I'll be honest, when I first started researching "family assistants" my eyes were practically rolling out of my head. I never actually met a nanny or a "helper" growing up, and in my experience, it was predominately the mother (hey, it was the '80s) who took care of the kids and managed the household. Needless to say, times have changed quite a bit.
In the booming economy of the mid-to-late '80s, it was very feasible to be considered "affluent" in a single income household. Why? Because things were MUCH more affordable! Nowadays, 55% of the affluent households surveyed (those with a household income of at least $150,000) are dual-income households. In other words, both parents are holding down full-time jobs and struggling to make time for family dinners, household chores, family downtime, etc. Many parents in this situation aren't looking for someone to watch their babies when they're at work (i.e. nannies) – they're looking for a personal assistant and a childcare helper all-in-one. They need someone who can help keep their lives running smoothly by cooking, organizing, scheduling or just getting their kids to practice on time. Sounds good, right? Maybe this "family assistant" idea isn't something to be scoffed at, after all.
Want to know more? Here are the 20 biggest differences between a traditional nanny and a family assistant.
According to a job description online, "Family assistants work for families with children who require more than just childcare. FA’s are the parents’ personal assistants and the children’s nanny. They help out the parents in managing the home by doing whatever the parents need assistance with."
In other words, family assistants exist to help the parent in whatever capacity they can. Unlike nannies, their roles are not limited to childcare. Whereas people will hire a nanny to spend time with their kids, people hire an FA so they can spend time with their kids themselves.
Would a parent ever ask a nanny to file important paperwork, update their Excel spreadsheet, or answer a client's e-mail? Of course not, because the nanny is only there to watch their kids while the parents do those tasks themselves. Family assistants, on the other hand, are more than willing to help people run their business while their children are in school. They might even run out and grab you a much-needed cup of coffee while they're at it (especially if it's a Monday).
Too busy to whip up a healthy meal for the entire family? No biggie, the FA is there for you on the nights you just can't swing it.
Unlike a nanny, who is only responsible for feeding the children, an FA can help keep the pantry and fridge stocked and put a healthy meal on the table so you have a chance to enjoy your evening. Obviously cooking is not their primary duty, but family assistants are there to ASSIST you in whatever way you need on a particular day (and sometimes you just need someone to cook for you).
I think an even better name for a "family assistant" would be a PARENTAL Assistant because that's exactly what they are. According to Deborah Calkin, the owner of a premier national domestic staffing agency, "Many families don’t necessarily need a personal assistant and a nanny; they want two-in-one. For example, we have clients who are home with their children but have three kids at three different schools. So it’s not solely about [outsourcing] childcare; it’s about finding someone who can pick kids up from school safely and take them where they need to go."
Given the wider role that they play, it's not surprising that Family Assistants are typically paid a little bit more than an average nanny. Their exact pay typically depends on the location, the number of children, the specified duties, etc.
As a frame of reference, in Manhattan the minimum hourly rate would be at least $30-an-hour for a full-time Family Assistant as opposed to $20-$25-an-hour for a nanny. Bear in mind that you would also need to provide a gas allowance.
Although there are certainly many college-educated nannies out there, a bachelor's degree is not typically a requirement for nannies. Family Assistants, however, are required to have a college education and great organizational/computer skills. Family Assistants are also seen as a "step-up" from a nanny position in the industry. According to Deborah Calkin, who owns her own premier staffing agency, "A lot of candidates who have been in the industry for a while as nannies are looking to climb the ladder, and their end goal is to become an estate or household manager. They might start as a nanny, move up to a family assistant, then to a personal assistant, then to a household manager."
It goes without saying that nannies are expected to keep the kids and the playroom nicely organized and tidy, but the parent's disaster of a home office is none of their concern. Family Assistants, on the other hand, exist to help the parent in whatever capacity they need. Whether it's organizing a desk, the kitchen pantry or a closet, the FA is there to help. Family Assistants can help with scheduling, to-do lists, and decluttering. Oh my God, that sounds like a dream.
Nannies usually work with babies and toddlers before they go to school full-time, but family assistants primarily work for two-income families whose kids are a little bit older (in other words, not newborns). This makes sense because the older the kids get, the busier life becomes (especially in families with multiple children). If you have more than three kids and they all have to be at different places at the same time, you're going to need some help getting everyone where they're supposed to be.
When someone works a full-time job and they come home to a messy house full of kids who are busy with extracurricular activities and homework, it's hard to find the time to pick up that prescription from the pharmacy or grab a gallon of milk from the store. This is exactly when a family assistant comes in handy. What if you want to take your kid to their soccer practice yourself, but you still have to swing by the grocery store? Send the family assistant to the store instead! I've never met a kid who prefers to have a nanny cheering them on from the sidelines.
