Okay, I looooove my babysitting co-op! It sounds super fancy, but it’s really just me and one friend, and every week, we swap kids. It’s amazing. (AND FREE.) Here’s why you should try it.

1. It’s free help with your kids. Duh. Literally, it’s babysitting that you don’t have to pay for. Here’s how my babysitting co-op works. I find a friend who I trust, whose kids are about the same age as mine and play well together. We also live somewhat close. We picked Monday mornings as our co-op day because it’s usually when the house needs to be cleaned up and errands need to be run. And each week, we take turns watching the kids (usually from 8:30am to 1:30pm since our kids take afternoon naps). When it’s my week, she brings her 3 kids to my house, and vice versa.

2. Even when it’s your week, you still get a lot done at home. When it’s my week to watch the kids, I have 6 of them at my house. (In case you’re curious, it’s 2 4-year-olds, 2 3-year-olds, a 20-month-old and a 15-month-old.) Obviously, it’s a handful, but here is the crazy thing: it’s actually easier for me to have 6 kids at my house, than just my 3, because they all entertain each other and play! It was actually kind of mind-blowing the first time because I thought it’d be exhausting for me. And while it’s definitely a busy morning, I actually find I get more alone time to prep meals, do dishes or start a household project than I would if it was just me and my kids at home.

3. A few hours of time alone is good for the soul. Not that you need to be reminded. Sometimes, I go to the grocery store and run 8 errands. And other times, I lay out at the beach or meet a friend for lunch. Sometimes, I drop my kids at her house, and come home and lay in bed and watch trash TV. (Owning it.) Since I’m not paying for it, I don’t feel the pressure of having to make it a super productive morning, if I don’t want it to be.

4. It’s every week and built into your schedule. In other words, no planning required. I love it because I just know that Monday is co-op day. So, I either plan a morning of household projects (like cleaning out a cupboard or washing windows) if the kids are at my house, or a morning of glorious errands alone. It’s been incredibly freeing to know that it’s actually possible to schedule a kid-free doctor’s appointment, or meet with our accountant. Since I know that every other Monday, I have kid help, it’s so much easier to manage my life and responsibilities.

5. It helps manage your sanity. Even though it’s only one morning, it’s almost like it maintains my sanity through the week. I’m having a rough week, I sometimes tell myself, It’s okay. Monday is co-op day and I’ll get some alone time then. Knowing that “me” time is coming up really helps me get through the rough days and feel like less of a martyr.

6. You get to see your husband more. Because I get my grocery shopping and kid-free errands accomplished on co-op day, it’s less time during the weekend that my husband and I need to divide and conquer. Because I don’t need him to watch the kids so I can go to the grocery store on Saturday, we can now spend more of that time as a family.

7. It’s a way you can help another mom. It’s not all about me. Helping a fellow mom just feels so good. With no family nearby and a husband who works a lot, I’ve learned that having mom friends I can depend on makes the difference between thriving and surviving. It’s hard to ask mom friends for help (even for Bethenny Frankel), but I’m so grateful for my mom friends and I couldn’t do any of it without them. If you’re looking for mom friends, trust me, I know how hard it is. But, why not start by offering to help someone out and let the friendship blossom from there?

Do you have a babysitting co-op, or someone you swap kids with? How does it work? Any other tips to add? Share them in the comments.