Finding the other family in your nanny share: 5 questions to ask yourself
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.
You’ve weighed and reweighed your various options for child care and have decided to go with a nanny share. Good choice! Now that you’ve figured out the kind of care you want, your next step will be to find a family with whom you’ll share that care. But don’t be fooled: This part isn’t as easy as it sounds. In fact, we spoke to a number of families who said that this step was one of the biggest hurdles they had to overcome when starting their nanny shares.
That’s because finding another family with whom to share your child care arrangement is a high-stakes search — one that parents have often compared to online dating. It’s not merely that you have to find a family that lives in your geographical area, or whose child is the same age as yours. There are other, less tangible factors at play, too: Like, will you see eye-to-eye on the parenting style that’s being modeled in the home?
To help you out, we asked those nanny share parents to tell us the questions they asked themselves as they vetted prospective partner families. The five questions you see below are ones that you should be asking yourself as you meet with other families. Think of these as your elevator-pitch questions: You can keep them in mind if you bump into another family at the local park.
1) Is the Family’s Home Conveniently Located?
In some nanny shares, one family acts as the “host” family, and the other family drops off their children with the nanny and other children. In others, the families switch off being the host, and the kids split their time between both homes. Either way, finding a family who lives close to you is a key factor in deciding if they’re a good fit. Convenience is important, and so is reliability.
One factor you’ll need to consider here is the weather in your area. We spoke to one mom in Boston who knew she wanted to find a family who lived reasonably close to her because commuting during New England winters can be brutal. If the other family (or even the nanny) lived too far, there was a good chance their commute would be disrupted at some point during a snowstorm, leaving her and her family in a child care bind.
Another factor to keep in mind is if the nanny will have to transport kids from one home to the other. You may not want to have the nanny driving the kids around for long periods of time, or you may not want to pay for an hourlong commute one way or the other.
2) Does the Family Have Similar Scheduling Needs?
Finding a family who needs child care during the same hours (or as close to the same hours as possible) is probably the second most important thing to consider. If you’re looking for a full-time nanny and a potential family needs only part-time care, you’ll likely end up paying more to cover the time the nanny spends with only your kids.
Several of the nanny share families we interviewed said that finding a family whose schedule closely mirrored their own was a priority. But it can be hard to find a family with your exact schedule, so it helps if you have some flexibility. If you’re hosting for the week and the other family has an earlier start to their day, can you adjust your own morning schedule for drop-off? If you have a week of late meetings and need an extra hour in the evenings, is the other family willing to keep your kids at their home a bit longer? When you’re talking schedules with a potential family, don’t just make sure your regular hours line up well; talk to them about extraordinary circumstances to gauge their flexibility.
3) Is the Family Financially Stable/Able to Carry Their Share of the Cost?
Although nanny shares tend to be less expensive than other child care options, it’s still child care. There are significant costs involved, and you want to make sure that the family you choose is able to contribute fairly and consistently. If a family suddenly finds themselves in a precarious financial situation, your family would be on the hook for picking up the slack. Or, if it becomes too expensive for the other family, you could potentially find yourself without a nanny share and right back at square one.
We spoke to Ken, a dad from New York, who considered this a priority when vetting potential nanny share families. During the interview process, he and his wife asked questions about the other couple’s professional backgrounds. He considered what would happen if one of them lost their job and how it would affect their ability to participate in the nanny share, so he wanted to make sure they had stable jobs and incomes.
Talking finances can be tricky, however, especially with people you’ve just begun getting to know! Not everyone is going to feel comfortable coming right out and asking if the parents they’re considering have good jobs. And not everyone is going to feel comfortable offering up that information. You may want to slowly suss this one out over a period of time, with very general questions about their work and lifestyle. What do they do for a living? How long have they been with their current employer? Is this a new career, or one they’ve been in for some time? We’ve all made casual small talk along these lines with acquaintances (even strangers!), so it can just be a matter of working these questions into one of your meetings with a family you’re considering.
4) Does the Family Have Similar Values? Similar Parenting Styles?
This one can be a real deal-breaker for a lot of families. Many parents want to find a nanny and nanny share family who share their values and parenting styles.
For example, if you have strong feelings about vaccines, you’ll likely want to find a family who shares those beliefs, too. (And don’t be afraid to ask about their stance on vaccines because it can have an impact on your child’s health.) Some families make finding a nanny and family who speak their chosen language a priority. If the family is multilingual, will they be looking for a nanny who speaks one of their chosen languages, and will they want the nanny to speak to their kids in that language?
Make sure to ask questions about their parenting style, too. For example, how do they feel about screen time? Do they allow their children to use iPads, and what restrictions do they have in place? What about discipline? Do they use timeouts or privilege restrictions, and how do they feel about the nanny doing these things in their place?
5) Are Your Children Around the Same Age?
One thing that many of the nanny share families said that they considered important was the ages of the prospective families’ kids. According to the Boston mom, she began looking into child care toward the end of her pregnancy, and age was a big factor for her.
“We really wanted someone who had a kid the same age as our baby.”
Finding a family with kids at the same developmental stages as your own can make the nanny’s job easier, too. For example, caring for a baby and a toddler at the same time can be stressful, and the nanny would be pulled in two very different directions while tending to their needs. But two babies, or two crawlers, or two preschoolers can be relatively easier to manage.
Another plus to finding a family with kids around the same age is that your child will have built-in playmates. We spoke to one mom in Minneapolis who noted that this consideration was particularly important to her. She has an 8-year-old daughter, and the family they share a nanny with has two kids, 7 and 10. As the parent of an only child, it was important to her that her daughter have friends to play with, and the closeness in age helped make the dynamic successful.
You’ll likely meet with many families during your search to set up a nanny share. In a lot of ways, it can feel like the early stages of dating! But once you find a family who fits, it can take a lot of the pressure off, and help alleviate some of the anxieties or concerns you may have. This might be the most involved and time-consuming step in the process, but it certainly is the most important.
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Ready to take the next step in setting up a nanny share? Click on the next article in our "The Nanny Share Guide" series:
6) Finding the Other Family in Your Nanny Share: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself
The information contained in this article is provided only as a general guide and is not intended to be nor should it be construed to contain legal, medical or financial advice. The selection of a caregiver and terms of any caregiving arrangement are solely the responsibility of the individuals involved and not Care.com
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