The Difference Between a Nanny and a Babysitter: 5 Myths Explained

Nannies are just glorified babysitters, right? Wrong! Nannies are hard-working child care professionals, yet they’re subject to a long list of stereotypes from people who don’t understand what the job really entails.

So what’s the difference between a nanny and a babysitter? A nanny’s duties go well beyond making mac 'n' cheese and popping in the latest Disney DVD. Nannies do everything from planning educational activities to providing discipline when necessary, according to the International Nanny Association (INA).

Don’t get caught believing the stereotypes! We enlisted a few seasoned nannies who are ready to set the record straight. You just might want to pursue this fulfilling career once you’ve heard their side of the story!

5 myths every nanny wants to debunk

1. Nannies are just babysitters who work longer hours

Any nanny will tell you there’s a world of difference between their job and babysitting. A babysitter’s main task is to supervise a family’s children for a short period of time. Their job is over after microwaving frozen corndogs and playing a few rounds of Monopoly®.*

Nannies, on the other hand, are actively involved with the children they care for day in and day out. “They’re responsible for the emotional, physical and intellectual growth of the child,” says Helen Adeosun, veteran nanny and founder of CareAcademy.

A good nanny will be attentive to what’s happening in a child’s development and will make adjustments based on the child’s needs. A nanny’s day might include inventing a game to help a toddler work on her gross-motor skills, teaching a preschooler to identify letters, or noticing that a baby is showing signs of readiness to start solid foods.

2. People become nannies because they couldn’t find a “real job”

“Our job is not taken seriously and it isn’t viewed as important,” says Melissa Martz, a full-time nanny with 18 years of experience. Adeosun agrees that people are often quick to assume nannying isn’t a legitimate job. Yet nannies spend their days doing hard work with specialized knowledge, often earning the benefits to prove it.

"Our job is not taken seriously and it isn't viewed as important."

Many full-time nannies receive similar benefits to traditional employees working for a company, according to the INA. In addition to a salary that adheres to the Fair Labor Standard Act, nannies can expect to receive paid holidays, sick days and vacation, as well as a portion of their health insurance premium covered. Some families may award their nannies bonuses and reimburse them for professional conferences or training as well.

3. Anyone can be a nanny

Some people think that no special skills or training are necessary to care for children all day. Those people have obviously never spent eight hours with a two-year-old. In reality, many nannies are highly educated childcare workers who deserve respect for their specialized knowledge.

The INA has identified five educational competencies for nannies, including skills related to children’s developmental and physical needs. They also note the importance of a nanny’s ability to interact professionally with the employing family.

“Ongoing professional development legitimizes a very important job,” says Adeosun. She found it shocking that teachers were expected to engage in ongoing education but nannies weren’t offered the same type of training. It was that realization that led her to launch CareAcademy.

Some of the skills and certifications parents look for in a nanny include:

  • CPR and first-aid certification
  • Early childhood education or other teaching degree/experience
  • Child nutrition training
  • Sign language
  • Water-safety certification
  • Professional nanny certification

4. Nannies watch cartoons with the kids all day

It might be OK for a babysitter to plop the kids on the couch for a movie marathon, but nannies know their work involves much more than that. “As a nanny, I’m invested in the child’s upbringing, development and well-being,” says Martz.

"I'm invested in the child's upbringing, development and well-being."

That’s why she makes an effort to enroll the kids in her care in various community activities, from library programs to swimming lessons. Martz also makes sure to introduce early childhood learning concepts through finger plays, reading books and asking open-ended questions. That’s a far cry from sitting on the couch!

“Being engaged in the community and in community programs is what helps raise a well-rounded child,” says Martz. By keeping the kids in her care involved in these types of activities, she’s making sure their physical, physiological and social needs are met—something you can’t achieve by watching Frozen for the 100th time.

5. Nannies don’t work hard

A nanny’s work may not involve sitting at a desk in a big corporation, but they exert a lot of energy to provide the best care possible for their kids. “You're planning, monitoring and interacting in a very close way with the child in your care. It’s amazing and can be profoundly hard work,” says Adeosun.

Nannies don’t get to run on auto-pilot if they’re tired or having a bad day. Any nanny can tell you there’s never a dull moment when they’re on duty. “A nanny is a critical thinker, a problem solver and someone who’s very anticipatory,” says Adeosun.

Nannies are experienced, trained professionals who use their skills to do everything from cooking a nutritious meal to mediating fights between siblings. Lazy folks should steer clear of a position that encompasses this much work!

The career behind the myths

Now you’re well aware of the difference between a nanny and a babysitter. There’s no question that being a nanny takes a lot more work, but our experts agree that it also reaps a much bigger reward.

Investing your energy into nurturing one group of children and watching them grow and develop can be extremely satisfying. You essentially become a member of the family, making it feel less like work and more like home.

If this sounds like your dream job, check out the five-step guide to becoming a nanny!

*Monopoly is a registered trademark of Hasbro, Inc.

About the author

Ashley Brooks

Ashley is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen University. She believes in the power of words and knowledge and enjoys using both to encourage others on their learning journeys

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