What Is the Difference Between a Babysitter and a Nanny? - Care.com Resources

What Is the Difference Between a Babysitter and a Nanny?

Do you need a nanny or a babysitter? Learn what type of sitter you need to hire to best fit your care needs.

If you’re looking to hire a caregiver for your child, you might be asking yourself one of the most common questions we get around here: What’s the difference between a babysitter and a nanny anyhow?

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 grey 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. So, it’s most important to be clear from the start on what the job will entail and less so that they meet some definition of nanny or 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*

Employment statusUsually temporary, but sometimes regularRegular
ScheduleAs needed, often for date nights or other short stintsPart-time or full-time, usually while parents work
Vacation timeNoYes
CertificationCPR and first aid, basic child care training and/or experienceCPR and first aid, advanced child care training and/or years of experience
Duties besides child careAs agreed uponOften includes meal prep, housework, sometimes driving and errands

* Caregivers on the Care.com platform may not follow this terminology breakdown.

What is a babysitter?

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. 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. 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.

>> Looking for a babysitter? Find childcare in your area now.

What is a nanny?

As for a nanny definition, this is usually someone who is fully invested in a child’s development and well-being. Perhaps it’s a regular gig that best differentiates a nanny from a 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.

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 they care for. 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. 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 pay checks 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:

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.

Nanny housekeeper

  • 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.

Part-time nanny

  • Cares for kids regularly but for shorter time periods — could be a few hours a week only Monday through Wednesday or only after school.
  • Will be more involved than a babysitter.

Whatever you call your child’s caregiver — a nanny or a babysitter — what’s most important is that they’re providing the type and quality of care that’s right for your family.

>> Looking for a nanny? Find childcare in your area now.