When Gina Linss and her husband Alex were invited to a New Year's Eve party last year, they were pretty excited. "It was going to be a really fun party, like the kind we used to go to before having kids," says Linss. But then the couple realized they had a problem that they never encountered in those pre-kids days: No sitter. "All of our babysitters had plans of their own," says Linss. "Even my mother-in-law wanted to go out with her friends."
It's a common problem on this festive night. New Year's Eve is one of the hardest nights to find a sitter, and those who do usually command a premium for working. But having a hum-drum evening at home isn't the answer, says Carol J. Bruess, co-author of What Happy Parents Do. "New Years Eve is a great excuse to have a special time with your spouse," she says. "With a little extra effort and some creativity, your New Year's can be as fun-filled as it was before you had kids." Not sure what to do? Just follow these expert ideas:
Find a new sitter. Okay, so your favorite college sitter has left for December break. But a slew of college kids have just returned to their hometown (aka your hometown), and are likely looking for some holiday cash. Create a new babysitting job post as far in advance as possible and be specific about how late you think you'll stay out -- if you need your z's, you might be home in time for your social sitter to go out too!
Celebrate family-style: If you can't ditch the kids, include them in your plans, says Chelsea Gladden, co-founder of the BreezyMama.com blog. This San Diego-based mom of four has a "New York New Years" celebration with her kids by watching the ball drop on television at 9 p.m. her time. "Then it's off to bed for the kids, and a little champagne toast and some alone time for me and my husband," she says. If you're already on east coast time, Google "London ball drop" and you'll easily find news organizations showing the British festivities at the even more child-friendly hour of 6 p.m. eastern time.
Arrange a babysitting swap: Dying to go out for New Year's but happy to celebrate Valentine's Day on a different date? Ask a friend if she wants to watch your kids on the 31st and you'll take hers on February 14th, says Gladden. Get creative - you can also offer up three nights of babysitting in exchange for this big one. For friends who don't mind a New Year's in, it may be worth the trade.
Throw a party for neighborhood kids: No, we don't mean a kegger. But you may find some teenage friends who are willing to babysit together. Arrange to go out with a few friends, leaving all your kids together at one house. Your kids are happy because they're with their friends, the sitters are happy to hang out together, and you're out with your friends - it's a win-win-win situation.
Throw a huge slumber party. The problem with getting together with another family is that you still have to head home early to get the kids to bed, usually well before midnight. "Renting a house with friends lets you keep the party going long after the kids have to go to sleep," says Gladden. "Or, designate one house the 'slumber party' house and let everyone spend the night." If you can hire a sitter to put them all to bed, even better.
Ultimately, that's what Alex and Gina Linss did. "We were invited, along with another family, to a friend's summer house on the Jersey shore," says Gina. "The kids had a blast having a huge sleepover, and we got to hang out and celebrate after they were all asleep." While it wasn't the night they had originally envisioned, it wound up being a lot of fun. "We were so bummed at first to not being going out," says Alex. "But this ended up being our favorite New Year's celebration, and we already made plans to go back this year."