Friends as Childcare Providers

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Working as a nanny for friends?

Sept 2008

Hi, a friend and I both gave birth last month. She will go back to work in two months, and I won't be working for at least another year. I do have a need for money, because my husband and I are living solely on his income (which, though nothing to sneeze at--bay area living is $$$). We are doing ok, but there is some financial strain. Perhaps knowing this, plus having the need for a nanny while she goes back to work, has prompted my friend and her husband to ask me to nanny for them 9-5, 5 days a week. I could bring my child, and watch the two babies together during the day. I would be close to their work, and my husband's work place--in fact, I could commute with my husband every day. There seem to be many benefits to accepting my friends' offer, but I have reservations. My husband and I are very close to these friends, and something about ''working'' for them seems strange to me. I can't put my finger on exactly what bothers me about this situation. On one hand, it seems I could make the most of being a stay-at-home mom this year, and on the other hand, I feel it would be slightly demeaning that my income would come from my friends. Another aspect is that I have no idea how much to charge, what the going rate is, or even if they would expect a discount because we are friends. Does anyone have a perspective on this that you can share? Thank you! Friend in Need?

I think you are smart for thinking about this proposition carefully, but I wouldn't steer clear of it simply because they are friends. I've worked for friends, and I hired a friend to take care of my daughter when I returned to work. Both situations worked beautifully for all concerned. If I were you, I would consider all the issues that would be relevant if you were going to work for people you didn't know: Is the situation going to be good for your baby? How much $$ is it worth to you ? (Do NOT give a ''discount'' because they are friends; they are already getting an added benefit in that they know you are trustworthy.) Are these people pretty easy going and supportive? Maybe you could even stipulate that you're willing to try it for a certain period of time, but reserve the right to make a change if it turns out to not work for you (offering of course to wait a bit until they find other arrangements). If your friends aren't willing to be flexible in that way with you, you might want to not get involved. Burr

I wouldn't do it. Especially if you're already having reservations. Mixing money or business with friends is always very very tricky. I have a small business and have had to learn the hard way that business and friends just don't mix. It's always a tough decision, but I think of it this way: what's more important, the friends or the money. I would let that be your guide. And if you're interested in being a nanny - post availability and be honest about your situation. I bet there's someone who would love to have you watch their kid. I found the person who watches my little boy this way. Don't ruin your friendship - not worth it.

If you can make do on one income, then I would try to do that...not because there is anything weird about making your income from nannying for friends or anyone. I just think that the first time Mom thing can be a little overwhelming...but also very special. The negatives to first time Mom of an infant are not going to be helped by working as a nanny. You are already going to be isolated enough without finding a job that makes you that more isolated. -anon

This is a tough one. It seems to me that, if you decide to do this, you need to be really clear about your expectations with your friends, so they don't take advantage of you by saying to themselves things like ''Oh, I can get home a little late -- my friend won't mind.'' Also, you should think a little bit about the characters of your friends. Do they tend to be very upright and responsible, or pretty laid back, or even slackers? I had a friend nanny for me (only 10 hours a week) when my son was an infant. And because she was a friend, I went out of my way to make sure she'd be a friend when the nanny thing was done: paid the going rate, picked my son up on time, called if something beyond my control happened -- in short, tried to be ultra-responsible. And it did work, beautifully -- I felt much better knowing the person my son was with, than I would have if I had to leave him with a stranger. If you think your friends would be like this, it might well work out. But if you think your friends might end up taking advantage of you, I would not do it. Karen

I think it's all in the attitude and expectations--yours and your friends'. My brother-in-law works as a ''manny'' for his best friends. They all feel as though the situation is a lifesaver: my brother-in-law finds it MUCH easier to exhaust three rambunctious boys each day (they mostly entertain each other) versus caring for my nephew alone; their friends trust my sister and brother-in-law completely and adore their parenting style, and are SO happy to have a loving, attentive man caring for their VERY energetic sons; all are thrilled at how close the boys have become; the extra money keeps my sister's household afloat and allows her husband to attend full-time and without financial strain to what he loves the most (his family and his art).

So, I guess I'm just saying that if you feel confident in your communication style and ability to express your needs and work things out, anything is possible. And as to $$$--they pay $18/hour for their two boys, $10 an hour when it's just one boy, and they also work out babysitting trade hours, though I don't know the details of that system. J.

