If you have children, and no nearby family members clamoring to take them off your hands once in a while, you’ve probably been—or will be—in the market for childcare. There are a handful of different people who can offer in-home care to your little ones. But what’s the difference between the various providers—and how do you know which one you need?
What does an au pair do?
An au pair is a childcare provider who lives in your home. Usually hailing from another country, au pairs are often the most affordable full-time childcare option. (Their salaries are lower because the host family provides room and board.)
The pros: While the care provided is not “round-the-clock” (au pairs have agreed-upon working hours), it’s the closest a family can get to having a third parent on their team, available for off-hours support or emergency situations that arise.
Communal living lends itself to meaningful bonds being formed between your children and your au pair—and quickly. As most au pairs are international women, your children will have exposure to another language and culture from a young age. Any issues with your au pair can be brought to, and mediated by, the placement agency.
The cons: An au pair may not be right for you if you place a high premium on privacy and solitude. Having an au pair is akin to adopting another family member; they often eat meals, go on vacation, and celebrate holidays with you. If you only have one guest room, it will be their living quarters for at least a year. You need to be comfortable with someone else driving your car, and with taking on any potential accidents or insurance claims that may result.
While au pairs are placed through agencies that vet them, and you will have ample opportunity to chat with candidates by video, you won’t be able to meet in person before hiring. Au pairs have a one-year work visa that can be extended for six, nine, or 12 months with the same family, or a new one. At most, they will only be able to stay with your family for two years.
What does a nanny do?
A nanny is someone who works full- or part-time for your family and who typically doesn’t live in your home. Nannies are ideal for families who need frequent, long-term care on a regular schedule. A nanny may perform other duties related to childcare, such as driving to and from after-school activities, homework guidance, and household help, such as light housekeeping or meal prep.
The pros: Finding the right nanny can provide convenience and peace of mind that you have an experienced partner who will likely stick around longer than a babysitter. Your child can stick to a familiar environment and already-established routines while receiving one-on-one attention.
The cons: A nanny is often the most expensive childcare option, due to their experience level—nannying is their career, not a side gig. While salaries vary by location, according to Care.com, “The national average cost of a nanny for one child averaged $612 per week.” A full-time nanny is effectively an employee, and you’ll be required to set a salary, sick days, at least two weeks of paid vacation, and holiday time off. You’ll need to deduct taxes from their pay and report all income and deductions to the government. In some cases, you may even be asked to provide unemployment or healthcare benefits.
A nanny will expect yearly salary raises—and it’s customary to provide a generous bonus during the holiday season. Most nannies are independent contractors, are not subject to any regulation or oversight, and require more vetting on your part.
What does a babysitter do?
A babysitter is someone who provides intermittent, ad hoc childcare for your family. They generally work fewer hours, and have other jobs or school commitments.
The pros: Babysitters are ideal when you don’t have a consistent, ongoing need for childcare. If you primarily need someone a few hours a week or less, who can drive kids to sports, play with them after school, or watch them while you have date night, a babysitter (or preferably, a long list of them) is an amazing resource. Your kids will get exposure to a variety of different personalities and activities. Babysitters are part-time, get paid by the hour, and don’t require any long-term commitment. They offer you more flexibility and privacy than a nanny or au pair.
The cons: Babysitters are typically the least reliable of all childcare providers. They are often in school or taking on other jobs to supplement their main source of income. They may be actively seeking other work, off to a new job or adventure in coming months, or have limited availability. Because they are often used only occasionally, they may not form the same deep, lasting bonds with your kids. (Though it is possible.)
Whether a babysitter, nanny, or au pair is right for you, having childcare options to provide mental and physical breaks from the demands of child-rearing is key to parental well-being.
original source: The Difference Between a Nanny, a Babysitter, and an Au Pair