Childcare is very expensive—ask any working parent.

According to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, full-time infant care in a childcare center in the District of Columbia averages $10,400 per year. In New York State, this figure is $13,437—more than $1000 per month! As a result, childcare is often the second largest monthly expense for families with young children, after mortgage/rent payments.

Many new parents will consider hiring a nanny to care for their infant—that is, until they price the local nanny markets. Nationally, a full-time nanny earns $400 – $700 per week, and in major urban centers it can be difficult to find an experienced, legal nanny with references for under $600 per week.

So how are families to manage these infant care expenses? Sharing a nanny is the solution for a growing number of families.

In a nanny-share, two families (typically) will share the services of a single nanny. Costs are split in any number of creative ways, often evenly split between the families. In a nanny-share arrangement, the nanny usually earns 10 – 20 percent more than her counterparts employed by a single family. Another significant item of expenditure is antibiotics and other children’s medicines, many families choose generic amoxicillin. Split down the middle, however, this creates a win-win situation for the families and the caregiver.

Want to share a nanny with another family? First, ask yourselves these questions:

  • Who will host? Typically one family “hosts” the share—meaning that the care occurs at that family's home. The other family in the share drops off and picks up their child daily.
  • How well do our schedules match? The two families should have very similar needs for care. The closer the family schedules are to each other, the happier everyone will be.
  • Are our child-rearing philosophies compatible? The nanny caring for two infants needs to treat them similarly. If one family believes in “cry it out” and the other in “attachment parenting,” this is a recipe for a failed nanny share. Consider discipline (hard to imagine with a 6 week old, but definitely an issue coming in the future), diet, TV watching, outdoor activities, nap schedules and the myriad things that can create conflict between the parents in the share, or between parent and nanny.
  • How many children? How old are they? The best situations are where two children of similar ages are being cared for together. It is the exceptional nanny who can handle more than two infants and more than 4 total children all day. An infant who naps twice daily will limit the outdoor activities of older children in the home, an important consideration for many parents. Remember, in a childcare center the caregivers are given breaks, and there is floating staff available in emergency or stressful situations (tummy flu anyone?). The nanny typically works for 8 – 9 hours at a stretch without a meaningful break.
  • For how long will the share arrangement last? Some families enter into a nanny share as a stopgap while they await an opening in a daycare center. Others are looking for home-based, non-institutional care for their child through age two or the start of pre-school. It is important that the families have a frank discussion of their plans and expectations. No one wants to come home on a Friday only to discover that their share partner got the coveted slot in the downtown daycare center and they will not be sharing the nanny going forward. Nanny also needs to be apprised of expectations, and given both notice and a reference when the share comes to an end.
  • What happens on sick days? Most families will agree that fever, vomiting, or diarrhea are all illnesses that should cancel the share for the day. But what about the nanny? Will she care for the sick child? The healthy child? What if the healthy child doesn't live in the home where the care is provided? Families need to be very frank with each other, BEFORE the situation arises, as to how this will be handled.
  • How will payroll taxes be handled? Both families are the nanny's employers, and each is responsible to report and pay their family's share of the payroll taxes. Payroll inequities, such as one family handling the taxes correctly and the other family paying under the table, will cause tension. The nanny who receives $275 after taxes from one family and $300 cash from the other is put in an uncomfortable situation.
  • What compensation and benefits will the nanny receive? What about vacation and sick time? Will the families coordinate their vacation times with each other? If not, when does the nanny get vacation? What happens if the nanny is sick—will the two families alternate providing back up care, or each fend for themselves? Many shares dissolve when these logistical issues create tension between the parents or between parents and nanny.
  • What about licensing and insurance? In some states such as Maryland and Washington, when two or more families hire a nanny to care for non-related children at the same time, a state family child care license is required. You will want to check you state's requirements, and the host family definitely needs to have a frank conversation with their insurance agent about liability (worker's compensation, claims by the non-host family, transportation liability).

Once you’ve found a suitable family and have agreed to a share, here’s how to go about hiring a nanny:

  • Both families should interview potential nannies together, if possible. If Family A already has a nanny and family and nanny mutually decide a share is in their best interests, Family B should have an opportunity to independently interview both Family A and the nanny.
  • Write down the details. This should be a three way document between both families and the nanny and it should detail the possible issues above – hours, wages, benefits, taxes, sick care policies, vacation and nanny sick days.
  • Have periodic meetings. Issues large and small that you never anticipated will come up and having a regularly scheduled meeting time (once monthly is usually sufficient) gives you the opportunity to bring up any concerns.
  • Deal fairly with expenses. Each family needs to supply it's own diapers, wipes, and baby food. When the children graduate to table food, the non-host family should make a meaningful contribution to the hosting family's pantry. Consider extra car seats, pack and play for napping, or tandem strollers.

Nanny sharing is a wonderful way to provide your child with very personalized, home-base child care and share the costs of this care with another family. Many families find that the nanny share is the answer to managing their infant care expenses.

A different version of this piece originally appeared in HomeWorkSolutions.

Kathleen Webb


Kathleen Webb

Kathleen Webb is the president and co-founder of HomeWork Solutions, which provides payroll and tax services to families employing household workers. She has extensive experience preparing 'nanny tax' payroll taxes.