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Is a Nanny or an Au Pair the Right Choice for Your Family?

There are two types of in-home childcare that families can choose from as they search for the right provider to watch over their children: nanny care and au pair care. Although the two are similar to each other, there are also some significant differences between them that set them apart. Which choice is right for your family depends on what your individual needs are. Here are the factors to consider before making your decision.


Many parents say the biggest advantage of au pair care is the price. Parents of school age children can hire an au pair for 30 hours a week for around $275. Parents of younger children or parents who want up to 45 hours of care a week can hire an au pair for $350 to $430 a week, depending on the au pair’s level of training and experience. There are additional costs involved however, like continuing education for the au pair and car insurance for a young, foreign driver.

Hiring a qualified nanny is more expensive than hiring an au pair; how much more expensive depends on your location, your job description and the nanny’s qualifications.

If cost is the “make it or break it” factor for you, hiring an au pair may be your better choice, but you’ll need to be prepared to make trade-offs in other area.


Au pairs require a private bedroom because they live with their host families. For many families this isn’t a problem, but for families who live in city apartments or homes where extra bedrooms aren’t available, this eliminates au pair care as an option.

Nannies, on the other hand, can be live-in or live-out, so space doesn’t have to be a defining factor.


It’s important to remember that au pairs aren’t trained childcare providers. They’re young women and men who enjoy children and are willing to take on childcare duties in exchange for a cultural experience. They are required to take a child safety and basic child development skills training class before arriving at their host family’s home. Some au pair companies offer an option to hire an au pair that has a formal childcare education.

Although not a legal requirement, qualified nannies typically have a solid foundation of childcare training. They often offer specialized skills that are particularly helpful to parents facing special challenges.

Both au pair and nanny care can provide you with a trained caregiver. The type and depth of the training is different from caregiver to caregiver, so look carefully at the individual’s qualifications during the screening process.


Au pairs are strictly limited in the types of tasks they can take on. They cannot be asked to do anything outside of basic childcare. They can do things like bathing, diapering and dressing a child; preparing meals for a child; and changing a child’s sheets and picking up the playroom. They cannot do any general family duties like family cooking, family laundry, or errands.

On the other hand, a nanny’s job description can be tailored to the family’s unique needs and the nanny’s skills. Along with childcare, a nanny can support the family through family-related duties like family meals and laundry, household management duties like scheduling and overseeing repairmen, or personal assistant duties like running errands.

Carefully consider what type of help you need. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what tasks you want your childcare provider to take on and what tasks you’re willing to do.


Au pairs aren’t allowed to work more than 45 hours a week or more than 10 hours in one day. They also must be given at least one full weekend off each month and two weeks paid vacation during the year.

There are no restrictions on how many hours a nanny can work. Employers are required to pay a nanny for every hour worked, as well as overtime in many cases. Although there’s isn’t a limit as to how many hours a nanny can work, nannies who regularly work more than 55 or 60 hours a week often suffer from burnout and tend to leave their jobs sooner than nannies who work a more manageable schedule.

Parents who often work late, have a long commute, travel for work, or want their provider to cover date nights should consider a nanny rather than an au pair. It’s hard to stay within a 45 hour limit over the long haul.

Length of Commitment

Au pairs commit to working with a family for one year. After their year is up, they then have the option of extending their time for an additional 9 or 12 months. Once their commitment time is up, they must leave the United States.

Nannies can stay with a family for as long as they want. Some will leave after a year or two, while others stay with their employers for several years, leaving only when the parents no longer require regular childcare.

Families that are comfortable with changing caregivers or who enjoy getting to know new people through an exchange program won’t have a problem with the commitment restriction of au pair care. Families that value long term care are better suited for nanny care.


Au pairs are here as part of a cultural exchange program and should be treated as part of the family. They should be included in family meals and family outings whenever possible. This is a big plus to families who want to share in the cultural exchange experience.

Nannies take on the role as employee, but can also be considered a member of the family or anything in between. The relationship is defined by what the parents and nanny need and are comfortable with. This is a better fit for families that want a more professional working relationship.

Both au pair and nanny care have their advantages and disadvantages. By looking at your family’s needs and preferences, you can make a choice that will provide the best environment for you and your children.

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