Five Tips for a Smooth Nanny Share

Photo: Jean Tessier

A nanny share is a great way to cut down on your child-care costs by sharing a nanny with another family. In a nanny share, a nanny watches two (or more) kids from different families at once, therefore allowing the families to split the cost. (See also: Nanny Sharing: Lowering the Cost of Personal Childcare)

Like any other arrangement, there are pluses and minuses. But if you know what you’re doing and you prepare a little bit, you can improve the odds of having a great experience with a nanny share.

I’ve been in two different nanny shares, and here are some things I wish I would’ve known about beforehand.

1. Find the Family First

You may be tempted to find the nanny first, with her being the one who will actually be doing the work . But my suggestion is to find the family you want to share nannies with first — it will make interviewing nannies easier, and the entire process will become less stressful.

We’ve done it both ways (not by choice!), and interviewing families when we had a nanny was tougher. The new families felt like they were “breaking into” an existing arrangement, so they didn’t feel like equals in the process. You want to make sure everyone is on the same page.

2. Create a United Front

You and the other family are essentially one family, so make sure you find one that you jive with. It doesn’t mean you have to be exactly the same or have the same parenting styles, but if one family wants their kids outside as much as possible and the other is worried about dirt and allergies, then it may be a problem.

If a nanny is getting two different directives from each family, she’s going to feel like she can’t please either of her bosses, and that's a recipe for disaster.

3. Monthly Check-Ins

Meet with the other family at least once a month to talk about how things are going. If they have nagging concerns, you should know about them before they become critical problems.

Do the same, although less formally, with the nanny. Are things going as she expected? Is she still OK with doing laundry and light cleaning? It’s great to start out on the same page, but it takes some work to maintain that. Trust me — it’s worth it.

4. Write Up a “Contract”

It doesn’t have to be as formal as it sounds, but you should write down your expectations for the nanny and for the families, so nothing surprises anyone. It’s good to be as detailed as you can get about this stuff. For example, "the nanny will do the children’s laundry (not the grownups') once a week at whichever house she is at, and will fold it and put it in its place" is better than "the nanny will do some light chores."

5. Always Have a Backup Plan

Nannies get sick, get jobs, and move on. It happens. One thing we did not do well was a have a backup when our nanny left us, and that was very stressful. We were lucky my parents were in town to take care of our daughter for a week while we scrambled to find a new nanny (and a new family!).

Our day-care applications were still sitting in a drawer. We had gotten so comfortable with our nanny arrangement that we figured we didn’t need to apply to day cares anymore. Big mistake. Always have several balls rolling in case you need (or want) to make a change.

If you’ve been a part of a nanny share, please leave your favorite tips in the comments!

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