When first-time mom Nicole planned to return to work as director of strategic accounts for a commercial interiors manufacturer in New York City, she figured a nanny for her three-month-old son would be the best fit for her and her husband’s schedule.
Organized and poised, Nicole had begun to do research for a responsible caregiver almost as soon as she became pregnant. The first thing she did was go online but quickly became overwhelmed by the myriad childcare apps, websites, as well as the cost.
The second thing she did was call Bonnie, another new mom about to return to work as a food and beverage manager, who was also actively searching for childcare for her six-month-old son. The moms share a zip code. They share a nearly decade-old friendship. And they share something else — family: they are sisters-in-law.
When Bonnie expressed a similar frustration, it was her brother, Nicole’s husband, who applied logic: It’s the same problem — there should be one solution. So the families added something else to the share list: a nanny.
I interviewed the two career-committed moms at Bonnie’s home, and the signs of a close-knit family were apparent. It was a Sunday, and aside from their husbands and babies —affectionately referred to as bro-cuz — several cousins, aunts and friends had gathered. Not to mention three small dogs that barked in syncopated rhythm every time someone entered the room. Still, Bonnie and Nicole were unflappable.
They were co-hosting an informal presentation as consultants for a line of safe beauty products, a side venture they both agree was a result of their nanny share situation. “We see each other every night, and after the nanny’s shift, which is 9:00 a.m.. to 5:30 p.m., we take the boys to the park or a nearby restaurant. And we talk about everything,” Nicole confessed as we sat down to chat.
The sisters-in-law strike the perfect balance of serene and spirited, so when Nicole’s college friend first pitched the beauty sales idea to them, they had nothing to lose…and discovered something else to share.
The nanny share evolved as a solution to a mutual problem. What was your original childcare vision?
Bonnie: Originally, my mom, who lives about 15 minutes away, agreed to babysit part time during the days that my husband and I worked the same hours. But three weeks prior to my return to work, my schedule changed and our hours became less flexible. In retrospect, that vision wasn’t realistic. It would have placed an enormous responsibility on my mom and added pressure to her own schedule.
Nicole: I was going back to work around the same time as Bonnie and after exploring all the options, was most comfortable with employing a nanny to work in my home. That’s when it occurred to us that a nanny share might work.
How did you go about the search? What special qualities and certifications did you require for a nanny share?
B: We were lucky because Nicole had found a few candidates via Care.com, word of mouth, and the doorman — whom she liked. She set up a meeting and we were all in agreement about the one nanny that met our needs the best. She was CPR certified for babies. She was open to discuss past experiences handling emergencies and was thoughtful about what she would do in a hypothetical situation.
N: She came highly recommended from another family in the neighborhood who was moving out of state. A mommy recommendation is better than any résumé.
Does the nanny split the time equally between your two homes? Do you have duplicates of everything? How did that impact your budget in both positive and negative ways?
B: Yes, the nanny splits the time equally and we alternate weeks at each other’s apartment. We do have duplicates of some things in each apartment or different versions with the same function. We realize as the boys grow that we need to make parallel changes both necessary and fair for both sets of parents.
We had to fast track the baby-proofing once we saw that my son was so active. That meant we had to baby proof Nicole’s apartment, too. And it’s usually the nanny who brings these things to our attention. For example, when it was time to adapt our strollers into double strollers, Nicole’s model was much easier to maneuver and had room for the diaper bag.
N: Since the boys are so close in age, we really have a mindset like mothers of twins. Researching parents’ reviews of strollers that accommodate a second seat would have made that change smoother.
As far as the budget, the nanny’s total salary is over 30% more than the going rate for one child. The two families split that total in half. Even with the added cost for duplicate items, we figured that our savings surpass the cost of what each family would have to pay two nannies each week.
What is a typical day like for the boys? What nanny rules did you set at the beginning? Does the nanny do other tasks, such as housekeeping or care for a pet?
B: The boys’ eating and sleeping schedule dictate the day. My son takes longer naps, so we adjusted the schedule in order for the boys to go outside in the morning. We listen to the nanny’s suggestions, too. We don’t wear shoes in our homes anymore. We all agree it is a good decision for cleanliness reasons, especially as the boys begin to be more mobile. The nanny does help out with light housekeeping that's baby-related, such as cleaning bottles, taking out the trash, and occasionally doing the boy’s laundry and bedding.
N: Weather permitting, she takes my dog out for a walk once a day.
About rules, we are extremely conscientious about keeping a tidy home. Our nanny is mindful of that, too, even with two boys and our mini schnauzer. She is also cautiously respectful to maintain the lines between the two separate residences. For instance, the nanny got a call from the doorman who said that my brother-in-law’s friend was coming up to see the babies. She was in our home that week so she played it safe and refused to let the friend in. Later, we laughed heartily about it — our dear friend not as much — but at the core appreciated her gut reaction. I guess that’s an unspoken rule: To think like a mother with safety first.
Speaking of your partners, has parenting been a 50-50 relationship so far? Who does the nanny call if there's an issue at home?
B: My husband and I have a 60-40 spread on our end. (laughs.) He’s a great father and very involved in all aspects of our son’s life. He stays in touch with the nanny and so do I. She group texts us photos and videos of the boys daily.
My work day begins at 7 a.m. so my husband handles mornings on his own, gets our son fed, dressed, and then drops him off at Nicole’s apartment if it's their week. In the evening, I pick up our son. I prep all the baby food and formula, clean his bottles and toys, restock the diaper bag, and do the laundry. In an emergency, I believe the nanny would contact me first. My husband thinks so, too.
N: Although my husband initiated the nanny share idea, drafted, and revised the contract — we pay the nanny on the books — ours is more like 70-30 when it comes to the daily baby tasks. I’m still breastfeeding, pumping breast milk at work, storing and freezing breast milk. (She pauses.) Maybe it’s 90-10 (laughs.)
But in all seriousness, we are four parents committed to each other. We have to be flexible and honest as couples in order to make the nanny share work. We have to be open and really listen to what the other partner is saying, ebb and flow off each other, to stay balanced.
How has the nanny share helped you as working moms? In what ways has the nanny share experience been advantageous for your babies?
B: The share definitely helped to pave a smoother transition back to work. We know that the other mom is there and it’s a nice feeling of security. Sharing the emotions of going back to work and the whole roller coaster of feelings once the ride began has allowed us to vent, show support, and figure out things together.
N: For our babies, being together every day is the best advantage of all. They have the benefit of sharing a relationship that is the closest to a sibling. They are each other’s first friend. They play side by side and learn together. And they will eventually fight. Other than twins, there is nothing quite like this experience.
What is the contingency plan if one family has to cancel for a day?
B: Both families pay their share to the nanny at the end of each week. If one family has to cancel we would still pay her. That's in the contract. If the nanny needs to come late or is sick, then she would make up the time. If one family needs the nanny for overtime, then that family would pay her. Of course, in a pinch, we call upon the services of someone else we share: Grandma.