Bonnie and Kevin had planned a special overnight date for their anniversary. “But the only people we trusted to watch our little ones were all unavailable,” Bonnie says. “So we canceled our plan and stayed home.”
Sadly, stories like this are all too common. It’s often not easy for parents to find reliable babysitters they can afford and trust.
I asked some moms how they solved the babysitting dilemma and was encouraged by their creative ideas. Here are 15 ways to do away with the babysitting blues so you can bring dating back into your marriage:
1. Barter: Kate suggests exchanging homemade meals, birthday cakes, and even errand running (grocery store) for child care. Another friend had the same bartering idea and gave this example: “I will detail your car/change your oil/mow your lawn/organize your closets … in exchange for you babysitting ‘x’ amount of times.”
2. Swap babysitting with another couple: With four kids, Anne says it was really hard to find a good, affordable babysitter. So she and her husband teamed up with another couple who also had four kids—they traded babysitting. While one of the couples went out on a date, the other couple watched all of the children.
When the eight kids were all playing together in their home, Anne and Robert were surprised by how busy the children kept one another. “And we got a break from entertaining and being interrupted by kids,” Anne says.
3. Participate in a parents’ night out: Does your church sponsor a community-wide “Parents Night Out” once a month or so? (If not, you might consider organizing it.) One mom said that at her church, members volunteer to watch the children for up to four hours, on a rotating basis. Parents send dinner for each of their children, and the church volunteers do the rest.
4. Adopt a college student: Offer a trusted college student a “home away from home.” You will provide some home-cooked meals, free laundry service, a quiet place to study, etc., in exchange for babysitting.
5. Hire a mother’s helper (a child 10-12 years old): Enlist the help of a preteen (maybe even your own child) to entertain the children so you and your spouse can have some one-on-one time together at home. A Mother’s Helper will play with the kids so you can enjoy an uninterrupted meal together or some needed time for adult conversation.
6. Hire a regular sitter: Sabrina says that she and her hubby have included a weekly sitter into their standard budget.”We know that spending time together as a couple is absolutely necessary in a blended family,” she says, “so we make it a priority.”
7. Get involved in a babysitting co-op (a group of parents who agree to take turns watching each other’s children): Find or begin a babysitting co-op in your neighborhood or among a group of friends. Lis explained: “We even printed babysitting coupons and each mom had a certain number to start with. You would give a coupon to the mom in the co-op who was watching your children. As you used up your coupons, you would need to do some babysitting for another mom to get back coupons.”
8. Have home date-nights: Take turns planning regular home date nights with your spouse. For example, Jayna and her hubby now have date-night-at-home every Friday night, after the kids go to bed. They take turns coming up with fun ideas. And sometimes they just play games or look at photo albums. “Last week,” Jayna says, “we had a backyard bonfire and S’mores.”
9. Discover “talk time”: Tonya says that most of Chris’ and her dates are talking after the kids have gone to bed. “Now that the kids are old enough,” she says, “They are trained that this is Mom and Dad time.”
10. Enlist the grandparents: If possible, ask your parents or in-laws if they would like to watch the grandkids on a regularly-scheduled night (example: Tuesday nights, first Friday of the month, first weekend of the month, etc.). Now a grandmother, I realize that what some might consider “babysitting” is actually investing in my legacy. When my son and daughter-in-law ask Pops and me watch the grands, it’s not a burden; it’s a joy!
11. Enjoy lunch dates: If it’s possible for you and your spouse to have lunch dates (while the kids are in school), make them a regular habit—an appointment that you won’t break.
12. Add babysitting to your wish list: When loved ones ask what you’d like for your birthday or Christmas, say, “Babysitting!”
13. Trade babysitting during the day: Stay-at-home moms Julie and Brandi trade babysitting during the day. Brandi takes the kids to story hour at the local library on Mondays, and then to the park where the kids eat sack lunches and play (Julie sends lunches for her children). On Fridays Julie teaches all of the kids art lessons. With creative ideas like this, moms will not only have needed alone time, but also can enjoy a special lunch with just dad.
14. Share babysitters: With the cost of babysitting averaging $10 an hour (and $2-$5 more for each additional child), share babysitters. For example, two couples who each have one child would share one babysitter in one home. The couples would each save money, and the kids would have more fun.
15. Organize monthly sleepovers: Alternating homes, swap monthly kid sleepovers with another family. This will allow each couple six nights a year to take a short getaway or spend a relaxing night at home.
With creative ideas like these, a couple can start to put an end to the babysitting blues. And as they spend one-on-one time together, their bonds of marital love can “abound more and more” (Philippians 1:9).
Jayna and her husband brought regular date nights back into their relationship a year or so ago. She says, “It’s made a huge difference in our marriage.”
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