4 keys to success in a nanny share job
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 before you agree to a share
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 well both families would be able to adjust their own parenting styles to make it as easy as possible for her to look after their kids. Joining those styles into one cohesive unit requires work from everyone involved in the nanny share.
Before signing on to a share, sit down with both families to discuss how you will all work together. Be sure to touch on:
Schedules: Handling two families means juggling multiple schedules, as well as your own. Meal- and nap-time 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 after-school 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 stance on timeouts or removal of a toy or treat as forms of discipline.
House rules: It’s easy to adjust to and follow a family’s rules in their own home. But when you’re caring for a child in another family’s 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? Go over each family’s house rules to make sure you’re able to adhere to the rules of the home you’ll be watching the children in without getting pushback from the other family.
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: This is such a hot-button issue with parents these days that it’s important to discuss as a separate issue. 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?
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 travel requirements.
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 a child 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 the nanny. How you get paid, however, can be decided by everyone involved. Some nannies prefer to be paid from one family with the other family reimbursing their share of the cost to the first family. In the share that nanny Erin Wilson-Norman, of Oaktown, Virginia, was a part of, each family paid their own share of her total wages because they were both doing their own taxes and reporting.
Guaranteed pay vs. fluctuating hourly wage: Consider negotiating for guaranteed pay, which means you are paid for a set number of hours each week, regardless of vacations or shortened shifts. Remember, you’ll be working for two different families with two different schedules. When one family doesn’t need your services for a period of time, that doesn’t necessarily mean the other family will pick up your lost shifts, which could impact your salary. Agreeing to guaranteed pay in your nanny share ensures you’ll have consistent paychecks — and also allows each family to budget an exact amount for childcare every month. Because nannies are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act and must be paid as an hourly employee, your guaranteed pay would be based on a set number of hours, which is slightly different than a set salary.
“It would be up to each family if they could guarantee a nanny be paid when they go on vacation and/or something comes up where they don’t need [them] to work,” says Rebecca Stewart, founder of domestic staffing agency VIP Nannies & Household Staffing in Los Angeles.
This type of arrangement should absolutely be part of your work agreement or contract, says Stewart.
“This amongst many other things can get worked out from the beginning so there are no ‘gray areas,’” she says.
PRO TIP: Once those agreements 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 playdate 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.
“Personally, I’d want to have a couple of group hangouts to see how the kids interact together and get a feel for the dynamic,” Bradley says.
Some families who want to establish a nanny share together 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 as a nanny.
For instance, you might see a child who hits or bites or two children with strong personalities who butt heads a lot. 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 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 or text thread.
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 relaying important information to her that didn’t deal with everyday situations. For day-to-day matters, she says having a group chat was helpful.
“I think as long as all the parents communicate with each other as much as with me, it works,” she says.
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. You might find it helpful to have a bi-weekly check-in, where 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 nanny share challenges so you can immediately work with the families to keep things running smoothly. A successful nanny share depends on having everyone involved 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 you and both families can agree how to handle issues together.
Decide up front how conflicts will be 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.
Be clear about when you want to be let in on any issues. If there are certain issues that are important to you or indirectly affect you, let the families know that you want to be included in those discussions.
Avoid miscommunications. Know that text messages and emails can often be misconstrued.
Read next: How to write a nanny share resume