"The running joke is when you find out you're pregnant the first call you make is to a daycare." According to Emily Klinger this is the reality for working parents trying to balance career and child care in the Washington, D.C metro area. As the Director of Community Impact with Special Olympics, Klinger has a very demanding schedule, with long hours and regular international travel. So when Emily and her husband, Nick, began looking for safe, affordable child care for their son Charlie, now 20 months old, they began what they thought would be a difficult and arduous search. But, the couple did not have to look far because their solution was just a few feet away across the hallway, a nanny-share.

What is a Nanny-Share?

The concept of a nanny-share has gained increased popularity over the past several years, as the cost of child care increases, families are looking for more economical options. The typical arrangement with a nanny-share is the agreement between two families to share the services of a single nanny. Considering that full-time infant care in D.C. averaged $18,200 per year in 2010, according to the National Association of Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies, a nanny-share is often considered a more affordable option for child care. For Klinger, the cost effectiveness of a nanny-share was something that she considered to be very beneficial. She says, "I think it's a very attractive option for D.C. families because it is affordable." Additionally, Klinger knew that her son would receive individual attention from the nanny, while also getting the opportunity to socialize with a child his age.

Creating a Nanny-Share

For Klinger, she didn't have to look far to find a family who was interested in a nanny-share. She says it felt like "the pieces just aligned." Not only was the neighbors' son, Kai, just two weeks older than Charlie, but Klinger and her husband also found that they got along with the couple too. Klinger cautions that creating a nanny-share is not something to enter into without serious consideration. "I've had plenty of friends who thought this was going to be perfect. But, they realized that they wanted to hang onto their friendships and decided not to go into the nanny share." When you are considering creating a nanny-share there are several important things that should be part of the discussion, such as:

  • Whose house or apartment will host the nanny-share?

  • Will you have the nanny switch in-between your homes?

  • How much are you going to pay the nanny?

  • Are your parenting philosophies similar?

  • How much notice should a family give to the other family when considering leaving the nanny-share?

Klinger agrees that having an honest discussion from the very beginning is the best way to create an effective nanny-share. She describes how during the nanny-share a situation occurred where the other family expressed that they were looking into day care options for their son. Klinger says, "It was more of a joint conversation, and I think that's because of the relationship we built." She is also adamant that families should always be up-front about any issues that may arise because leaving those feelings unexpressed can create a larger issue. This also includes discussions about any concerns you are having with the nanny. She says, "There were certain things that the nanny was doing that I really didn't want, and the other couple would reinforce that because we were alternating between our homes."

Building a Community

The feeling of an extra support system is also a benefit for many families who enter a nanny-share. For Klinger she felt less strained trying to balance work and family. Even the worry about making it home in time to relieve the nanny was alleviated. She says, "With the communication the four of us shared we knew who was going to be getting home first … the moms I know now have to leave by a certain time, and that's really challenging for their careers and their flexibility."

Through the nanny-share Klinger also saw the positive effect it had on Charlie. Kai was slightly ahead in his gross motor steps. Klinger says, "Charlie was always watching and I think that motivated him." She also saw the special bond that Charlie formed with the other family, "it is like the benefits of a second set of parents so to speak," she says. Overall, she found that Charlie was more comfortable with people because he had more opportunities to socialize. Not only did he have the opportunity to interact with his nanny, but she would often meet other nannies at community events, and Klinger adds that Charlie also became comfortable around those nannies, too.

Despite their love of the nanny-share and living in D.C., earlier this year Klinger and her husband, who works for the State Department, were asked to relocate to Juarez, Mexico. Though it was difficult to leave behind the family with whom they grew so close and their community of support, they couldn't give up the opportunity.

But, as they prepare to live in Juarez for the next two years, Klinger has been trying to recreate a community similar to the one her family enjoyed while living in D.C. She organizes weekly playdates, and hopes to continue to meet more families with children who are Charlie's age. And despite the fact that Charlie now has a single nanny, Klinger is already looking into creating a network among the nannies in the community. She says, "It won't be a nanny-share, but it will be three nannies and three babies together, so it still presents that community feel."