I’ve tried scheduling child care swaps in the past, but it’s hard. Every parent is busy, and schedules are often inflexible and incompatible.
So I was pretty excited when a friend proposed a swap that not only worked perfectly with my calendar, but also coincided with Felix requesting more play dates. (School can’t start soon enough for this kid! He’s ready to socialize.) One morning a week, my friend drops her three-year-old son off at my place and then heads off to work for a few hours. A couple of days later, Felix and I trike over to her place and then it’s my turn to leave.
These swaps have been going so well that the boys don’t want to say goodbye come pick-up time. And Felix looks forward to them so much that he plans out what they’re going to do the night before. “He’s my best friend,” Felix said about his buddy.
Have you considered trying this? Sure, it takes some coordination, but it’s worth it. Click on to find out why!
Seems overwhelming, right? 1 of 7
But click on to find out why a child care swap is worth it!
Your child has fun and develops socialization skills by playing with his friend. 2 of 7
At four-years-old, Felix is still learning how to share, take turns, talk to his peers, and play. It's funny, right? How kids don't always know how to play. They sit on their own with a toy, yes. But ask a three-year-old and four-year-old boy to "play firetrucks together" and you're likely to have a brawl on your hands. I get down on the floor with them and help coordinate their play, getting them to cooperate in building train tracks or block towers.
This isn't to say that I'm always in their space. It's even cooler when the little guys want to play on their own. They might get up to no good, but it's wonderful for my son, an only child, to have alone time with a friend.
You get to see your child close up in comparison with a peer, which can help chill you out. 3 of 7
Sometimes I get in this weird bubble, thinking that it's only my child who has trouble playing with others, or managing his emotions, or throwing temper tantrums. Silly, I know. But being a stay-at-home parent means spending a lot of time alone, and it's easy to lose perspective. Seeing that Felix's friend has his own issues helps get me out of this dark, lonely, parenting hole. Each kid has developmental hiccups! And lots of little boys have trouble with hitting, and controlling themselves. It's nice seeing firsthand that every child struggles in some way with the same challenges Felix faces.
It helps to have your lessons about proper behavior reinforced by another parent. 4 of 7
You know what it's like: as much as your kid hears you telling them to be nice, share, not hit, say please— all those little rules that add up to a society — your child never really listens until they hear other adults say the same things. So having another trustworthy grown-up spending time with your child really pays off. It makes for good school practice too, when your child is going to have to listen to another grown-up calling the shots.
Having a parent friend who knows both you and your child well is awesome. 5 of 7
During pick-up, my friend and I stop to chat about this and that — the challenges of balancing parenting with work, making tough choices about pre-school, the craziness of living with these wonderful little creatures that are our children. It's a few minutes of therapy in the midst of a long, packed day! And because she has gotten to know Felix well, her advice on my parenting conundrum du jour tends to be spot on. Even if the only advice she has is to CTFD.
Taking care of one or two more kids than you’re used to makes you feel like a super-parent. 6 of 7
I'm used to only having one little guy to deal with, so two-plus hours of keeping a couple of little ones happy and peaceable leaves me feeling pretty good about myself. Even just rolling up to the playground with one strapped in to the stroller and the other clinging to the wheely-board makes me feel tough! Maybe I'll start a nannying business or teach pre-school after this. (Kidding.) Because you know what else is nice? Ramping back down to one kid again, which feels like a piece of cake in comparison.
Having a few extra hours off parenting duty is good for your spirit! 7 of 7
An extra morning a week has done wonders for me. I use it to work, and having the extra time has encouraged me to find more projects, which leaves me feeling like a better-rounded person. My friend has used the time for work and also to take a yoga class or go for a walk. All parents needs a breather, and organizing a childcare swap is a cheap way of getting one. The rewards are incalculable.