Finding the right child care situation for your family can be overwhelming. Many parents find that they have to decide between hiring an in-home nanny or enrolling in daycare, with neither feeling quite right. Fortunately, there is a middle ground that can provide both a high level of personal attention and the socialization benefits of daycare, at the right price: the nanny share.
What Is a Nanny Share?
In a typical nanny share, two or more families employ one nanny, sharing the cost of her salary. Most nannies watch all the children together, but many families work together to come up with a schedule that is tailored to their needs. Since both families are contributing to the nanny's pay, the nanny is usually able to earn more than she would make working for a single family.
We talked to four nanny-sharing moms to find out why they chose to share a nanny and to get their insider advice on setting up a successful nanny share.
Advantages of a Nanny Share
Here are four reasons a nanny share may be the right child care solution for you.
Quality Care at an Affordable Price
"We basically have all the luxuries of having a nanny at half the price," says Debbie Tobias, a mother in Brooklyn, NY. The cost of a nanny share varies by region, but with this type of nanny share, you can generally expect to pay about the same or a little more than you would pay for quality day care.
For Stacey King Gordon, an Oakland, California, mother who shared a nanny for three years, the socialization benefits made her feel like she was giving her child the perks of day care on a more personal level. It also cut her child care costs almost in half.
Learn more about how much child care costs.
Even though the nanny will be watching multiple children, kids in nanny shares still get more one-on-one attention than they would at a day care center, and they are in a home environment, which appeals to some parents. "The girls get the same care, or better, than we would give them if we weren't at work," says Tobias. Children also get the opportunity to build a nurturing relationship with another adult. "We loved our nanny," says Gordon. "She had a huge heart and genuinely loved our daughter."
Weigh the Pros and Cons of Nannies and Day Care.
The parents we interviewed touted the flexible, DIY nature of nanny shares over day care centers, which often have strict policies for hours, holidays and sick days. With a nanny share, you and the share family make your own rules. "We need to be sure we have somebody who can handle our crazy schedules," says Tobias, who works full time and whose musician husband is often on tour.
Emily Moore, a mom in Brooklyn, NY, likes that on days she works from home or is sick herself, her nanny can watch her son at her share-family's home, and when the children are at her house she doesn't have to commute to child care. "It's like having the best of both worlds," she says.
All the parents we talked to emphasized the bonds their children developed with the other kids in their share. "The children build strong relationships with other children and learn to share," says Ellen Shahan, a mom in Hopkins, Minnesota, who has been sharing the same nanny with families in her neighborhood for nine years. Tobias' daughter has become best friends with the other girl her nanny watches. Likewise, Moore says she's happy that her son "is growing up with someone akin to a sister."
Keys to Successful Nanny Shares
Want to organize your own nanny share? Here are five things to keep in mind.
When putting together a nanny share, take time to get to know both the nanny and the share family well before settling on an arrangement. "It all works well if you have the right nanny and the right family to share with," says Skahan.
Tobias suggests making sure the family you share with has a similar outlook on parenting issues like education, diet and behavior, since the children will essentially be raised like siblings. Make sure the kids have chemistry as well. "We had one kid who was a hitter," one mom said.
Understand the Tax Rules
"In a nanny share, both families are considered separate employers in the eyes of the IRS and the state," says Tom Breedlove, Director of Care.com HomePay. "This means both families need to follow the nanny tax process and each family can capitalize on the tax breaks -- if they pay the nanny on the books." Families that need help setting up their nanny share correctly can utilize Care.com HomePay to assure their nanny's payroll is accurately calculated and their tax returns are filed on time.
Put It in Writing
"Make a list of everything -- hours, sick days (both the nanny's and how to handle a sick kid), holidays, pay schedule, petty cash, what to eat, activities, where kids will sleep, who will buy what (do you need a double stroller?) -- and put it all in writing so there's no miscommunication," says Tobias. An agreement or contract gives everyone a common road map to refer to when issues come up.
Communicate and Stay Flexible
Once everyone has settled on the details, it's important to keep the lines of communication open and the drama to a minimum. "With three parties involved, all manner of issues will come up -- having everyone on board with helping to cover an unexpected nanny sick day or a parent running late helps things run smoothly," says Moore. She makes time for all three parties to speak together when issues come up or just to check in. "Professional and clear communication is key," she says.
For all its advantages, a nanny share is also more fragile than a day care or single-family situation, says Moore. If one party decides to leave the share, you might be left scrambling to find a replacement. To minimize this, Gordon suggests sharing with a family that has a child the same age as yours, so they will "age out" of the share at the same time. Also, talk about how you will handle it when someone wants to leave the share, so you avoid conflict and hurt feelings.
With a little work, a nanny share can be a great experience for everyone involved. "It's one of the very best decisions I ever made," says Moore.