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Nanny vs Daycare vs Au Pairs: Differences, Costs, and Comparisons

The person, or people, that are taking care of your little one while you’re away are the second most important people in your child’s life.

They will help educate them, potty train them, and more. I used to refer to daycare teachers and school teachers as my children’s mom away from mom. It’s a tough choice to make, but it’s one that has to be done. 

The three main types of care you’ll choose from are from a nanny, daycare, or an au pair. Each type of care comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.

They are all different prices as well, which is something else that you’ll need to keep in mind. This article will tell you everything that you need to know about all three types of care so that you can make the best decision for you and your little one. 


We’ve all heard of a nanny before. Fran Drescher made her claim to fame in the ’90s with the hit tv show The Nanny, and Nanny 911 was one of the most popular shows for years.

Nannies are seen in movies, and it seems like most stars with children have at least one nanny. Nanny services are such a popular choice that most people that can afford a nanny enjoy having one. 

How It Works

A nanny usually does not live in the home, although there are exceptions to this. If a family needs a live-in caregiver and can afford one, they can more than likely find someone for the job.

Typically, a nanny has set work hours. For example, a nanny will be available and take care of the children from 6 am until 7 pm.

These hours may vary depending on the needs of the family. A nanny will arrive in the morning and then go home at night just like she is going to and from any other job. 

The obligations of the nanny also depend on the family. Common things that a nanny service can provide include: 

  • Preparing meals, such as breakfast, snacks, etc. for kids
  • Getting kids ready for school
  • Providing transportation to and from school, practices, playdates, etc. 
  • Arrange activities for the kids
  • Light housework
  • Anything else your kids need
  • Some nannies also take care of pets

Cute little girl with young nanny at table, indoors

A nanny is basically your kid’s mom when you are not available. They love and nurture your child, teach them, and make sure that they are developing into a well-rounded adult. 

Advantages Of Using A Nanny Service

Nannies Provide More One On One Time With Children

There are quite a few advantages that you’ll get with a nanny that you won’t get with the other options. A nanny will be at your house and ready to care for your children at a specific time every day.

They’ll have more one on one time with kids, which can help them be more respectful and learn things quicker. At the same time, if a nanny does not live with you, you won’t feel as though they are imposing on your life, either. It’s a happy little medium. 

A Nanny Service Has Flexible Hours

Another great thing about nannies is the flexibility that they bring to the table. They can be available for whatever hours you need, even if it’s only a few hours after school or on weekends.

They can provide transportation if you need that too. A nanny may be able to provide further assistance if you need it for an additional cost. For example, they can run errands like going to the grocery or picking up the dry cleaning for you.  

Disadvantages Of Hiring A Nanny

Nannies Are Not Regulated By The Government

The primary disadvantage when it comes to nannies is that they are not regulated. You might interview a nanny that has a degree in childhood education and years of experience.

On the other hand, you might wind up with a person that has babysat a few times and would like a more permanent position.

This can make finding a good nanny time consuming, and you have to do your own research before hiring a nanny. You’ll want to make sure that they have a clean background and valid driver’s license, for example. 

Nanny Agencies Might Help You Find A Nanny

There are agencies that match a nanny for hire with a family. Often this agency acts as an employment agency. They perform background checks and make sure that nannies have outstanding credentials in order for them to send them on a job.

Young woman and her little son having fun

Utilizing Nannies Does Not Provide As Much Socialization

Another disadvantage is that your child doesn’t get as much socialization as they do in a daycare or group setting.

This can make the transition into school challenging for younger children. Nannies can combat this by making sure that children interact with other children at the park or schedule playdates. 

It Can Impair The Parent-Child Relationship

Another main disadvantage to having a nanny is all the one on one attention.

While it’s great for your child to have a second mom, this can also be a bad thing if parents don’t make sure that they are also raising their child and spending quality time with them.

This article is about what twenty children had to say about being raised by a nanny.

It’s nice to know that so many of them had good relationships with their nannies, but the same cannot be said about the relationship that they had with their parents. If a nanny is a must, make sure to show up for milestones when you can. 


Nannies are the most expensive option on the list. A nanny will often get paid by the hour, with the exception of live in nannies. These nannies typically get a weekly salary.

How much that will cost depends on several factors. The more education and experience a person has, the more expensive they are. Typically a nanny will start out at approximately $20 per hour.

In areas with a higher cost of living, you can trust that you’ll be paying more. Live-in nannies often do not earn a salary as high as other nannies because they do not pay rent, for groceries and rarely are required to buy household things.  


