I have not had a date night in about a year. I’ve read the advice about taking “us” time every week or month and I would love to escape with my husband.
But when you are stationed far from your family and move just as you create babysitter connections, finding someone to take care of your kids so you can take care of your marriage can be tough.
It’s even harder on a tight budget. Gee, no military family ever has THIS worry!
When quality sitters can run $10 or more per hour, finding a babysitter for regular or even occasional date nights is a serious financial burden. We’ve had babysitters cost more than our actual date.
Usually, we just skip date nights, schedule doctor’s appointments very carefully and frequent kid-friendly places exclusively.
There are ways to squeeze in your adults-only time, if you get a little creative with child care. Here are 5 child care ideas you may want to consider when you’re craving a date night.
I’ll Trade You
Find another parent or couple who also need child care and offer to swap. You’ll watch their little darling while they have a date night (or a doctor’s appointment or run to the commissary solo) if they will watch yours the next week.
Get even fancier and trade child care for pet care! For your friends without kiddos, but who adore yours, volunteer to watch Fido or Kitty while they are out of town.
No pets? That’s fine! You can keep an eye on their house, check the mail and water the plants.
With this, it’s a one-to-one swap. That makes it simple to manage and easy to keep track of over time.
Consider Joining a Babysitting Co-op
You can either “buy” into an existing child care co-op or create one. Basically, a group of parents agrees to provide X amount of child care per month or week in exchange for solo time.
Often, co-ops are linked to Mommy and Me workout groups. But there is nothing preventing your neighborhood or social group from starting shopping or pedicure cooperative child care groups. One or two parents would watch all the kids while the other adults would go take care of business.
First, agree on the essentials: how often child care is needed, what days and how long the “alone” time will last. Then set up a rotation and enjoy your time sans children.
This also works really well for girls’ nights out, as long as your crew is OK with having one or two members miss out during each event. On the other hand, the de facto sitters could join forces and have their own fun night in!
Barter with Your Time or Skills
You need a sitter, but can’t offer in-kind services or payment in return? You can trade your time or skills for child care.
One example would be to offer tutoring services to high school or college students in exchange for date nights. You could spin your sweet writing or graphic design skills into a way to “pay” for your date nights.
Know a single gal or guy (or even another busy parent) who needs some home cooking? Offer to teach them your tricks or bring by their favorite recipes in return for a few hours of babysitting.
With barter, you could go a bunch of different directions with your swapping: plants, fresh veggies, gardening service, lawn care, dog walking, workout or personal training advice, etc. But it probably works better with a person that you know well or already have a connection with.
Find Stand-In Grandparents Where You’re Currently Stationed
Do you have an older adult in your life that you (and your child) simply love? Find out how they might feel about hanging with your munchkin every once in a while!
Your child will get to spend some quality time with a grandparent-figure. This helps them to build relationships with older adults and experience some of the things they might miss with their actual grandparents far away. The stand-in grandparent might be lonely and want to share their love with a child. And recent research has shown that occasionally caring for young children can help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.
In return, pop by to visit, take your friend out for the day, provide shopping or appointment driving services or home-cooked meals. Really taking this person into your family will expand your circle of love!
Hire a Mother’s or Father’s Helper
I especially love this creative child care solution, and plan to use it a lot once baby #2 arrives. It’s also perfect for sick days and work-from-home military spouses.
In your neighborhood or unit or social circle, there are probably tween or younger teen kids who want to learn how to babysit, but are too young to be left alone for long periods. Reach out and offer to let them practice on your kids while you recuperate, tend to a younger child or get your hustle on.
Pay your mother’s (or father’s) helper a small fee, usually under $5 per hour and provide snacks or a meal.
Your kids will likely love playing with an older child. You will be able to adult. The helper will be building up his or her resume for future babysitting gigs.
No matter which route, or routes, you take to find reliable child care, be sure that you fully vet and trust the people you are leaving your child with.
And leave your list of emergency contacts.