Child care costs are rising across the country, forcing families to make career choices, major financial decisions and even family-size decisions based on these costs. And, while child care is an incredibly cost-worthy expense given the amount of time children are with their caretakers, families are finding it difficult to afford quality care while saving for their children's future education and responsibly covering their family's everyday expenses. According to Financial Advisor magazine, Washington, D.C. has the highest child care costs in the country.

Many families are aware of traditional child care options, including daycare centers, in-home daycare groups and private nannies. Daycare centers offer advanced socialization, oversight and regulation and are cost competitive. In-home day care arrangements can be more personalized, flexible and cost competitive, but sometimes lack the structure and oversight of a daycare center. Private nannies are the most personalized care option, although they tend to be the most costly among the traditional options. Rarely is one of the traditional options able to blend personalized care, socialization and cost effectiveness.

A less traditional, but increasingly popular option, is a nanny share. Many people are aware that nanny shares exist and may even have a friend or two who are 'in' one, but the way a nanny share works can be difficult to conceptualize if you have never been a part of one. When successful, a nanny share can offer more flexible and personal care than a daycare center or in-home daycare and more socialization and cost efficiency than a private nanny, while also offering the nanny a higher per hour rate and greater benefits.

So, what is a nanny share?

In the most basic sense, a nanny share is just that. Two (or more) families "share" a nanny - the nanny cares for multiple children at one time from different families. That is about the extent of the commonalities among nanny shares. Past that, the arrangement of a nanny share is up to the families and the nanny. This flexibility can seem intimidating, but if thoughtfully organized, it can offer families and care providers an ideal working relationship.

A nanny share usually begins with either two families searching for a nanny together, or a nanny and a family with an established relationship searching for another family to join them. Once the families and the nanny establish a relationship, there is typically a negotiation of care hours, days, compensation and sick policies. Additionally, the location of the nanny share - where the share is 'hosted' - is decided, generally at the home of one of the families. Some families split hosting responsibilities by day or week, and some shares have a constant host location.

Establishing a successful nanny share requires comfort and honesty between the families. A hosting family needs to assess their own personal space comfort, and both families need to sincerely decide what they are and are not really comfortable with. This includes the experience level of the nanny, compensation, medical requirements (e.g., allergies, vaccines and sick policies), vacation time, food preferences, nap and feeding schedules and safety concerns. It also includes discussing things like joint equipment (double stroller, napping spaces) and storage of necessities, including diapers, food and extra clothing. The families should also discuss their expectations of the nanny while caring for both children. All of these issues should be discussed up front and any concerns or needs that arise should be expressed clearly to establish a solid foundation.

Some families will sign a contract outlining the procedure for leaving the share and what role the family leaving the share, including expectations for the exiting family to place another family or financially supplement the care for a period of time while the other family and nanny search for a new family. Other families will take a relaxed approach and simply agree to provide as much notice as possible. Again, like almost everything in the share, the families and nanny have to agree on what will work best for them.

As the children grow and change, so will the expectations and needs of the share. It is a good idea for families to continue to check in with each other and express any concerns they may have along the way. Dealing with any issues as soon as they arise is the most effective way to keep the peace and comfort in a nanny share. Don't forget, when the care option is more personal, so are the emotions and feelings involved.

Nine Nanny Share Basics

  1. Days/hours of coverage

  2. Compensation

    • Hourly Rate

    • Bonuses

    • Healthcare

    • Vacation time

    • Sick leave

  3. Host location

  4. Purchasing joint equipment, including double strollers, napping spaces and potty-training tools

  5. Storage of extra items, including extra diapers, food, toys, clothing and baby seats at the host's house

  6. Sick policy for the children

  7. Nap and feeding schedules

  8. Medical issues, including vaccines, allergies and any aversions to certain foods

  9. Notice of termination policy


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Allison Fitzsimmons lives in D.C. with her husband and daughter. She owns a family photography business and blogs about local experiences. Follow her on Instagram @dc_familyphotog and contact her through her website AllisonFitzsimmonsPhotography.com.