It takes a village to raise a child.
But with no local family support, rocketing childcare costs, and a dwindling number of creche places, one group of Cork parents has come up with a clever way to fill the ‘grandparent gap’.
Care Shared matches families by location so they can make connections with a view to babysitting each other’s kids.
“I moved to Cork when I was pregnant with my first child. My parents are in Dublin, and my partner’s family are in Tipperary. I naively thought we would manage as two parents to get by.” recalls Emma Dwyer, who is one of the parents leading the group and mum to Radie and Sonny, who she shares with her partner Andy Forrestal.
“I moved to an area where I had very few contacts and then Covid hit. I was very lonely yet I had no time to myself. It was tough and I only had one or two people I could ask for help, which I felt like I had exhausted.
‘A light bulb went off’
Tired of only working on her partner’s days off, the self-employed arts worker came up with a genius solution:
“My parents actually went through similar isolation, moving to Brighton in the UK in the 80s with myself, my brother and my sister all under the age of six. My mum met a group of parents who had a bean system where you babysat for another family in exchange for a bean per hour.
“You could then use those beans to get one of the other parents to babysit. She was telling me this, and a light bulb went off in my head. I can do that.”
Emma set up a Facebook group and has since met some other parents that she has care shared with. The idea is to meet for a few playdates first to see if you’re a match, then make plans from there.
“I swap with two or three other families,” she explains.
“We all live fairly close to each other. I have done Saturday afternoons minding two kids while their parents go on a date, and we then do the same. I have done nighttimes so that parents can go out to gigs, to the cinema, or just for a bite to eat together and we have done the same.
“I trust the other families, as we met up a couple of times before doing the swaps and we got to know each other. It felt like we got each other, and we got this idea. We’re all living in different cities to our folks and we’re filling the grandparent or auntie gap for each other.”
Meanwhile in Co. Clare, fellow founder Dr. Sue Redmond is enjoying the same benefits:
“Right now I have Care Shared with two other families.” Dr Redmond told us.
“I work part-time as a consultant so it’s great to have extra time each week to focus on work, or if the surf is up to jump in the ocean without any mum guilt. I take two other families’ kids during the day, in school term after preschool finishes so 12pm-5pm and then the next day one of them takes mine.
“Over summer it’s worked really well with no need for childcare. We each get two days to focus on meeting our own needs, whatever they may be – mentally, emotionally, socially, economically, or even spiritually.”
Care Shared will be officially launched in Cork at 10:30am on October 21st, 2023 at Cork City Library and curious parents are welcome to drop in for a chat and to ask any questions they might have.
It’s free to go along but you must sign up in advance here.