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Published on October 15, 2023

5 Factors to Consider When Choosing Between a Nanny and a Babysitter

Choosing between a nanny or a babysitter is a personal decision that depends on your family’s specific childcare needs. Interview multiple references and ask for proof of identity and address.

When learning about nanny vs a babysitter, typically, nannies have more responsibilities than babysitters, such as preparing meals and doing household chores. They also tend to be employed for longer periods.

Personality

While it’s not an absolute necessity, parents often look for a nanny with confidence in her abilities. Caring for children all day can be stressful and full of little decisions that need to be made. During interviews, listen to how candidates make decisions and handle any missteps they may make.

Nanny candidates also need to be able to communicate clearly and confidently. They should ask for clarification if they need help understanding your expectations or directions and bring up employment issues as soon as possible rather than leaving them to rot.

Depending on your family’s needs, you may want to interview potential nannies or babysitters over the phone or in person before hiring someone. During the interview, families may also create an employment agreement or handbook to outline “everything from what their schedule will be like and how they would deal with unexpected events to compensation and other important details,” Flanders says. This helps ensure that both parties are on the same page regarding issues such as vaccinations, COVID-19 protocol, and communication and compensation expectations.

Experience

Although nanny and babysitter are sometimes used interchangeably, a nanny is typically more experienced in the childcare industry. Nannies are considered professionals and tend to work with one family for the long term, usually in a full or part-time capacity. They are typically certified in CPR and first aid and may have an early childhood education, teaching degree, or specialized knowledge like sign language, depending on the family they work with.

On the other hand, babysitters generally work ad hoc and often pick up additional jobs with different families at short notice. They may have a minimum of a high school diploma. If they own their vehicle or drive kids around, it may be an employer-employee situation, in which case you’d have to issue them an official paycheck and pay taxes and vacation time.

A nanny can also take on more responsibilities than just supervising your children, such as transporting them to playdates with other kids, taking them to doctor’s appointments or sports activities, and helping with homework and other tasks as agreed upon by you and your nanny.

Reliability

A nanny works with one family, usually for set hours that don’t change weekly. Nannies also often take care of children outside of the home, including picking them up from school or after-school activities, planning and preparing meals, taking kids on outings, and cleaning up.

Babysitters may work for multiple families on an ad-hoc basis. They may have limited responsibilities, such as keeping the kids safe, providing basic care (feeding, diapering, bathing), and meeting their needs. Some babysitters are also independent contractors and may not be legally considered employees if they aren’t paid an annual salary, Flanders says.

While sitters offer flexibility, they tend to be less committed than nannies and don’t work with the same families over long periods. This can make it difficult for your children to develop attachments and trust as they transition from one short-term sitter to the next. It can also increase the chance of conflicts with your sitter about discipline or parenting styles. Considering these pros and cons before hiring a babysitter or nanny is important.

Flexibility

Nannies are a constant fixture in the family home, whereas babysitters are usually hired on an as-needed basis to cover things like errand running and date nights. As a result, nannies are often more flexible with their schedules, able to work around other family commitments, and, if needed, can be available for extra time when parents have an urgent meeting or a contractor comes to perform repairs on the house.

Nannies can also be helpful with household management, such as coordinating playdates with children from other families or arranging transportation for kids to and from extracurricular activities. However, parents must discuss with nannies how these additional responsibilities will affect the relationship and compensation.

Parents looking to hire a full-time nanny should be prepared for a formal interview process that includes what Flanders calls a “working interview,” where the nanny can interact with the child or children. This allows both parties to ensure they are on the same page regarding vaccinations, COVID-19 protocol, communication expectations, and compensation.

Cost

Generally, nannies cost more than babysitters because they tend to work longer hours. They may also be expected to take on additional responsibilities like meal preparation, shopping, and household chores. In addition, many families hire nannies to drive children to and from activities, which can increase their hourly rate.

In addition, nannies are usually considered employees, which means they will pay taxes. Families may also consider benefits like paid vacation, health insurance, and a car allowance.

On the other hand, babysitters are not typically employed by a family. They may work for multiple families and provide backup care when one of the parents is sick or out of town. They may also be less connected to your family and have a more casual surface-level relationship with the children, which could mean they need to be more careful about keeping kids safe or following your parenting style exactly. In addition, many babysitters are in school or have another part-time job and need a nanny’s availability.


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