A nanny share seems like the best of both worlds: Your little one gets daily socialization with another child like they would in daycare, but you still get the benefits of having a dedicated caregiver while (importantly) splitting the cost with another family.
All of that is pretty much true. But a nanny share also requires a delicate arrangement between two busy families and one nanny, and it can get complicated, especially in the age of COVID. Having just finished a successful nearly two-year nanny share, I feel qualified to offer this guide to starting a nanny share, along with some tips from fellow NPN members.
What comes first, the family or the nanny? That’s a matter of personal preference and circumstance, but I think finding the family first makes sense. That way, both families can search for and interview the nanny and come to an agreement. Which leads me to…
Finding a family
The prevailing wisdom is to start looking for a nanny at least one month before you need one to start, so if you’re finding a family first, give yourself at least a month before that. That means that if you’re taking the standard three-month maternity leave, you basically need to start looking for a family while you’re preparing your birth plan. An exaggeration, but…not really? Connecting with families who are pregnant and similarly far along (NPN is a great source for this!), isn’t a bad idea.
[Related: How to find a nanny]
But assuming you have your baby already, use the time you are mindlessly scrolling on your phone while rocking that little rascal to sleep to search or post on sites about sharing a nanny. Options include NPN’s Childcare Classifieds, of course, as well as neighborhood parent Facebook groups, neighborhood association email lists, and sites like Nanny Lane.
What should you look for in a family? That depends on what’s important to you as a parent, but here are some things to consider:
- How they feel about vaccines for themselves and their baby (a thorny but important subject these days)
- Age of kids (it’s really helpful if both kids are roughly the same age)
- Proximity (easiest if the family is close to you or your office)
- Hours needed
- Start date — and end date, if they know it
More nuanced issues to talk about with a potential family: parenting philosophy and discipline preferences. If you don’t discuss this, as one NPN member says, “the nanny ends up having to navigate why Brynnleigh gets fruit gummies and timeouts but Xyaedan can only snack on dried kale and must be rocked to sleep.”
Not necessarily deal-breakers but important to agree on before the nanny share starts:
- What to do when one of the kids is sick
- Where you want the childcare to happen (your house, their house, a split of both?)
- Aligning nap schedules (recommended!)
- Whether the host family provides food or if you need to pack food for each day
- Kid equipment you’ll need — such as a double stroller, crib or pack ‘n’ play, high chair, diapers, dishware and bottles — and how you will split the cost
Like most things in our lives these days, COVID makes navigating nanny shares more complicated. The importance of being in agreement with the other family and with your nanny on safety protocols, masks, and all things pandemic-related cannot be overstated. This NPN member summed up well all the factors to consider: “…Clear communication on illnesses and behavior, both COVID and non-COVID illness … as well as expected behavior/testing for known exposures and feelings on masks indoors in public. When we visit the museum, are both families on the same page as well as the nanny? Also, will you follow the 24-hour fever-free rule schools use or the 72-hour fever free that is actually recommended by pediatricians? Or do you split the difference and do 48 hours? … And what is the plan if nanny is sick? Does each household rotate responsibility for the whole share or is each person responsible for their own kid(s)?”
Whew. It’s a lot. All the more reason to hash out these issues ahead of time to avoid conflict in the future.
[Related: What to ask in a nanny interview]
All about the Benjamins
Now down to the nitty gritty. You need to agree on the salary you’ll offer the nanny, which is typically the market rate plus 33%. The nanny will be watching two kids at once, after all.
A nanny contract is essential. In it, you’ll lay out how and when the nanny is paid; vacation, sick days and holidays; bonuses and raises; and when and how any of the parties can end the agreement. (Read a more in-depth guide to nanny contracts.) Each family should employ the nanny separately and each give her a W2.
The pay rate and the contract will be finalized once you’ve found your nanny and they weigh in on what’s important to them.
Finding a nanny
Together, you’ll find the nanny of your dreams. There are many ways to go about it: NPN’s Childcare Classifieds, nanny agencies, word of mouth, and sites like Care.com are just a few.
But first, discuss with the other family what you’re looking for in a nanny. Do you need the nanny to be able to drive and have a car? Would you prefer a nanny who speaks another language and would be willing to teach it to your kids? Do you expect the nanny to do household chores and food prep?
Beyond these qualifications, talk about the personality that would fit best with both families. Do you want a nanny who has that calm, warm, grandparent-y vibe, or would a nanny who has boundless energy and tons of silly ideas for fun activities work best for both kids?
There are countless things to consider when interviewing a nanny, checking references, extending an offer and maintaining a strong relationship. This article, How to find a nanny, succinctly covers it all.
Just like you would at your 9-5, you might want to have a quarterly check-in with the other family and your nanny. This helps make sure you are all aligned and communicating any issues or concerns.
The relationship you have with your nanny and nanny share family is one of the most important in your young child’s life. When a nanny share works well for all parties, it’s truly wonderful. I was very sad when our nanny share family moved to the suburbs, but I will always be grateful for the time our families and our nanny spent sharing the work of raising two small humans.