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Nanny Share 101

 What is a nanny share?

A nanny share is an arrangement between two or more families who jointly hire a childcare provider. The families each reduce the cost of childcare for themselves by sharing, and at the same time the nanny earns more.

What are best practices in a nanny-share?

It’s important to be clear about your priorities as both a parent and an employer before you agree to partner with another family. And even if you have shared values, as we all know, the hard part is putting values into practice in everyday situations. Sticking points can include a worker’s pay, schedule, and vacation time, as well as the kids’ screen time, sleep time, and access to treats. When you consider a nanny-share, you want to make sure that you and the prospective family/families are truly compatible. You should enter into a nanny-share with the expectation that you may have to compromise on certain issues in order to have the benefits that come with such an arrangement, and document your decisions in the form of a written agreement. You can find a sample Nanny Share Agreement here.

What to do first

Before you even begin to look for a childcare provider, all participating families should agree on work terms as spelled out in a written work agreement. Ideally, the work agreement would embody the same best practices that you would implement solo.

Try to find consensus on the hot button issues, such as sleep, screens, food, safety, discipline, and whatever else feels important to your group. These agreements, whether verbal or written, will help guide you in the interview process and provide important clarity for the worker you hire. Remember: You create stress and confusion for a worker if you leave it up to them to juggle conflicting instructions from parents. As employers, your job is to support a worker to do their best.

What if other families in a nanny-share don’t agree with me about employment practices?

When a disagreement emerges, one option is to try to explain how and why you came to adopt a “best practices” framework. As we all know, a judgmental approach often doesn’t lead to constructive discussion; it puts everyone on the defensive and wrongly suggests that some of us have never struggled to find the money, time, or will implement best practices.

What can help: Share information that was useful to you. Explain your self-interest in fair employment practice: you want your kid(s) to be cared for by a person who feels content and respected in her job. But if discussion doesn’t bring you any closer together, this family is likely not the right match for you.

What if there are differences (cultural or generational) between how I parent and how a domestic worker approaches childcare?

In one way, cultural and/or generational differences between you and a worker can be a great benefit to you and your family. You might learn about new holidays and community rituals as well as different philosophies about childcare. We know from experience that it can be a relief to learn about all the ways a child can happily be fed, carried, changed, sung to, and put to sleep.

At the same time, differences can be challenging. Differences between two parents. Parents and in-laws. Parents and domestic workers. There is nothing easy or simple about raising a child no matter who’s involved.

Common flashpoints can include sleep training, breast/bottle feeding, introduction of solid foods, screen time, discipline, and monitoring of play dynamics.

  • What to decide: You need to determine which issues are most important or non-negotiable to you (category A) and which issues you have untested preferences or ideas about (category B).
  • What to do: Give a childcare provider explicit directions about the high priority, category A issues, letting them know that they are very important to you. Have a discussion about the category B issues, soliciting a worker’s views and learning about their experiences as a childcare provider. See where it goes. Over time, you might not alter your views or you might be more comfortable trying a different approach than what you had in mind.
  • What to remember: When you hire a nanny/childcare provider–or when you leave your child in the care of any other adult–you are ceding some control. Accept that you will not be able to anticipate every scenario or control the outcome. It’s important that you and the childcare provider you employ share general values, instincts, and ethics. That will help you feel confident that they will make decisions that work for you.

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