A Guest Talk on nanny sharing from Rachel Carrell, a Kiwi mummy in London and founder of Koru Kids.
A new report out from the OECD last week found that parents in the UK spend vastly more on childcare than in other developed countries – up to a third of our income, that being just under £16,000.
Does that surprise you? It doesn’t surprise me at all. Where I live in London, the cheapest option for full time care costs a whopping £20,000. And that’s for one child. If you’ve got two, you’re going to double it. Then, if your children are too young for nursery, or nursery hours don’t suit, and you’re therefore looking at getting a nanny, you’re facing an average of £37,000. Which comes out of your post tax salary, remember. Unlike in many countries, mums and dads living in London often don’t have support networks of family that can step in to provide free childcare. Many parents, like me, are living thousands of miles away from their own families.
It’s little wonder that loads of women conclude that there’s not much point going back to work at all. Of course it’s no problem if it’s the mum’s choice to stay home, but it’s no choice if it’s forced by the family budget. And preventing women from returning to work in their children’s early years means fewer women in leadership positions and fewer women role models for our sons and daughters.
About a year ago – not coincidentally, when my daughter was just over 1 year old – I first got interested in ideas to try to reduce the cost of childcare. I was particularly thinking about how to find real efficiencies in the way we organise childcare now. The list of ideas was fairly short. In fact it just had one item on it: nanny share. I had several friends who were very happily nanny sharing with each other, each paying much less for a nanny while the nanny was earning more per hour than she otherwise would. Their kids were playing happily together, getting into scrapes and arguments, learning to share and take turns. It seemed like the ideal solution. Still not exactly cheap, but much cheaper than a sole nanny, and with lots of hidden advantages that my friends told me about. (‘There are four adults who can step in when the nanny is sick!’ one friend told me in absolute glee. ‘It reduces the chance of a disaster by literally half!’)
The big drawback about nanny share, though, was that not everyone had a ready-made NCT friend or a neighbour to actually do the share with. I had friends who wanted to nanny share, but couldn’t find their ‘other half’. They posted in Facebook groups, they asked around, but they came up empty. They weren’t exactly going to start leafletting and putting up fliers, were they?
And that’s when I got my startup idea.
I’d wanted to do a startup for a long time, but never had ‘the big idea’, the one that really captured my imagination. This time, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed perfectly obvious that there should be a nanny sharing network in London. You’d need someone to market the network and actively match families, helping them with tax and payroll and all the rest of it, and that could be my business. We’d find families who already had nannies that they wanted to share to reduce the costs, and we’d match them with families that were looking. I’d call it ‘Koru Kids’, a Maori word drawing on my heritage as a Kiwi and referring to the frond of a fern, which unfurls as it grows.
I quit my job. I was Managing Director of a chain of IVF clinics, and it was a tough decision, but I really really really believed that this network needed to exist, and it didn’t look like anyone else was going to make it exist. I persuaded other people that it was going to be a success. I created a team. And today, we have over 500 families in the network.
I would not be doing a good job as a startup founder if I did not tell you that — if you live in London and are interested in nanny share — you should immediately go to our website www.korukids.co.uk, do not get distracted by the doorbell, do not finish your Ocado order, do not remember that it’s Great British Bakeoff tonight, I shouldn’t have mentioned Ocado, now you’re thinking about how you need rubbish bags, just go and sign up. We’ll let you know if we’ve got any families near you that look compatible.
We have huge plans to build on top of the nanny sharing network. Cost is just one of the many sources of pain when sorting out childcare. There’s also the issue of how you identify a good nanny in the first place, how you deal with sick days and holiday, and how you best work with your childcarer to provide the kind of nurturing developmental environment everyone wants. If you have any ideas for how childcare could be much better, I’d love to hear them. (And make them happen.)
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*101mothers did not give or receive a payment for this Guest Talk. We are not affiliated with Koru Kids and are not vouching for its services. We published Rachel’s talk because she is a mother with a startup aimed at helping other parents.