5 Types of Caregivers
A guide to the many childcare options available to families, and how to choose the best option for you
Hiring a caregiver for your children is a big step for your family, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. We wanted to list out a few common options to help you start thinking about what is best for you. While a certain type of caregiver may be better suited for your family, all caregivers will look after, protect and love your children. They act as an extension of the parent’s eyes, ears and hearts, which gives parents the support they deserve and children the love they deserve.
Understanding the differences between caregivers and what they have to offer helps you decide the best arrangement for your family. Whether you’re looking to learn the difference between a nanny and a babysitter or researching how to find the best nanny for your needs, read on to learn about five different types of childcare.
Babysitters, also known as sitters, are short-term caregivers. They supervise and play with children and are typically paid by the hour. Parents can hire babysitters on a recurring schedule or just on special occasions. (Hello, date night!)
A babysitter is a great option if you need someone regularly, but only for a few hours. For example, you may want a sitter to watch your kids every weekday after school until you’re home from work. Or, you might hire a sitter for a few hours on Saturday morning as you run errands and take care of you. Sitters are typically easy to find in a pinch––lean on your mom friends for recommendations if your go-to sitter is unavailable.
Nannies are full-time caregivers who typically work on a set schedule. It's not uncommon for nannies to take on additional household responsibilities, like transportation, meal prep and light housework. Some families may ask their nanny to prepare meals for the children, help out around the house, drive children to their activities or help with homework. Because of this, you have to be more mindful of how you’ll set your nanny’s salary.
Nannies become an extremely important port of the children’s lives, which deepens the relationship between the nanny and child. People often become nannies because they want to nurture children and develop that close bond with the kids––that’s why I was a nanny for 15 years!
This type of caregiver arrangement can be tailored to your needs. Some nannies are full-time, while others only look after the kids for a few days each week. If there is a family in your neighborhood you like and share common parenting values with, consider forming a nanny share. This allows for more personalized childcare than a daycare with a more flexible schedule at a fraction of the cost.
Daycares offer a social—and oftentimes educational—environment for kids. Parent’s typically drop off their kids at daycare on a consistent schedule, although some daycares offer flexible care options. Kids then play, snack and nap as a group under the supervision of an experienced caregiver. While entry level positions require a high school diploma, lead teachers are experienced educators with bachelor’s degrees. According to the New York Times, “teachers’ level of education is associated with high-quality care and teaching,” so it’s a good idea to look for a daycare where teachers have higher-education degrees. It’s worth noting, too, that requirements for daycare teachers vary by state. A reputable daycare may have NAFCC- or NAEYC-accreditation and staff with backgrounds in early childhood education as well as some sort of state-issued child care license or CDA Certification.
Daycare is a great option for working parents who have regular, set working hours. If you’re going to be up and back home at around the same time every morning and evening, you’ll have an easier time adjusting to the daycare’s dropoff and pickup times.
4. Mother’s helper
Before I got into nannying, I started as a mother’s helper! As the title suggests, a mother’s helper looks after children under a parent’s supervision. Typically, a mother’s helper is too young to care for children on their own, but they’re old enough to look after and play with little kids. This is a great job for young adults and adolescents who want to be introduced to childcare.
A mother’s helper is a terrific childcare option. Wherever you are in motherhood––new mom, working mom, mom in need of a few minutes to herself––having someone around to entertain your kids while you take care of you is hugely important.
5. Au pair
An au pair is, typically, an international student who provides childcare in exchange for room and board from the family, plus a stipend for their services. This position involves immigration requirements, which can make it a complicated option for families seeking long-term, live-in childcare, but agencies are available to help you find the perfect match. For parents with busy work or travel schedules who want more affordable 24/7 childcare, an au pair is an excellent option.
Childcare comes in many different shapes and sizes. For example, grandparents and relatives can make great caregivers, too! They may take on the role of nanny or mother’s helper, depending on your childcare needs and their availability. Regardless of the arrangement you choose, all caregivers are there to love and care for your children.
Remember, always have courage and be kind.
Florence Ann 💛