There are many difficulties that come with parenting young children. There’s lots of joy as well, but that doesn’t mean it’s always smooth sailing.
One thing that always gave me trouble as a young mom was finding time for myself. Even the act of trying to schedule a doctor’s appointment or haircut was a logistical nightmare.
And while lots of parents take their children with them everywhere (and my hat’s off to them), I wasn’t that mom. I didn’t need alone time every day, but having some time I could count as my own was important to me.
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The biggest problem? We didn’t have the money to pay a babysitter on a regular basis. I was a stay-at-home mom with a very part-time business, only working a few hours a week. We chose to forego a second income while the kids were really small, which meant that I chose to be with my children all the time. But apparently there was a limit to my magnanimity, even with my own kids. So how could I find a babysitter when I was working on a budget?
Finding a Babysitter for Free
One day, I was chatting with my friend Angela and we realized we were both in the same boat. She had two children that were just slightly younger than my kids, and she also needed the occasional time alone to get a few things done. We hatched a brilliant plan right then and there and started the next week.
Every Tuesday, we took turns babysitting the children. On my day off, Angela would come to my house, pick up my kids, and take them back to her house. She would plan a craft, arrange play time, and usually schedule a movie for the day. She even provided lunch for everyone. And I didn’t even have to get out of my PJs.
I literally just had to open my door and give the kids a kiss goodbye, and the day was all mine until 4 p.m.
Can you imagine the joy? Best of all, it didn’t cost me anything other than taking my turn. The next week it would be Angela’s time to relax. I’d pick up her children and plan a super fun day for everyone.
It gave us both two full days off every month to do whatever we wanted, and the kids had a great time playing with friends and having special activities planned. I could make appointments in advance because we would map out our days ahead of time; it was such a help to me as a young mom.
Things went so well that we started trading a monthly date night out as well. Not that once a month is all that often, but it sure was better than nothing.
Finding a Free Babysitter: Solutions for Working Moms
It seems to me that an arrangement like ours could be a big help to full- and part-time working moms. At the very least, you could trade off Saturdays or the occasional weeknight. It might not have the same benefits as having a weekday off, as far as making appointments goes, but it would still be a chance to catch a break.
If you’re short on cash but need help with child care, there are ways to work it out. Get creative, consult your friends, and come up with something that will benefit everyone. You might even find a babysitter for free, the way I did. You won’t regret it.
Other Ways to Cut the Costs of Child Care
Raising a child is no easy feat, especially financially. Parents can expect to spend $233,610 on a single kid from age 0 through 18, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, excluding the cost of college. And you might not always be able to find a babysitter for free.
Fortunately, there are resources available to help offset the cost of raising kids, especially when it comes to child care.
Here are some affordable options if you decide to not be a stay-at-home parent.
Every state offers vouchers to families who can’t afford child care. This fee assistance is offered to help parents pay for child care, so they can either attend school or work. As the benefits differ from state to state, be sure to check your area’s resources online.
Dependents, such as your children, can reduce the amount you owe in taxes and result in a bigger refund. Additionally, if you are currently paying someone for child care, you can reduce the amount owed in federal income tax by claiming a Credit for Child and Dependent Care.
Look for Family Care
Family day care can be a more affordable solution to traditional day care centers. Sites like Care.com can find local, frequently cheap resources that can offset the cost of child-rearing. Just be mindful that a family day care doesn’t have to pass the same accrediting as a full-fledged day care. That’s not to say these aren’t the right environment for your children. Always ask questions, read reviews, and trust your gut.
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Consider Nanny Sharing
While the cost of having a personalized nanny can vary considerably, new online resources like MyNannyShare and Nannylane provide a social platform to find a local nanny you can share with your neighbors. Splitting the bill can actually save you hundreds.
Additional reporting by Connor Beckett McInerney.