The thing is, it’s not always clear cut. Every child care job description varies slightly, and the line between nanny vs. babysitter can really be more like a huge gray area. The key lies in the job description you create for your child’s caregiver, which is then agreed upon by the caregiver you hire.
“I think any child care provider you have in your home should fill the description that you want them to,” says Rachel Charlupski, founder of The Babysitting Company.
So it’s most important to be clear from the start on what the job will entail and less so on the actual difference between nanny and babysitter.
There are, however, some general guidelines that can help you decide which term to use — nanny vs. babysitter — to create a job description that will attract a caregiver with your desired qualifications and that will perform the duties your family needs. Using these commonly accepted babysitter and nanny definitions is a good starting point to understanding whom you should hire and how much you should pay them.
Nanny vs. babysitter: a general guide*
(based on 15 hour/week)
(based on 40 hours/week)
By the hour
By the week or or month, with taxes taken out
Usually temporary, but sometimes regular
As needed, often for date nights or other short stints
Part-time or full-time, usually while parents work
CPR and first aid, basic child care training and/or experience
CPR and first aid, advanced child care training and/or years of experience
Duties besides child care
As agreed upon
Often includes meal prep, housework, sometimes driving and errands
* Caregivers on the Care.com platform may not follow this terminology breakdown.
What is a babysitter?
Average hourly rate: $17.40**
Average weekly rate: $261** (based on 15 hours/week)
A babysitter is typically someone who temporarily cares for children on behalf of the children’s parents or guardians. A babysitter may also be referred to as a “sitter,” and the most basic job description is that they take care of children of all ages who are in need of supervision on an as-needed basis.
“Babysitters provide for the safety of children for several hours, often with the family members nearby and available by phone,” says Elizabeth Malson, founder of the U.S. Nanny Institute in Sarasota, Florida. “[They’re] usually working for a few hours in the evening or during the weekend.”
Most babysitting jobs are considered part-time jobs that are paid by the hour and are either scheduled regularly (e.g., every day after school from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. or every Saturday night) or for special occasions (e.g., New Year’s Eve).
Babysitters are generally responsible for planning activities for your children (like games, sports, arts and crafts), supervising playdates and/or helping get kids ready for bed. They may do some light housekeeping, such as washing dishes or emptying the diaper bin, says Malson. Some sitters may be willing to take on additional responsibilities for extra pay; those could include cooking, vacuuming, driving children to and from scheduled activities and helping with homework. Ensure that your expectations are clear to any babysitter candidates you interview.
Above all else, a babysitter is responsible for the safety and well-being of your children while in their care.
What is a nanny?
Average hourly rate: $17.35**
Average weekly rate: $694** (based on 40 hours/week)
As for a nanny definition, this is usually someone who is fully invested in a child’s development and well-being. Perhaps the regular gig is the biggest difference between nanny and babysitter. Generally, a nanny will care for children full-time while both parents work. That usually means regular hours and a long-term contract.
“Nannies [tend to] have contracted, consistent work for at least three months, but usually a year or more,” says Malson.
It’s a nanny’s responsibility to create daily schedules and engage in activities to ensure healthy mental, physical and emotional growth in the children for which they care. Typically, nannies have more responsibilities and duties than a babysitter does.
“Care [by a nanny] includes providing meals and activities for the children and may also include taking the children on outings and providing additional support, such as transporting children to and from school, from school to clubs, sports practices, playdates and other activities,” says Malson. “Nannies work autonomously and may have full responsibility to care for the children when families are out of town.”
Most nannies also will be tasked with preparing meals, helping with household work (e.g., dishes, laundry, etc.) and assisting with homework.
In addition to basic safety classes, a nanny may have had advanced child care training or many years of child care experience. Often, nannies earn a weekly salary (based on hourly expectations), have taxes deducted from their paychecks and work year-round for a family. It’s expected that nannies receive benefits, including at least two weeks of paid vacation and earn holiday pay, as well.
Nannies often become part of the family, bonding with the children in a different way than parents do. Some families consider their nannies co-parents or partners in parenting, getting information from their nannies on their child’s development and interests or asking their nannies to help their kids cope with losses and stress.
Because the job of a nanny is much like that of a parent, most families and nannies work together to create a nanny contract that lays out all terms and conditions of the job, including vacation time, sick days and more.
There are many different types of nannies, depending on whether you’re looking for part-time, full-time, live-in or live-out care. Here are the differences.
Full-time live-out nanny:
- Works “full-time” (i.e., five days a week, usually 45 to 50 hours).
- Focuses exclusively on child care (e.g., play, bath time, meals, activities, homework, transportation, etc.).
- May have extensive training or education in childhood development, which makes them a valuable asset.
- May work extra hours or use their own car to help with nanny duties (such as picking up kids from school), both of which will affect their rates.
- Gets paid a weekly or salaried rate, which you can negotiate during the initial interview.
- Does not reside in the family’s home or perform any non-child-related cleaning or housekeeping.
Full-time live-in nanny:
- Shares the same responsibilities as live-out nannies, but they reside in the family’s home.
- Receives access to a furnished room, private bath and sometimes a cell phone and a car, in exchange for reduced care costs.
- Maintains specific boundaries around work and non-work hours.
- Handles the same child care duties as a live-in or live-out nanny, but also performs housekeeping duties during nap or quiet time, or while the children are at school.
- May charge more (whether hourly or salary) than other nannies because she’s providing additional services.
- Cares for kids regularly but for shorter time periods — could be a few hours a week only Monday through Wednesday or only after school.
- More involved than a babysitter.
What’s most important is that your child’s caregiver is providing the type and quality of care that’s right for your family. So now when you’re ready to hire, you can know the difference between a nanny and a babysitter and reach out to the right candidates for the job.
**All rate data is based on 2021 national averages from Care.com’s 2022 Cost of Care Survey.