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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.
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
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:
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
2. Lay out a
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.
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.
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