What’s the Difference Between a Nanny and a Babysitter?

What’s the Difference Between a Nanny and a Babysitter?

Are you looking for someone to watch your baby while you go out for a date night? Do you need someone to pick your kids up from school and stay with them until you get home from work? Are you looking for someone to help with the twins on a regular basis three times a week? How do you know if you need a “babysitter,” ”nanny,” or “Mother’s helper” and what is the difference?


At ASAPSitters, we define “babysitter” as someone who cares for children for a few hours or a few days at a time, either occasionally or on a regular schedule. Babysitters are as-needed or temporary caregivers. Examples are date nights, occasional weekday and weekend childcare, or back-up care for nannies or daycare. A babysitter’s job is to keep the kids safe, be actively engaged, and have fun. Babysitters typically charge an hourly rate (or sometimes a flat-rate for overnights or extended stays). 

Mother’s Helper

A babysitter that helps out while mom or dad is home (part or all of the time) is a Mother’s Helper or Father’s Helper. Their role may extend beyond assisting with childcare to helping with household tasks like laundry, cleaning, and cooking.


A nanny is usually someone that cares for children on a long-term or permanent basis either part-time or full-time. Often, nannies are full-time employees to manage children’s schedules, activities, and meals while parents work. They may also be responsible for other household duties. Nannies are typically salaried employees and negotiate an employment contract with their family that may include tax withholdings, paid vacations and holidays, and sick days. Nannies can be live-in or live-out.

Au pairs are similar in scope to FT live-in nannies and are young foreign nationals from around the world. In most cases a family hosts an au pair for a year and provides room, board, and a stipend. The au pair cares for the children and may help with other household duties as well.

(ASAPSitters does not refer permanent full-time nannies but there are many reputable agencies that do. A great resource in the DC Metro Area for information about nannies and nanny agencies is the  Association of DC Area Nannies. ASAPSitters recommends A Nanny Next Door in Alexandria, VA & the free Nanny Forums on DCUrbanmom, for families looking for permanent full-time nannies.)

Newborn Care

There are agencies that specialize in care for newborns and overnight or 24-hour care for newborns. These caregivers often don’t fit the traditional definitions of “nanny” or “babysitter.” Our partners at Hush Hush Little Baby provide new moms & dads with Newborn Care Specialists who they define as “an individual trained and skilled in newborn care.”  Our friends at Let Mommy Sleep refer Baby Nurses (RN’s & LPN’s), PostPartum caregivers, and Multiple’s Specialists to families with new little ones.


Part-time Nanny or Ongoing Babysitter?

The line between a part-time nanny and a regularly scheduled babysitter starts to get a little blurry. We consider the length of commitment to be main difference between the two. A babysitter may fill in full-time for a week for a family whose nanny is on vacation or work with a family two afternoons a week for a semester. A family looking for a year-long (or longer) commitment from a caregiver is typically looking for a part-time nanny - for example, a family that needs afterschool care for the whole school year.

Do you have more questions about babysitters? We are happy to answer them! Email us at info@asapsitters.com