We’ve all been there: there’s a big occasion or fun party, gathering with friends, or a planned date night, but you can’t find a babysitter or can’t afford one. Or maybe it’s just that your child has a day off school but you still have to go to work and need to figure out how to make it all work.
What can a parent do? You don’t always have to give in and stay home, unable to enjoy what activity you had planned or placed you had hoped to attend. Nor do you have to work from home with distractions that leave you frazzled and frustrated. There are lots of alternatives to using a paid babysitter that are worth considering!
10 Ask the Grandparents
The most obvious solution is to lean on the grandparents, who are often more than willing to come and spend time with their grandkids. This also makes them feel wanted, needed, and appreciated. And the children will be excited over the prospect of spending a day or evening with grandma and grandpa because it usually means getting spoiled and, inevitably, lots of sweet treats. Plus, you can feel comfortable that the kids are with someone you trust.
9 Have Friends Over For a Sleepover
Instead of going out, invite friends over to your home to hang out there. If they have kids as well, the kids can enjoy a fun sleepover, too. Parents enjoy their evening chatting, playing games, or watching the big game while the kids play outside, in the basement, or in the bedroom in their pajamas, ending off the evening with popcorn and a movie. Once it’s bedtime, the parents can continue the party while the kids are safely tucked away in their beds.
8 Join a Babysitting Swap Group/Co-Operative
There’s a new trend toward babysitting swaps, exchanges, or co-op groups whereby groups of parents who live in the same neighborhood or attend the same place of warship alternate babysitting days. One weekend, you might leave your kids with one family or at the church while you go out for a few hours. Kids enjoy fun activities and a movie along with dinner and can play with one another. You don’t have to pay anything; all that’s required is that you commit to babysitting one weekend down the road as well. Everybody wins!
7 Ask Friends Without Kids to Help
It might sound odd, but sometimes friends who don’t have kids are the perfect people to help. If they aren’t busy, they might be more than willing to come by and spend some time with your kids so you can have a date night. For couples considering having kids themselves one day, it gives them the opportunity to get familiar with taking care of little ones and shows that you trust them to do so with your own little ones. Consider it a fair trade; they get to practice while you get a date night!
6 Lean on Your Significant Other
While a date night would be great, sometimes it’s good to spend some time on your own with friends as well, or even just for some solitary pampering. Rather than do everything together, save that for special nights out, lean on your significant other to take care of the kids solo while you go do your nails, hang out with girlfriends for brunch, or meet with the guys to watch the game at a local bar.
5 Look Into Day/Hourly Drop-Off Programs
Look into drop-off daycare options for a small fee, as well as places like community centers, gyms, churches—even retail stores like Ikea. If you are a member of a gym, they likely have child care options where you can leave your child for an hour or two while you work out or run errands. If you’re part of a congregation, some churches also offer babysitting services in exchange for donations of whatever amount you can afford, so it might be worth asking. If it’s just for a few hours while you meet a friend for coffee, run errands, or get something done at work, it might be a great option. And the kids will enjoy doing activities and crafts at the church, while you know they are safe with someone trusted.
4 Skip Work and Have a Date During the Day
If the last time you had a date night was before your kids were born, stop trying to make it work and just consider switching things up and having a date day. Once the kids are in school or daycare, call in sick to work, or book the day off and spend it with your significant other. Have a fancy lunch instead of dinner, watch a movie, go to an amusement park—whatever sounds like fun, as long as you’re back in time to grab the kids from school. And they’ll be none the wiser, wondering what’s up with the massive grins on your faces. Having the secret alone will be super fun!
3 Set Up a Fun Date Night at Home
Once the kids are in bed, plan a delicious dinner, whether it’s homemade or takeout. Set up a small table outside in the backyard with candles and soft music, then sit under the stars to enjoy your meal, complete with an expensive bottle of wine you can enjoy without the typical restaurant mark-up. Afterward, curl up on the couch with that great new Netflix series and freshly popped popcorn. It might not have the same vibe as getting all dolled up and visiting the hot new fancy restaurant in town followed by a live play. (Though nothing is stopping you from getting dolled up at home anyway!) But it’s much more intimate, and just as fun.
2 Bring Your Kid(s) to Work
It might be a last resort, but it can actually be fun to bring your child to work with you every now and then if babysitting isn’t available. The child can see what you do daily, meet your co-workers, and sit quietly as you work on what needs to be done. If the child is allowed to play on a tablet or watch movies or TV shows for a few hours to keep him busy, then go for a special lunch with mom, he or she will have more fun than you think, and you might just enjoy the company, too.
1 Stay Home!
Sure, this isn’t an ideal option. But sometimes not finding a babysitter can be a sign that maybe you should just stay home and spend the day with your kids. Plan fun activities, do crafts, board games, baking, and video game night. There will be other opportunities to go out. So savor these times you have at home with your kids as long as you can.