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5 Ways to Make a Nanny Share Work

My then nearly-4-year-old son began preschool last year. He is my eldest, and it was probably more stressful for me than him. I think it's probably always the case when anyone's first child starts school but, in my case, I felt especially anxious because I am an expat.

I live in the Netherlands , and my son was born here. He started going to daycare at 6 months—so I could work, sure, but also so he could learn Dutch (we speak only English at home).

The school he attends has irregular dismissal hours: on Mondays and Tuesdays, he is there until 2:45. On Wednesday, he's there until 12:15. Thursday and Friday, school ends at noon.

I had enrolled him in an after-school program two days a week. It meant he stood on the schoolyard in a special yellow vest along with the other children attending the after school that day. The people from the program came to collect him.

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I loved his regular school but really was uncomfortable with the after-school. I'm sure I was being overly sensitive, but it seemed really busy—many children in a small space, anywhere from 4 to 12 years old. A few times, when I picked him up, he was watching television. Every time he looked bleary-eyed and exhausted.

He had found a new best friend in school who, luckily, also attended the after-school program on the same day. They only played with and talked to each other, according to the after-school supervisors. And I got to chatting with the mother of my son's friend who shared the same apprehensions I did.

So the idea was born: why not just share a nanny for these afternoons? I sent it to her via text, in a way that could have been taken as a joke or a real proposition. I didn't know this woman then really and didn't want to seem pushy.

But she loved it. So, for the last year—and now during the summer holidays—we have shared a wonderful nanny, and it has worked out beautifully. The boys are happy, we are happy that they are getting more attentive care from a woman with a background in early childhood development. Miraculously it's cheaper, and now my son's friends mom is my friend, too.

Here, I believe, is the secret to our success:

1. Choose wisely

We found a wonderful candidate and interviewed her separately and together. We took her out for coffee at a child-friendly café, so she could watch the boys play and interact together, and we could see if there was a click.

2. Lay out a specific plan

Don't assume anything will just work itself out. Decide where your nanny will be with the children and at whose house. In our case, we wanted to alternate our own homes rather than have the boys go to our nanny's.

3. Have a contract with your nanny

Rather than keeping things vague, we wanted our nanny to know exactly what rules and expectations we had. In our contract, we stated what the boys could and could not eat or drink, that they could only watch television in rare cases if they were very tired (and, even then, max 30 minutes), that we wanted the nanny to engage them in arts and crafts and that they could go outside to a playground under her supervision. We also listed the kinds of behaviors we would like her to discipline and preferably how.

4. Have a contract with each other

Because sharing a nanny is a mutual agreement, and arrangements for your children are very personal and important, we also drafted a contract between ourselves. This included what to do if the nanny was sick, as well as agreeing that either of us would give two weeks' notice if we would not need the nanny on a given day and that, if we did not do so, we would still be responsible for 100 percent of our contribution.

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5. Make plans for the nanny and children

We didn't want our nanny—or our boys—to become bored and therefore lose motivation. We arranged for the boys to attend a six-week after school theatre class, which the nanny brought them to and from (it was only one hour). When that ended, we put them in an after-school gym class so they could play with other children. But we have also asked her to bring them to the library or to the beach. Give your nanny ideas and your children experiences.

Image via Getty Images

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