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5 key steps to setting up a nanny share for success

Considering sharing a caregiver? Be sure to do your homework: Nanny shares and shared care arrangements may be subject to various licensing requirements or prohibited in certain states and jurisdictions. Research local laws and regulations.

Once you’ve decided to go with a nanny share, you’ll want to find the right family to share with and get crucial paperwork out of the way. Here are five important steps to setting up a nanny share:

1. Choose wisely

Most nanny share families agree that finding a compatible family is the first and most important step.

Debbie Tobias, a mom in Brooklyn, suggests making sure the family you share with has a similar outlook on parenting issues, like education, diet and behavior, as the children will essentially be raised like siblings. Ask yourself these five questions to determine if another family might be a fit.

And it might take time. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t feel pressured into moving forward. For a nanny share to be successful, both families have to be on the same page when it comes to the important stuff. 

2. 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, senior director of 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 who need help setting up their nanny share correctly can use HomePay to ensure their nanny’s payroll is accurately calculated and their tax returns are filed on time.

When interviewing potential nannies, make sure you discuss the issue of taxes and payment. As an employer, you need to follow state and federal tax laws. However, paying on the books can end up costing you more, as you’ll have to account for the taxes you’ll end up paying.

3. Put it in writing

A comprehensive contract between both families and the nanny can help you avoid potential issues down the road.

When drawing up the contract, make sure to include the following items: pay rate, scheduling, sick policy, taxes, additional expenses, communication and how a party should exit the nanny share if/when that time comes. Consider these additional tips to craft a great nanny share contract.  

4. Communicate and stay flexible

Once everyone has settled on the details, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. Every nanny share is bound to encounter a variety of issues and concerns, says Emily Moore, a nanny share mom in Brooklyn. And getting everyone on the same page through clear, regular communication can preempt confusion should you run into an unexpected complication, such as a nanny sick day or parent running late for drop-off.

You may also want to consider setting up a nanny share calendar, which keeps track of the host schedule, doctor’s appointments, time off and other important dates. Make sure the calendar is updated regularly and that both families and the nanny have access to it.

Consider these additional tips while navigating communication ins and outs.

5. Anticipate change

For all its advantages, a nanny share can also be more fragile than a day care or single-family situation, Moore says. If one party decides to leave the share, you might be left scrambling to find a replacement. To minimize this, Stacey King Gordon, a mom from Oakland, California, 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. By addressing the terms of leaving the nanny share when you’re developing your contract, you can minimize the impact it will have on the remaining parties.

There’s also the chance that, despite your best efforts, the chemistry between the families or with the nanny just isn’t right. Some nanny shares work out the first time, while others will go through changes trying to find the best configuration. Even with research and preparation, you won’t know how the dynamic works until the nanny share gets under way. Be prepared to make small changes or adjust operations in order to keep the share running smoothly and weather the storms that may come up.

With a little work, a nanny share can be a great experience for everyone involved.

As Moore says, “It’s one of the very best decisions I ever made.”