Share Care Part II – The Partnership: Choosing the Families in the Share Care

Initially, a share care seems like it should be a very straight-forward and attractive alternative to hiring a nanny just for your own family.  In general, if two families split one nanny, then for each family all the costs should get split in half too.

Sounds simple, right?  Share care arrangements can work well, but potential problems can often arise among families with different schedules or different parenting requirements, styles or needs.  Here in our second ‘share care’ blog post, we’d like to highlight some of the important issues that we see arise in a share care situations and should be considered at the outset.

One way to look at it is this:  At one end of the spectrum, if your family hires its own nanny, you will have all the complete control and get to make all the decisions.  At the other end of the spectrum, if you were to try to combine enough families into one share care group, then you would essentially be a part of a private day care arrangement, and you would need to have maximum flexibility to get the benefits.  So, if you’re going to do a share care, somewhere in between those two extremes you should be able to find a good balance that meets your needs.

So at the outset, the two important questions to address are:

1.     How many families should be in our share care?  More families means greater cost savings for each family, and also greater flexibility in case any one family decides to leave the share care group, but it also means generally greater complexity on things like arranging schedules and making decisions, and also a need for greater flexibility and willingness to compromise by each individual family.  Our family started a share care group with our in-laws.  We started with three families, and over time, some families left and others joined.  At its peak, the group had a total of five families involved, though the group broke up shortly after that.  Our sense is that two or three families works well, and four is probably the practical limit.

2.    Who should be in our share care?  In general, the greater the overlap or similarity there is among the parenting styles, schedules, kids ages, etc. among the share care families, the greater the likelihood of success.  Of course, issues or even disagreements will inevitably arise, so just as important is the willingness and ability of each family in the share care to communicate, to amicably work through issues, and to compromise.

My husband and I decided to do a share care with our two kids by partnering with our in-laws.  We had three families, all the kids were of very similar ages, and they all got along really well with each other.  We had several meetings of all three families to try to hammer out some of the details.  Going into it, we all knew that no matter how deep any disagreements, we would still have to see each other at the holidays!  And even with that going for us, it still felt like we all had to be patient and flexible.

In the next posting we’ll talk more about some of the specific issues the share care group should talk about at the outset and be prepared to deal with as time goes on.  At a minimum, however, as you start to organize your share care group, here are some of the things to ask yourself (and your potential partners):

–    Can we as a group talk about money issues?  Money will tend to play at least some role in most issues that come up.  This will range from the obvious (how much to offer a nanny, how much of a raise to give, how much of a year end/holiday bonus to pay, if any), to the less obvious (how to split costs where the number of hours used by each family differs, or even varies from day to day), or the difficult to quantify (how, if at all, to account for the cost of using a family’s home).

–    Can we as a group talk about parenting issues?  Opinions and beliefs about how to raise children are going to be very important to each family in the share care, and will greatly influence what tasks and responsibilities a nanny can or should handle when caring for your kids.  Some random examples: How should discipline be handled?  How much reading?  How much out-door play?  Is TV allowed?  If so, what are the limits?  What kind of food is OK?  Is snacking OK? Will the nanny be allowed to drive the kids around?  Can the nanny bring her own child?  What projects or activities are OK or not OK?

The key to moving through these issues will always be communication, flexibility and compromise, and one of the most important factors for the success of the share care group will be to partner with other families where you believe you will all be able to communicate and compromise with one another, and where all will be willing to be flexible and accommodating when needed.