Help with terminology, I'm confused!!!


Jan 1, 2007
Hi ladies! I am getting ready to go back to work full time after being a SAHM for 5 years.

I am wanting to hire someone to come into my home to look after my 2 little ones. One is in school so that would just be for a couple hours after the bus home.

I am not sure if I need a nanny, babysitter, or au pair? What's the difference? :confused1: Sorry if I sound silly, but I always thought a nanny was an older lady who lived with you. An au pair was a younger girl who lived with you, and a babysitter did not. My SIL calls what I call a babysitter her nanny.
I may need to place an ad, so I want to make sure I use the right words.

Thanks for your help!


Dec 14, 2007
Las Vegas, NV
I'm truly not much help here with proper terms, but I always think of a nanny as sort of a full time, permanent caregiver, who may or may not live in your home. A babysitter, on the other hand, would be the neighborhood teenager who comes over only occasionally. So the nanny would be with the kids from 8 to 5 while you and DH are at work, and the babysitter comes over so you and DH can go to dinner and a movie.

I think an au pair is sort of like a foreign exchange student who takes care of the kids and probably teaches them her language, in exchange for living in your home.


Loves the Lindy!
Mar 8, 2007
I think of them as illnirdhd described, with a couple of slight variations.

To me, the nanny is someone who cares for your kids on an ongoing basis, multiple days a week. Around here they could be full or part time, so either the 8-5 M-F scenario or something like three afternoons a week. She can also be older or younger (think Scarlett Johansen in The Nanny Diaries.) It's sort of akin to daycare, but in your own house -- a regular, consistent caregiver.

The au pair description is right on with one small addition -- they're generally only over for a short term, a year or so (remember, they have to get a visa to come do this.) Whereas you might keep your nanny for years if you like her.


Feb 13, 2007
Hi lulu! I'm with kimberf. If you want someone to care for your child on a daily basis, it looks like you are looking for a nanny. When you place an ad, you might want to include information on part-time vs full-time (live-in vs live-out).
I grew up in Manila where the description for a nanny is totally different, but I was living in NY when I had to hire my first nanny and realized it entails a lot of work (including a specific list of tasks which the job entails - bathing the baby? preparing food or just warming? walks in the park? etc).
I did find an excellent nanny who stayed with us for 3 years and was a wonderful, wonderful help. I wish you the same luck!