How to Find Moms for Your Childcare Swaps
When my son was two, an acquaintance asked if Iâ€™d be interested in setting up some childcare swaps. She would watch my kiddo one afternoon a week, and Iâ€™d have her son over some other afternoon. I think it was for a whopping two hours each time. But with no family around and no budget for babysitters, I jumped at the chance to get two hours to myself.
And thus began my six-years-and-counting love affair with childcare swaps.
As a stay at home mom who also freelances, childcare swaps have been invaluable to my work-from-home career, and my sanity. Over the years I have swapped with at least five families for hundreds of hours of free childcare, and in return have hosted tons of swap playdates at my house. Childcare swaps provide me with time to work, run errands, and exercise. Theyâ€™ve helped my kids make friends and learn to play nicely with other kids, and theyâ€™ve given me that village all parents need. All for the price that a very low earner like a SAHM/freelancer can afford: free.
I recommend all moms set up childcare swaps, so long as you have the patience to watch other peopleâ€™s kids (because not all of us do, and thatâ€™s ok too). Ready to set up a childcare swap? Letâ€™s get started!
Find Families for Your Childcare Swaps
First, identify some potential swap partners. These could be friends or even just acquaintances who you trust, like a mom from your church or childâ€™s school. I have been in swaps with friends that expanded to include another mom or two I knew only casually, but who was verified Â trustworthy, kind, and reliable through another (non swapping) friend. Phew!
Some factors that make a family a good potential swap partner:
- they have a child or children about the same age as your kid or kiddos
- they run similar schedules to you, i.e. kiddos nap at the same time, or they have their afternoons free, etc.
- you like their kids and the kiddos are a good fit with yours, personality-wise
Once you have a family in mind, just approach them and broach the subject. Youâ€™ll quickly work out if a swap between your families will work for your schedules, and if it does, great! The swap is on. If not, NBD, just find another family.
A note on that: Iâ€™ve been lucky in that I was always able to find swap partners within my immediate, offline community. (I got hooked up through my husbandâ€™s church, where there are tons of families with little kids). For moms who might not have such great options, online swap communities have sprung up. Just google â€śchildcare swap,â€ť and explore your options (carefully, of course. You never want to put your child in danger for free childcare, obviously.)
Starting Your Childcare Swaps
Once you have a swap established, itâ€™s good to start small and ramp up. That first swap I did eventually grew from two families to four families, and from two to three hours each time. There are definite advantages to having more families swapping: With four families, each mom got three afternoons of free childcare for every one afternoon that she had the kids. But that one afternoon was also a lot more work, as anyone who has ever watched four preschoolers (three boys and a girl, in this case) at once knows!
Once word gets out around your mom crew that you have a swap established, youâ€™ll probably have at least a couple moms asking if they can join in too. Definitely consider how much you (and the other parents) can handle before adding more kids. Those families can always start childcare swaps on their own.
Would you love to be part of a childcare swap? Do you currently swap kids with friends to work or get a much-deserved break?
Katie Quirk is a mom of two, a boy and a girl. She lives and writes in Seattle, WA.