16 Secrets About Nannying And Being An Au Pair That You Probably Didn't Know

·7 min read

Nannying is one of those jobs that people seem to think are a walk in the park, but in reality, it's anything but. There are so many misconceptions about what it actually takes to be a nanny, so I reached out to one to get a little more clarity on what their job is actually like.

An older woman holding a sleeping baby on her shoulder
Milan_jovic / Getty Images

I spoke with an anonymous source who has been nannying consistently for about four and a half years. Here's what they shared with me about their job:

1.Most people don't understand the difference between a nanny and a babysitter.

A young woman coloring with a kid

Unlike a babysitter, a nanny watches (one or more) children on a regular, routine basis rather than being called when they are needed, like a babysitter. My source compared nannies to being "like a second mother," as they really get to know the child they're working with. That being said, nannies tend to have more responsibilities than babysitters, which are both physical (like feeding, bathing, changing diapers, etc.) and emotional (validating feelings, teaching lessons, etc.).

Fizkes / Getty Images / iStockphoto

2.Nannying jobs tend to require more in-depth, personal interviews than babysitting jobs, and often include a trial week before the job is actually offered.

A woman shaking a man's hand
Sdi Productions / Getty Images

3.During most weeks, this nanny — as well as many others — balances both consistent nannying jobs and one-off babysitting jobs.

A calendar with many colored thumb tacks in it

In an average month, they work with two families routinely during the week and book jobs with 10 additional families for one-off babysitting gigs — mostly weekend date nights and school holidays — to total 40 hours a week.

Kenishirotie / Getty Images/iStockphoto

4.Working as a live-in nanny, or au pair, is a thousand times harder than regular nannying.

Netflix

The nanny I spoke with spent some time living with a family they worked with, and the experience certainly has its pros and cons. It's very immersive — they were provided a room and bathroom in the home at no cost, the family bought them groceries for the first couple of months, and they had no commute to work. However, they were also unable to have guests over, were paid less than their usual jobs, and — of course — didn't have much personal space. Going to make food, for example, often means making small talk with the family or spending some time with the kid even if they're off the clock.

5.Nannies hate when parents try to overexplain basic childcare things they already know.

CBC

It's understandable that parents are hesitant or scared of leaving their kid or kids with someone they don't yet know well, but nannies know what they're doing. It's totally fine (and encouraged!) to explain things the nanny needs to know about your child specifically, but they know the basics, like to cut grapes into quarters for small kids so they don't choke.

6.Unlike babysitters, nannies don't always get tipped.

Someone holding money that is fanned out

While it's not unusual to get a tip after a babysitting job, nannies don't expect one. They do sometimes get tips, but not always.

Jamieb / Getty Images/RooM RF

7.The biggest misconception about nannies is that they all want kids.

A small kid drawing on her face and the babysitter's dace with lipstick

People are always surprised to learn that despite their job, the nanny I spoke to does not want kids. It's often assumed that nannies all loooove children and can't wait to have their own, but in reality, that's not always the case. The beauty of nannying is that they get to enjoy being around kids, but at the end of the day, they get to clock out and go back to their lives.

Triocean / Getty Images/iStockphoto

8.Nannies aren't just responsible for a kid's basic needs — they are also in charge of tracking and awarding milestones.

Someone holding a baby up while they try to walk

Because they're sometimes with a kid more than the parents are, it's important that a nanny keep track of and award those big life milestones, like walking and talking.

Westend61 / Getty Images/Westend61

9.If you hire a nanny and cancel less than three days before the job, it's common courtesy to still pay the full price.

A calendar that says "Cancelled" on the date

According to the nanny I spoke with, this doesn't always happen and isn't exactly expected, though it's the polite thing to do. Canceling can be a drastic, unexpected loss of income for the month, and it's very difficult to find last-minute jobs to make up for the income they were expecting. Many nannies are hesitant to make things like this a hard rule, though, out of fear that their clients will opt to find other nannies who don't have such policies in place.

Zerbor / Getty Images/iStockphoto

10.Nannies don't get as much free time on the job as you probably imagine.

Boy sleeping on bed holding a soft toy by his side

It's a big misconception that kids spend a lot of the time with a nanny sleeping or napping. Actually, kids under 2 years of age only spend about three to four hours asleep, during which time the nanny is still very much responsible for them. At the same time, nannies have other responsibilities to attend to when a kid is sleeping, like doing the dishes, folding laundry, or prepping meals. All in all, nap times doesn't necessarily mean break time.

Click&boo / Getty Images

11.The best thing a parent can do is engage in conversation and ask personal questions.

A woman holding a baby, and someone writing things on a clipboard

As this person explained, nannies are like part of the family. It's a very interpersonal job, so having simple, casual conversations and showing interest in the nanny as a person lets them know that you respect them and see them as people, not just "the help."

Sdi Productions / Getty Images

12.Despite what you may have seen on TV and in movies, your nanny is probably not trying to steal something from you or sleep with your husband, like, at all.

CBS

Trust me, they've already got their hands full.

13.A green flag for nannies is when the parents offer food or snacks.

A full, open refrigerator

While free food is nice, this actually tends to be a sign that the parents are empathetic and respect the nanny as a person. The simple act of telling them to grab a drink from the fridge or help themselves to snacks goes a long way.

Andreypopov / Getty Images/iStockphoto

14.It's also a red flag when parents don't want to do a trial week with the nanny and their child.

ABC

While you probably assume the trial week is a chance for the parents to make sure they are happy with the nanny, it's also an important opportunity for the nanny to assess if the job is one they want to accept as well. Getting hired on the spot usually indicates a larger problem in the future.

15.The biggest problems nannies face are rarely the kids — they're actually the parents.

Netflix

Because nannies spend so much time with a kid, it's important that the nanny and the kid's parents work together and not against each other. The nanny explained to me that kids are easily adaptable — they generally want to fix things and, at the end of the day, just want to be loved and taken care of. A disconnect between the parents and the nanny over something like disciplinary style can undo a nanny's work very, very quickly and make saying no much harder or impossible for them.

16.And finally, the thing about nannying that has surprised this nanny the most is that the families with less almost always offer more.

CBS

The nanny I talked to has worked with families of all different financial backgrounds and has noticed that wealthier families tend to nickel-and-dime them the most. Wealthier families tend to charge by the minute, whereas less wealthy families are more likely to tip or occasionally provide food.

Are you a nanny? Is there anything important we missed? If so, tell us about it in the comments below!