Ah, yes. Life after children will never ever be the same.
Before Olivia, Mike and I did a lot of traveling (we still sort of do…), and we were a lot more spontaneous, and in some ways, less thoughtful about our lives. We just did not need to plan as much.
After Olivia was born, we have found ourselves home-bound a lot more often. Neither of us really minds this very much- we’re pretty big homebodies, and we’re not big socialites either. It suites us well to spend cozy evenings at home, enjoying being a family.
However, there are def-in-itely times when we just need to get out of the house, sans baby, and sans (sort of) responsibility. Or the illusion of it, anyway. Since we don’t have a big budget to begin with, we have had to come up with some more creative solutions for child care.
Going Back to Work
100% of our child-care fund is devoted to paying the babysitter who watches Olivia while Mike and I work. We are so blessed to have a babysitter who lives on the way to my job, has had years of raising her own children and babysitting on an almost full-time basis many other children, and who is very flexible about what we can or cannot afford to pay. Seriously, we are blessed.
If we did not have our awesome babysitter, there is no way that my having a job would be worth it- I would basically be working to pay the child-care bill! There is no way we could pay for daycare, besides the fact that I really did not want to put my child in that kind of group-care setting. You can read more about how we have save money on “necessary” child-care while we work in My Budget Boot Camp.
The Trading Game
Outside of the child-care we have for Olivia during working ours, Mike and I have learned to do a lot of trading to get child-care during the evenings or weekends. We have had friends of ours offer to watch Olivia in exchange for dessert and for driving the person’s child to the event we were attending and back late at night. Fine with me!
Another thing we have exchanged is babysitting duty. We go out one night while our friends take care of Olivia, and then return the favor. This works well if you have friends with similar aged (and amounts) of children. There are tons of other services I am sure we could trade in exchange for a couple hours of alone time, but we really have not had to cross that bridge often.
The Benefit of the Early Bed-Time
Olivia goes to bed at 6:30pm, and that has worked out stupendously for us! We have found that a great way to “trade” child-care service, even with other parents who have more children or older children, is to do so after bedtime. Basically, one evening after the kids are in bed, I will go to my friends house and enjoy some of my own alone time- reading, watching TV, working the computer, whatever, while my friends go out for the evening. Then we trade. Easy. Since the kids are all in bed, there is no question about the fairness of the trade, AND it’s a bonus to me because I rarely do get a completely free evening in a quiet house. AWESOME
Another benefit of the early bedtime is that, wince we live with other people, it is often easy to head out on the town, or even just around the block on a walk, after Olivia is in bed. As long as our housemates were already planning on being home for the evening, there is literally zero responsibility for them to watch Olivia, except not to leave the house and to remember to get Olivia if the house burns down, and they are happy to “watch” her in this way.
How About You?
How do you keep costs of child-care low? Do you have family near-by to help watch the kids when you need a break? I so wish mine lived closer for this reason sometimes!