Daycare is less expensive than a nanny and is one of the most popular options for childcare. Most parents are already familiar with daycare.

You probably know at least one person that has their child in daycare today! There are quite a few great things about daycare and only a few disadvantages. 

How It Works

Most daycares are only open for specific hours, such as from 5 am to 6 pm. There are third shift daycares in some areas for parents that work the third shift, but these are harder to find.

Daycares usually offer meals for children, provide structure and some have transportation services that will pick up children from school and take them to daycare.

Cute children drawing with teacher at preschool class

Daycare facilities are a popular option for after school care as well. Most provide time for children to do their homework and help with homework. 


Daycares Always Have Someone Available

There are quite a few advantages to using a daycare facility. You always know that someone will be available. If your nanny is sick, then you have to find a back up for childcare.

If someone at the daycare is sick, they will find another staff member to fill in for them. You never have to worry about whether you will have child care. 

A Daycare Center Will Provide More Socialization

Daycares also give children a constant chance to have more socialization. Because daycare classes consist of groups of children, your little one is constantly interacting with other children. This can lead to them have better social skills later in life. 

Most Daycares Offer Pre-School Programs

Another key advantage that most daycares have is that they usually offer a pre-school program. While one on one learning can help your child learn things faster, the school like environment will help children learn things as well.

It will also help prepare them for school because they will learn how to sit at a desk, how to raise their hand to ask a question, and how to behave in school. 

Some Daycare Centers Will Pick Children Up After School

Although daycares do not provide transportation to activities, they do pick kids up from school, which is a wonderful thing for working parents that are unable to pick up their children. This service is usually provided at no additional cost to parents. 

Daycare Centers Are Regulated By The State

Daycare facilities are regulated by the state. This means that you won’t have to worry about whether your child is around someone unsafe, and you won’t have to do the work yourself.

When I worked at a daycare years ago, I was required to provide my shot records and complete an FBI criminal background check before being hired, for example.

You already know that they will not be riding in the car with someone that does not have a license. This can give you peace of mind.

Working Mother Dropping Baby At Nursery


Children That Attend Daycare Will Have More Frequent Illnesses

While there are plenty of great things about daycares, you also have to keep in mind the disadvantages when making this decision. Daycares are always packed with children, but this can also make them a petri dish for viruses and sicknesses.

My children did not attend daycare until they were above the infant stage and spent the majority of the first month homesick. I had to miss so much work to accommodate this I almost lost my job.

They had the flu, Swine flu, strep throat, and pink eye to name a few. If you’re enrolling your child in daycare, have a backup babysitter that is willing to take care of them in case they get sick. 

Enrolling Your Little One In Daycare Means Less Individual Attention

Another key disadvantage is that children do not get as much one on one time with an adult if any. Being in a group setting is wonderful, but children also need one on one interaction with a caregiver.

If your little one is spending most of the day at daycare, they might not be getting that which can affect how they attach to people later on. 

Daycare Hours Are Not Flexible

Daycare hours are not flexible. The facility is open for a specified time, and that’s usually it. Occasionally a daycare will work with you.

For example, I had to drop my kids off fifteen minutes before the building opened while I was waiting on my schedule change at work.

They let me in fifteen minutes early because my kids were great, and because it was only temporary. Aside from small situations like this, don’t expect flexible hours at daycare. 

Children That Attend Daycare Have More Behavioral Issues

Socialization with bad kids can be a bad thing. While being around other kids is great for all children, you also have to consider the negative side.

Cute children drawing with teacher at preschool class

Your little one will pick up bad behavior from other children at daycare, such as biting, throwing fits, or launching toys at other people that you might not have had to deal with otherwise.

This means more stress for you. You can’t control which children are attending the daycare, and who your kid is around. In general, children that spend more time at daycare have more behavioral problems according to this study. 


Daycare centers typically charge per day. Occasionally they will charge by half-day for parents that only need daycare services for a few hours, but this varies by facility.

The average rate of daycare is $120 per full day. If your daycare does not offer half-day services, you will be required to pay for the full day regardless of how long your child is there.

Location plays a large role in the overall cost as well. Areas with a higher cost of living will have a higher price tag for daycare services.

Government Programs Can Provide Assistance In Paying For Daycare

Parents that are income-eligible can qualify for government assistance if their child is in daycare. This program, known as Title 20 in most states, will pay for a portion of the daycare.

