Nanny vs Babysitter: What's the Difference?

As a busy parent, finding the right childcare solution for your family can be a huge challenge. Should you hire a professional nanny or get a teenage babysitter from down the road? What’s the difference between a nanny vs babysitter? At first glance, they seem similar - both watch your kids while you're out. But there are some significant distinctions.

Figuring out if a nanny or babysitter is the best fit depends on your family's needs and budget. While nannies offer consistent care and wide-ranging responsibilities, babysitters provide more casual, as-needed supervision.

This decision can impact everything from your children's safety and development to your household budget and peace of mind. As a parent, you want to make the choice that's right for your family.

What is a Nanny?

A nanny is a professional caregiver who works full-time caring for children in the family's home. Nannies typically work 40 hours or more per week, often following a set weekly schedule.

Many nannies have educational backgrounds in child development or related fields, experience caring for children, or specific nanny training.

A nanny's role goes far beyond just monitoring children’s safety. Nannies care for all aspects of children’s needs including their physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development and well-being.

Common Nanny Duties

  • Preparing and cooking meals
  • Transporting children to school, activities, and more
  • Educational activities and playtime with kids
  • Light housekeeping related to children such as laundry, toy pick-up, or tidying bedrooms

Nannies also often serve as household managers handling things like children’s schedules, grocery shopping, coordinating with other care providers, and managing the family calendar.

What is a Babysitter?

Babysitters provide part-time, occasional care for children. They don’t work set schedules as employees, but are hired by parents as needed to watch their kids. Babysitting arrangements can range from regular weekly care to fully on-call sitters for evenings and weekends on an as-needed basis.

The main role and responsibility of a babysitter is to keep children safe and supervised during the hours they’re providing care. Unlike nannies, babysitters aren’t responsible for long-term child development or taking a wide role in managing household needs related to children.

Common Babysitting Duties

  • Feeding meals or snacks that parents provide
  • Engaging the children in play and age-appropriate activities
  • Managing bedtime routines like baths, brushing teeth, stories and tuck-ins
  • Responding if a child needs comforting, becomes ill or is injured
  • Overseeing safety and providing a watchful presence

The focus of a babysitter is attending to the children's basic physical and emotional needs in the parents' absence. They monitor the kids and keep them entertained until the parents return home. Babysitters don’t provide the wider nurturing, educational development and routine management that nannies commonly take on. If you’re nervous about leaving your baby for the first time, check out our babysitter survival tips.

Nanny vs Babysitter Differences 

Now that we’re familiar with what nannies and babysitters are, let’s dig into the key differences.

Pay Differences 

Given the significant differences in their roles, nannies and babysitters earn very different hourly wages. Full-time nannies can expect to earn $15-$25 per hour based on experience, education level, and responsibilities. Babysitters most often get paid minimum wage, around $10-$15 per hour. While parents pay nannies as regular employees, babysitters are independent childcare providers who are directly paid by the parents for each job.

Legal and Tax Differences

Along with the pay differences come legal and tax implications. As household employees, nannies must have contracts stipulating their work hours, duties, pay, and benefits. Employers are responsible for paying payroll taxes, social security, Medicare, and providing tax statements. 

Babysitters as independent contractors represent simpler arrangements without tax considerations. Parents pay them directly for hours worked without tax deductions. However, many families still use written agreements outlining expectations, rates and responsibilities when engaging a regular babysitter.

Pros and Cons of a Nanny


  • Consistent, reliable childcare on a set weekly schedule that families can depend on. No need to constantly coordinate care.
  • One-on-one attention and stable care from someone invested in the child's development. Chance for close bond.
  • Educational activities and playtime tailored to the child's specific needs, abilities and interests.
  • Less exposure to germs and illnesses commonly spread at daycare centers.


  • Expensive compared to other options, requires providing full-time hourly wages and benefits. Major budget commitment.
  • Sacrifices privacy and personal family time by having someone present in your home constantly.
  • No guaranteed backup care if the nanny is ill, on vacation or needs to take leave. Parents bear responsibility for all substitute arrangements.
  • Potentially less socialization and interaction with other children compared to group daycare settings.

Pros and Cons of a Babysitter 


  • More flexible, affordable care option, especially for part-time or as-needed hours.
  • Available to work nights, weekends and specific hours based on the family’s needs.
  • Can provide care on short notice if plans change unexpectedly or emergencies come up.
  • No need for extensive contracts outlining duties, schedules and benefits.


  • Lack of consistency with constantly changing sitters. No chance to build relationships.
  • Sitters may be inexperienced teenagers still learning to provide proper care.
  • Babysitters sometimes fail to follow parents' preferences and rules around bedtimes, meals, screen time limits etc.
  • Scheduling and coordinating availability across multiple sitters can pose logistical challenges.


While both provide childcare services, nannies and babysitters play quite different roles when it comes to duties, schedules, and pay. The key considerations are:

  • Nannies provide professional, consistent full-time care with a wide range of responsibilities. Babysitters fulfill basic supervision needs part-time.
  • Nannies earn higher hourly wages, are taxed as employees, and require contracts. Babysitters earn minimum wage with no tax obligations.
  • Nanny care offers individual attention, flexibility and reliability. Babysitting provides affordable, as-needed care.

Assessing your family’s childcare requirements, budget constraints, and preferences will determine which option makes the most sense. Trial periods and references can help ensure the best fit when hiring childcare.

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