If you’re considering what sort of childcare your children need, your head might be spinning with all the options available. A common dilemma for busy parents is the choice between nanny vs babysitter. Both will take care of your children while you’re away. So what’s the difference? Why choose a nanny over a babysitter or vice versa? First, let’s break down the terms.
are short-term, as-needed workers. They are hired for nights or weekends when you need a caretaker for a few hours. While they might provide basic child-minding like food or entertainment, they are not as involved as a nanny. Babysitters can be of any age or experience level, and they usually have no formal training.
are long-term, or live-in, or out childcare specialists. They are very involved in your children’s lives and play a bigger role in home management, food preparation, or education. They usually come with at least 5 years of experience working with children, and it’s common for them to have a degree in early childhood development or education.
Nanny vs Babysitter Breakdown
|Short-term position||Long-term, permanent position|
|Paid hourly||Paid biweekly or monthly, receives benefits|
|Works as needed, usually after school or weekends||Works daily and regularly, often during work hours|
|Remains outside the family unit||Might live in the house and bonds closely with the family|
|Provides basic childcare||Performs an active role in child’s development|
|Less expensive||More expensive|
|Usually no training||Usually has significant experience or education in child development; CPR certified|
What is a babysitter?
Most people are familiar with the concept of babysitters or even have experience being one themselves! Perhaps your babysitter is the neighborhood teenager who needs a part-time job. They might be the retired older woman who has raised several children of her own. They could even be a family member who offers to take the child for the evening.
Whatever your relation to these babysitters is, it’s usually a short-term, hourly-paid position. They are usually hired for 3-6 hours at a time and their role consists of basic childcare. For example, a babysitter’s expected role is something along the lines of making dinner, entertaining the kids, and putting them to bed.
Babysitters can be of any age and any experience level. Since this is a casual work relationship, they do not require the experience or training of a nanny. However, these days many parents expect a babysitter to have CPR and first aid certification.
The babysitter will ideally get along well with your children and give them all the nurturing you would while you’re away, but their bond won’t be as strong or long-lasting as a nanny’s.
Pros of babysitters:
Cheap — They are often paid an hourly rate based on their experience level. If this is a babysitter’s first job, they will not charge as much as an experienced nanny.
Low maintenance — Babysitters are only hired as needed, and usually for only a few hours. This makes the position very flexible. If you need to change babysitters, it’s far easier to do so than with a live-in nanny.
Privacy — Because this is an occasional position, you don’t have to worry about sharing your home with someone new. They might use your TV or kitchen, but they won’t be knee-deep in your laundry.
Cons of babysitters:
Lack of training — Babysitters generally are not as specialized or experienced as nannies. At most, they might have CPR and first aid certification.
Less familiar — Because babysitters are not around as much as nannies, they won’t be as involved in your children’s lives. This is more of a surface-level relationship. If your children are shy, they may not be as comfortable around their caretaker.
Availability — A younger babysitter probably won’t be available during daytime hours if they’re in school or working another job. Scheduling might be more of a headache.
What’s a nanny?
Nannies are specialized and experienced child caretakers. Because they often studied child development, education or psychology, they have much more training. For most nannies, childcare is a long-term career, not just a part-time gig.
Usually, being a nanny is a full-time position and they will work five days a week, around 45-50 hours. In addition to childcare, they might perform extra duties such as making food, driving children to extracurriculars, or engage in developmental games.
Some families might offer room and board for their nanny. Just like a live-out nanny, a live-in nanny will maintain specific work and non-work hours. Keep in mind that a nanny is almost always hired as your employee, not an independent contractor, so most likely they will be entitled to benefits and you will pay employment taxes.
Some nannies are only part-time and work fewer hours (for example, only after school), but they will still be more involved than a babysitter.
Pros of nannies:
Specialized training — Nannies are professionals and come with many qualifications and experience. You can feel at ease knowing they will be comfortable in the caretaker role.
Stability — Because a nanny is around so often, they will provide a consistent nurturing presence in your children’s lives. They can offer more attention and engagement than a babysitter.
Childs’ development — Nannies will often be far more involved in a child’s development. Engage with children via games, reading, exercises, etc.
Cons of nannies:
Personal differences — Parents and nannies might have different styles of childcare or discipline. Nannies will be spending a lot of time with your children and you should be very clear about your parenting style. It’s important to discuss these expectations beforehand and decide whether you will be a good match.
A Professional Relationship — As their employer, you have more legal responsibilities. You will be responsible for your nanny’s taxes and benefits, like sick leave. Because you will need a contract, there is more paperwork and liability.
Expensive — Nannies are more expensive than a babysitter due to their extensive training and qualifications. As mentioned above, you are also responsible for their benefits and, depending on your agreement, their room, food, or transportation costs.
Nanny vs. Babysitter – which option is right for you?
Now that we’ve laid out the differences between a nanny vs babysitter, the question becomes: what will work best for you? The choice between a nanny vs a babysitter is ultimately very personal.
Are you looking for someone to be very involved and focused on your children? Maybe your household has two full-time parents and you need consistent assistance with not only childcare but also child development. Perhaps you would feel better knowing your children are with an experienced professional. A nanny might be a better fit than a more surface-level relationship with a babysitter.
Or maybe you don’t need a caretaker for more than a few hours a week. You might not want to deal with any complicated legal paperwork or you value the flexibility a babysitter can provide. In those cases, a more casual relationship with a babysitter could be better for your family.
Whatever your needs are, there are many options for childcare these days. Whether you need an extra hand around the house or just need someone to cover you for date night, you and your children can benefit from getting the best care for your family’s needs.
Disclaimer: individual caregivers on Nannies and Mommies may not always follow this terminology breakdown. There is always some overlap in caretaker roles, so it’s best to ask and clarify a user’s definition of a nanny vs. babysitter before entering into any agreement.