Babysit unto others as you would like them to babysit unto you.
Recently, I was out with my son and a group of lady friends at Velveteria, THE only velvet painting museum in the world (well, except for Villa Velour, which is a copycat at best). The museum closed its doors officially on January 24th, and we didn't want to miss the opportunity to check it out beforehand. We came back to my house to grab another friend and head out to the Delta Cafe for dinner. As I was standing there, "convincing" said friend to come along, Ian began to complain...
"I don't wanna go. The Delta Cafe is BORING. I don't want it." BLAH DUH FREAKING BLAH.
I was about to go into my rant of, "Well, we're going and that's THAT and I never get to do anyth...," when my roommate chimed in, "I'll watch him!"
WHA? I thought I was dreaming. No, seriously.
"Oh, but Angela, you exaggerate."
Nope. See, I hadn't been out on the town with just the ladies for quite a little bit of time. I was in some serious need of what the parental units like to call "grown up time." All work and no play makes Mommy a cranky lunatic. I was in desperate need of some adult conversation and frivolity.
Did I literally jump on his offer of free babysitting? Uhm, you bet your sweet arse I did!
BECAUSE... I have a motto.
Never turn down free babysitting, (assuming the offering party is someone you know and trust). In the parenting world, a free babysitter could literally be traded for twice his or her weight in gold. If you have a friend and they offer to babysit "sometime," you take them up on it! PRONTO! Say, "How bout next Wednesday?"
And if this babysitter has kids of their own, make sure to reciprocate. It's the right thing to do.
Here are a few FREE babysitting resources I have found over the years...
My sister-in-law and I babysit for each other frequently. Neither of us keep tabs on how many times or for how long or even WHY we're babysitting. We just do it. This works out great for us. I rarely end up paying for babysitting and our kids have instant playmates.
We just happen to be family, but it doesn't have to be family, per se. Ian has a friend from school who often comes home with us after school for a visit so his dad can finish up whatever errands he is running. Likewise, Ian spends the night at his friend's house occasionally so I can get a little "me time."
Aunts and Uncles
MY aunts and uncles. Yes, those very people who watched me grow up and blossom into the young mother I am today, have been known to babysit my offspring (the aforementioned Ian). There is a slight danger in this scenario that your child may get spoiled by his or her great aunt or great uncle, but it's worth it for the night out!
Friends of Grandma and Grandpa
One slightly weird connection I've utilized when in need of a babysitter is asking friends of my parents. You'd be surprised how many older people out there want to babysit your children. I'm not sure why, but it could be because they miss their own children, who have grown and left them with empty nest syndrome. Perhaps they never had their own children and find the company of wee ones to be a fun romp into parenthood without the commitment. Whatever the reason, don't question it... unless they are creepy.
AND OF COURSE...
There's Grandma and Grandpa, or as Ian calls them, Grandma and Partner. I call them Mom and Dad. Yes, there is a 100% chance that your child will get spoiled by your parental units (there's that phrase again), but they are a tried and true standby and are just waiting for you to ask them for the chance to overload your children on candy, toys, and FUN FUN FUN!!!
"But, ANGELA, I don't have friends, or parents, or sisters, or random family friends... hook me up!"
For a cheap babysitter, try finding a young teen from your church or social community. Last night, I needed a babysitter so I could go to OMSI After Dark with friends, and I was able to find a young teenager from my church to babysit. She wasn't THAT much older than my son, but she did a fantastic job and she didn't charge me a ton of money! (DUDE, I can TOTALLY hook you up!).
So, go out there and get your babysitter on!