A Brooklyn couple moved into a new building while awaiting the birth of their first child, only to bump into another couple two floors down with a due date just weeks away from their own. As the couples chatted, they commiserated over the difficulty of finding great nanny care without wiping out their finances. As the babies’ arrivals grew closer, one family mentioned hearing about a nanny share concept, where two families could split the cost of a single nanny. This arrangement offered a significant savings, even after bumping up the childcare rate to compensate for a second child. Soon, a plan was born, along with two bouncing baby boys.
Even though the two families had tons in common – similar jobs with similar hours, similar backgrounds, similar ages and even apartments with the same layout – there were many considerations to make when ironing out the logistics of the arrangement.
Here are a few things to think about when setting up a successful nanny share:
Location, Location, Location
One of the first considerations needs to be which family will host the nanny share arrangement. With babies and small children, routine is key. It makes little sense to go back and forth between homes – even if those homes happen to be in the same building. The host family will have a slightly greater responsibility in providing the space and ensuring it is always prepared for the nanny and children, though the other family will sacrifice their child staying on home turf and may need to purchase additional baby gear for convenience. If one family has pets or has someone in the house who smokes, this could also be a deciding factor.
A traditional one family nanny may often care for a sick child, but if there are health risks such as fever or potential infections and viruses, it isn’t fair to expose the healthy child. Who will receive the care in such situations and what the threshold for cancellation is needs to be worked out in advance so that the parents know who is responsible for finding backup care. A backup plan should also include protocol for if the child receiving care that day is not the hosting family’s child.
There is a great deal of trust involved in choosing a nanny share option. Families need to be honest about their future plans and what their expectations are for how long the share should last. A nanny offering this type of arrangement might be doing so for the higher financial return, so if one family backs out the other might be left scrambling for a replacement or face losing the nanny (or paying the big bucks to keep her). Perhaps the plan is for the nanny to care for the infants until they reach preschool age. What happens if a new sibling enters the picture in one of the families? Upfront planning can ease the stress for everyone.
Nannies should be paid legally. It is the law, and both parties need to agree to this to avoid tax issues and liabilities in the event of injury on the job. Benefits and paid days off also need to be agreed to by all parties involved. Extraneous costs, such as petty cash for outings or unforeseen needs, should be worked out in advance so that one family doesn’t resent bearing all the responsibility. If a vehicle will be used, costs and insurances need to be discussed, as there may be tax breaks for the owner of the car. Families need to ensure no further licenses or oversight needs have to be addressed due to two unrelated children being cared for, since this might technically bump the home nanny into a group care category.
As with any nanny relationship, families need to discuss how certain things will be handled according to their own values. The nanny share involves two families’ potentially disparate way of doing things, so discuss in advance things like eating habits, food allergies or restrictions, media use and napping to present the nanny with a unified plan of how to proceed. Discipline and rewards need to be consistent for the arrangement to be successful, particularly when the two children enter toddlerhood and the preschool years.