I’ve heard a couple of friends mention nanny share recently. What’s up?

That’s not surprising. Nanny share is becoming increasingly popular, with plenty of stories of families delighted with their arrangement and new ways to find a family to share with.

Okay… but what is nanny share exactly?

Nanny share is a form of childcare where, instead of having their own nanny, the children of two local families are looked after by one nanny at the same time.

So the babies are together all day?

That’s right. The babies – or toddlers, or older children – are taken care of together, usually in one of the family’s homes.  This means parents save around 30% on the normal cost of a nanny, the nanny gets paid more, and the children get to spend time together.

Right, got it. So it’s a way to bring down the cost of childcare?

Yes – for many families, it’s a way of affording a nanny.

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What’s so great about a nanny?

So many things!

Firstly, nanny care is amazing for children. It promotes secure attachment, which is the foundation for later mental health, and it means care can be totally tailored to the children’s needs. If a child is feeling a bit ill, they can have a quiet chilled day. Full of energy? They can go to the park. Kept the parents awake all night? The nanny can move nap times around to improve the situation. Run out of nappies? The nanny will pick some up on the way home from the park.  Kid loves animals? The nanny can frequent a local city farm. Nasty cough? The nanny can sort out the doctor’s appointment and take care of the child from start to finish. Language delay? The nanny can do some research on strategies to help the toddler develop, and focus lots of attention on the child’s linguistic needs. In short, nannies offer tailored, personal attention.

I get it. Great for kids. And for parents?

Also amazing. A good nanny brings calm and order to a household.  Parents can text to say they’re running late, they can have the nanny babysit in the evenings, they can ask the nanny to take over many of the ‘nursery duties’ like sorting out the kids’ clothes and toys. They don’t need to take a day off suddenly if the child is sick, and all those little things the nanny does for the kids means they feel like they’re getting their own lives back under control.   

Hah! ‘Under control’ is not the way I would describe my life right now. Okay, I can see why people want nannies.  

Obviously however, nannies do come at a cost. In London, an experienced nanny can cost £35,000-40,000 per year including all the taxes.

Whoah, that’s a lot.

I know. It can be even more for the really top ones.

So nanny share is a way to afford a great nanny?

Exactly. It takes about a third off the cost.

A third? Why not half?

Nannies tend to get paid more for doing nanny share. 

Ah.

But nanny share isn’t just about a more affordable nanny. It also has extra benefits for the kids.

More benefits than what you’ve already said?

Yes, extra ones! Nanny share means that the kids get to be with another kid most of the time. And studies show that growing up alongside another child is great for children’s emotional and social development. Children learn to share, take turns, and resolve conflict by having another child around, just as they would in a natural family grouping. Even for babies, there are linguistic and cognitive benefits of being with another baby.

Okay, brilliant. I want one.  Maybe. 

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How does nanny share work again? I mean, what does it actually feel like day to day?

Well, there are a few decisions to make. The first is which family to share the nanny with. A good family match is one that is local (ideally within walking distance or a short trip), with a roughly similar start date (within a month or so) and roughly similar needs for days and times.

Only ‘roughly similar’?

Yes. Nannies can spend some time looking after children on a ‘sole care basis’ so the start date and days/times don’t need to match up exactly. Just be aware that ‘sole care’ is a bit more expensive so any family having ‘sole care’ will need to make sure their budget will stretch to it.

Okay. And I need to make sure we get on with the other family, too?

On a day to day basis you might not have much to do with the other family, to be honest. You’ll just say a quick hello and goodbye – so you don’t need to agonise over the choice. But it does definitely help to have similar attitudes to what’s important in a nanny and the kind of things you’d like your children to do all day.   

Many people share with a family they already know, perhaps a family from antenatal classes or a neighbour. This can be great as you already know you get on. Others meet a new family specifically in order to share.

Got it. And we have to agree where the nanny share will actually happen, right?

