February 21, 2014

The truth about nanny shares

4 minutes
Childcare options

Trying to find affordable childcare these days is a big challenge for many families. One of the newer trends that has emerged as the cost of childcare continues to rise is the idea of a nanny share.  A nanny share is an arrangement where two or more families split the cost of one nanny who either cares for all of the children together or divides her time between the two families.

How do you find a nanny share?

Finding a nanny share can be more challenging than simply finding a nanny because of the other parties involved. On top of searching for a nanny, you need to find another family or families who want to share the nanny with you as well.  Some people find the nanny first and then look for a family to share with, while others start with another family and then look to hire a nanny together.
Either way, you may have to do a lot of searching and interviewing to find the right nanny and family for the nanny share.  Your online resources can range from big national nanny finder websites to online neighborhood groups for parents. Do an online search for resources in your area, or ask your neighbors and friends for their recommendations. There are also forums and message boards where nannies or other families may post resumes or nanny job openings.

Benefits of a nanny share

The main reason people choose a nanny share arrangement is to make having a nanny more affordable.  The cost of a nanny share can vary depending on factors like where you live, the number of children the nanny will care for, the total number of hours the nanny will work, the nanny’s experience, and whether or not you will include benefits like paid vacation, sick days, health insurance, transportation reimbursement, and more.  When interviewing nannies for a nanny share, you might encounter applicants who are recent graduates and ask for $12/hour up to career nannies who ask for $25/hour plus benefits.  Keep in mind, you will also have to pay taxes for your nanny.

Social interaction for your children
A nanny share can be a nice alternative to daycare if socialization is one of your priorities.  By having your child or children together with another family’s children, they will learn social skills like sharing, imaginative play, compromise and adaptability. Since the nanny share will include less children than the number of children in a daycare, the exposure to illness might be lower and there would be more adult attention available to each child.

Convenience of in-home care
Some families arrange their nanny share to alternate between the families’ houses, either on a weekly or monthly basis.  Others choose one of the families’ homes due to the size, location or other factors.  Many families like having a nanny in their home, at least part of the time, since it reduces stress around drop-offs and pick-ups.  Additionally, you may include some light housework as part of the nanny’s job responsibilities.

What are the challenges of a nanny share?

Finding the right family and nanny
A successful nanny share depends on finding another family and a nanny who both fit your family’s needs.  Even if everything about them looks good on paper, a relationship with a minimum of 3 parties requires a significant amount of compromise.  Start out on the right foot by drafting a nanny contract that everyone agrees to, and try to outline as many contingencies as you can in advance.  At a minimum, you should include: pay rate and timing of payment, description of nanny’s childcare and household duties, sick policy for the nanny and children, vacation policy, termination policy, qualification requirements such as CPR and First Aid certifications, criminal background check, clean driving record, timing and frequency of regular group meetings and whatever else you feel is important.

Coordinating childcare with another family and a nanny can be challenging.  Discuss in advance your schedule and expectations for work hours and vacation time as well as your expectations for maintaining a safe environment for the children.  Here are some important questions to discuss: What happens if one family is running late?  Will both families take vacation at the same time and require the nanny to do the same?  Do you need the nanny to drive the children to and from activities?  How will food and other supplies like diapers be provided and prepared?  What happens when the nanny is sick?

Parenting styles
It’s important to discuss how you want your child cared for with both the nanny and the other family.  For example, you may allow your child to watch TV but the other family does not.  You may want to sign your child up for music, art and other educational classes each day, while the other family doesn’t want to spend the extra money, or the nanny might not want to schlep the kids all over town each day.

Additional children
What happens when one or both of the families has another baby?  Is the nanny comfortable with caring for more children?  Can the schedules for the older kids accommodate the baby?  Some families find that they have to give up their nanny share when a new baby arrives because the logistics become too difficult or the responsibilities become too much for the nanny.  You can also try to discuss this scenario in advance to get a sense of each other’s comfort levels.

The key to success

The key to success in a nanny share is ultimately lots of communication and honesty.  The more you can cover in advance of any conflict, the easier the relationship will be. Many families who have had great experiences with nanny shares, and many who have horror stories.  Do your research, trust your gut and then communicate as much as possible and hopefully everything will work out for the best.
If you feel that organizing a nanny share is too much work or too inconvenient, or you can’t seem to find the right family or nanny to do the share with, you might want to consider other alternatives like getting your own nanny, or hosting an au pair.  Au pairs can often compete with the rates of nanny shares, depending on the number of hours of childcare you need. In addition to being affordable, au pairs can provide more benefits including flexibility and cultural exchange. In the end, the highest priority is finding the right match for your family.