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What Is The Difference Between An Au Pair, a Nanny, & A Babysitter?

babysitter and kid playing

When it comes to in-home childcare, families have a variety of options. Au pairs, nannies, and babysitters all provide care in your home, but the arrangements vary. An au pair lives in your home, a nanny works a regular day shift, and a baby sitter comes as needed. Your family's specific needs will determine which of the three you should hire.

AU PAIR

An au pair cares for your children while living with you in your home. Because you provide housing, the salary cost is lower. For families who already have an extra room, this is a cost-effective option. However, an au pair might not be a good fit for those who want to retain a bit more privacy.

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Bringing an au pair on board is kin to adopting a family member--it's important to be ready for this. On the plus side, you have childcare available around the clock and your au pair will build a special bond with your children. It's like having another person on your team, as parents.

Au pairs are generally placed through agencies. This means you'll have a fully vetted caretaker and hopefully find someone who is the perfect fit for your home. Payment is usually handled through the agency as well, keeping things simple and legal.

Often, au pairs are young international women working as an opportunity to learn English or travel to a new culture. This provides a unique opportunity for your children to be immersed in your au pairs language if you choose.

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NANNY

For families who don't have a spare room or want to house their child caretaker, a nanny might be the right choice. A nanny arrives each morning at your home and leaves in the evening. Generally, nannies work 8-hour shifts, but many will work shorter or longer hours.

A part-time nanny would be perfect if mom works part-time, while a full-time working mother may need a nanny for over 8-hours to accommodate her commute. When children are older, a nanny might pick them up from school and supervise them at home until later in the evening when the parents return. Nannies also offer share care, where two children are looked after at one family's home, or switching between both families' homes.

Nannies are a great alternative to daycare for babies because they can give little ones the individualized attention they really need at this age. Keeping babies and toddlers at home during the day also reduces the risk of getting sick frequently, as kids often swap germs at daycare. Little babies will also be more comfortable at home and putting them down for a nap is much simpler.

Nannies are considered independent contractors and usually charge by the hour. Generally, nannies are paid even if the family is on vacation. Some families take their nanny with them on vacation, but that means paying the nanny's way and lodging. If a nanny gets sick, it can be hard to arrange backup care at the last minute.

Always vet your nanny before hiring, and check references. A full background check is a good idea. Requiring a nanny to be CPR and First Aid Certified for children and babies and fully vaccinated helps keep your kids safe. If your nanny will drive your kids, make sure to check her driving records.

BABYSITTER

Babysitters are different than nannies because they have less regular hours or fewer shifts in total. Many families hire babysitters as needed, while some have a regularly-scheduled sitter who comes every Friday night for date night, for example.

Babysitters are perfect for families with a stay at home parent who only need intermittent care, or for families with older kids in school. Parents might hire a babysitter so that they can take care of important family business or attend kid-free events. Some moms might even use a sitter for a few hours so they can get errands done.

Babysitters can be the least reliable type of childcare workers, and they often have a high turnover. That can be hard on kids who form bonds with their babysitter or who struggle with transitions. Babysitters can be found through agencies, but many families hire a teenaged neighbor that they know and trust. Always make sure your babysitter is CPR certified and knows what to do if a child chokes.

There is no best choice between au pair, nanny, and babysitter because it all depends on the family's specific needs. These needs will grow and change as well. A great babysitter might even become your family's full-time nanny or au pair.

READ NEXT: How To Find A Babysitter You Can Actually Rely On

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