Things to consider when investigating if a shared nanny makes sense
For many Solo Moms, the issue of reliable child care is among the most pressing. Solo Moms are balancing parenthood and careers without backup. While this creates a beautiful, singular, and cherished relationship between Solo Mom and child, it can also create stress.
Stressors often are linked to work and other obligations into which children cannot be easily folded. The best way to manage this stress is to establish reliable, safe, and effective child care.
From a budgeting perspective, many Solo Moms consider day care the more viable option than hiring a nanny; however, it is not necessarily more expensive to share a nanny. If you are inclined toward using a nanny but think it is out of your price range, think again.
Typical hourly wages for a nanny will depend on your geographic location, but you can look at child-care websites for standard rates. Because some of these sites offer only a salary range, it is useful to ask other mothers what they pay their nannies so you have more specific numbers to go by. Calculate the number of hours you need, and do the math. If you find that you would be able to do a nanny share and are interested, ask around and see about finding a family that feels similarly. Plan to interview each other thoroughly.
Here is where it can get a bit more complicated. As a Solo Mom, you are going to need absolute reliability with schedules and firm commitments. Any family you partner with might need to, for example, commit to paying a nanny even when the family doesn’t need her (for example, when a child is ill and a parent opts to stay home). Depending on your agreed-upon terms, the nanny may need to be paid in full and promptly. Just make sure you take that into consideration and that the terms are clear up front before hiring a shared nanny.
Solo Moms often have less flexibility than two-parent families. It does not mean that single moms can’t be flexible in an emergency, but it is harder sometimes. Planning and scheduling in advance can be extremely helpful for both parties involved, as well as leaving a little room for the unexpected.
Any Solo Mom who is considering a nanny share should be certain that the family she partners with is aware of all that being a Solo Mom entails. Beyond that, it is useful to consider several philosophical and practical issues before committing to a nanny share.
If you are tempted to hire a nanny but are not quite sure, it is time to sit down with a glass of wine and a pen and paper. Think very carefully about how the idea of a shared nanny translates to the reality. Would you actually like sharing a nanny? This is a very personal, almost intimate, relationship. If you enjoy sharing in general and can compromise for real, then nanny sharing may be for you. If not, reconsider everything again very carefully before launching into a search for a family to partner with.
Play close attention to your particular and specific needs as a Solo Mom. Consider your schedule and how that would look from a sharing perspective. A nanny is, in a sense, like another mother. Bound by another family, would she be able to be flexible in a pinch? Would you? Would this be too disruptive to your child?
If you decide that you like this idea, consider how to find a family that might be open to a nanny share. Ask around, and see who you think would be a fit for your child. The children are likely to spend a good deal of time together—overlapping and sharing hours—so it is advisable to spend some time watching how they play together.
You should also share broad parenting philosophies. How do you feel about routine? Do you feel your child needs a routine to keep the rhythm of your family going? Or are you OK with a format that is less structured?
How do you feel about food and snacks? Are you wholly organic? Do you prohibit or minimize sugar? Or do you see no harm in the occasional Ho Ho? Any of these issues could be difficult to manage simultaneously for one person if parenting philosophies are not mostly aligned, so when you are considering your partnering family, be sure to ask.
When interviewing nannies, if you notice you and the other family repeatedly fail to agree on who is right for the children and why, that may be a red flag that the partnership is flawed upon entry. Be aware of these cues, and do your best to navigate the situation from the start to minimize problems later.
You will also want to agree on a benefits package and methods of payment. Make sure to agree that all hours will be covered per your agreement even if one or another family does not use the nanny, such as when a parent stays home with a sick child, as mentioned before.
As a Solo Mom, try to anticipate things that could come up and address them before they become a problem. Ask “What if?” questions. For example, what if one family is going on a winter beach vacation and wants to invite the nanny along for child care, what will the other family do?
There should be an agreement that changes to your schedule are addressed by the employers and never the nanny. The nanny is already walking a difficult line in fidelity to two families and two sets of children she wants to love without favoritism. Set her up for success by never putting her in the middle of any scheduling issue.
With communication and two willing parties, a nanny share can be a great and an economical solution for Solo Moms.
Curious how other Solo Moms solve child-care needs? Ask them in our Sister Chat section.
Tara Shafer is the cofounder of Reconceiving Loss, an online resource center for families coping with pregnancy and infant loss. She is a contributing blogger to the Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and BabyCenter. Her work has appeared in the New York Times and on National Public Radio. You can follow her on Twitter at @reconceivinglos.
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