debt, marriage, parenthood

The Babysitting Swap

Snaps from our last date night. So GREAT. 

About a year ago, we were close to celebrating our 4th year of marriage (+6 years of dating prior) and finally had implemented a bedtime for Lincoln, who was about 7 months old. We started getting really consistent about putting him to bed at 7pm and it was a game-changer for our marriage. Becoming parents and resuming our normal work duties had been challenging and really hard on our marriage and even though we saw each other a lot, we hadn’t really connected in months or had conversations about things that weren’t baby, family, work or house related. Once we had a guaranteed bedtime for him, suddenly we found ourselves with time in the evening to, like, talk!

While we enjoyed being able to hang out in the evenings, going out on an actual date seemed hilarious and far-fetched. One time we actually did have to go to an open house for school, we arranged to have my sister babysit and we made an evening of it and went to dinner and I just remember being really disappointed. So much effort, and so much expectation and months building up to this date and all we did was sit in silence while we inhaled our food and then drove home and I played on my phone while I pumped. Not so magical.

Enter: The Babysitting Swap.

It was suggested by one of my best friends, Sarah. A little background: I prayed for a family to babysit for back in 2006 when I was about to move to Raleigh for college and I was the first to respond to an email to my then-bible study leader and I landed the job babysitting Cole, who was 2 years old then and she was pregnant with Adison. Fastforward 10 years, I lived with them one summer, Cole and Adison were in our wedding and they are the only people I’ve let keep Lincoln overnight (more than once). They are family! 

So the deal we came up with was one night of babysitting for one night of babysitting. She comes over and watches Lincoln on our agreed upon date night, I go over and watch Cole & Adison on their’s. It’s a win win win! We get a guaranteed date night AND (and!) Sarah and I both get a night solo once kids are in bed. I think our arrangement works the best because our kids are different ages. She enjoys the toddler shenanigans and snuggles, and I enjoy that her kids prepare and feed themselves dinner and can put themselves to bed without little to no supervision. And the THIRD win, you can spend more on the actual date night experience because you don’t have to budget $50+ for a babysitter. Not to mention, we’ve known each other forever and there’s no pressure to have a clean house, or leave detailed directions, or anything. We legit just leave when she gets there and it’s the best.

We do ours 6-10pm (mostly because I can’t really imagine being up much later than 10 most nights) but some people do later so the babysitter doesn’t have to do bedtime, but for me part of the magic of date night and being “off the hook” so to speak, is not having to trick the little one into surrendering all the fun he’s having being awake into sleepy time.

We’ve recently taken it up a notch and gone to two date nights a month which has been so wonderful. We often use one of ours for a church event so we don’t have to worry about bringing Lincoln past bedtime and then the other for just a good old fashioned date night where we can unplug and just hang out together.

As for what we do on the dates is another post, because we are spending as little money as possible these days on anything that isn’t debt and our idea of a date may not exactly be the most common interpretation. Being able to schedule them out at the end of the month for the next month really allows you to plan and budget for some fun activities, and takes the pressure off to super connect during the normal busy weeks. Obviously we talk every day and invest in each other, but we allow ourselves to be busy and work and give our full attention to work/home/Lincoln because we know date night is coming and we’ll have a chance to really give our whole attention to each other and be fully present.

All in all, The Babysitting Swap is where it’s at! Here’s a starting point:

  1. Find a family you are comfortable leaving your kid(s) with and vice versa. Kids don’t have to be the same age, it may actually be fun to bring big kids to play with little ones or if one parent will be babysitting, it is a nice change to help bigger kids get ready for bed if the parent has a smaller child at home. 
  2. Lay out expectations, times, dates, frequency, etc. It would even be a good idea to get these things in writing, perhaps a follow up email after a face to face conversation that way there’s a place to reference and everyone is on the same page (looking at you, dads. This is for you too!). It’s great to nail down these things at the beginning (and be super thorough) so that there are no surprises or weird feelings later on. Sometimes babysitting friends’ kids can be awkward, but not if you nail down details out in the open! Things to think about:
    • What time of day will the swap happen? How long of a period of time?
    • Will it be when kids are asleep? Will the caregiver need to put kids to bed?
    • Will a meal be provided for the caregiver? 
    • Are there any parenting preferences in regards to food, screen time, books, etc?
    • Will the kids be awake during the swap time? Will both parents be caregivers and the kids play together, or will one parent babysit while the other stays at home? 
  3. Plan ahead! Pick dates month-to-month that work for you, or decide that Couple A gets to date the 1st Thursday of the month and Couple B gets to date the 3rd Thursday of the month. And plan on it. Fight for it. Make it happen. Say no to other things because YOU HAVE A DATE. 
  4. ENJOY ALL THE DATES AND FREE BABYSITTING! 

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