Three year-olds are easier to take care of in pairs. That is, of course, once they get to know each other a bit and establish a good playing/taking turns rhythm. Kiki loves playing with her friends. This is wonderful, of course, because if she’s playing with her friend it means she’s not asking me to make her Littles talk.
When your kids are younger (say 2ish and below) they don’t play together. They play in the vicinity of each other. But they don’t really engage with each other. This means that if you are caring for more than one rug rat, it’s twice the work. Once your kids reach the magical age when they start playing interactively with their friends, a new move becomes available to you as a parent. This move is called The Swap.
The Swap is simple. I take one of Kiki’s friends for a few hours, giving his/her mom some much needed free time. Then, later in the week, we switch, giving me much needed free time.
My friend Abby introduced me to The Swap when our kids were 2 and a half. She had recently moved to town, as had I, and she was itching for some regular free time. Preschool doesn’t start til age 3 so The Swap was kind of the only option unless you want to hire child care. She suggested that we do it twice a week so we each get one free morning a week. Great! She would take the kids at her house and I’d take the kids at my house. Great! We could watch the kids for 3 – 4 hours. Woah, hold the phone! The idea of watching two kids for 4 hours scared the crap out of me. Abby has an older child as well and was experienced with the advantages of The Swap. So she tried to assure me that watching two kids would not be bad and might actually make things easier. I explained that I wasn’t feeling quite so confident so we agreed to start with 2 hours at a time and let me see how it was.
Well Abby was right. Kiki and her friend Nolan played amazingly well together. I always looked forward to the days that he was coming over (other than the fact that he wasn’t potty-trained yet – ugh). The two of them played happily and I spent most of my time cleaning the kitchen, sorting through the mail, and other such household tasks that are hard to complete while voicing Tinkerbelle.
I was made a quick believer in The Swap and have been using it regularly ever since my dear friend Abby showed me its wonder. I Swapped with Kiki’s friend Mary’s mom when the girls had Spring Break from preschool. I Swapped with Kiki’s friend Anna’s mom when I wanted to show some friends around town without the company of my 3 year-old. I Swap with Mrs. Miss all the time for daytime weekend dates with Hubby. (Side note, daytime dates are the best. You can do lunch and a movie or go shopping or go for a hike without pushing yourself to stay awake past 10. You get a break from parenting duties. And you still have the 2 hours of free time after your child goes to sleep that night.) Since I don’t have any family anywhere near me, The Swap is the only way I get a break without having to find and pay a babysitter. I have become an excellent Swapper.
If you’ve never done The Swap, do it now. Find a friend who’s kid your child plays well with and propose that they Swap with you. Start off small. Offer to watch your friends’ child when while they run to the grocery store. You’ll quickly see how wonderful it is (disclaimer: it is only wonderful if the two children play well together. Otherwise you’ll be referee the whole time). If you’re not ready for The Swap, you can try a beginner move. It’s called The Childless Swap. Have a friend come over after you’ve put your child to bed and babysit for you and then you do it for them another time. It’s a super easy way to score free babysitting. Anna’s mom and I started with just The Childless Swap because Anna and Kiki didn’t always play pleasantly together so they were not ready to do the full-fledged Swap. But I’m happy to say that now Anna and Kiki can Swap with the best of them.
Happy Swapping! You’re welcome.