I see it all of the time: parents expecting their first child asking about child care in Seattle. The one piece of advice all seasoned parents in this area will give is GET ON THE DAYCARE WAIT LISTS NOW!
Child care around Seattle is no joke. You literally have to get on wait lists before your baby is born to have any chance at getting a spot in daycare. (I have heard that sometimes the stars align and several lucky people get right in to their first choice when they need care. But I have also heard that some people are on wait lists for YEARS.) This recent Seattle Times article recommends getting on wait lists if you are even thinking about conceiving.
So, what can parents do? Some make the choice to tighten the budget and have one parent stay home. Others can afford to employ a nanny of their own. The lucky ones have family members nearby who are willing and able to help out. Many parents choose to go the nanny share route, either intentionally or by default once they realize how difficult it can be to find an opening in a care center (especially an infant opening!), or how expensive it can be to shoulder the entire cost of employing a nanny alone.
Other parents seek out a nanny share so their baby can get the socialization benefits of having a regular playmate around. Nanny shares take a little work to set up, but they can be an excellent alternative to daycare and can make employing a nanny more affordable. (To note, while nanny shares are an excellent childcare option, they are not actually legal childcare arrangements in the state of Washington. Learn more about that by clicking here.)
How to get started
Parents want to know where the best places to find a nanny share family are. Many people have formed shares with families they meet in birthing classes, PEPS groups, with friends, or with neighbors down the street. There is also a robust nanny share thread in Nanny Parent Connection for each quarter of the year. This is a great place to post that you’re seeking a nanny share family to partner with, and to connect with families who look like they might be a good share fit.
When looking for a share family in Nanny Parent Connection, I recommend that parents START EARLY. If your baby is due in April and you plan to return to work in August, I recommend beginning your search for a share family two to three months in advance of your ideal start date for child care. (Starting your search even earlier is fine, too!) This helps to ensure plenty of time not just to find a share family, but to find the RIGHT share family. It also allows enough time to find the perfect nanny together. I recommend allowing two months for your nanny search, if possible.
Some things to consider when seeking a share family
I often get asked by parents seeking a nanny share if they should find a family first or a nanny first. I have seen parents move forward both ways, and both ways work. However, I think it’s the most beneficial to first find a family that has similar parenting philosophies and expectations, and a similar personality, if possible. Being aligned in these ways will help to support an easier working relationship for the nanny share. Some additional criteria for finding a family that’s just the right fit might also include the ages of children in the share, the schedule needs of each family, location, and budget.
Ages of Children
Is it important to you that your share family have a child that’s close in age to yours? Many people do want their child to have a playmate close in age to theirs. The ages of the children in a share can affect meal time, play time, outings, nap times, necessary equipment like highchairs and strollers – basically everything.
It’s ideal if both families in a share have schedules that match up closely. Nanny shares involve a lot of logistics, and having drastically different schedules can complicate things for the nanny, and leave one family shouldering a lot of the nanny’s pay on their own (which may or may not work well for the one family). However this is not a dealbreaker for all families!
Do you need a family close in proximity to your home so that drop offs and pick ups are easy? Or could the share happen along the way to work or close to work? Or could the nanny’s day start by picking up your child and taking him to the share house? Speaking of location, many care providers find that minimizing switching houses for the share is easier logistically. If you must switch share locations, doing so on no more frequently than a monthly basis is ideal.
What hourly rate are you hoping to pay your nanny? If you’re not sure what the going rate is for a nanny share nanny, check out our recent pay rate survey by clicking here.
It’s important that you outline your childcare budget and what you can offer a nanny together with your share family prior to beginning your nanny search. A nanny will need to have an understanding of the compensation a position offers prior to applying for the job to make sure the position is financially feasible for him or her. If this information is not included in your job post, a nanny may very well skim your ad and continue right on to the next one.
It’s helpful if both share families see eye to eye when it comes to the rest of the compensation package. How many hours will you guarantee each week? How many hours of overtime will you need each week? How many weeks of paid time off and how many vacation days do you think the nanny should get? Don’t forget to budget for childcare coverage when your nanny is taking vacation days, and for mileage reimbursement! Also make sure to factor in nanny taxes, where the employer’s portion is generally about 10% of the nanny’s salary.
Aside from nanny compensation, what other costs should you account for? In some shares, one family will always host. To offset this cost the other family might chip in more for the food, or pay a larger portion of the payroll service cost, or pay toward an outing or supplies fund.
Planning for the share
In a nanny share, good communication and flexibility are CRUCIAL. I recommend getting together with your share family to talk about as many aspects of the share as you can think of. Make sure you’re on the same page with things and if not, try to find a compromise that will work for everyone. It’s easy for misunderstandings to arise if something comes up and is not addressed right away in the share. For example, one family may host and the other family may always shop for food for the share. If the food family feels that they are contributing more financially to the share in this way, this needs to be addressed right away to keep everyone’s feelings in good standing.
