it’s a give and take system.
- Keep your group tight. A co-op is no more than five (5) families – This allows you to know everyone in the co-op and helps to limit the possibility of being overwhelmed.
The golden ticket to sanity?
We live in a world that values individualism and independence over depending on others. Being told to be a parent without help is an impossible task. When a parent is left without a support system, the whole family suffers. Beyond just saving money, a parenting co-op can save your sanity and relationships. One of my favourite quotes is an African Proverb:
‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’
Together, you can take your families further than you ever thought possible.
Alice Duff is an American Ex-Pat living in Sydney with her husband and almost 2 year old son, Thaddeus. Born by One came from Alice’s need for a village of support in Sydney. She’s passionate about making sure no parent is left alone in the parenting game. If you’re interested in starting a parenting co-op in your neighbourhood check out Born by One (hyperlink) to meet other families near you!