Choosing Between a Nanny, Daycare, or Au Pair

If you are navigating the murky waters of full-time childcare, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and bogged down. There are innumerable choices out there, and of course the decision is weighted by the very high stakes.

It’s your child, after all — not a puppy. Plus, you can’t neglect such considerations as your personal feelings, your child’s disposition, your financial position, location of facility, hours needed, and so many others. But never fear — there *is* a right choice out there for you. Here are some tips on choosing between a nanny, daycare, or au pair.


This is a great choice for those families that can afford it. Nannies usually charge by the hour and because you’re getting one-on-one care, the hourly rate is more than say, a nanny share or daycare facility.

There are a lot of advantages to a nanny — she is working in your home, so everything baby needs is right there. There is (usually) flexibility, meaning she may be able to come early or stay late depending on your needs. Plus, you can’t beat the one on one attention.

The downsides of course include the lack of socialization (your child won’t be around others), and the financial burden. If you are someone that feels more secure knowing you can reach the childcare provider at any time and that your child is being watched closely, this may be the right choice for you.

Daycare (in-home or a large facility)

Flickr / bcndp
Flickr / bcndp

Daycare can be a fabulous choice for the child that craves socialization and the parent who craves a more reasonable hourly rate. As usual, do your research — online and via word of mouth. A daycare center’s reputation is critical —  how is the caregiver turnover? Do you hear rave reviews from parents? Do you see happy children? When you visit (and be sure to), you’ll get a gut feeling and definitely don’t discount it.

Childcare licensing is also of the utmost importance — make sure you see that it’s up to date. There are two types of daycare facilities: In-home daycare is usually a bit smaller and can be a great way to meet other families in the community. A larger daycare facility is often a well-oiled machine with all its ducks in a row. It’s a very personal choice, and again, you should follow your heart and gut.

Au Pair

An au pair is a person from another country (usually) who comes to the U.S. on a visa to work as a care provider for a family. There are agencies that operate solely to facilitate this and they can explain the intricate details. Au pairs live in your house (or a guest house) and are contracted to work a number of hours a week at your discretion.

There are many pros and cons to an au pair. The first pro is that it’s very financially reasonable. Because you’re providing room and board, the flat weekly rate is low. And like a nanny, she’s on site, so everything that belongs to the children is accessible to her (and them).

The cons include the fact that au pairs are often young people, naive to the ways of America in general and your community specifically. It may feel (especially at first) that you have another child. But often as the year goes on, everyone is more able and secure in their responsibilities. Au pairs are often a good choice for a family with multiple children with complex schedules where an extra set of hands (and a driver’s license) is extremely valuable.

Whatever your choice, always do your due diligence — have a set of nanny interview questions at the ready, do a background check, don’t ignore the babysitter resume, and trust yourself to decipher the choice that feels right to you.

Search for part and full-time nannies at UrbanSitter.