The Difference Between a Nanny and a Babysitter

What Do You Think is the Difference Between a Nanny and a Babysitter?

Many nannies get upset when they are called babysitters. I think this may be due to the fact that the image of a babysitter is a high school student working on a Saturday night for parents who are going out for an occasional party or dinner and a movie.

While the babysitter is responsible for the safety and care of the child, she or he likely watches TV after putting the children to bed and isn’t responsible for setting up playdates or activities or doing household chores like laundering the children’s clothes.

In contrast, a professional nanny provides quality care, not just custodial care. Custodial care is defined as just providing the child with their basic needs of warmth, food, and clothing. 

To provide quality care nannies not only are responsible for the safety, health, and hygiene of the children in their care, she also schedules playdates and age-appropriate activities, helps kids with homework, prepares healthy meals and snacks, and helps with light household chores such as tidying the children’s play and living areas.

But, of course many nannies do babysit to make money and there are plenty of babysitters that provide quality care.

In an article, Difference Between a Nanny and a Babysitter, Marisa Swanson writes “A babysitter is employed on an as-needed basis. The need for a babysitter comes from a situation in which the parents rely on other caregivers (such as a day care) or themselves to take care of their children’s day-to-day needs. A babysitter is not hired to be on call to take care of the children exclusively on a daily and indefinite basis. When parents have a special outing planned, they usually call a babysitter to take care of their kids for two to several hours at a time. Multiple babysitters can and often do serve one household. Parents who use babysitters typically have more than one phone number in the event that one babysitter is not available for the time they need her.”

Typically babysitters are independent contractors. Babysitters often work out of private households but may occasionally work in hotels, office buildings, churches and other community facilities at a client’s request. Babysitters provide temporary childcare for a predefined period of time and follow immediate instructions provided by the primary care provider, such as dietary needs and bedtime routines.

In contrast, nannies are employees that participate in many child-rearing activities, including the social, emotional, and cognitive development of the children in their care in the home where the children live. Some families employ live-in nannies. Many nannies also perform light housekeeping chores.

Marisa Swanson describes a nanny as an in-home childcare provider that is employed when parents have very little time to devote to the day-to-day needs of their children. A nanny is employed to spend time taking care of a child in every circumstance that arises when you are unavailable and at any time. This can be every weekday, prescribed weekends, or evenings. The nanny is also the exclusive caregiver of your children outside of yourself. It is very rare for a household to employ different nannies to alternate shifts. There usually is one nanny per household.

What do you think is the difference between a nanny and a babysitter?


  1. I disagree that it is rare that people employ different nannies for different shifts. I know one nanny who works T/Th and M/W for 2 different families, and I know some families who employ multiples nannies for similar schedules, particularly if one nanny has another job or school that occupies most of her time.I am both a nanny and a baby-sitter. I have one family that I work for ~45-50 hours per week, every weekday. I also have many families that I work for on weekends and evenings, and some of these have been regular, so I don't know if they may consider me a nanny if I care for their children, say, 6-8 hours a week most weeks, even though one parent and school provide most of the care.One mom of kids I baby-sit occasionally (it's been twice so far in about 6 weeks) calls their baby-sitters nannies even though it is just a few hours at a time. I correct them because I don't see myself as a nanny in this situation – I don't make as complicated decisions as I do as a nanny or deal with as complicated problems, and I'm only there for three hours anyway.Some people note that baby-sitters are young. I wasn't a nanny when I was a teenager, but I've been baby-sitting since I was 13, and I still do now, at 29. Yes, I'm also a nanny, but I think that my experience as a nanny and a preschool teacher has made me a better baby-sitter. I also think that, if I were to change careers, I'd still baby-sit on evenings and weekends some, even if my primary career was not child care.

  2. A babysitter is paid an hourly rate and don't work regularly. A nanny is paid a yearly salary. Nannies receive benefits from the family they work for and paid vacation time. A nanny may live inside the family home so she can be available for the care of the children at all times. A nanny is qualified to care for kids and able to do so without supervision.

    • I agree with most of all is said in this article. The exception is that most families do not hire more than one nanny at a time to alternate shifts. I work as a nanny for a family with 3 very young children. The parents require( or desire) care for their children from 7am til 7:30/8pm. They wanted 2 nannies so that one would not get burnt out on the hours and also the nannies could cover each other and the parents would not be left without care.

      This is a good and bad thing for me. I like the fact that I can ask the other nanny to cover me if say I have an appointment. However, said nanny changed her hours and therefore mine had to change and when I complained,the parents said I was being inflexible. Crazy!

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