Working from home. Watching the kids. Preparing for remote learning. Parents can’t keep this 24/7 management up forever. As such, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced parents to find work arounds for everything from child care to schooling while keeping costs manageable. One such solution that’s gained a lot of interest? The nanny share.
A nanny share is exactly what it sounds like: two or more families create an arrangement to split a nanny’s services. Nanny shares were around before the coronavirus, particularly in cities where daycares have waiting lists. But the pandemic has more families considering it as an option as daycares close or reduce the number of kids they can accommodate. As a means of “podding,” or limiting contact to just a handful of non-family members, nanny sharing makes sense.
So if you’re looking for a shared care arrangement or simply need to know what you’re getting yourself into, here’s what a nanny share is all about.
What Are the Benefits of Nanny Shares?
A nanny share is simply a business arrangement between two families and a nanny in which the nanny agrees to be paid to care for the children of both families. A nanny share provides a nanny with additional income and provides families several of the benefits of a full-time nanny as well as those of a daycare, namely:
- Availability: In areas where daycares are limited and waitlists long (particularly for babies), it’s generally easier to find a nanny share situation
- Close supervision of your child or children: Typically, one nanny watches two-to-three children, compared to the one-to-six-or-more ratio of caregivers-to-children ratio of daycares
- Flexibility: Arrangements for scheduling, location, meals and snacks, etc., are made by the participating families as opposed to dictated by daycare administration
- Cost: Usually two-thirds what a nanny would cost a family by itself and typically on-par with daycare tuition
- Social interaction: Families typically partner with other families who have a child or children close in age to theirs, giving kids opportunities to socialize with a non-adult
- Safety: In Covid-19 times, a nanny share allows kids to operate safely within a “pod”, making interactions much safer.
Carmen Chan, a San Francisco-based mother of two, needed flexibility with her first child, James. A nanny share provided exactly what she and her family desired. Plus, the price was right.
“We knew how we wanted him taken care of, how we wanted things set up, the timing of drop-offs and pickups, how he’d be fed, what activities he’d be doing,” she says. “We wanted more dedicated care than a daycare could provide but we couldn’t afford a nanny for ourselves. A nanny share was the next best thing.”
How Does a Nanny Share Work?
Entering into a nanny share arrangement starts with finding a suitable family to share with and finding the right nanny, not necessarily in that order. Once you’ve established the who of your nanny share, you’ll determine the what.
Finding both a compatible family (or two) and a well-qualified nanny that you all agree on may seem daunting. In practice, however, the process can be relatively quick. Many popular childcare sites like Nannylane and Care.com have specific nanny share sections where you can connect with both nannies and other parents looking for the same. They also allow you to find a nanny that would work with you and another family with whom you’d like to share.
Parenting communities like facebook groups are also excellent places to search. That’s how Chan found her nanny share arrangement.
“Our plan was to host, so we were going to look for a nanny first and then a family,” Chan says. “I went to [an online parenting community based in San Francisco] and asked for nanny recommendations. But I saw a post from a nearby mom looking to share, so I reached out. They had a nanny for their first kid and were looking for a nanny share for their second child.”
Chan didn’t know anything about the family when she initially responded to the post. But after a few phone conversations about logistics, it seemed like it could work. “It was nice that they’d had a nanny experience already—I thought we could learn a lot from them.”
The family had a nanny already, so they put Chan in touch with her. She spoke with the nanny, Beatriz, on the phone to ask about her experience before and with her current family. “I asked her about her personal and school background and some situational questions like, ‘What if James doesn’t want to nap? What if the two kids are fighting over the same toy?’ She told me how she’d handle it.”
When she was pleased, Chan and Beatrix met in person at the other family’s home and conducted a background check through Care.com.
Care.com is also how Chan’s shared nanny found her nanny job initially: “I had a profile and had been babysitting, and then got an opportunity to nanny,” Beatriz says. “At the point when we were discussing the nanny share, I had five years of experience, including two with the family that became part of the nanny share.”
Beatriz likes the nanny share because two families are better than one and the children have someone to play with.
What Does a Nanny Share Cost?
The overall cost of sharing a nanny is about two-thirds what you’d typically pay to have your own — nannies charge more to care for more kids, of course. In a typical nanny share, participating families split the costs. So if your nanny is charging $30/hour, expect to pay $15/hour if you’re sharing with one other family. Of course, the flexibility of a nanny share means that you and the other family or families can determine how much each of you pays based on whatever criteria you are applying to the situation — who hosts, for instance.
“The rate we paid was grandfathered in from the other family’s arrangement,” says Chan. “It worked out for us that it was half-and-half and to pay the nanny directly by check every two weeks.”
As with a single-family nanny arrangement, nanny taxes are important. Both you and the other family need to establish yourselves as household employers with the IRS and your state, pay the nanny separately, and withhold and remit the appropriate taxes to the IRS and state.
The Logistics of a Nanny Share
Of course, if you’re considering a nanny share, there are several day-to-day logistics you’ll want to work out with the other family or families and the nanny before Day 1—logistics which you’ll likely be fine-tuning and finessing frequently early on. Here are a few to consider:
- Who hosts? And how often?
- Who’s providing meals and snacks?
- What outdoor activities can the kids do with the nanny?
- What milestones are you expecting help with?
- Is screen-time for the kids okay?
- How will you get daily updates?
- What if your kid gets sick during the day?
- How much notice do you, the other family/families, or nanny need to provide for time off or ending the arrangement?
This is, of course, just a sample of questions to consider. But hopefully it directs you towards an agreement and routine that makes sense. It’s also important to keep in mind your nanny’s personal needs. It can be more difficult to schedule time off, for instance, when working for two families.
“If you need a day off, you have to ask families if they’re okay,” says Beatriz. “Sometimes they will [be OK], but it could be a problem. I try to ask a month before. It’s trickier with two families to coordinate.”
Moving Forward With a Nanny Share
If you’re looking for a childcare solution during COVID-19 and beyond, a nanny share is worth considering. So long as you are very comfortable with your chosen nanny as well as the family with whom you’ll be sharing the service — and work out the necessary logistics — it’s a (comparatively) cost-effective solution that not only frees parents up but also provides kids some much needed social interaction. Will there inevitably be kinks in the arrangement? Of course. But what childcare solution doesn’t have them? A nanny share is a work around that could evolve into a better situation for all parties involved.
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