Inside: Nannies and babysitters both provide a great deal of support for families, but their jobs are not the same. To help you choose the right caregiver for your family, we’re here to break down the difference between a nanny vs babysitter.
Whether you already have children or your first is on the way, you’ll probably need childcare assistance at least occasionally. Some families look for childcare from time to time for date nights or other events, and other parents need regular, ongoing assistance. No matter what you’re looking for, it’s important to do careful research into your options.
I would know…we’ve interviewed TONS of nanny prospects!
We all worry about finding good childcare. We want the best for our children and our families, and the idea of putting our children in someone else’s hands can be stressful. You might feel torn between hiring a nanny and hiring a babysitter to care for your kids. The schedule and expectations can be very different for both, so we’re here to help you understand how nannies and babysitters differ.
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By learning all about the different roles, responsibilities, and expectations of a nanny vs babysitter, you can feel confident that you’re making the best choice for your family. Here’s everything you need to know about deciding between a nanny and a babysitter:
What’s the difference between a nanny and a babysitter?
There are several specific factors that separate nannies from babysitters, but the most important one is the relationship between the childcare provider and your family. Because nannies spend more time with the kids than babysitters, they may become a “second mom” to your children. Your nanny is a part of your family, and without their support, it may not be possible to complete your daily routine. If you hire the right nanny, you’ll feel an intense sense of trust and closeness with them as they’re present for so much of your children’s lives.
The relationship between a family and their babysitter tends to be more casual. This doesn’t mean that your kids shouldn’t feel a bond with their babysitter. Children should always feel safe and cared for no matter who they’re with. However, babysitters usually aren’t as strong and consistent of a presence for kids as nannies are. Your babysitter may come over occasionally and play games or watch movies with your children for a fun night in, but they’re not a parent figure or a central part of the family.
Scheduling is one major logistical difference between nannies and babysitters. Nannies typically work full-time, so they’ll spend at least 40 hours per week with your family. They usually sign yearly contracts, too, so hiring a nanny is a long-term agreement. Because this is the individual’s permanent and full-time job, it’s your responsibility to provide your nanny with paid time off.
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Babysitters are usually called in as needed. Some families have a fairly consistent schedule with their babysitters, but in almost all cases, you don’t guarantee your babysitter a certain number of working hours per week. Most families hire babysitters for less than 20 hours per week, and they rarely ask for long-term commitments.
Your nanny is an employee of your household. When you hire them, you’ll provide a contract that states their responsibilities, pay, working hours, and other relevant information. You’ll pay federal taxes on their wages, and you must provide them with paid time off that adheres to the laws in your state. Hiring a babysitter is a much more laid-back process. Most families simply make a verbal agreement with their babysitters. You don’t have to worry about taxes, paid time off, or other factors.
In my experience, the biggest struggle with hiring and nanny is that you’re managing an employee. It’s not easy balancing a friendly working relationship with someone who is in your house all day long with your child. It’s normal to become so close that you don’t actually want to tell them what they’re doing wrong, which is exactly what happened in my circumstance. We’ve also had to fire one of our nannies, which was extremely stressful.
It’s hard to estimate how much you should expect to pay your nanny or babysitter as the average hourly rate varies considerably from place to place. Care.com reports that the average rate for a babysitter is $16.20 per hour, and they say that the rate for a nanny is $14.12 per hour. In some cases, nannies may charge a slightly lower rate than babysitters because their hours are more consistent and they receive paid time off.
In our experience, though, both babysitters and nannies charge more than these rates. If you live in or near a major city, expect to pay closer to $20 per hour for a babysitter and $25 per hour for a nanny. The best way you can compare the cost is to ask around your area and get specific figures from childcare providers and from other parents.
Because nannies work full-time, they usually have a much broader range of responsibilities than a babysitter. You and your nanny should make a clear and specific agreement about what they are and aren’t responsible for when you hire them. Generally, nannies handle almost all aspects of childcare and assist with tasks around the house. They may help your kids with their homework or create other educational opportunities for them, and they’ll likely pick your kids up from school or bring them to their after-school activities. Some parents ask their nannies to assist with cooking, meal prep, grocery shopping, and certain household chores, too.
Babysitters don’t typically handle this volume of responsibility. They may supervise while your kids do their homework or cook dinner while you’re away, but they’re not usually expected to keep the household running. Overall, the main job of your babysitter is to keep your children safe while you’re not home.
Nanny vs Babysitter: Which Is Right for You?
The right choice for you depends on your budget and what your household needs. If you hire a full-time nanny, you’ll have to pay them a full-time salary. This will put a financial strain on the average family, so, unfortunately, it’s not always an accessible option. A babysitter offers valuable services that can free up a considerable amount of your time each week without breaking the bank.
If you’re in need of a lot of support, though, a nanny might be a better fit for your family. When you’re overworked, your nanny can ease the stress dramatically. They’re a part of the family, and they’re fully committed to caring for your kids. This level of support can completely transform your home life and help everything run much more smoothly.
Final Thoughts on Nanny vs Babysitter: Find Out Which Is Best for Your Family Today
Although some people may use the terms “nanny” and “babysitter” interchangeably, the two jobs have very different descriptions. Nannies usually work full-time for one family, so they’re an integral part of the team. Babysitters, on the other hand, may work sporadically. They’re a great source of support during a particularly busy or stressful week. Unlike nannies, though, they don’t play a central role in raising your kids.
To decide between a nanny vs babysitter, you have to think about your family’s needs, your availability, and your budget. It’s not a decision to take lightly as the person you choose to hire will be around your family. Take your time, identify what kind of support you and your children need, and interview plenty of people before you make a final choice.
Did I miss anything? Tell me what you think the major difference in a nanny vs babysitter is in the comments below!
Allie Schmidt is a rare disease advocate and disabled mom living with motor neuron disease. She founded Disability Dame in 2020 to provide tips to other moms living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
In her spare time, you can find her traveling with her husband (she's been to 38 states and 16 countries!), watching reruns of Survivor, or tending to her near-constant sunburn from spending too much time outside. You can follow her adventures here.