Nannies vs Babysitters in Chicago

by | Childcare

I once saw a comical social media posted by a professional nanny that said “calling your nanny a babysitter is like calling your wife your girlfriend”. That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? 

Still, in Chicago you will frequently hear the term used interchangeably. So let’s break this down. Let’s talk about nannies and babysitters in Chicago.

First off, let me express gratitude to all the caregivers in the Chicagoland area! You are sanity savers. Without you us parents couldn’t do what we do, go on that long overdue date night or have a thought to ourselves for longer than 3 seconds. No matter what type of caregiver you are, you are appreciated. 

It is important that we all start to get on the same page with distinctions between a nanny and a babysitter. It is very common for a nanny to be called a sitter or vice-versa but there are key differences.


Nannies are childcare professionals. Caring for children is their career, not work they are picking up between jobs or after school. 

Generally speaking, nannies offer their services on a regular part-time or full-time basis. Nannies can be an incredible asset to a family. They invest in getting to know you and your needs. A good nanny is essentially like having a third parent. What’s even better is that most nannies have raised or helped raise many children before.

Good nannies will be attuned to the needs of the family and the child(ren). They take the initiative in providing well-rounded care. 

Commonly nannies will: 

  • Focus on growth and development of the child(ren)
  • Foster fine and gross motor skills
  • Provide educational play activities
  • Cultivate reading, writing and other age-appropriate skills 
  • Work with the family on behavioral goals
  • Plan healthy meals
  • Seek out or create engaging activities 
    • Crafts and cooking
    • Storytime at the local library
    • Playdate meetups at the local park or play space

A nanny’s rate is substantially higher than that of a babysitter. You will find many call themselves nannies but there is varying degree of quality in nannies you will find in the Chicagoland area. If you are in the process of hiring a nanny, be sure to detail out your expectations and put your agreement in writing. Via The Village can assist you with your contract and getting things set up for success. 

If you already have a nanny, but haven’t created a contract, it’s not too late. Create an opportunity during a performance review. If you’ve never done a performance review with your nanny, that’s okay. Better late than never. Let her know that you would like to promote healthy communication. Communication is a two-way street, so be sure to check in on how things are going for them as well.

Consider offering continuing education opportunities to your nanny. There is always room for improvement.  Amslee Institute is a great resource that allows nannies to become certified. 


Sitters come in all different varieties. Most commonly, a sitter is a teenager or young adult that is hired to provide care on a non-regular basis. 

Unfortunately, the title “nanny” and “babysitter” is often used interchangeably in Chicago by parents and even caregivers themselves. 

It isn’t fair to place the same expectations upon a casual babysitter that you would a nanny. Not only is a babysitter typically far less experienced, but since they are not working with your family on a regular basis, it is not reasonable to presume they know your household’s groove because you told them it once a few months back.

Babysittters are amazing and it’s absolutely essential to have several you can call on for backup care, date nights or for times that you just need to step out for a breather. You also should be able to find quality babysitters for less than you would pay a nanny. Nanny-quality care is a must for regular care. But for date nights when the babies are already in bed, there is no need to pay an over-qualified individual to sit on your couch and eat popcorn. 

When searching for neighborhood babysitters, try posting in your local Facebook groups. Ask parents of teens if their children are interested in babysitting. Just be sure to get to know them prior. Maturity and responsibility can vary greatly in teens. Also, be sure to check if they have taken a babysitting course at the local YMCA or community center. If they haven’t yet, it’s a win-win if you would cover the cost of that for them.

If you aren’t comfortable with teen sitters, you can often find older adults or nannies looking to pick up additional hours. However, be prepared to pay a higher rate based on the age and experience level of the care provider. Most just won’t find it worth their time if you don’t offer a respectable rate.

Good luck with your search. Be sure to check out Via The Village for more tips and resources for building your village and growing your childcare network!

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Coaching by Emily Louange

Hey there, I'm Emily

I’m a nurse, holistic work-life wellness coach, wife & mama of two young children.

I would love to support you using my education, certifications, experience & the best resources I’ve found to help you reach your goals & live your best life.