What Is a Nanny?

Baby Girl with Mother at Park

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Your maternity leave is quickly coming to an end and you might feel a mixture of excitement and reluctance to return to work. The predictability of the workday with its chances for adult interaction might be a welcome breath of fresh air, but at the same time, you could also have feelings around leaving your baby during the day. 

No matter how you feel about going back to work, the fact remains that you'll likely need to arrange for childcare when you do. Some parents rely on other family members for this, while others might drop their little one off at a daycare.

Many parents hire a nanny to care for their baby during the day. Nannies come to your home to care for your child or children. While they generally cost more than daycare, nannies are able to give their attention to just your child in a space they’re already used to, which makes them desirable for many families.

When you're deciding whether or not to hire a nanny, it can be helpful to have a clear picture of what exactly they do and how much you can expect to spend. Ahead, we'll break down what you need to know about nannies, including common responsibilities, and how you can go about finding one of your own.

Common Nanny Responsibilities

Nannies chiefly attend to babies’ or children’s needs. They may include preparing bottles, feeding, diapering, taking little ones out to the playground, and reading them books before naptime. Nannies might also take older kids to school or activities, and/or bring them home afterwards. 

Generally, nannies are responsible for any childcare-related clean-up, such as tidying toys that were played with, or washing the dishes used to feed kids. Depending upon your specific agreement, nannies might also take care of other duties such as light housekeeping, helping with homework, or feeding pets.

Because nanny expectations can vary considerably, it’s important to come to a clear agreement ahead of time. Fair payment should also be discussed. If you expect extra work, you should also expect to pay more.

How Often Do Nannies Work?

You can hire a nanny for any schedule. Since they will be working for your specific household, a wide range of arrangements can be agreed upon.

“The nanny industry flexes to the unique needs of a family, and can be full time or part time, live-in or live-out, career or gig, a standard work week or overnight, year-round or summer nanny,” says Elizabeth Malson, executive director of the U.S. Nanny Association.

The typical nanny arrangement is full-time during working hours. But there are also part-time options, such as nannies who work for four hours in the morning or three days a week. 

That being said, many nannies prefer to pick up full-time positions. “I always turned down part-time jobs in favor of full-time..because it was too difficult to find another job that fit into my free days,” says Erin Conover, a nanny with over 15 years experience in the San Francisco Bay Area. “But when I was in school or had another day job, I sometimes nannied only on the weekends.”

There are also live-in nannies who generally work in exchange for lodging plus a stipend. If you have the extra space, having a live-in nanny can be cost effective. 

Another option is the nanny share, where your nanny takes care of your child and a child from another family. In this set-up, the nanny might work from one family's home, or alternative between both.

What Is the Typical Salary for a Nanny?

Salaries for nannies will vary considerably, depending upon where you live. Factors such as cost of living and demand for childcare will affect how much nannies charge. The going rate in the San Francisco Bay Area, where cost of living is on the high end, is about $30 per hour, according to Conover.

The economy plays a large role in nanny demand as well as the number of daycares (or lack thereof) in the local community. Rates go up if you have more than one child, usually by about 50% for each additional child.

“Hourly rates for a nanny differ dramatically by location, and depend on the number of families hiring, cost of living, local demographics, and the number of people seeking jobs in childcare, like if there is a large college or university nearby,” says Malson. “The resources of the hiring family, the number of hours needed, the number and age of the children, and the training and skills of the nanny are additional variables that impact the hourly rate.”

Nanny salaries have a range and depend on many factors. Live-out nannies can make anywhere from $14.25 to $21.50 or more an hour.

How Do Families Find Nannies?

Many families find nannies through word of mouth, sometimes with the help of social media. Turnover is high, since gigs typically end once the youngest child in a family enters school, so you can often find a nanny by connecting with other families in your community. 

There are also sites online you can use to find a nanny, or you can work with an agency. The advantage of agencies is that they vet the nannies for you. Additionally, if you have special requests, such as needing a part-time nanny or a nanny with specific skills, you may be more likely to find the nanny you need via an agency.

What Should Go in a Nanny Contract?

Nannies are self-employed and they don't always come with an official contract themselves. However, creating one is very important and benefits both you and the nanny.

A contract is where you lay down, in writing, exactly what the nanny is responsible for and how much the pay will be. It should also include agreements about time off, expenses, hazardous weather policy, training stipends, confidentiality agreements, meals, and other topics unique to hiring an employee who works in the home.

You can find templates for nanny contracts online to help you get started. “Work agreements are important, as they help both parties clearly define the job and performance expectations," says Malson.

A Word From Verywell

Nannies provide childcare in your home. Benefits of hiring a nanny include not having to drop your child off anywhere, and having care that is focused on just your family (or perhaps two if you choose a nanny-share). Many nannies will work flexible schedules that match up with your needs, and they might do some light housekeeping if it is agreed upon and the pay is fair. 

You can find a nanny through word of mouth, social media, online directories, or by working with a nanny agency. It’s always a good idea to have a nanny contract that outlines both parties’ expectations when you hire a new nanny. 

Nannies work closely with families, and can become like another member of the family. You and your children may come to cherish this relationship and the lasting memories it creates.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nannylane. Responsibilities of a nanny.

  2. Care.com. 2022 nanny pay rates: How much should I pay my nanny?.

  3. Care.com. How Much Does a Nanny Cost?

  4. Care.com. Nanny contracts: Everything parents need to put in writing.

By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.

Originally written by Robin McClure
Robin McClure is a public school administrator and author of 6 parenting books.
Learn about our editorial process