You may not be ready to enroll your child in daycare, you may be trying to work and homeschool, you might not have family nearby to help - but wouldn't it be nice to have some time to yourself every week? Time for running errands, time for a bit of self-care, time to work on that big project, or time to just clean the house without having to worry about the kids? The perfect solution for you may be to organize a simple, mommy cooperative, or pod. Here are some tips on how to set one up.
Find Your Peeps
Having a group of like-minded mamas in your tribe is so valuable when you are a new mom but where do you meet moms who are in a similar stage of motherhood? When I had my first child I met moms in my mommy and me Yoga classes, my weekly La Leche meeting group, and the hospital newborn group. I also ran a stroller fitness class where I organized moms nights out and home project co-ops. I connected with some mamas from each group and these amazing women became some of my closest friends. When we moved to a different state I had to be a bit more creative in finding moms to connect with. I was lucky that our local community had a great community center and moms group. As I joined play groups and attended activities with my children, I was able to find my new tribe. You can also look for mom groups at your local library, on Facebook, your local church, or on meetup.com.
Types of Co-ops
There are many different types of co-op groups. These groups can be loosely organized or tightly run. You can pitch in to pay for a babysitter, teacher, or coordinator or you can make it a free, group where every mom pitches in. Over the years as my children have grown and we have moved to different places, I have been a part of and organized a variety of co-ops. They have all been tremendously valuable even though they were all very different. Back when I ran the stroller fitness class I created a home project co-op where we went to a different house every month. Half of us would watch the kids while the other half helped the mom with a project she hadn't had a chance to do. It was brilliant! We had so much fun, our kids played together, and we helped each other get projects completed. I have also been a part of an educational co-op that we paid a qualified teacher to organize (sometimes called a pod). Every week we would attend a half day class, two times a week run by a teacher educated in early childhood education. Each mom would have a job to do and we rotated responsibilities. I have also helped organize a free homeschool co-op where a different mom each week would present an educational activity for all of the kids. I really appreciated my drop off, playdate co-op where I could drop off my kids at a friend's house to get a few hours to myself. Then, I would take their kids on a different day. If you can imagine it, you can create it. The important thing to do, is take some time to think about the type of co-op that will serve you and your mom friends the best. Here are some steps that might help you get started.
Steps to Organize Your Mommy Co-op (not in any particular order)
1. What kind of co-op you would like to organize?
Ask yourself what you would like the experience to be for your children. Will it be a more educational experience or will it be just a playdate experience?
Will moms be there with the kids or do you want everyone to be able to have a break away from the kids?
Will you collectively pay for a teacher or sitter -- will you rotate drop off or teaching responsibilities with the moms?
2. Who do you want in your co-op?
Ask like-minded mama friends you have made from your mom groups.
What size do you want it to be? It can be any size but I like to have a smaller group of around 5-7 moms because we wanted to be sure our houses could accommodate everyone if needed. Educational pods may need to be based on other factors.
You can have a larger group of moms you do not know very well but be very clear about agreed upon protocols. Remember, the larger the group the more to manage.
3. How will you keep track?
Work with your members to come up with a fair tracking system based on the type of co-op you have created
You can assign a point coordinator and use a simple point system where you get a point when you watch kiddos and use a point when you drop off your kids (1 point per child per hour)
You can use coins to keep track but be careful not to lose them
It can also be super simple if your have a smaller group - just use the trust system
4. When and where will you meet?
You can organize regular days every week/month to keep it simple
You can arrange for drop off days as you need them
Will you rotate houses, meet at parks, or arrange for a larger space?
You can also arrange locations as you go based on who is hosting
5. Agree on protocols
Emergency protocols - Do you want everyone to know First Aid/CPR? Are on-duty parents authorized to make medical decisions if parents cannot be reached? It would be good to create a collective file containing contact and emergency info. for each child if the need comes up.
Caregiver/child ratios - Decide how many children and what ages you are all comfortable being in charge of. You can have multiple moms watching children as well. This worked great for our home project co-op.
Work together to come up with discipline tools you can agree on
Agree on childproofing criteria and access boundaries
Talk to each other about any other concerns you may have and be sure you are comfortable with the protocols
I hope you find these steps helpful in organizing the perfect co-op or pod for you and your family. Whether it is for co-schooling, working on house projects, or just getting some time to yourself, mommy co-ops are an invaluable tool for creating community and support. It is just one of many things that gives you the space to be the best mom you can be.
Have you participated in a co-op or pod that you love? I would enjoy hearing about your experience in the comments below.
Interested in incorporating more "you" time into your day? Be sure to read my post on how to incorporate simple self-care into your routine. You deserve it!