Yes! That’s another important decision. Some nanny shares are hosted entirely at one of the family’s houses. This especially happens if one of the families has a house which is much bigger or has a garden.

I don’t know whether I’d want to host or not.

That’s understandable!  Hosting a nanny share has pros and cons. Some families love it as it makes dropoff/pickup very easy in the morning.

Ah yes.  I can imagine being able to leave the house in the morning with the baby half dressed and halfway through breakfast is a wonderful benefit.

Indeed. It’s also great having someone in the house to receive deliveries or be there when the plumber comes. Other families choose to not host as they like the idea that all the mess of children is contained in someone else’s house.

Hmmm. I see. Tough choice. Can you split the hosting? Like, a week-about sort of thing?

Yes, many families do this. Some do alternative weeks or months. Others keep it fluid and respond to events. Sometimes it makes sense to start the day in one place and end it somewhere else, for example if there’s a baby group near one of the houses. This is the kind of thing that you can discuss with a potential family match when you meet.

Okay, great. What else?

Of course the biggest decision of all is who to employ as your nanny.

I’m a bit daunted by that, to be honest.

Many people are. And actually, this is where having another family can really help. Lots of parents find it comforting to have two families’ input when choosing a nanny.

It would be good to have another point of view. As long as we agree on what we actually want, of course.

Yes, that’s important. Talking upfront about what is important to you in a nanny will make sure you are all aligned.

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I understand the benefits of a nanny, but most of my friends sent their children to nursery. How does nanny share compare to nursery?

Again, pros and cons. A great local nursery is great for families that primarily wish to keep costs as low as possible, can drop off/pick up every day without fail at 6pm (or whenever the nursery closes), and can cope with sickness exclusions and the nursery’s own holiday periods.

What do you mean, sickness exclusions?

If your child is sick, the nursery won’t take them either that day or the next (48 hours) – even if their runny poo is due to something non-contagious, like teething.

My friend’s son was teething for months.

Yes, the nursery sickness rules can be really painful for some families.

Especially if their work is not flexible. Okay, what else?

Care ratios at nurseries tend to be higher (up to eight 3-year-olds per carer) and nursery workers tend to be paid close to or at minimum wage. 

Whether children take to nursery really depends on the child. Some children thrive in the hubbub of a busy nursery, while others are overwhelmed

Okay.  And … what about childminders?   

Childminders can be fantastic. They usually offer a personal and flexible service, with fewer children per adult and a more home-like environment than a nursery. They may be able to pick up school aged siblings from school, too. Unlike a nanny, you have to go to their house, rather than them coming to your home, which can make a daily difference to your quality of life.

You don’t get that beautiful thing where you can walk out the door in the morning leaving your baby covered in avocado.

That’s right. You don’t.

And the cost? How does that compare?

Childminder costs vary, but are usually cheaper than either nursery or nanny.

And what about sickness? See, I’m learning the right questions to ask!

Well done. Childminders’ sickness policies vary, with some taking in sick children and others sending them home as a nursery would.  

Okay. So in summary, it sounds like childminders can be a great option.

Definitely, they can be fantastic for many families. The biggest challenge is that there aren’t nearly enough of them, and the good ones ar[e often heavily oversubscribed. 

Gah.

Sorry.

Okay, so you’ve told me loads of great things about nanny share. It can’t be perfect though. What are its disadvantages?

Great question. Obviously, no childcare solution is perfect.  With nanny share, it can be a challenge to find a great family to share your nanny with, and to agree all the little details to get started. There might not actually be a family match for you nearby. Depending on where you live, nanny share is also likely to be a bit more expensive than nursery and childminder options. 

For many families, though, it’s the perfect balance of flexibility, child development, and value for money.

You’ve given me a lot to think about.

Sorry.

No, it’s great!

Well, it’s all food for thought. And if you’d like to see what kind of family you might match with for nanny share, check out this free family finder tool.

Find a local family to nanny share with using our free tool