When I babysat as a teenager in the 1980s, the world was a simpler place. I’d read the kids a couple of stories, put them to bed early, and spend the rest of the evening watching TV and eating sugar cereal
. At the end of the night, I’d walk home with a few bucks in my pocket, happy to have a little extra cash.
Boy, have times changed. Inflation aside, not only are children’s caregivers these days charging higher hourly rates than their counterparts two decades ago did, but they have also come to expect a bevy of additional benefits that are comparable to what some corporations offer their employees: health insurance
, paid time off, and reimbursement for auto insurance and gas.
As many parents know, the stress of covering these costs is particularly pronounced in our current recession. Fulfilling all of a nanny’s requirements threatens to suck the life right out of your bank account and leaves you wondering whether it might actually cost you less
to stop working full-time, stay home with your children, and forgo professional childcare altogether. But since most employed people know it’s foolish to look a gift horse in the mouth during the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression
, more and more parents are turning to nanny sharing, also known as share care, as a less costly alternative to private caregivers. While coordinating share care may require a little more work from you up front, the payoff makes it well worth your time.
Share care is an arrangement between two or more families who hire a single caregiver to look after their children at the same time. The trend was born of necessity in the 1980s, when more and more families began to need two incomes to cover their living expenses; as the number of stay-at-home parents in the U.S. decreased, Americans’ need for professional childcare increased so much that demand for nannies began to exceed the supply. In recent years, share care’s popularity has exploded as the cost of living has risen, nannies have become pricier, and the U.S. economy has weakened.
A number of key factors determine which families are ideal candidates for share care. Parents who have similar work schedules, compatible child-rearing philosophies, and children who are roughly the same age are optimally suited to the arrangement. Some nanny-sharing families are friends, but more often the parents have never even met and find each other through online resources. San Francisco resident Emily Stamm, the mother of a one-year-old, found her share-care partners on Craigslist. Lindsay Snyder, who also lives in San Francisco and has a five-month-old, met hers through her neighborhood’s parenting listserv. For both women, the nanny-sharing collaboration evolved naturally. Snyder recalls, “A local mom posted a note stating that she was in search of a share-care arrangement for her daughter. They lived nearby and her daughter was the same age as mine, so our two families met for coffee. As we chatted about our parenting styles and our hiring criteria for a nanny, we appeared to be on the same page, so we decided that we would make a good team.” Stamm and her husband met with their prospective partners one evening “and we just talked,” she says. “We covered a lot of topics: our jobs, how we met our mates, our birth experience, adjusting to parenthood, the nannies we had interviewed so far … Within an hour, we had a good sense of each other.”
Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too