Trade Ya!

Throughout the early parenting years two things are always in short supply: time and money. But there’s one other thing that you always have plenty of: exhaustion.

Those munchkins are definitely cute and being a mom is incredibly fun and satisfying. And we wouldn’t trade it for the world. But let’s be honest, most days it’s hard to figure out how to get everything (or anything) done.

Moms are all in the same boat with this one. But you might not know that there is a way to lighten your load and pick up your spirits at the same time. It’s easy — just find a friend from the neighborhood and work out a trade.

When my brood was young, I had a neighbor with kids around the same age. We both felt bogged down by the endless trips to the grocery store and the free-for-all that often accompanied our efforts to get a meal on the table each night.

So we decided to help each other out by cooking dinner for each other’s families once a week. I would make double of whatever I was cooking one night and bring half to her around suppertime and she would do the same on another night.

We kept the meals simple and family friendly and it made the weekly cooking thing a lot more fun and the food more interesting, too. The kids got into the action as well, and loved helping with the prep work and packing everything up to bring to our neighbors.

Then, because the dinner thing worked so well, we decided to expand our sharing to date night, too. No, we didn’t share each other’s husbands, but we did trade babysitting duties once a month. Suddenly, that all important night out didn’t seem like such an expensive, difficult thing to negotiate.

In fact, it worked like magic. Having that plan in place not only guaranteed us each a kid-free night out with our spouse, it also allowed us to be able to go in peace, knowing that our children were with an adult who they knew and we trusted.

This little pearl can change your life in a small but powerful way by giving you some all-important support. Trading dinners and babysitting not only relieved me of some of the tedium and expense that goes hand-in-hand with raising kids, it also brought me closer to my friend and helped to cement our friendship, which continues to this day even though we live many, many miles away from each other.

So try it out. Start with a plan to trade dinners once a week for a month and see how it goes. If it works, you can keep it going and add the babysitting piece, too.

If it’s a flop, you can just say you are too disorganized to make the commitment. Either way, you have nothing to lose and lots to gain.



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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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One response to “Trade Ya!”

  1. Can Baby Come To The Movies With Us?

    […] daughter is definitely old enough to leave with a sitter now but if money is tight, see if you can work out a deal with a friend or family member so that you and hubby can get dressed up (or at least change out of the stained […]

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