So what do you need to think about and look for when you’re looking for a share?
Kids ages – There isn’t a magic answer as to what ages are best together. You’ve got three ways to go really, either the kids are the same age, a few months apart or a greater amount apart and there are pros and cons to each.
With kids the same age it’s the equivalent of having twins. This could be great, the kids will be on the same developmental level as each other and you can reap the benefits of sharing diapers, clothes, toys and more. They’ll likely nap at similar times for similar lengths and eat the same foods at the same points. However, it’s like having twins, two kids at the exact same age can be a lot to handle, especially once they start moving on their own and once they start climbing it can be exhausting.
With kids a few months apart say up to 6 months (our situation) one kid is more advanced than the other. This is great for the younger child, it will definitely push them to learn faster. This little age difference may seem negligible but at 3 and under, it can really help. One is walking while the other isn’t yet, so the walker can get the attention he needs while the other one entertains herself with toys and rolling around. By the time the second starts walking, (often) the first will be stable on his feet and the nanny can more easily handle them both. As for food, diapers, clothes and such, a lot of it can be shared and some can’t. Toys are easy, as is food for us, but we have periods when they wear the same size diapers followed by periods when they don’t.
With kids a greater distance apart in age can be tricky. The older one can usually move about with no problem, they can do things for themselves while the younger gets some more specialized attention, but this could seem unevenly balanced. There will be a period where naps may not align and kids will be cranky. This is part of what made one share not work, the kids were almost a year apart. The other child became a single napper and couldn’t sleep while on the go, while our Bot was a double napper and could but not for long periods. Many days were spent indoors except for an hour or so they could squeeze in an outing and neither child got the good rest they needed. Nobody was happy with that and while we tried, we just couldn’t seem to get it to work. There are benefits to this arrangement, I’m sure, but unfortunately I’m not well versed in it. So anyone reading this that want’s to chime in, please do!
Location – Location brings up two different points. On one hand it’s the distance between the share, on the other it’s the physical space the share will happen in. So let’s tackle them as such.
Distance is a big thing, in a city a mile can be forever in the morning and evening commute, in the country it seems somehow less (to me at least). If you use public transit you really want to consider the way you’ll get from home to share to work and vice versa. If you drive it likely won’t be as big a deal, but do a trial run the same way you would if you were buying a home. Another thing that comes up is where the nanny lives. The further away the nanny is, the more complicated it will likely be as well. I’m not saying the nanny’s location should be a deal breaker but if the nanny lives in the suburbs and you in the city it could be a big complicator to factor in.
The space the kids are in is one of the most important parts of the share. Is there room for two kids to run amok? And what about more than two (our nanny has made friends with a woman and her child of the same age and has them over often). Is there a designated play area? (This helps like I can’t even describe whether you’re sharing or not.) Is there outside space? I’ll be honest, the fact that our share family has an outdoor space that is totally protected and shaded is fantastic, they can set up a kiddie pool for hot days, let them go crazy when full of energy and frankly I love they can wiggle their toes in the grass too. The share where the other family decided to go solo lived on the third floor of a walk-up. I didn’t even think about that when we were planning on sharing, but after they called it quits I was relieved. I couldn’t imagine Nanny M having to lug 2 infants one in a car seat and the other crawling already up to and down from the third floor. To be honest, I’m so glad that share didn’t work out.
Hosting & Necessities – This is different than location, there are a few different ways you can handle hosting, you either do it all at one or the other’s house or you mix it up between the two one way or another. Some do it weekly, some monthly. If you do host at one person’s place only that person usually pays a bit less in order to cover cleaning, wear and tear, and bills – yes you will see your bills increase when you host. You also want to discuss necessities. How do you want to handle food, diapers, medicine, toys? Do you bring a bag of stuff for the week or do you count it even and just use what’s at each other’s house. If you have kids under two you will need some duplicates. 2 places for kids to sleep and 2 highchairs to eat at. If one is mobile and the other isn’t you need to baby proof before you start the share. If you need help, ask the other family to come over and give problem points you can also ask the nanny.
Parenting styles – Talk about your parenting styles with the other family and with the nanny, you need to be on the same page. You need to have rules and beliefs that align with each other. The first family we talked to clearly had no problem plunking their child down in front of a tv and ignoring her. That never would have worked for us. If you get in a situation where one family is extremely over protective while the other is what I’d consider pretty normal. The rules of the one set will prevent the child of the other to get the attention he deserves. It also could prevent them both from getting out and discovering the world and simply getting fresh air.
Vacation & Sick Time – There are a billion ways to handle these and a lot of details to think about. You want to discuss what happens if the kids are sick, the nanny gets sick, how to handle the family vacation time, the nanny’s vacation time and how to align all three (if possible).
Hang out – One thing you might want to think about as well is hanging out. Try and arrange some outings or cookouts or whatever with your share family, these are people you will hopefully be with for a few years of your life and your kids will likely become very close, so becoming friends with your share family will not only give you the added bonus of friendship, but if you’re like we are and in a city with no family and not a lot of people to lean on for help, you could become each other’s back-up sitters for date nights as well, and who wouldn’t like that?
Did I miss anything? Let me know here and help some other parents out!