Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Favour Bank

Favours are the currency of mums. If you’re a mum in a fix, another mum will help you out. Even if she hardly knows you. Because, just by having a kid, we are all partners in The Favour Bank – “for the things money just can’t buy”.

Favours Transcend Friends

One of the amazing things about being a mum, I've found, is the kindness of parent-strangers. Before I had kids, I would never dream of asking anyone for a favour. Because a) I’m British, and b) I didn't really need to. When I had a baby, mini-favours started trickling in. But it's since the boys started school that the Favour Bank has really come into its own. Because there is no choice any more - you HAVE to drop them and pick them up at a certain time, they HAVE to have their PE kit and you HAVE a whole pool of captive potential favourers and favourees. It's a strange truth, but you find yourself asking a favour of someone you've known 20 weeks that you wouldn't ask a friend of 20 years. 

The Favour Exchange Rate 

Don’t get carried away with this "milk of mummy-kindness" business, though. There's a line between asking for a favour and taking a mum for a ride. The Favour Bank carries a "Break (Only) In Case of Emergency" seal - it's not for when your chipped nail gel needs replacing. Also, all favours are not created equal. The Bank offers a range of products, from Standard, e.g. giving a swim nappy to that mum frantically rifling through her bag at the pool, through Silver and Gold to Platinum, e.g. driving a mum you've never met before, who is locked out without purse, phone, house or car keys, and in tears, plus baby, to her child’s first ever school sports day (a different school to the angel-mummy's). This really happened to me, and I've never been able to repay the favour. I bought her some flowers instead. But that's the thing with the Favour Bank: it's not strictly tit-for-tat; it's a co-operative. But there are still a few Terms and Conditions, as outlined below.

The Favour Bank: Heed the Smallprint

Small deposit required: Very small - baby-size, in fact. One of those and your account is automatically opened. 

Don’t be a favour pusher: Trying to stockpile favours won’t work. This is one case where “making hay while the sun shines” is not applicable. If you start asking people, “Can I bring Freddie home from school today?” or “Do you want me to drive you to the doctor’s this morning?” you'll look at best like a pushover, and at worst, like you’re trying to abduct their child. However, if you notice that someone who’s just had a baby is struggling with getting their other kid to school, offer to walk the older one to school one day, as one very kind fellow mum did for me several times. Be opportunistic, not pushy. 

Spread your bets: The Favour Bank relies on availability, so you may have to ask around. If you ask the same person too many times you risk a friendship. Conversely, and this is the real beauty of the Favour Bank, if you ask a favour of someone not so close to you, they might turn out to be a really good friend. Sometimes the most panicky childcare crisis can reap rewards you can't foresee.

Don’t offer more than you can afford: If you're at the end of your tether with several young ones around your ankles, don't offer to take an extra child for a day unless you're their mum's last resort. Your time will come.

Don’t blow it all at once: If at all possible, keep your emergencies to a minimum in the winter term - you never know what spring and summer will bring.

Don’t fall behind on your repayments: There's obviously no official payback period, but within a school term is probably reasonable. A week is better.

Beware unscrupulous favour-ers: They may tempt you into favour debt.

Don't be a favour loan shark: If a mum owes you a favour, but shows no sign of repaying, give them the benefit of the doubt. What goes around comes around. If your kids are in sixth form and she still hasn't offered to do the swimming lesson run, let it go. See 'Pay it forward'.

Pay it forward: You might do a favour for a mum you'll never see again. But that favour will come back to you via the Favour Bank. Er, and also, it's good to altruistically help others (as I'm always telling my children).

Ride the Tide of Goodwill

The whole point of the Favour Bank is that it is an organic institution. It arises in times of need, and recedes when all is well, like a blue whale cavorting happily in the ocean. It can get you and your children through a very tight spot - and that is something that money can't buy. 

What's the best favour you have ever given or received?

Related posts

You Can't Make Friends Bearing Rich Teas, Or, Biscuits are the Mum's Masonic Handshake

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  1. Brilliant mercantile analogy, may all listen and learn.
    When my three older children were at school, and I also had a pre-schooler, and twins a few weeks old, a play-group mother-of-one asked if I could have her son for the day while she shopped for winter holiday clothes. Reader, I said yes. And on bad days I still want to hunt her down - she is in debt.
    And people think that if you already have six children sliding downstairs on mattresses, clearing a tray of flap-jack in seconds and filling the laundry basket on a daily basis, you won't notice an extra one..or two...or three...will you? And maybe if you just put a camping mattress between the bunk-beds and the single bed already in the little ones' bedroom, a spontaneous sleepover is ok...Strangely, the Favourees were never too keen to re-pay in kind. There are times when a bunch of garage flowers or a box of chocolates won't hack it (unless it's a Really Big Box of Thornton's Classics).

    1. I cannot believe you were taken advantage of so disgracefully! I wish you'd had a copy of my Ts & Cs to wave in her insolent face! xxx PS BIG box of Thornton's possible mollifier as long as the Continentals, not Classic.

  2. Brilliant. My favour bank is already trading and my little ones are still at home, but it got me through many hard times in the dark, early days of Bouncing Girl. I'm all for mum's helping mums - we're all on the same team after all. Feel all warm and soppy just thinking about it. Oh dear. Great post.

    1. Aww you made me feel all mushy too. Thank God for Us, I say! x

  3. This is really interesting. As my daughter's still a toddler I haven't found myself needing to call in any mama favours but I can see how that will change when she's at school. Have a feeling I'll be searching for this post in years to come!

    1. Hi Josie, yes it's amazing how quickly you lose your inhibitions when you are desperate for a school pick-up!

  4. I love this idea - my sil used to have a babysitting circle and it worked so well!

    1. Thank you! Babysitting circle is the next step, definitely.

  5. Love it!! Mine aren't at school yet but when they are I will defo be asking for a few favours!!!! xxx

    1. Thanks! It's good to give and receive - I do find mums are incredibly generous and kind on the whole. Xxx

  6. Yes! Love the favour bank- it's all about helping each other out- even if we all try to be superwoman there are times we all need a hand! Xx


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