More American families are doing nanny shares — here's why
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 may have noticed that more and more kids are getting picked up after school by nannies -- or running around the park with them -- than there seemed to be this time last year.
It’s not your eyes playing tricks on you. In 2016, the percentage of families seeking a nanny share grew by a whopping 23 percent over the previous year, according to new data from Care.com.
Not familiar with the term "nanny share"? A nanny share simply refers to when two or more families employ one nanny to care for all of their children. The families share the hiring costs, as well as any expenses like after school snacks. Nanny shares can be organized in several ways, based on the needs and preferences of each family. Generally speaking, though, what all scenarios have in common is that they're typically more cost-effective than hiring one nanny per family.
[RELATED: "Is a Nanny Share Right for You?"]
Nanny shares aren’t a new thing, but as the Care.com numbers show, more and more families are opting into this cost-effective child care practice.
So, we asked the experts: Why?
Child Care Is Just Plain Expensive
You know it, I know it, we all know it: When it comes to paying for child care nowadays, it seems like we're spending far more money than our parents did. And, in fact, we are. In 2016, Care.com engaged in a methodology collaboration with the New America to produce the Care Index, the first comprehensive report on the state of paid child care in the United States based on cost, quality and availability of nannies, child care centers and family day cares.
Care.com then combined this data with data from its 2016 Cost of Care survey and discovered some very surprising statistics about the current state of child care costs. For example, 54 percent of families surveyed said that they spend more than 10 percent of their household income on child care -- and 1 in 5 said they spend a quarter of their income or more.
But wait, there's more. In 2015, it turns out that families spent an average of $556.80 a week on nannies alone. No matter who you are or what your income level is, that's still a very significant chunk of change to spend just on child care. Taken together, these data points start to give us a clearer picture of why nanny shares became a trend in 2016.
It's the Economy, Silly
The 2007 recession hit families hard, and its impact has had lasting effects on the economy. In subsequent years, many people remained out of work, while others were just starting to regain their financial footing or accepted jobs at lower pay. Baby strollers during those years were more likely to be pushed by dads than by moms -- let alone nannies -- since more men lost their jobs during the recession than women did. Some young couples postponed parenthood altogether, waiting for better days.
But by 2016 the worst effects of the 2007 recession were, well, receding. Financial stability was greater than it was even a year earlier. Annual birthrates started to climb back to pre-2007 rates. Unemployment rates dropped significantly compared to 2015, and our gross national product reached an all-time high. These collective upticks have served American families well. Home ownership now is on the rise, and children are benefiting from increased levels of stability.
In many homes, this translates into the need for a nanny.
“The uptick in nanny hires, I expect, is a sign of an improving economy,” says Alvin E. Roth, the Craig and Susan McCaw Professor of Economics at Stanford University, and author of, “Who Gets What and Why.”
As the job market has rebounded, many households now boast two incomes -- increasing both buying power and the need for childcare.
“People who hire nannies are typically two-income earning professionals. They can do it because they have the income. This is a reflection on higher purchasing power among the professional class,” says Asif Dowla, professor of economics and Landers Endowed Chair in the Liberal Arts, Department of Economics, at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
Some of those families -- who may have had less in reserve, or less financial success prior to the recession -- may now have rebounded enough to employ a nanny share, but not a full-time nanny of their own.
Social Networking, Kid-Style
In many families, nanny sharing provides a sense of community, shared responsibility and stability. In urban areas, where extended families may also be lacking, creating a community around nanny sharing is common -- and highly beneficial.
“As a single mom, I thought putting my daughter into child care center was my only child care option,” says Carmela Ramirez, a Brooklyn, NY, mom of one. “Not that I have anything against daycare centers, but I wanted my child to get more one-on-one attention. When a classmate’s mother asked me if I wanted to look into nanny sharing with her, I was ecstatic. I had never heard of that option before.”
As Ramirez points out, in single-child families where a nanny share is used, an only child can learn to connect with other kids in sibling-like scenarios. They're given increased learning opportunities in which they can learn how to give and take, communicate and share in a warm, home environment. Ultimately, kids could end up benefiting greatly from the nanny sharing practice, and use it as an opportunity to acquire enhanced socialization and relationship skills.
Nanny sharing also provides children with a close connection to an adult who cares for them, and parents benefit from increased levels of flexibility and community. For many families, including those who didn't have to climb back from the recession’s brink, these are win-win scenarios -- scenarios that ultimately benefit the economy and our communities, as well as our children.
Is Your Schedule Getting Crazier?
Today’s families are constantly on-the-go -- and, increasingly, not always in predictable ways. Some families only need help at certain times of day that don’t correspond with regular daycare hours; others may have responsibilities that shift from week to week or day to day. By leveraging the time and cost across several families, there’s a better chance that a nanny will be available to respond to last-minute changes in schedules and planning.
Think a nanny share is right for you?
Care.com Nanny Share makes it easy to start connecting with local families.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Follow her on Twitter @coreygale.