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Child Care Definitions

Do you need a babysitter or a mother's helper? How is an au pair different than a nanny? If you've always been a little confused about your child care choices, use this handy list to help sort through the details.


Babysitters are child care providers that work either in your home or occasionally out of their own home. They usually earn an hourly rate and often have jobs with several families. Babysitters most often are part-time caregivers, but may work full-time as well. They can range in age from 11-90, though you'll only find sitters aged 18 and up on

Mother's Helper

Mothers' helpers are babysitters in training. They are just like babysitters except that the parent is in the house while the helper is watching the kids. This is an excellent option if you are just getting used to using child care, want some uninterrupted time to get extra work done or want to give a babysitter a trial period.


A nanny typically lives inside a family's home or travels to it daily, works for one family at a time, and receives a weekly salary. Nannies generally consider themselves to be full-time care providers, but many families employ part-time nannies as well.


A male nanny. Some "mannies" consider the term derogatory, so be sensitive to this sentiment, especially in the presence of a male child care provider.

Au Pair

An au pair is a foreign adult between the ages of 18 and 26 who comes to the United States to live with and work for an American family as a primary caregiver. In exchange, the au pair receives room and board, and a small monetary allowance. An au pair is treated as another family member and typically stays with an American family for one to two years. (Different countries have different regulations and programs.)


Doulas are specially trained labor assistants that help mothers prepare for a birth and can help during the actual birthing process. Doulas can also be postpartum doulas, who come in after you return from the hospital to handle a baby's night feedings, change diapers and more.

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