Au Pair, Nanny, or Nursery? Comparing Childcare Options

Whether you’re looking for a part-time babysitter or a full-time day nursery, selecting the right childcare option is a huge decision. One of the reasons why it can be so stressful is the very fact that you have so many options! So what are the differences between au pairs, nannies, and babysitters anyway? Here are a few ways to compare and contrast your options in order to find the best fit for your child.


One of the most traditional types of childcare is hiring a nanny. A nanny may live in the home with you, or may visit during set hours to take care of your children. Typically, a family goes through an agency to hire a nanny. The agency performs preliminary background checks and screening, and then you’ll be able to conduct phone interviews and meet in person. One factor to consider is that because a nanny is essentially your employee, you’ll need to keep track of her earnings and report this to the government for tax purposes. Nannies may perform additional household maintenance tasks aside from childcare, depending on your arrangement – they may help with grocery shopping or tutor children with homework.

Au Pairs

Hiring an au pair is quite similar to hiring a nanny, but there are a few differences. While some nannies may be foreign, you get an au pair as part of a cultural exchange. Au pair agencies work hard to match au pairs with families that will be a good cultural fit, because au pairs travel abroad not only to provide child care but also to improve language skills and learn more about the culture in the country they choose to work in. They must receive a regulated amount of childcare training and pass background checks as well. You can expect to pay the agency a fee for this training and regulation, as well as for the childcare that the au pair provides. You’ll also need to provide lodging and a weekly stipend. The cost is often less overall than a private nanny, and working hours can be flexible.

Day Nurseries

A third option is to put your child in a day nursery while you go to work. These may be operated out of a private home, or they may be attached to primary schools, for example. If you’re thinking about providing childcare to others while still caring for your own children, many mums find this to be a source of side income – take a look at the childcare courses at to get a feel for the type of training required. Licensed day nurseries are highly regulated, with a set ratio of staff to children and adherence to all government safety procedures. However, the day-to-day activities and staff qualifications can vary widely, so be sure to visit the nursery and ask any questions you might have. Look at the curriculum, speak to current parents with children who go there, and learn more about their policies to find the best fit. Costs can also vary, so be sure you understand all of the fees involved.

The Bottom Line

There are pros and cons to all of the types of childcare mentioned above. While the focused attention of a live-in nanny may be a perfect option for one family, another might find that the socialization that nursery provides might be just the thing to draw a shy child out of her shell. Others may find that a home childcare solution works best during the early years. Be sure to examine all options carefully to find what works for you!

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