How to Have a Successful Nanny-Share: 5 Easy Tips

A “Nanny Share” (AKA: “sitter-share” or “care-share”) is a great way to save on the costs of individualized in-home childcare and also offer your children socialization. Families often form friendships during these agreements, and the children get the benefit of support and closeness to another family.

1. Find the right Nanny

My post here outlines the process for finding the right nanny. Discovering and retraining the best childcare provider for your family can be a stressful process but once you have the right person in place and up to speed, it will feel great! Knowing your children are in good hands when you go off to work means everything. For a share, it is preferable they have experience with shares or siblings.

2. Looking for your “Share Family”

Finding a “share family” can be easy or difficult depending on your area. In the dense and busy Bay Area, everyone is looking for nanny-shares. It is a popular and regular practice amongst communities where childcare is expensive and hard to come by. There are tons of people in a decently small area, many homes are dual-income, and waitlists for daycares are outrageous.

Try joining your local ‘parent’s club’ online to search through the Facebook pages or forums for local moms/dads discussing childcare. Post on Nextdoor or try Let neighbors, friends and family know you are looking for another family to share with and see who might have leads. You might even meet the perfect match at your prenatal classes or your first few weeks strolling the neighborhood with your tiny bundle!

Questions to ask each other

Once you discover some resources to find another family, it is important to exchange relevant information to understand if it will be a good match. You can do this by phone or email to start off. Some simple things to gauge are:

The days of the week (and hours) each family needs childcare.

It isn’t a “make-it-or-break-it” if one family wants to start at 7:00am and the other family at 8:00am, as long as the logistics and requirements work for the nanny. The nanny could spend an hour with one child before the other joins. She or he could pick-up one child or drop-off the other for that 1:1 time.

How long the other family expects to be in a nanny-share.

Are they just trying to bridge a gap until they get into daycare (and then you have to begin this search all over again)? Are they planning to have another child very soon and won’t be able to share-care in a year or two? These are not deal breakers either, but it is definitely good to get an understanding of each family’s (potential) commitment to the share.

What kind of childcare provider you both would like.

If you haven’t already found a nanny or sitter that you are bringing into the agreement, you should agree on some high-level points to move forward in your search together. If one person expects a young energetic nanny whose lack of experience is made up by enthusiasm and the other family wants an older, more experienced and even keeled provider, your visions may not align.

What kind of rules, childrearing methods or practices do either of you expect of the nanny?

Will she/he be able to watch television? Drive the kids? Teach them another language? Will she be expected to exercise RIE or Montessori type methods? Can she eat the family’s food? Have her husband come over to help out? Bring her own child? How will she be expected to teach them good behavior as they get older? What are each of your expectations of the provider’s tasks and practices?

Which family will host the share or will you switch back and forth?

Will the family that hosts be compensated for the extra air conditioning/heating/electrical bills, laundry, paper goods, soaps/cleaning supplies, etc.? What happens if the other child damages something significant in the host family’s home? Does one family have strong feelings about hosting or not hosting? Is each house set-up well for a share in both location, design and safety wise?

What activities will the kids be involved in?

One family may expect that the nanny will be staying at the host’s home throughout the day, teaching, entertaining and caring for them within those four wall all day. The other family might dream of the nanny taking the kids to the park, music class and the library. Discuss what the future looks like in terms of activities outside the home.

3. Next steps

Put together a playdate at one of your homes when all the parents and children can meet. See how the vibe is and discuss the share in more detail. If the nanny has already been selected, bring her (or him) along for the meet. Ensuring everyone gets along and has compatible communication styles is important.

4. The final agreement & hammering out logistics

Once you feel like it is a great match between families, you need to hammer out the details and logistics.

  • What holidays, vacation and sicks days you will offer the nanny and how they will be factored into the year/paycheck/minimum?
  • How you will handle if one family will be on vacation? In most cases, the families just continue to pay the same amount each week (or their minimum if that is in place). This ensures both families can expect to budget for the same monthly childcare costs and the nanny can rely on a dependable paycheck. At a daycare center, for instance, you’d still have to pay your weekly dues if you took your kid out on vacation, you’d still have to pay your employee at the office unless you expected them to quit and get another job to fill that financial void.
  • If one or both families decide to dissolve the share, will one of the families have “first dibs” on offering the nanny a position with their children separately?
  • Speaking of, what are the guidelines for dissolving the share? 30-days notice? 15-days? It is best to have at least two or three weeks of committed time (if not more) that both families must continue to pay their share unless the situation is dire. This makes sure no one is on the hook to give the nanny a paycheck they can’t afford.
  • Restrictions on requests to the nanny outside normal hours. Will the families be able to ask for the nanny to stay late after the share is over? How late? Will they be able to ask for nights or weekends? This is a good conversation to have because one family might feel like the nanny is already offered a big job of 40-50 hours of childcare a week and being offered more hours will burn them out.
  • Screens or no screens, junk food or no junk food. Get on the same page about the rules for the nanny and both children when the share is in progress.
  • Expectations of nanny. Will she or he be doing the children or family laundry? Will she be expected to shop and make baby food for one or both children? What are her daily chores pertaining to the children? Can she post photos on social media? Can she make phone calls while on duty?
  • How will you handle food, milk and other supplies? Will the visiting childcare come everyday with their own supplies? Can the host family store extra diapers and clothing for the visiting child? Will they be able to share food or are things kept separately?
  • If one child is sick, what is the policy? Most commonly I have found that families abide by daycare rules – diarrhea, vomiting, pink eye, fevers or other contagious illnesses (like rashes) will keep a kid home with their parent for 24-48 hours. Snuffy noses or coughs don’t count. Welcome to having young children. You will all forever have a runny rose.
  • How and when will the nanny be paid by each family?

5. Keeping the Nanny Share Successful

  • The host home (or each host home) should have a comfortable and appropriate place for both children to sleep. This might be a pack n’ play or a portable crib that is easy to store away when not necessary.
  • The host home should be appropriately “baby proofed” to make the environment comfortable and safe for both children and the sanity of the childcare provider.
  • Each family should provide the nanny with necessary emergency information and guidelines and discuss all safety precautions they expect.
  • The families should invest in a double stroller (even a used one from craigslist!) together that can be re-sold at the end of the share as necessary.
  • The host home should have a safe and appropriate place for both children to have their meals, especially as they get older. Having a portable high chair that can be attached to a chair is suitable enough, nothing fancy.
  • The visiting family should offer some sort of compensation for the extra expenses of the host home. The host family should expect this to be less than exact and less than the actual costs for the trade of convenience.
  • The host family should offer a space (like a bin) for the visiting family to store extra pacifiers, clothing, diapers, creams or other needs. Packing a full diaper bag every single day is easy enough but often things can be forgotten which makes the day difficult on the nanny and the child.
  • There should be positive and open communication between the parents on a regular basis. If something isn’t right, address it right away instead of letting it fester.