We have all been there as parents: when you’ve had enough and just need to get away, even if just for a moment. After the birth of my daughter, I remember spending lots of time at the grocery store going down each and every aisle, enjoying the silence and freedom of being there alone. We shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting some alone time or adult time with our spouse and friends. It’s natural and, frankly, healthy. You will be a better mommy and wife if you make sure your needs are being met. Here are my eight cheap-to-free childcare options for when you need a little “me time.”
1.) Friends and family (free). This should be your first option if you have any family or friends who live close by. Ask for a weekly or monthly appointment where they can take your kid(s) for a couple of hours. You will be surprised at how accommodating and sympathetic your loved ones may be.
2.) Parent co-op or kid(s) swap (free). Find another mom or group of moms in your situation willing to take turns watching each others kid(s). Craigslist.org usually has listings for parent co-ops in your area.
3.) Join a gym (cheap). Many gyms offer childcare, so this is a great way for you to get some exercise in and get a break. Don’t feel like exercising? Relax in the sauna, sit in the hot tub, or just pretend to exercise and do some people watching or read a book. Also, I have even seen some gyms offer “date night” where they will watch your kid(s) for a couple of hours while you and your spouse have a date.
4.) Join a church (free). Most churches offer free childcare during their service or bible study. A ladies' bible study is a great way to meet other moms and grow your support system and your faith.
5.) Freddy’s Playland at Fred Meyer (free). Fred Meyer is a regional grocery store with a great little service called “Freddy’s Playland.” It’s a place where kids age 2 to 5 can go for one hour while their parents do their grocery shopping. There are several really great things about this: it’s free, the store is huge (along the lines of a Super Target with all your shopping needs), it has a Starbucks inside, and even if you don’t have shopping to do, you can have a one-hour break of all parenting obligations.
6.) Try the public library (free). Most public libraries offer fun, free activities for kids of all ages. You do have to stay onsite, but this is a great way for someone else to entertain your kid(s) for an hour and for you to take a mental break.
7.) Teenage babysitter or mommy's helper (cheap). There are a lot of qualified teenagers available after 3p.m. on weekdays who have taken classes on babysitting (including safety and emergency training) and are experienced. You can post or read ads on craigslist.org or check out a babysitting service that can find someone for you. Have the sitter come over for an interview to see how comfortable you are with them and they are with your child. This is a cheap childcare option and a great way to schedule some regular “me time.”