In prior FAQs, I outlined the basic pros and cons of hiring a nanny and I compared that to a nanny share arrangement and hiring an au pair (some people mistakenly spell this “opare nanny”. I have also been making the case as to why simply typing “best nanny agencies nyc” into Google and clicking on the first agency you see will only cause you to spin your wheels. In fact, before you can even think about how to hire a nanny agency, you must first decide if a nanny (vs. other childcare options) is the right choice for your family anyway. In this FAQ, we’ll discuss babysitting and its pros and cons.
Average Salary: $8 to $20 per hour
Annual Cost: Varies depending on number of hours
A babysitter is someone who occasionally looks after your children for a few hours on an as-needed basis. Many parents blur the line between babysitters and nannies, but in reality they are two distinct jobs that require very different skills. A babysitter is literally someone who sits with the child and keeps an eye on them until the parents come home. They may play with the kids, and they will know how to keep them safe, but they are not professional caregivers;hey have a short-term focus. Babysitters don’t perform additional duties such as cooking or cleaning, or think about the larger household; they are focused solely what to do with the kids for the few hours that they are there. This is a much more casual relationship.
Parents who need part-time help are often torn between hiring a babysitter or a nanny.
I always tell them that the more regular the hours, and the more duties and autonomy you want the caregiver to have, the more you should lean toward a nanny. When you hire a babysitter, they may or may not come with childcare skills. You will need to direct them and tell them exactly what to do while you’re gone. “Help Emma with this art project; please give her a bath; please feed her dinner at 6:00 pm- it is in the microwave so all you need to do is heat it up for 3 minutes and thirty seconds.” While a nanny will require some training at the beginning, she will ultimately be able to take charge in a way that most babysitters will not. Nannies also think longer-term: they will think about how to start good rituals with your child, how to keep them on a schedule, and how to keep the whole household running smoothly. A babysitter probably won’t think that calming down your child will allow him to eat a good dinner and get a good night’s sleep. A nanny, however, will, because a) that’s her job, and b) she doesn’t want to come back tomorrow and have a child on her hands who has been up all night and is miserable.
When you hire a babysitter, even though the arrangement is more casual, you want to do as much due diligence as you would when hiring any other caregiver. All of the steps in my Gold Standard hiring process can and should be applied to sitters, even the trials.
- Hired as needed, so there are no continual outgoing costs
- Flexible hours
- May be inexperienced in caring for very young children
- Will need direction
- Only focused on the few hours that they are there
- May be hard to book on short notice