Have you always wanted to grow your own vegetables, but you just don't have a green thumb (or the time to deal with it, even if you did)? Family Assistants can help with this, too. The Deborah Calkin Agency once had a family assistant who had worked on an organic farm and was able to help the mom build up her garden. Crazy, right? Unlike nannies, family assistants wear many hats. I can think of a million weeds I would like to have pulled right now, but I've got to write this instead.
Just imagine it: You're already running late to your daughter's dance recital when the family dog starts barking at the door because he needs to take a big, steaming crap. What do you do? Risk your brand new carpets getting ruined, or ask the family assistant to do you a solid and walk the damn dog? DING DING DING! A nanny isn't going to do it (it's not in her job description), but the family assistant literally exists for these small (but very helpful) tasks.
A nanny's duties might include helping with the children's laundry, but who's going to get those streak marks off of your husband's tighty-whities (that's a rhetorical question). Forget enjoying the weekend, Saturday and Sunday will be spent in the laundry room surrounded by your kid's grass-stained jeans, trying to catch up on laundry. Unless you have a family assistant, that is.
Look, I'm not saying that a family assistant should constantly be subjected to cleaning filthy underwear, but sometimes we all could use a little help.
Educators suggest that parents should read to their children every night, but who the hell has time for that when we've got so many other responsibilities? Sometimes it's hard to enjoy your kids when you've got a lot on your plate, but that's what family assistants are for. In the words of relationship therapist Esther Perel, “The person is not there to help you with the children—they are there to help YOU. You need an assistant. You need someone who helps you, who feeds you when you come home so that you can go and be with the kid and play and read.”
Unlike family assistants, the nanny industry limits a nanny's duties to childcare only. "Agency owners or placement specialists will remind a nanny that she is a nanny; she’s not a housekeeper or a personal assistant for the family," says Deborah Calkin, the owner of The Deborah Calkin Agency. "In some ways that’s really good, because then she’s not taken advantage of. But it also goes to the other extreme of a nanny saying, 'That’s not my job. Why are they asking me to go run errands?'"
Unlike nannies, family assistants are expected to help with childcare AND household duties such as cooking, light housekeeping, and running errands.
The only difference between a family assistant and a personal assistant is the word "family." Instead of helping manage the life of one particular person, a family assistant is helping an entire family's life run smoothly. Like a personal assistant, their roles can be varied and they can help in both a personal and a professional capacity (if that's what is needed). The majority of family assistants have prior experience in their position, which means you can count on them to be flexible, professional and trustworthy.
Have you ever needed a ride to the airport because you didn't want to pay for long-term parking? Are you sick or injured and need a quick ride to the hospital or the doctor's office? Did you just get your eyes dilated and can't see a damn thing? Regardless of the reason, a family assistant is happy to act as your personal Uber drive on occasion. Unlike nannies, family assistants aren't limited to kid-related driving duties (such as school drop-offs/pick-ups). Let them help you in whatever way you need (just don't use them as a chauffeur).
Are you looking for a personal assistant with web design experience so they can occasionally assist you with your marketing business? Maybe you're looking for someone who's bilingual, or a vegan who has experience in cooking vegan meals? Sure, you might pay more for these specific skills, but you can work with a staffing agency and pick a family assistant who works best for you and your family. Unlike nannies, family assistants often have a wide range of experience that can be helpful to you (outside of childcare).
You can trust a nanny to get your kids to their appointments on time, but a family assistant will get everyone to their appointments on time. You can trust a nanny with lunch money for the kids, but you can trust the family assistant to help you with online bill-pay. You can trust a nanny to get your child to the doctor, but you can trust the family assistant to make the appointment in the first place. You see where I'm going with this. Family Assistants have much more responsibility in terms of managing a household. Whatever a mother or a father typically does, you can trust the family assistant to do as well.
Are you in charge of organizing your sister's baby shower, but you just don't know when you'll find the time? Just ask your FA to contact the caterer, pick up the cake, and order the flowers. Unlike a nanny, they're very capable of helping you plan an event. Whether it's a baby shower, a bridal shower, a wedding, or a child's birthday party, a family assistant can help you make the phone calls, track the expenses, and send out the invites/thank-you cards.
Have you (or your child) ever had a sick day but the work e-mails are still pouring in and your home office phone is still ringing off the hook? Feel free to use your family assistant in an administrative role. If you own a business, put them in charge of answering simple inquiries. If you aren't home, have them answer the phone and take messages for you. Never forget, you're paying them to help you and your family in whatever way you need.
References: kiplinger.com, yougov.com, debsdomesticagency.com, popsugar.com, purewow.com, estherperel.com