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

If you need in-home childcare, you’ll have to determine what type of caretaker is best for your family. In terms of in-home childcare, most parents will explore au pairs, nannies, and babysitters. There is no right or wrong choice for families. Instead, families need to understand the differences between these three caretakers and take an inventory of the type and frequency of childcare needed. To get you started in making the best decision, we’ve outlined the responsibilities and traditional schedules of the three childcare types mentioned above.

Au Pair

Traditionally, this type of caretaker lives with the family of the children she is caring for. Usually, these caretakers are women, young, between the ages of 18 and 30, and from another country. These young women take positions in a foreign country to immerse themselves in the culture and learn or perfect a foreign language. Parents who hire au pairs may be able to save more than if they hired someone that didn’t live with the family because the cost of housing is incorporated into the caretaker’s salary.

It is important for parents to realize that hiring this type of caretaker is similar to adopting a family member. A person that lives in your home and takes care of your children is part of the family’s every day life. The great part about this childcare option is they are usually placed through an agency. The agency handles vetting the caretaker and taking care of payments for services, which avoids any uncomfortable exchanges between the parents and caretaker and helps keep the entire arrangement above par and legal. Au pairs are often pursuing a degree in education or childcare.


Many people think a nanny and an au pair are the same thing. While some nannies may live with a family, most do not, which is the biggest difference between the two types of caretakers. Instead of living with a family, this type of caretaker works regular 8-hour shifts for a family. While an 8-hour shift is a common duration, these caretakers might work much longer or shorter hours based on a family’s needs. Nannies are usually independent contractors, which means they aren’t placed or vetted through an agency. Nannies can either charge by the hour or charge a weekly rate, which is paid once a week or month.

While the above mentioned is usually exclusive to one family, the second is not. Many nannies work for several families at one time. On occasion, this type of caretaker may require your child to be brought to another family’s home for care. If considering hiring this type of in-home caretaker, parents may have to do a background check on the woman including her driving record, if she will be driving your children. Some college kids may work in this profession to make extra cash, but most are not pursuing a degree in education or childcare.

Learn about Daycare Center or Nanny: What’s Right for the Modern Family?


A babysitter is much different than the other two childcare workers mentioned above. A sitter is usually someone whose parents hire as needed and aren’t used exclusively for babies. Babysitters might be hired for a few hours or a couple of times a month. There’s a high turnover for babysitters and most families will have a few go-to sitters they use. Often, babysitters are high school students and aren’t planning on pursuing education degrees.

Now that you understand the differences between the three most commonly hired in-home child caretakers, you are better prepared to choose what type of childcare is right for your children. It’s important to check references and agree upon payment before setting up any formal or informal agreements.


Top Daycare Centers was started with a simple mission - To help parents like us find the safest, most reliable and trusted daycare and child care centers and services near your area.

Skip to toolbar