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Nanny v. Babysitter: What’s the Difference?

What are the differences between a nanny and a babysitter? Which should you hire?

While both a nanny and babysitter provide childcare in the family’s home, their roles can be quite different.

We will provide a definition of both roles and a breakdown of the differences between a nanny and a babysitter so you can make the right hiring decision for your family.

What is a nanny?

A nanny is a childcare professional. Being a nanny is their career. They may have a college degree in early childhood education or a related field and/or previously worked as a teacher or in a daycare facility. Nannies may have childcare certifications and belong to an organization like the International Nanny Association or the U.S. Nanny Association.

Beyond CPR and first aid certifications, a nanny usually has advanced childcare training and may also have specialized skills in music or arts, working with special needs children, or fluency in a foreign language.

When you hire a nanny, most likely you are the only family they work for, and this is their full-time job.

In many ways, a nanny is an extension of a child’s parents.

What is a babysitter?

Babysitters are not necessarily childcare professionals, and the role is more an entry-level childcare position. This may not be their chosen field of work but take babysitting jobs to make some extra money. They may work for multiple families for jobs that are only a few hours in duration. Babysitters should have taken a basic childcare training class and know CPR and first-aid.

A babysitter is tasked with keeping your children safe and ensuring their basic needs are met for a short period of time.

When do you need a nanny?

Families hire a nanny for full- or part-time childcare so the parents can go to work. Nannies may work as little as 20 hours and up to 50 hours or more per week.

When do you need a babysitter?

Babysitters are hired on an as-needed basis for a few hours at a time. It’s date night and you need someone to watch your children for an evening. You are attending a wedding and need childcare for the day. Or you simply need to be child-free for an afternoon to run some errands and hire a babysitter to look after your kids while you are out.

Babysitters can also be hired on a regular schedule for after-school pick-ups and care until parents come home.

Role of a nanny or babysitter in your child’s life

Your nanny will be a daily fixture in your child’s life. They will assist you in caring for and raising your children and are invested in your child’s well-being and emotional and intellectual development. Nannies are hands-on and will work with you on your child’s growth, education, and maturity.

Nannies may stay with a family for years seeing a child from infancy to school. In this way, they take on a special role in your child’s life and often become part of the family.

Babysitters, on the other hand, are short-term caretakers. While you want someone who enjoys being with your children (and vice versa), a babysitter just needs to make sure your children are safe for a set period of time.

Nannies are more involved in your child’s overall development, while babysitters are focused on their safety and well-being.

Nanny v. babysitter: responsibilities

A nanny’s responsibilities will be included in their work agreement and can be wide-ranging depending on the needs of your family and children. Typically, a nanny will engage your children throughout the day with age-appropriate activities that may involve going outside the home to a park, library, or museum. They may take kids to sports practices or music lessons and help with homework. Nannies will also be involved in potty training, motor skills, language development, and working with you towards the milestones in your child’s life. Like you, they are invested in your child’s emotional, physical, and mental growth.

On a date night, a babysitter may help get dinner on the table for your children, supervise an evening activity whether it’s watching movies or playing games, and then get them ready for bed.

Nanny v. babysitter: additional duties

Your nanny may take on additional duties like light housework, laundry, preparing meals, running errands, and cleaning. Whatever responsibilities you want your nanny to take on beyond childcare should be spelled out in your nanny contact. Most of these duties will be related to caring for your child like picking up toys at the end of the day, cleaning up any messes, and making meals. Remember you are hiring a childcare professional, not a housekeeper or personal assistant.

Besides cleaning up from meals and activities, a babysitter likely will not take on anything else other than watching your children unless asked.

Nanny v. babysitter: schedule

A nanny typically has a set schedule each week. They arrive in the morning before parents go to work and remain with the children until parents come home. Live-in nannies and night nannies may have different schedules but, again, there is some regularity to when they are on duty and the hours they work each week.

A babysitter is on the job only when needed although they could have a regular schedule if you need your babysitter every Friday night for date night or every weekday for school pickups.

Nanny v. babysitter: pay

Nannies are hourly employees who need to be paid at least minimum wage and overtime for hours worked over 40 in a week. They should have taxes withheld from their pay and receive a W-2 at the end of the year. The family will also pay their share of taxes.

Babysitters are often paid in cash or electronically. Be aware that a babysitter with a regular schedule could easily exceed the nanny tax threshold ($2,300 in gross wages for 2021) and be considered a household employee by the IRS. You would then need to comply with nanny tax, wage, and labor laws.

An hourly rate for a nanny is typically higher than that of a babysitter and will be based on the cost of living in your area, education, background, experience, and other factors. You can expect to pay a nanny anywhere from $25-40/hour. Babysitting rates are usually determined by where you live. Some sitters may charge a premium for special days like New Year’s Eve.

Nanny v. babysitter: benefits

A nanny often receives vacation time, sick time, and paid holidays. They may also get health benefits and a year-end bonus.

You do not need to provide a babysitter with benefits.

Reported with a permission from GTM (

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