How much a person has to pay for care depends on their own income. A person making minimum wage might be able to have daycare services for only $20 per week thanks to this program. Other types of care, such as a nanny, are not eligible. 

Au Pair

An au pair is a unique type of childcare that most people are unaware of. However, if you’ve got a spare room and don’t mind having a temporary addition to the family, this can be an exceptional option!

How It Works

An au pair is similar to a foreign exchange student, although they are usually older and are part of a cultural exchange program. In this situation, you would provide a room, a weekly salary, and a class for the person.

Mother and child playing

In exchange, they provide child care and help with household duties. They can watch your children on a schedule that you decide, or up to 45 hours a week. There is usually a limit of ten hours per day. Most programs like this last for 1-2 years. 


Hire An Au Pair To Expose Your Little One To A New Culture

There are quite a few advantages to this method of child care. First, your child will be taken care of by a person from a different culture.

This encourages diversity and can make your child more empathetic towards other cultures. They will also learn about a new culture, such as a different language or different traditions. 

An Au Pair Will Have Flexible Hours

This person also lives with you. Hours do not get more flexible than that! You’ll always have childcare regardless of what time day or night it is.

The flexible hours make it ideal for people that have a work schedule that is not traditional. Emergencies and last-minute schedule changes will never be an issue because they are right there!

You Instantly Have Help With A Sick Child

An au pair will typically help care for children regardless of whether they are ill. If your little one is sick and is simply home for a few days with a virus, you won’t have to miss work to provide care. Instead, the au pair will still help, unlike a daycare. 

The Trust You Build With An Au Pair Remains Unrivalled

One of the biggest benefits that you’ll have when participating in an au pair program is the trust that you have.

Because an au pair lives with you and acts as a member of the family, you’ll find that you have a deeper sense of trust with them than you would a nanny or daycare.

You’ll quickly start to feel like you’re leaving your little one with a member of the family because you are.

Teacher with Students Taking Childcare Course

Au Pairs Receive Training

All individuals that participate in these programs are certified and are trained by the state.

You won’t have to worry that your au pair has never had an ounce of education or training regarding children. Instead, you can trust that you are leaving them in pretty good hands. 


An Au Pair Is A 1-2 Year Commitment

An au pair does come with a few disadvantages that you’ll need to make note of before heading down this route. The first thing to keep in mind is that this is a commitment.

You cannot hire and fire an au pair like you would a nanny. Simply switching au pairs like you would a daycare is not an option either. When you sign up for this, you commit for 1-2 years. 

You’ll Need New Childcare When They Leave

That timeframe can be another downside. You only have childcare for that 1-2 years. After that, you’ll have to figure out something else. This can be difficult for children that have grown close to their au pair, as well. 

Hosting An Au Pair Requires More Time From You

An au pair is welcoming a new person into your home, and into your community. This means that you’ll have to put in more effort to make them feel welcome than simply dropping your little one off at daycare.

You’ll need to make sure there is an extra chair at the dinner table, a spare bedroom for them to make their own, and make sure to provide them with opportunities to learn about our culture and your community.

This is a fun opportunity but is not ideal for busy working parents that don’t have time for anything extra. 

Your Bills Will Be Higher

Another major downside to an au pair is that you have to take into account the extra person in your house, which some people don’t take into consideration.

That means higher utility bills, water bills, and more groceries. It means an extra person in the bathroom routine. While this isn’t a huge downside for most people if you don’t consider it and suddenly get a higher water bill it can feel like one. 

Happy Couple Calculating Invoice


An au pair is the cheapest option by far. You do have to pay the initial cost of participating in the program (an au pair program will match you up with an au pair.) This is usually under $100.

After this, you will need to pay a weekly salary. Typically, this falls at around $200 per week. Each program will have a minimum amount, but it typically falls within this range. An au pair and family can agree on something higher, but this is not necessary. 

To determine the overall cost, you’ll also want to consider how much the extra food, etc. will cost. To do this, imagine that you’re buying an extra meal every time you get take-out, etc. for a few weeks.

Then, add a little bit extra to your bills in your mind. This will tell you the complete cost of hiring an au pair. Even with the additional cost of extra shampoo and pork chops, this option is still cheaper than a nanny or daycare. 

In Conclusion

What type of childcare you choose will depend on your needs, and your budget. The most flexible and cost-effective option is by far an au pair. The most regulated option is a daycare facility.

A nanny is more like a second mom but is the most expensive. Consider what you will need from a childcare provider, and then choose the option that best meets those needs.