After having a baby when she lived overseas in Ghana, my friend Yvette lived out the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Nearby mothers circled her, singing lullabies to her baby, cooking meals for her family and cleaning her home. When she returned to the US, she recreated this experience and set up a babysitting co-op with single moms she met. Using a co-op calendar projected out three to four months, they took turns babysitting each others’ children, which allowed moms to commit to future appointments and resulted in lifelong friendships for both the parents and the children. This was the foundation of her blueprint on how to start a babysitting cooperative. 

The Childcare Crisis And Starting A Babysitting Cooperative 

For many single parents, the childcare crisis is real. I moved back to Pittsburgh from Washington, DC, where I lived with my daughter’s dad, to be closer to family members. My mom watched my daughter until she went to preschool, and my sister and aunts stepped in to cover shifts when needed. To give my mom a break, my daughter went to a childcare center for three months. I charged the $3,000 bill to my credit card. Three months of care turned into six years of payments! Without this circle of support, I would not have been able to go back to work or go out with friends when I needed a break. 

Many moms don’t have this luxury. That’s why I reached out to my friend Yvette and asked her to share her blueprint for how to start a babysitting cooperative locally. Her son is now in college–her village helped him grow up in a loving, supportive environment and later attend graduate school at one of the nation’s leading universities.

She helped lay the groundwork for four co-ops in the Pittsburgh region–Beltzhoover, Clairton, East End and Homewood. The co-ops provided mothers with temporary relief to address personal needs, such as sleep and medical treatment.  Members received codes of conduct agreements, swap schedules, and CPR and first aid certification.

Yvette Shipman shared her blueprint for starting a successful babysitting cooperative.

Babysitting Co-Op During the Pandemic 

The co-ops arose in the middle of a pandemic, so our initial interactions occurred online. Our co-op held virtual meet-ups to get to know the mothers. We created a signature Single Mom Defined tea blend, learned about self-care strategies, such as breath work. We also participated in yoga. Kids took part in fun activities, like a virtual magic show. A mom in each of the communities served as a co-op coordinator. They scheduled events with the members–there were about six members in each co-op. 

Co-op Tea making class via zoom

If you are interested in starting a babysitting cooperative with your circle of friends, download our free How To Start A Babysitting Co-op template to get started. Our toolkit helps you interview and select co-op members, host meet-ups, create a community agreement, and obtain clearances and certifications. We even wrote a job description for co-op coordinators and shared resources to set up swap schedules. 

Share Your Cooperative’s Story With Single Mom Defined

If you start a co-op with moms in your community, we encourage you to celebrate the fact that single moms will make a way out of no way! No matter what life throws your way, you overcome obstacles. You support other women, build friendships and create safe spaces where children can grow, learn and thrive.

We would love to hear about your experiences! Send your babysitting cooperative stories and photos to