4 keys to success in a nanny share job

Aug. 29, 2020

Thinking about working for multiple families in a share? 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.

Even if you have years of experience as a nanny, working in a nanny share can feel like an entirely new venture. You have to work with multiple parents and kids, which means learning how to balance and meet everyone’s needs at once.

While it can take some work to figure out how to make it successful, a nanny share done right can be beneficial to employers and employees alike. Follow these four steps to make a nanny share work for you — and everyone involved.

1. Talk through details with both families

One of the biggest challenges nannies face while working in a nanny share is handling the needs and expectations of two families at once. Every family does things differently, and every parent has their own parenting style.

For Katherine Bradley, a nanny who has worked in New York City, Los Angeles and Australia, the most important aspect that factored into her decision to consider a nanny share was how flexible both families would be. Finding common ground in terms of parenting styles requires work from everyone involved in the nanny share.

For that reason, before signing on to a nanny share, make a point to sit down with both families to discuss how you will all work together. Be sure to touch on:

Kid-specific topics:

  • Schedules: Handling two families means juggling multiple schedules, as well as your own. Meal- and naptime consistency is especially important if you’re caring for infants or toddlers, so make sure you establish a feeding and sleep schedule that works for all the kids. Older kids can have scheduling conflicts, as well, so be sure to go over every child’s school and activities in advance.

  • Discipline: If one family uses timeouts at home but the other family favors a different disciplinary tactic, this can create conflict. Discuss each family’s discipline style, as well as dos and don’ts.

  • House rules: It’s easy to adjust to and follow a family’s rules in their own home. But when you’re caring for children from two different families in one home, enforcing the house rules can be tricky. Does one family allow their kids to eat in front of the TV while another requires meals to be eaten at the table? Is roughhousing or jumping on the bed fine in one home but not the other? Make sure everyone is on the same page on issues like this.

  • Food and/or dietary restrictions: Discuss any allergies or food sensitivities up front, so everyone is in agreement that those foods won’t be available or offered to any of the kids in the nanny share.

  • Screen time: Are kids allowed to use devices, like tablets or laptops? Are they allowed to watch television after meals, naps or school? If so, what is on each family’s list of appropriate programs, and how much TV time are they comfortable with?

Job-related topics:

  • Transportation: Some nanny shares require transporting the kids from one home to another or to different activities. Make sure you and all parents are aware of and OK with potential transportation plans.

  • Time off: Coordinating your own vacation time or paid time off with the needs of two families can be tricky, but it’s important to address this early on and plan a time-off schedule that works for everyone. Discuss sick policies, as well, including what happens when you are sick versus when one of the children is sick.

  • Expenses: How will the families handle incidental costs and expenses, like food, activities, toys and gear and supplies? Will each family provide their own, or will they pitch in and cover the cost together?

  • Pay and taxes: In the U.S., both families involved in a nanny share are considered employers and are responsible for their share of employment taxes and any mandated insurance on wages paid to you. Nanny Erin Wilson-Norman, of Oaktown, Virginia, says in her share, each family paid their own part of her total wages because they were both doing their own taxes and reporting.

  • Pay when only one family needs care: There will probably be several days throughout the year when only one family in the nanny share needs you to work. Because nannies are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act and must be paid at least minimum wage and by the hour, you should discuss what your pay will be when these situations arise. For instance, if you’re earning $26 per hour from both families and only one family needs care, if your state has a $15 minimum wage, you cannot be paid $13 per hour for your work that day. Instead, talk to both families about what your pay will be when you’re working for just one household.

PRO TIP: Once those agreements or any others have been met, make sure to incorporate all of these terms into a nanny share contract, as an added protection for you and each family.

2. Arrange a trial play date for the kids (and parents)

When Bradley was exploring the idea of joining a nanny share, it was important to her to spend some time with both families together. That’s why she recommends caregivers have a couple of group hangouts to see how the kids interact together and to get a feel for the overall dynamic.

Some families pairing up to share a nanny are already acquainted with one another. In these situations, there’s a good chance the children already know one another and everyone has already worked through any potential differences. Still, it’s beneficial for you to sit down as a unit and come to an agreement on some key issues you might see from a caregiving perspective.

For instance, you might see a child who hits or bites or two children with strong personalities who butt heads often. If anything comes up during these play dates that could develop into a problem during your time with the kids, you and the parents can address them immediately and come up with a go-to solution.

3. Communicate openly and often

By far, one of the most important aspects of managing a successful nanny share is communication. When you’re nannying for one family, you answer to one set of parents. But in a nanny share, you have two or more families who you need to communicate regularly with — and who need to communicate with each other. Establish early how each family prefers to communicate, and agree on a method for the share going forward. In some situations, you might want to speak to each set of parents separately, while other situations work better with shared communication, like a group chat, text thread or caregiver app.

When Bradley met with families in advance of her start date, she emphasized the importance of group communication and asked for one parent to act as point person for big picture subjects. For day-to-day matters, she says having a group chat was helpful.

Also, make sure everyone is checking in on a regular basis. If you watch the kids at one family’s home, you may not interact as much with the other family. If that’s the case, you might find it helpful to have a bi-weekly check-in, during which both sets of parents sit down with you to discuss how the nanny share is going. This is also a good time to address any upcoming scheduling changes or to talk about supplies that need to be restocked.  

Most importantly, you should always feel empowered and supported enough to voice any concerns you have with each set of parents, and keep the lines of communication open.

4. Have a plan in place for dealing with conflicts or issues

It’s important to be prepared for potential challenges so you can immediately work with the families to keep things running smoothly. A successful nanny share requires everyone’s involvement and includes having a solid plan of action ready before any issues arise. It can be helpful to include some of the following conflict resolution points in your work agreement or contract so everyone can agree how to address issues collectively.

Decide up front how conflicts will be handled. When conflicts arise, do you want to have group meetings or phone calls or deal with one parent representative?

Make it clear if you want parents to deal with conflicts first. When something comes up between the parents that doesn’t directly impact your job, consider asking that the parents take it upon themselves to resolve those conflicts on their own before including you.

Be clear about the circumstances in which you should be involved. If there are certain issues that are important to you or you know might indirectly affect you, let the families know that you want to be included in those discussions.

The bottom-line: Gathering as much information and communicating as much as possible up-front can make for smoother sailing as you begin working for a nanny share. As Rebecca Stewart, founder of domestic staffing agency VIP Nannies & Household Staffing in Los Angeles, puts it, “Working details like these out from the get-go can prevent confusing gray areas.”

Read next: How to write a nanny share resume

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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