I stumbled in to nanny sharing about 4 years ago, with a 5 year old special needs kindergartener and a 6 month old infant. Due to certain extenuating circumstances, discussed further in my podcast, we entered in to the great unknown of nanny sharing, and we found that we all benefited! To date, I have done more shares than I can count, since many were temporary situations that happened as the need arose. Through it all, I have learned what it takes to make a share successful and what can derail a prospective or established share. Here are a few tips for both parents and nannies considering entering a nanny share arrangement:
Compatibility! Whether you are the parent or nanny, you MUST be sure that you and your parenting/caregiving style mesh with both of the other parties. As a parent, you do not need to totally match the other family, but you do need to know that your nanny supports you and will give your child the quality of care that you would if you were at home. If you are the nanny, you need to ensure that you will care for the children thoroughly and respect how their parents want this to be done. Personally, I know who I am as a caregiver. Therefore, I only accept families that are similar in their parenting style to my own childcare style so that the type of care given to the children is consistent between parents and nanny care. Above all, compatibility is crucial!
Age of the children does not matter as much as parents might think. My first share was between a 5 year old and a 6 month old, and it went off without a hitch! This is really a personal matter of preference between the sets of parents, but I assure you that under the care of a high quality nanny, two babies are manageable and both will continue to thrive!
Location can be a factor, and it is also dependent on the parents’ preference and level of comfort. I always ask both sets of parents whether they would prefer to host the share, or if they would consider their child being at another home. Using the feedback from both sets of parents, the nanny can make a decision regarding whether to split the share between houses or at which one of the houses the share will be centered. Some nannies alternate homes each week or month, per the parents’ wishes. I can see that being a positive thing for children over the age of 2, but for infants, I highly recommend picking one house exclusively. Think about all the extra child gear, toys, messes, etc that your home will need to hold. That is why I pick one house, to alleviate transferring all the child equipment unnecessarily.
Scheduling of the nanny’s hours is something that needs to be addressed upfront. Do both families need full-time care? Are they willing to share the entire week/time? Some families enter in to nanny shares with the desire to only share a day or two, to cut down the cost of childcare. Others might seek out a full-time share situation. Whatever the reason, the nanny and both sets of parents need to agree on the days and times to be dedicated to each family, and whether there is flexibility on either end to add or take away shared hours. As in any nanny arrangement, scheduling must be discussed and agreed upon in advance so that all parties needs are being met. In the event that a parent or nanny needs to modify the schedule, I suggest doing it in writing, giving as much notice as possible, and being prepared to be flexible to the other set of parent’s needs. Changes happen, and rolling with the punches is the best way I have found to keep the share running smoothly.
Communication is a vital part of any nanny-parent relationship. In my nanny shares, I have found it to be even more important to maintain open, honest, and flowing communication between myself and the parents of my charges in order to keep operating a successful share. I have found text messages to be a quick and easy way to ask questions, send pictures and cute stories, and overall keep in touch with my bosses during the day. For bigger or more challenging topics, I do not hesitate to email or speak up in person to resolve issues asap. As a professional nanny participating in nanny shares, I do my best to preserve my family’s privacy by not speaking ill of each other, nor discussing hefty issues in front of the other family. For parents involved in a share, I encourage you to speak up immediately if you have a concern about the nanny or the other family. Parents and nannies ought never to hesitate if the safety or well-being of a child is as stake!
Health and sickness causes the biggest issue within nanny shares. At all of my nanny interviews (not just for shares), I always ask if the family has extended family nearby. I am trying to determine if they have backup care, in the event of my own illness. For nanny shares, it is especially important that each family have a plan in place for sick days, both for the nanny’s illness, but also if one of the children in the share is sick. Pertaining to a child being ill, I explain to my families at the nanny share interview, that each sick day circumstance is different. On some days, Mom or Grandma of Child A could stay home to nurse him or her back to health. While on some days, I may be needed to be with the sick Child A, and therefore healthy Child B goes to grandma’s or a daycare for the day. Still, on some occasions, both sets of parents have opted for me to care for both of their children, citing the fact that both kids were either sick, or had been exposed already to the illness. Parental work flexibility, extended family, and huge amounts of grace and understanding are all factors that will help to get the families and the nanny through situations when illness occurs.
People always marvel at how picky I can be when choosing families to work for, or at the fact that I make nanny shares seem so easy. Well, I tell them that I AM picky when I choose families to nanny for – that’s why my nanny shares tend to go so smoothly! I am extremely careful when I screen my families for compatibility (it’s so crucial!) I try to work out all the important details I mentioned above as early as possible, so that there are no surprises or stresses down the road. And as a result, I continue to have wonderful experiences participating in nanny shares. Families who have shared with me rave about how well their children’s language has grown after bringing in a friend to share the day with us. Parents also love when their child finds a brother (from another mother) and best friend for life. I highly encourage parents and nannies to consider the great option that is nanny sharing!
The three top perks of sharing are:
1. It gives the children a playmate and new best friend in each other
2. It reduces the childcare cost for parents, but gives the nanny a little extra pay
3. It’s fun!
I do what I love, and I love what I do. I am truly blessed to help guide and teach little souls on their journey of life!
Britney Fredrickson is a nanny of six years with a B.A. in Child Development. She lives in the Napa Valley with her husband, Great Dane/Border Collie mix, and orange tabby. Having begun as a preschool/infant teacher, Britney now uses her experience and education to specialize in nanny shares, predominantly working with toddlers under age three. When she isn’t wrangling kids, she can be found reading, sewing, and noshing on goat cheese. For real time tips and anecdotes follow her on Twitter @sisternannies.