My first baby was born right around the time that a good friend of mine had decided to go back to work and asked me to nanny for her 2 year old. I gotta say, it was one of the best experiences of my life!! I was very close to her little boy to begin with and the addition of my little guy was such a joy. We went to her house during the day (which was way better equiped for 2 kids) and did the normal little kid stuff and it was a very happy time for us. Choosing a nanny is a very difficult thing to do so I can't imagine a better candidate than someone I already know and trust. It really was a great situation. In order to protect our friendship, we had a standard nanny contract and negotiated it as any nanny/employer would (vacation. sick time, etc). And we priced it like a nanny share (did some reasearch as to the going rate for that) so I still made a fair wage. I wouldn't have done it unless it was equitable for BOTH of us. In the end, her kiddo went to preschool and I went back to being home with my son and, a few years later, we're still very good friends and enjoy how well our working relationship worked out and I got to contribute to our household income while still being with my baby. It can work!!

You won't be a stay at home mom if you nanny for you friend's baby. You stated that you would go to their house which would mean you would have to get you and your baby ready to go elsewhere for the whole day. That's not staying at home and enjoying your time with your baby. You will be working for them full time and they will have expectations. What will you do when your baby is sick? What will you do when the other baby is sick and you have to bring your baby there? There are lots of things to consider, but ultimately if you have a weird feeling about it, you should listen to your instincts. I know it's hard because you are thinking about the extra income, but you decided to take this time off and you may fully regret committing to this. anon


Problems with friend caring for my toddler

April 2007


I'm looking for advice about how to deal with a childcare situation with a good friend. I work one day per week, and my good friend (a SAHM) cares for my 20-month-old son for about five hours during that time. I pay her $40 each week. She has a 3 year old daughter of her own. Here's the question- My son comes home with some kind of injury almost every week. Two times, the injury has been fairly significant - scrapes and scabs and swollen bruises on his face. Granted, I know that kids this age trip and fall all the time. My son is pretty fearless,, so he's apt to get bumps and bruises easily. My friend always warns me about the incident before I pick up my child, but my concern is that it seems like the injury is usually predicated on her choice of attending to her own (older) child, rather than making sure mine in safe. Example - ''Danny fell off the slide today. I told him to wait at the top, because Maria wanted a snack, but he went ahead and tried to go down himself.'' Second example - ''Danny fell down the porch steps because he wanted to get to the pool, and I wasn't holding his hand because I was carrying Maria because she was cranky. He fell off the steps and scraped up his face.'' My friend's daughter is a VERY needy child, and my friend has a fairly lenient and (perhaps overly) attentive parenting style. Does it seem like she is prioritizing her own child's neediness over my son's safety? Do I talk to her about this? It feels really uncomfortable because she's a close friend. Do I casually find other childcare arrangements? Am I making too big a deal of this? Any advice? anon

You're not making too big a deal out of it. Don't talk to her about it. She's telling you what's happening and why. Find another caregiver who will give your 20 month old the attention and safety he needs. another mom

Rather than the symptoms you posted but the explanations your friend gave I would look for another care giver. Just because she's your friend doesn't mean she's prepared to care sufficiently for 2 children. It would be hard for me to do well and I think it's hard for your friend. Especially w/ mention of a pool, just don't take anymore risk. Anon

Find a new caregiver! It sounds like your friend has her hands full. And you are paying her less than you would pay for a nanny share. It seems like it's not a good fit, and it could end up in a bad accident. I think close friendships deserve honesty. anon

I'd suggest you find yourself another caretaker asap. Your friend has made it obvious as to who is her priority...Maria, Maria, Maria!! Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. You say your friend is ''lenient'' but ''over attentive,'' then I wonder why she's not as ''overly attentive'' to your child? Seems odd. If she's really a good friend, get out of this arrangement before your resentment destroys your relationship. If she can't watch your child from getting bruised and bumped for the time span of 5 hours one pathetic day a week, OMG ''forget it!!'' God knows what horrifying incident can loom in the future with this person who frankly doesn't entirely care for the safety of your child. Sad but true. I wouldn't leave any of my kids under her care with this weekly pattern you've described. Pay someone else pronto who is responsible, dependable, and really wants to take the time to get to know your child, care for him emotionally and physically, and spend quality time with him. Good luck!! Been There

Find someone else to take care of your child. end of story. concerned

Does your son get this banged up when you are with him? Or is it mostly when your friend is watching him? Ask yourself, if this person wasn't your friend first, if she was a paid nanny in a nanny share, would you put up with it?

