To make connections in your community, and create more time for yourself, find or start a cooperative babysitting group with some other parents. You'll earn lots of babysitting time by caring for other co-op members' children. Plus, you'll have the added reassurance of knowing you're leaving your toddler with someone you can trust.

Here's how it works:

  • All co-op participants get tokens or certificates for the hours they put into caring for other members' kids.

  • You "pay" for your own babysitting needs by redeeming your tokens.

Babysitting co-ops can provide a modern-day substitute for the extended family. They're also a great source of support and security for many families. Research shows that a child's sense of her own competence gets a boost when her parents have lots of connections and regular contact with other adults. Just be sure that all co-op participants share similar philosophies on discipline and have the same basic expectations for care.