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What is a nanny? How to hire the right nanny for your needs

Looking to hire a nanny? Here's how

A nanny feeding toddlers in her care / Shutterstock

Finding the right childcare for your family is challenging whether you’re returning to work following a maternity leave or transitioning from being a stay-at-home mom back into the workforce. It’s never an easy decision to leave your kids during the day to go to work.

While some parents have family to rely on to watch the kiddos, many don’t. Their options boil down to daycare centers. Other parents opt to hire a nanny to care for the children during the workday to allow the kids to stay in the familiar environment of their own home. Nannies have been caring for children for ages, but exactly what is a nanny, and how do parents go about finding one?

Nanny and kids baking a cake
Evgeny Atamanenko / Shutterstock

What is a nanny?

At the mention of the word nanny, an image of Mary Poppins landing at the front door with her umbrella probably popped into your head. It’s not surprising since she’s one of the most famous fictional nannies. Simply put, a nanny is a professional caregiver whose primary responsibility is the care of children in a private home. Unlike a babysitter, a nanny is employed on a full or part-time basis and is paid a salary or an hourly wage.

Nannies also come with a resume of experience and perform a range of duties revolving around the care and well-being of the children in the household. Since a big part of a nanny’s job is keeping children safe, a nanny should be CPR trained and have basic first-aid knowledge. Some nannies can often assist new parents in baby-proofing the home, too. Many nannies have a background in early childhood education as well.

Duties of a nanny

First and foremost, a nanny is hired to look after the children. A nanny’s duties include providing a daily, structured routine for kids that often incorporates getting kids ready for school, making and prepping meals, managing naps, and engaging the kids in age-appropriate activities. Depending on your family’s needs, a nanny can take kids back and forth to school as well as extracurricular activities, play dates, and appointments. Many nannies also do light household chores pertaining to the kids, such as laundry and cleaning up following meals and playtime. The exact duties of your nanny will depend on the kind of nanny you want to hire.

Types of nannies

As professional caregivers, there are different kinds of nannies. The type you select depends on the kind of care you are looking to receive for your children. These are the most common types of nannies.

  • Part-time nanny – A part-time nanny works a specific number of hours a week on a regular schedule. Many part-time nannies are employed for families with younger school-aged children. A part-time nanny is ideal for a family that doesn’t need a caregiver for the majority of the day.
  • Live-in nanny – Live-in nannies are employed on a full-time basis, providing all-day care for the children. As the name implies, a full-time nanny lives in your home and often carries additional housekeeping and cooking duties. Employing a full-time nanny is typically a long-term commitment between the nanny and the family.
  • Nanny share – A nanny share works between two or more families who don’t need a full-time caregiver. The families usually live in close proximity where the schedules can be worked out for the nanny to provide childcare duties for all the families at different times. The perk of this option is that the nanny’s salary is shared among the employing families.

There are also more specialized nannies, such as newborn, special needs, tutor, travel, and weekend nannies.

Nanny expectations

Since a nanny’s duties vary with the type of nanny you’re hiring, it’s important to have clear expectations out of what you require from your nanny. For example, if you need a nanny to take your kids to their sports activities or other after-school activities, a driver’s license and transportation are must-haves.

Always spell out exactly what duties and responsibilities you expect your nanny to have so there aren’t any gray areas. Creating a nanny contract is prudent for both you and your nanny. In the contract, you should hammer out the details about working hours, personal days, sick days, duties, live-in arrangements if that applies, time off, and expenses. Some families may also want a confidentiality agreement, which should also be addressed in the contract.


There are a lot of factors that go into determining a nanny’s salary, including the cost of living and the availability of childcare in the area. A nanny’s salary depends on the number of children under their care as well.

A baby smiling while sitting up.
Pranav Kumar Jain / Unsplash

How to hire a nanny

Since Mary Poppins isn’t going to fly down to your doorstep with a spoonful of sugar, how do parents go about hiring a nanny? You can find some nannies by word of mouth. Since the demand for nannies decreases as kids reach the tween and teen years, you might be able to find out about the availability of a nanny from other parents in your neighborhood or social circle.

Websites like, Nanny Lane, and Sitter City can help connect you with nannies in your area. Nanny Lane does require a plus membership to get access to background checks and other services like hiring assistance and payroll. Social media is another way to locate available nannies. Facebook groups like Nanny Careers USA are a way to link families with a possible nanny.

For families looking for childcare, a nanny can be an ideal choice. Unlike daycare, hiring a nanny keeps your children in their own home environment with a schedule tailor-made for them. Depending on your family’s needs, a nanny can be full or part-time. There are other specialized nanny options, too. Since a nanny provides professional childcare, many come with years of experience and comprehensive resumes. Remember to vet any potential nannies carefully and have a detailed contract in place upon hiring that spells out all pertinent responsibilities and employment arrangements.

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Dawn Miller
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