Once you have found your share family, it’s time to start envisioning what your nanny share will look like. I recommend running through how a typical day might work. When do the kids eat, nap, etc.? Where do the kids nap? What types of outings might occur, and how often? Do you need any special equipment like highchairs, strollers, or car seats? (Note: several nannies have pointed out that if you need to purchase additional car seats for the share that you wait to see what types of car seats your nanny’s vehicle can accommodate first.)
How will food be handled in the share? Who will do the shopping for food for the share, and when does this happen? It’s difficult when kids are served different meals – they usually want to be eating what the other kid has. Are views on types of food children should eat similar? Is everyone okay with the nanny eating whatever she likes in the home? Will you take requests for grocery items for your nanny?
Is rainy weather outdoor play encouraged? Who will host and will hosting duties rotate? How often will hosting rotate? Will you work with a payroll service, or are you spreadsheet savvy and will handle this yourself?
What will happen if the nanny is sick? If one of the children are sick? What illnesses are you okay with in the share? Who gets the nanny if one child is sick and cannot be around the other? How is backup care handled? Discuss this and work out what will happen under these circumstances. Make sure to have a backup care plan in place. The Verified Care Providers at Nanny Parent Connection is a good place to start.
What is your inclement weather policy? If it’s snowy or icy out on the roads, do you still need to go to work? Is the nanny still expected to come? If a nanny can’t make it in to work on account of the weather, will this fall under guaranteed hours in your share (it should 🙂 )?
In the planning stages of the share, it’s nice if each family can host a planning meeting. This will allow each parent to check out the homes their children will be spending time in. This makes for an excellent time to check in about safety features like gates on stairs, outlet covers, and cabinet locks as well as napping arrangements, necessary equipment for the share, etc.
The Nanny Search
Now it’s time to find the perfect nanny! Hopefully you and your share family have already discussed family budgets and compensation package for your nanny. This is important information to include in your nanny advertisement. As discussed above, a nanny will skim but perhaps skip over an ad that doesn’t at least include hourly rate information. This is because a nanny needs to know if a position is financially feasible for him or her prior to investing time to find out more. This is not always the case of course. However when people aren’t getting a good response to their nanny ads I usually find that it doesn’t include hourly rate or compensation package information.
Make sure you have discussed what qualifications and attributes you would your nanny share nanny to have. Is there a minimum experience requirement? Would you prefer a nanny with previous share experience? Must your nanny be able to pass a background check and be current with CPR/First Aid Certification? Is a nanny with a background in early childhood education ideal? Or must he or she be all-knowing in the areas of spontaneous dance parties, finger painting, make-believe and jumping in mud puddles?
Nannies will want to get a general sense for how the share will operate. Make sure to include schedule and location information, ages of the children, the types of things you envision your nanny doing with the children (outings, story time, developmentally appropriate activities, etc), and a little bit about the personalities of the families involved. Are there pets at either share home? If so, make sure to mention that so that nannies with pet allergies can steer clear.
In a perfect world, you will allow at least two months for your nanny search. Many nannies know well in advance when they will be looking for a new position, so starting your search earlier isn’t a bad thing either! If you need to find a nanny and don’t have months for your search, or you are having a hard time finding a nanny for your share, please remember that I’m here to help Nanny Parent Connection members with their search! (This goes for nannies too – I’m happy to help connect you with families who may be a good fit.)
Once you have interested candidates you’d like to learn more about, it’s time to schedule some interviews. Click here for tips on interviews and some questions to ask prospective nannies. Some parents prefer to meet in a neutral place like a coffee shop to meet nanny candidates for the first time. Others like to have an initial phone interview. Once you decide a nanny may be a good fit, it’s time to set up an in-home interview with parents from each family. This may be both sets of parents, or one parent from each family. Some families will want the nanny to meet their kids at this point to get a sense of how the care provider interacts with the children.
You may get the sense from the more experienced nannies that they are interviewing YOU as well. This is because nannies want to make sure a position is the right fit for them, too!
You found a nanny! Now what?
Once you have found that perfect nanny, please make sure to let the other nanny candidates know that you have found a nanny for the position, or that you have decided not to move forward with them at this time. Now you are ready to do an online check of the provider and check references.
Spend some time and review your nanny’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. profiles and make sure you are comfortable with what you are seeing. If you notice something that concerns you, talk to the provider! Don’t automatically drop the idea of working with them – there may be an explanation.
Search the web. Spend a few minutes searching the provider’s name on Google and look for anything that you want to discuss with the provider. Also, check for any inconsistencies with what you find on the web versus what they have presented to you during the interview process or their resume.
Check references. Ask the provider for a minimum three reference families that they have worked for in the past (or if they are newer to the child care world, ask for character references instead). Make sure to ask open-ended questions to get a good sense of the nanny’s working relationship with previous families.
