I'm a Nanny, Not a Babysitter. And Yes, There's a Difference!

by amanda dunyak.

When I was much younger and just starting out as a nanny, if someone were to call me a babysitter I would not have been offended. I didn’t realize, at the time, that there was a difference between the two titles. If someone were to call me a babysitter now that I’ve been in the field for 15 years, I can guarantee they would get a dirty look from me. You know the kind... when you tell a two year old it’s time to stop playing with his favorite toy and take a nap. One of those looks.

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My job as a nanny is my career. It is my passion. Using the term “babysitter” to describe what I do on a daily basis borders on degrading for many reasons. Now I understand that some people just really do not know the difference. It’s all the same to them. I’m watching kids, therefore I am a babysitter. I don’t know about you, but my job as a nanny almost never entails sitting of any kind and it is so much more than just watching the children! There have been numerous occasions in which I had to describe to a person exactly what it is I do as a nanny, and more often than not, I have found myself trying to sell this person on my career choice. When I sit back and think about it, I shouldn’t have to prove to anyone that my choice to be a nanny is indeed a valid career choice! I don’t question teachers about why they teach or whether or not it’s worth it. I don’t question the bank tellers, the sales associates, or the gas station attendants, either! But why is it that people are always questioning me on my career choice? Why should I be questioned?

It does happen, though, and through all of the various jobs I have held over the years, being a nanny has been the least stressful and most profitable, and it’s been the only job with which I have truly been happy. In my opinion, it is one of the best career choices for someone like me who has always worked with kids, who has wanted to be a teacher and went to school for education, who likes to be outgoing and creative, and is just an all-around loving person. The next time someone calls you a babysitter or asks what the difference is and how you can survive on a nanny’s salary, you can call upon some of the facts below:

  • A babysitter is someone who comes on occasion or on an as-needed basis to watch the kids. It is usually for a short period of time and the pay is on an hourly basis, and usually for much less than a nanny's hourly rate. A nanny may have a contract with benefits or sick/personal/vacation days built in. A nanny can be full time or part time, but there is usually a set schedule and a certain number of hours per week that a nanny works. A babysitter can be any age from teenager and older. While a nanny is not necessarily required to have a college degree, a college education as well as experience and training can help.
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  • According to the 2012 International Nanny Association Salary and Benefits Survey, the national average gross weekly salary for a full-time nanny who does not live with the family is $705, and for live-in, $652 (lower due to room and board being provided). This varies by location and many other factors, of course. I don’t know about you, but when I worked as a preschool teacher in a daycare or as an instructional aide in a public school, I made far less than that on average per week. And I was miserable and treated poorly, to boot! I know it has been said by many an educator or childcare provider that you are not in these professions for the money, and that is the truth, but if I had to choose where I wanted to dedicate my childcare services, I would pick being a nanny based on salary in addition to all the other good things that come along with it!
  • While there are certainly classes for babysitters to take, there are many resources available to nannies for professional development. There are certifications available and wonderful things like Nannypalooza for us to attend! All of this certainly helps in our profession and can also help our résumé when searching for a new position.
  • A nanny may be expected to clean, cook, do laundry, transport the children to activities, teach and do art, possibly run errands and go grocery shopping, as well as being responsible for the well-being of the child(ren). A nanny becomes a part of the family and helps to raise the children and guide them toward becoming polite, caring, and well-behaved little people (or so we can hope).

When it comes down to it, nannies can be offered many of the benefits and securities enjoyed by people in other fields of employment. We still have bosses to answer to. We still have to pay taxes and act professionally. A career as a nanny (or in childcare in general) is certainly not for everyone, but there is no reason why anyone should have to argue that being a nanny is a reputable and rewarding career choice. In my personal career, and with many of the nannies that I spoke to regarding this topic, we all go above and beyond for our jobs. But the most important underlying theme with so many nannies is how much we love our jobs, our nanny families and charges, and how incredibly rewarding it is to be a nanny. I believe any job that can make you feel that way is a job worth having, don’t you agree?

This article is available in Spanish / en Español.