While I love that we made the decision to start homeschooling four years ago, I would occasionally think that I wished I could just have a couple of hours to just get caught up on things without the kids around.
Imagine my surprise when I casually mentioned this desire to a friend, and her response was, “Let’s do it!”
It has been such a blessing that I wished I had done something like this sooner. Not only do my friend and I each have four hours a month when we get some free time to run errands, have appointments, work on projects, or just relax, but our kids get to spend eight hours a month together. As my friend pointed out one day, “I love that the kids think we’re doing them a favor by letting them get together!”
This kind of arrangement can be doable for almost any family, as long as you have another family (or two) that would like to participate with you. It will be important beforehand, however, to come up with some basic ground rules and guidelines, which will look different for different situations (i.e. your family will arrange things differently than mine and my friend’s family arrange it).
Our Basic Structure for “Kid Swap”
Every other week, our families get together on a Friday afternoon from noon – 4 pm. The host Mom is responsible for serving lunch to everyone. This allows the Mom that is dropping kids off to not have to worry about feeding the kids quickly before dropping them off. (Plus, the kids all like having lunch together.) The host Mom will also serve a snack at some point during the afternoon.
The host Mom will occasionally plan an activity for the kids, but we agreed from the beginning that that was never going to be required. If a mom wanted to, then she could. If she just wanted to let the kids play the whole time, then that would be fine too.
The mom that is dropping kids off is expected to pretty much drop and go. It’s not that we don’t like to see each other (my friend and I), but we’re more likely to do a little visiting at 4 pm when we do the pick-up. We both understand that this time is precious.
In your arrangement, of course, you could form a basic structure that works best of your families. The only important thing is that everyone involved agrees with the structure.
Before starting, we agreed that we didn’t want it to be stressful for the host mom. We wanted her to be able to be there for the kids, but not to have to spend every moment watching the children. Because of this, we decided that only children who were old enough to be independent could be included.
This means that with my youngest being six, all three of my children go. However, my friend has five children, and only four of them participate, with her six month old staying with her. We previously had another friend who also did this swap with us. She has six children, and her youngest (who was two at the time) had to stay with her.
Other than the expectation of lunch and a snack, we don’t have a lot of other guidelines. Our families have similar parenting styles, a shared faith, and children of very similar ages. This means that we’ve been able to be very free about what happens during our swaps. My kids roam around the woods with her children at their house, and her kids are allowed to play video games (which they don’t have at home) at my house.
If you don’t have similar parenting styles as the family (or families) that you have a kid swap arrangement with, it might be more important to agree upon more guidelines than what we have.
Not only do my friend and I benefit from time alone, we also both look forward to our weeks as the host Mom too! Our kids are all fun, sweet kids, so it’s not hard work having the group of seven kids at once.
I can definitely say that my children have benefited so much from this arrangement. As kids from the suburbs, they love the chance to go to their friends in the country who have woods, a creek, chickens, pigs, and lots of adventure.
I hope that our house also offers something to our friends. Above all, I know that the kids all benefit from being together. They genuinely enjoy each other’s company, so time for building and sustaining their friendships is the best benefit.
The Bottom Line
If a kid swap sounds appealing to you, try approaching another family (or two) that you think might be interested.
Work together to pick out the best structure and guidelines for your situation, and let this be an arrangement that benefits everyone, moms and kids alike!
Would you be interested in doing a kid swap? Have you ever been a part of one?