Speaking kindly, I would say your friend can't handle two kids so you should look for other child care arrangements, especially if you want to retain the person as a friend. Speaking honestly, I would be alarmed. How much more serious do his bumps and scrapes need to get before your friend stops making excuses based on her daughter and takes proper care to watch both children responsibly? But I don't know your son and how physically adventurous he is. If he is very much so and her daughter is very needy, it may simply be a bad match. Either way, my advice is to separate the child care and the friendship. anon

It definitely seems like the reason for your child's injuries is your friend attending to her own child when yours is at the top of the slide, the steps, whatever. If I were you I would try to find other child care and try to save the friendship. I think you need to have an honest talk with her along the lines of ''Are you sure you don't mind watching my boy? Is it too much to handle the two kids at once?'' That will give her a chance to back out of it. Since it's only one day a week she can't be counting on the money that much and is probably just doing it as a favor to you. If she insists that it's no problem, just be honest and say you're worried about your boy getting hurt all the time. Then she can either resolve to keep a better eye on him or agree that you should find someone else to watch him. anon

i would agree that your friend/caregiver (and that seems to be the order of priority here) is putting her child first, even to the exclusion of common sense safety. i would never go further than arms reach with a 20mo on a slide. i would wait for him to go down (or take him off), then bring everyone inside. i would always hold the hand of a 20mo on stairs, or if he refused it i would stay in front with a hand ready at his trunk to catch him.

i hired a friend to care for my then 15mo, who had a 19mo, and it lasted exactly one day (about 3hrs, actually, because my husband was on swing shift that day). she called her husband to come get their dtr, and quit when i got home. she felt unable to handle balancing their needs, my dtr cried when she nursed her dtr, etc. it was difficult to find immediate replacement care, but at least she knew her limitations.

you need to have a talk with your friend and address your concerns. try to be calm, stress that you value her friendship very much, but you feel she is having a hard time balancing their needs, and you are concerned for your son's safety. and you might look into alternative care arrangements first, in case she decides to quit with zero notice. anon

Find a new caregiver! The word ''pool'' in your post terrified me. What happens when she tells your precious babe to ''wait'' while she prioritizes her own child's care, and your child crawls into the pool? Babies don't ''wait,'' and if she doesn't know that, your baby is not safe in her care. My nanny is now available mon, tues, and weds, as are LOTS of other reliable, CPR trained, experienced caregivers. Your baby's safety is your #1 concern, and whether or not she understands why you terminate the arrangement is irrelevant. d

Until I read your examples, I thought you were making a big deal out of it. Then I looked at the children's ages: 20 months (needs a lot of individual attention to keep safe) and 3 years (needs attention to keep safe, but more physical agile and ABLE to do things on their own).

In most cases, preference goes to a younger child for safety concerns - they are less stable on their feet and more likely to get in a jam.

Leaving your son at the top of a slide to attend to her daughter? Uh, no. If she has to see to hers, she takes your son out of a potentially dangerous situation. 20 month-olds cannot fend for themselves. She abandons your son on steps because her kid is cranky? That's not a good reason. You can either work with two children or you can't. I've had those ages before and yes, it can be difficult, but it can be done. Both children need to be kept safe at all times. It can be done.

That said, all caregivers should get a chance. This is a business arrangement - you pay for her service, and can state your expectations and work with her on it, as with any employee. Maybe practice how you'll phrase it, but definitely either address it with her, or if you haven't the guts (I might not have them, either, with a close friend), make new arrangements. Don't leave your child in a situation where he can't get (at bare minimum) attention needed for safety reasons. Your child comes before your friendship

Get a new caregiver. Your friend is not tending to the safety of your child.

Work/friendship can be a tough thing. Breaking off the work portion of this relationship could be hard on her. No one wants to be told that they aren't doing a good job. That said, you can be direct with her -- tell her that you are concerned re: the safety of the child...or, you can be more vague by citing that considering how much your child is getting hurt you are concerned that she doesn't have CPR and first aid licenses. Or, you can just tell her that a great opportunity just came up at such-and-such preschool or in this great nanny-share that you don't want to miss. In any case, find a new situation.

In her defense, I work part-time at a childcare center where all of the employees bring their children to work (free childcare is a perk of the job). There is nothing tougher than tending to another child while one of my own children is tugging at my pant leg for attention. I do my best to include my child in the tending of another child (can you tickle the babies toes while I feed her? Can you hand me a diaper? Can you give Julie a hug, she tripped on the rug?) to help alleviate their own stress. Not every parent can do it. jan


Paying friends to babysit

Oct 2004


We need childcare just a few hours a week. WE have arranged for a couple of stay at home mom friends to sit for us. We don't know how much to pay them. Has anyone done this before and have a recommendation?

Yes. I paid the mom who babysat my baby $10/hour for a small number of hours (roughly 12/week). Karen

Why don't you ask your friends who are doing the sitting? Each may have different assumptions. I would not accept payment from a friend, nor would most of my SAHM friends (oddly enough, we like our friends that work and want to support them as much as possible in making the work scenario work for them). Find out the going nanny rate and offer that to them and let them accept it, negotiate it lower or refuse it. anon