Making a job offer
Once you have checked into a nanny’s background and have checked their references, it’s time to make a formal job offer in writing. It is perfectly acceptable to make a job offer pending a clear background check, and to arrange starting the background check process and finalizing a contract in this email.
Speaking of contracts, it’s good to create an initial draft of a contract for all parties to review. This is an excellent time to establish a collaborative relationship with your nanny. Invite their feedback on the contract to see if they have any suggestions. The final contract should be a working agreement that everyone feels is fair.
Your final contract includes everything you have discussed regarding compensation, schedule, location of care and when that rotates, if it does; job duties, and how to end the working agreement. Make sure your contract includes recent changes to the law. Nanny Parent Connection offers a comprehensive and easy to follow nanny share contract template that is specifically written for nanny shares in Washington state. Click here to check that out.
Working together with your nanny
Good communication will keep a nanny share running smoothly. It can be helpful for there to be one designated official contact person in the share for the nanny to communicate things about the share to. This parent can communicate the information to the other share parents. (If there is something about one individual child, the nanny should address that with the specific family.) It can be a recipe for disaster if one family asks the nanny to communicate something to the other family. Families should always keep the lines of communication open between one another and handle any issue that arises directly
When a share is just getting started, you should plan to have regular check-ins with the nanny about how things are going. This might happen more frequently at the beginning, and then move to monthly or once every couple of months once the share has been happening for a while. An annual review is also a good idea as circumstances can change (new family members, a family leaving the share for daycare or preschool, etc), and it’s an excellent time to have a conversation about what’s working well, any areas for improvement, discussing children’s development, and considering a raise for your nanny.
It takes a little legwork to put nanny shares together, but they can be a really great alternative to shouldering the cost of a nanny alone, and to the daycare wait list nightmares around Seattle. They can be wonderful arrangements that provide a playmate for your child, and help to instill a spirit of flexibility in your child from a young age. Children get personalized care, and often long-term friendships are formed between the children and families!
Here are some tips from nannies to help a nanny share run smoothly:
“Good solid expectations between both families is KEY. Ensure both families are similarly financially minded and have the same idea of “fair” as far as time off, vacations etc. I found this part to be the most challenging. Also give the nanny one “point” person so they don’t end up feeling like they have four bosses….and yes communication ALL THE TIME. Don’t hold things back and get resentful.”
“Having families with similar parenting styles/expectations is a must! With my last job, the moms had completely different expectations (i.e. one mom wanted the kids to go on an outdoor outing daily regardless of weather, while the other didn’t want her baby in the rain). Same with household chores, one expected a perfectly clean house at the end of the day, while the other was happiest when the babies had a good day regardless of how clean the house was!”
“1. Families that are friends/neighbors and have similar parenting styles…though best if trending towards being laid back.
2. Having one house as the share house or switching infrequently. Maybe every other month.
3. Paying well and giving EXCELLENT benefits. $26 on the minimum for a less experienced nanny. Two weeks of nanny’s choosing PTO.
4. Having share house be well equipped…extra bedroom for share kid is the best.
5. Communicating collectively with the nanny and never putting nanny in the middle to communicate issues between families.”
“Guaranteed hours at the share rate for both families is a must. I’ve seen shares where there’s a “1-kid rate” for when the other family doesn’t need care (or is on vacation, etc). It always ends up with the nanny resentful that they’re being paid less, and the family who is receiving care resentful of having to pay more, because of factors outside of their control (the other family’s care needs). For this reason each family should pay their share rate at the guaranteed number of hours, all 52 weeks of the year. No “1-kid rate” or “1-family rate.” I guess my point is that whatever typical schedule and rate is agreed to, each family should pay at least their portion and the nanny should never make less that that. Additional hours would be additional pay, of course.”
“If two parent groups have completely different styles and expectations it’s a huge problem. Parents need to be on the same page as each other first.”
“I’ve seen problems discussed around sick kid policy. Both parties need to agree to what constitutes sick as in that kid stays home from the share or if the host kid how that is handled.”
“Make sure families have similar parenting styles. Have a clear sick policy before you even start. Guaranteed hours for sure. Figure out the food situation. Are there big dietary differences? Who is providing what food? etc.”
“Make sure appropriate supplies are available – a triple stroller saved my life in my last share! Ensuring big changes are discussed before going into motion – i.e. potty training. Having lots of extra supplies available at the hosting house so there’s not too much to pack up each day. Check with nanny before making big purchases – the stroller at my last share was so hard to lift into my car! I also need special narrow car seats to accommodate my available car space. Discussing what will happen if one family leaves the share – who will be responsible for finding a replacement family? What is the timeline for finding a new family? What rate will the nanny receive if there is lag time in between one family leaving and the next joining? Location – will it switch, and if so, is the commute doable for everyone?”