Nanny vs. Au Pair  
  A nanny or au pair will become a new member of your family. It’s crucial to figure out your expectations beforehand.  

You’re both working full-time, and Grandma’s moved to Florida. It’s time to consider full-time help. Many city families opt for a nanny or au pair to help out with the day-to-day care of their little ones. Below, we’ve highlighted the differences between the two; choosing which route to take is up to you.

Au pairs are generally foreign-born women between the ages of 18 and 26, who are authorized to care for American children by the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Qualified participants must acquire a J1 visa, and if they plan to care for a child under 2, they must have at least 200 hours of experience with children. Au pairs are required to provide up to 10 hours of service daily, not exceeding 45 hours in one week.

Though they are paid workers, au pairs expect to be treated as extended family members, hence the name (French for “as an equal”). Families must sign a written agreement obliging them to include the au pair in dinners, trips, and gatherings.

Hiring an au pair is significantly less expensive than employing a full-time nanny. Families are required to pay $5,000 to $6,000 up front, which covers placement and program fees as well as airfare. Additionally, the family pays a weekly stipend of at least $140, and must contribute up to $500 in educational expenses should the au pair choose to enroll in a college-level course. But even with hidden costs for shelter, transportation, food, and occasional family trips, parents would save choosing an au pair—especially if they have more than two children.

Au pairs are only allowed to work for twelve months. Chances are, your toddler would grow attached and have a tough time adjusting to a new caregiver. Unlike nannies, au pairs are not permitted to do any household work, including laundry service or cooking, that is not directly related to the child.

Professional nannies, who tend to be women between 18 and 50, usually hold a degree in early-childhood development, and are often members of unions and organizations like the International Nanny Association. They work on a live-in or day-to-day basis, between 40 and 70 hours per week.

Expect to pay agencies like My Child’s Best Friend and Elite Nannies a placement fee of between 12 and 15 percent of the nanny’s first-year salary (which averages between $350 and $600 per week, or $12 to $18 per hour). There are also meals, shelter, and transportation costs to consider.

Most nannies will commit to at least two years, and work about twelve hours daily (often starting with a child’s drop-off at school and ending at tuck-in time). Unlike au pairs, nannies are able to spend as much time as needed with a child, and can incorporate domestic-care duties, like picking up the dry-cleaning or washing clothes, into their services.

From the Fall 2003 edition of the New York Family Guide