A few years ago, our family made a big and bold move. We left our business in Nevada and crossed two states to Colorado in hopes of living our own version of “Far and Away” by staking our flag in the place where we hoped to raise our kids and family.
Well we were right. The first few months in Colorado were pretty bleak financially. We were losing Nevada clients left and right and still hadn’t gained any Colorado clients. Money was tight and our wallets (and our belts) were feeling it.
But, necessity is the mother of all invention, right? It was then that I discovered one of the greatest inventions ever made: Co-ops. Now, I know I didn’t invent them, but I sure have found lots of ways to make them work. Let me start with my most favorite. My date night coop.
If you’ve ever struggled financially, you know how hard it can be on your relationship with your spouse. My husband and I had committed at the beginning of our marriage that we would find a way to go on a date every week. By and large we had kept that goal, but in the midst of our financial loss, it seemed impossible to hire a sitter for our 5 kids. So, I sent out an email to all my friends asking if anyone was interested in trading off babysitting on Friday nights. To my surprise, several people replied! And, thus, the Date Night Coop was born.
Through subsequent emails, several families chose not to do it, but in the end, there were 2 other families who wanted to continue with us. Each had 5 kids and, ironically, all the kids were basically the same ages. Together we made up a schedule.
On the first Friday of the month, we all get together, kids and all, and have a group Game Night. The adults all play board games, etc., while the kids play. For the other three Fridays of the month, we take turns babysitting while the other parents go out. When it’s your turn, you host the kids at your house.
We’ve chosen to make it a movie night for the kids. They all gather on the family room floor (or even in a tent when we’re really adventurous) with pillows and blankets and bowls of popcorn and watch a movie. Our kids absolutely love it. They look forward to date night all week. It’s their chance to get together with 10 other kids their ages and have a special movie night. We all win!
We’re starting our second year with our coop and we all are completely unwilling to give it up. But, we were lucky. We learned by accident that there are two main ingredients that really help a date night coop work. I’ll share them in case they help you:
1. Find families that have children the same ages as your children. This helps in so many ways. First, your kids will have other kids to play with and you won’t have to do nearly as much entertaining to keep them all happy. Second, you’ll have toys for everyone. If you only have little kids and you join a family with elementary kids, they’ll be bored at your house and vice versa.
2. Find families with the same number of kids as your family. First of all, everyone will be giving and taking equally. But, also you’ll find that if you only have a couple of kids, taking on another family of 5 will seem very overwhelming. You’ll likely be able to handle a similar amount to what you already have. If you have five kids, 10 more kids that are the same ages really isn’t that many more. But if you have 2, believe me, 10 will feel like a nightmare!
Besides that, just have fun. We’ve had some fun times with the kids. We’ve set up a tent in the living room and watched the movie in it. We’ve had a bubble blowing contest. We’ve played board games with the kids. We do what we can to make it a fun night for them so that they’ll want to let their parents have a fun night out too!
So, if you find yourself using money as your excuse for not dating your spouse, trust me on this one and start a coop. It just may be the best thing you’ve tried this month!