… with a little understanding. Actually, we’ve required a lot of understand from the very start, when J was six months old for example, with reflux, and screaming morning, noon and night…
When you’re budgetting, though, you suddenly find it’s even more important. J’s two and a half now and we’ve never, once, paid for a babysitter. It’s partly down to our routines, I guess. Being a bit broke means we don’t go out to restaurants, we go to friends’ houses for supper instead, driving there with J and slinging him into their bed till we’re ready to lift him out and drive him home. But at around once a fortnight we go Out-Out: to the pub for a drink or, gasp, to the cinema perhaps. And that’s when we call on the services our amazing, baby-sitting co-operative.
It’s an incredibly sophisticated and complicated system and it works like this: around five local families with kids pool together and regularly sit for each other for free. So one night, I’ll go round to the Millings, who live a couple of roads away, while Tom stays here with Johnny. The parents-Milling go out, I sit on their sofa, enjoying their tea and biscuits and nice clean house, till they get home. A couple of weeks later, one of them come round here – to our slightly grubbier house and lower-grade biscuits – and tom and I paint the town red (or, at least, pale pink).
Since we’ve been trying to live more ‘freely’, the system’s expanded enormously. The pool’s got wider, we’ve made lots of new friends and the swapping’s extended from babysitting services to include toys, clothes and play dates when the numerous freelance mums in our neighbourhood need to grab an hour for a meeting in the middle of the day.