My husband and I shared a Nanny with our in-laws for more than a year. We entered the Share Care with great enthusiasm. Together, our families would certainly be able to find a great Nanny, and having all the cousins together was the icing on the cake.
We approached the Share Care like a small business. Before we started to look for a Nanny, we held meetings to talk about the logistics, what we were looking for in a Nanny, what our needed schedules would be, how we’d handle payroll issues, whose house would be used, etc. We wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page about how we envisioned the partnership. While we tried to get everything nailed down in our initial meetings, we found that there were still many smaller issues that arose over time that required us to adjust and modify our arrangement – that is, flexibility over time was at least as important as preparation up front.
Here are some of the things we identified and agreed on in our initial meetings, followed by what came up and surprised us once we started working with our Nanny.
• Illness policy. We borrowed the illness policy from a local preschool. We agreed that a child would not participate in the Share Care if they had a fever, cough, runny nose, diarrhea, skin rash or any other symptoms of illness. We asked our Nanny to be aware of how the children were feeling and to call a parent when and if she felt that a child should go home.
What we didn’t think about… What if a parent is sick? The same kinds of issues arise when a mom or dad is sick and needs to stay home where the Share Care is happening and the children are being watched. It is difficult (and maybe even awkward) to share the home with two, three or more kids and a Nanny when you really don’t feel well. Even worse, the parent could be contagious and the children would be at risk of catching the bug. We learned that our Share Care group had to have a back-up house to use that was adequately childproofed and any necessary equipment could be transferred there as needed.
• Meals and Snacks. We decided that each family would bring food for their own child. This included snacks and meals. In order to minimize confusion, we made sure that all of the food was clearly labeled and we provided a designated spot in the refrigerator and the pantry for the Share Care food.
What we didn’t think about… It wasn’t long before the kids started to notice what the others were eating and became more interested in the other children’s food. We learned that we needed to be much more flexible about the food we provided and make sure that we supplied enough for everyone to have some. When we were able to plan ahead enough, we also rotated responsibility among the families for supplying all the food for assigned days. We also found we needed to allow the Nanny wide latitude to decide what to serve the children each time they sat down to eat. Thankfully, we all had a similar philosophy about nutrition. This is something that is necessary to discuss upfront.
• Deciding Where the Share Care will Take Place. Share Cares can structure the location of the care in many different ways. Friends of ours have alternated days, weeks and even months, or agreed to have the care all in one home. We alternated weeks in our Share Care in order to minimize the number of times that the related equipment needed to be moved from house to house. This also meant that we were each experiencing the same wear and tear on our home, toys, and equipment and level of energy costs.
What we didn’t think about… What would happen when one home was not available for the Share Care and therefore, the other home hosted the Share Care every day? If one parent starts to work from home or a family starts a home improvement project, it can impact the location of the Share Care and can disrupt the original arrangements among the families. For us, for a variety of reasons one family ended up becoming the primary host family, and it took another round of meetings and negotiations to determine what would be fair and workable. While there is the benefit to the host family of not having to drop off or pick up your child, there is the added hassle and expense of having multiple people in and out of your home on a daily basis. These are very difficult things to measure and quantify so it is imperative that the families feel like they can discuss these issues in an open and honest manner.
• How To Split the Nanny’s Wages. Often, one of the main reasons families will set up Share Care arrangements is to get the benefits of an in-home Nanny while reducing their own costs by splitting the expenses among the group. In our case, we split the cost of our Nanny’s wages equally between our families. Seemed simple enough.
What we didn’t think about… From our Nanny’s point of view, this was her profession and her full time job. For her time commitment, we as a group had to be able to guarantee that she would receive her wages for her full time job. Over time, as needs changed, some families needed more or less time in the Share Care. Where one family ends up using substantially less time, they may want to reduce their share of the costs – but doing so means that the other families need to increase their contribution. Forcing a family to pay a full “share” when they were using considerably less also seemed unfair. Likewise, where one family starts needing lots more coverage, other families may feel that they are subsidizing the first family.
In our case, the first time we faced this issue, we managed to find a new ‘part time’ family to add to the Share Care when one of the original families reduced their participation. We never did find a perfect solution, but over time we ended up finding new families to join the Share Care as existing families left or reduced their participation. In hindsight, that solution worked financially, but we lost the “all in the family” feel of our Share Care group. If we were to do it again, we would only want to set up a Share Care where all families agreed that they would continue to pay their original share regardless of their participation.
The issues discussed above are just a few of the many issues you likely will need to navigate in order to ensure a long and successful share chare relationship. Here are some other day-to-day issues to consider as you enter a Nanny Share Care arrangement:
• How will you handle vacation time? Many of the families we work with give two weeks of paid vacation for the Nanny, with one week being scheduled for the family’s convenience (that is, the Nanny takes a week of her vacation to coincide with the family’s vacation), and one week is at the Nanny’s convenience (so the family could have to arrange for back-up care). In a Share Care, there are multiple families who will need to coordinate – will the families try to coordinate their vacation time?
• How often will you give the Nanny performance reviews? Do you have a similar philosophy regarding compensation increases and bonuses? What if there are disagreements on what feedback to give the Nanny? What if the Nanny’s feedback singles out one or another family?
• Who will supply what equipment? If the Nanny needs a portable crib or a high chair, who is responsible for supplying that and will it be kept at the house hosting the Share Care? This also includes items like diapers and a stroller that can carry more than one child.
• If your Nanny is sick, or needs to leave early, is one parent willing to step in and help and watch both children until the Nanny returns or the other parent picks up their child?
• Is the Nanny allowed to drive the kids? Who will supply the car (if the Nanny’s car isn’t large enough to fit a group)? What activities and destinations outside of the home are allowed?
Entering into a Share Care can seem complicated and risky. It does take extra preparation, patience and flexibility, but if all the families are willing to put in the extra effort both up front and throughout the relationship, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience for everyone involved. The children will enjoy one another’s company under the care of a wonderful Nanny; the Nanny will feel valued, appreciated, and confident in her role as the care provider; and the parents will have the peace of mind that their children are well cared for and in a safe environment.