For Parents, Uncategorized

Do You Know What Kind of In-Home Childcare You Need?

When thinking of a nanny, people typically think of someone who regularly babysits for the same family. While that is true to a certain extent, there is so much more that goes into being a nanny than regular childcare, including the levels of responsibilities one might hold. If you’re looking to hire a nanny, it’s important to know the variety of in-home childcare offered. In order to better understand these roles or discover what your family needs, the following list of classifications is a great place to start.

Nanny or Au Pair

The most basic definition of a nanny is someone who cares for a family’s children with a set schedule and agreement of pay and responsibilities. Most nannies will take on light housekeeping (ie. wiping down counters and vacuuming) and child laundry. They provide meals for the kids, plan activities through out the day, and support the developmental milestones of the children. They might also drive the kids to and from activities or accompany them to parks and museums. Nannies can either live at the home where they work or live away from the home. An au pair will typically take on the same role as a live-in nanny.


A nanny-share is an agreement between two or more families to share one nanny between them at the same time. This can be a great arrangement for a family that can’t afford their own nanny since the individual rate is often more affordable. For example, if a nanny typically charges $10 an hour for one family, she may charge $8 an hour per family in the nanny-share. The families get quality childcare for less and the nanny makes a higher hourly wage than she would otherwise. It can be a great solution for all parties.

Nanny/Household Manager

A nanny/household manager has all of the same responsibilities as a nanny, as well as a majority of the responsibilities of a house manager. This may include (but is not limited to):

  • family laundry
  • errands
  • meal planning and/or cooking
  • making beds and tidying rooms
  • organizational tasks

Nanny/Family Assistant

Unlike a household manager, a family assistant helps more with assisting parents’ in their daily business needs than with the home. She assists with business-related tasks, like taking notes, answering phones/emails, and organizing employers’ schedules. A family assistant’s role can vary greatly according to a family’s needs.

Mother’s Helper

A mother’s helper is a nanny who works alongside the mother (or father) of the children she cares for. Often, she will take on the childcare role so the parent can run errands or clean the house. Sometimes, it’s the opposite. Regardless, the Mother’s Helper is there to assist the parent in whatever they need (within the agreed upon terms of their contract) to manage both the kids and the home.


A governess, commonly referred to as a homeschool teacher in the U.S., is a personal in-home teacher, providing and teaching a curriculum designed specifically for her students. A governess will often include extracurricular subjects in her lesson plans, such as a foreign language or specialized skills. Most often, families require their governess to have a teaching degree or certificate. This position is different from a nanny in that a governess is typically not responsible for the physical needs and wellbeing of the children in her care.


A babysitter is someone who works as needed to watch a family’s kids in their home while the parents are away for a short period of time. Unlike a nanny, she is not responsible for the development of the children and rarely does housework. The main responsibilities of a babysitter include entertaining the kids, feeding them meals, and putting them to bed.

It is a common misunderstanding that all in-home childcare providers fulfill the same role and quality of care. When hiring childcare, know what your family needs and what experience and expertise you require of your potential nanny. Then advertise that position accordingly.

It is also important to remember that a nanny or governess is an employee of the family she works for, not an independent contractor. This means she is given certain rights and privileges under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Every nanny does not fit each classification of childcare. Before you look to hire a nanny, know the facts about the varying roles an in-home childcare provider can fulfill.

If you need more of a visual to understand how all of these types of in-home childcare relate and differ, refer to the downloadable diagram below.

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