Quality childcare is a hustle on its own. For parents returning to work after childbirth, it takes time to find the most suitable option. Several childcare options exist, such as nanny care, relative care, a daycare center, home daycare, and staying at home.
Some parents may prefer not to send their kids to daycare citing the comfort of care in a home setting. A nanny is a good alternative in such cases. I spent the first 3 years of my child’s life staying at home, not worrying about these options, as I was his primary caregiver then. When I was mentally ready to go back to work, I embarked on the daunting task of finding an alternative. Daycare for my baby was defined by recurrent coughs and flu. Eventually, nanny care was the only other option left for me.
Our focus in this first installment of our 3 part series on nannies will answer your questions on what a nanny does and why you need a nanny.
What is a nanny?
A nanny is a trained specialist who provides child care at home. A nanny is employed full-time or part-time to give the highest level of care and attention to the child.
Furthermore, the nanny may or may not live with the family, depending on their circumstances and employers. Most nannies give so much value, eventually becoming a part of their family’s household. The majority of nannies are women with a minimum age of 18.
In my country, Kenya, for example, the nanny care business is filled with women from low income and large families who’ve grown up surrounded by babies, but they lack formal training. The nannies from agencies undergo formal training and are skilled in child care. Then the highly experienced and sought after “expat nannies” spend years working with expat families while attending relevant courses funded by the employers.
One difference between a nanny and babysitter is the dedicated time a nanny takes to care for the child. A babysitter takes on a more occasional role offering temporary supervision when the parents are out of the home while a nanny provides round-the-clock coverage, taking on more responsibilities such as paying attention to the child’s development and making adjustments based on the child’s needs.
What does a nanny do?
The nanny’s primary role is to support the family by serving as a nurturing, loving, and trustworthy parental figure to the children. She should have a specialized child care skillset, genuine love and care for children, a deep understanding of children, and a real love of caring for children.
A nanny’s duties include:
- Preparing the child’s meals
- Providing discipline when appropriate
- Providing social and intellectual stimulation
- Tidying the child’s room and toys
- Supervising homework
- Washing the child’s clothes
- Changing the child’s linen and cleaning the room
- Organizing play activities and outings
- Taking the child to and from school
What exactly is a live-in nanny?
A live-in nanny provides childcare and lives in your home. She is also responsible for the complete care of your children. On the other hand, a live-out nanny commutes to work each day, and after finishing her duties, returns to her home each night. I’ve had several live-out nannies before I switched to a live-in nanny. Their failure to arrive on time would mess up my early morning commute and work schedule.
Much less common than the job used to be, it moved from 24/7 availability to 10-12 hours with a day or two off, although in some countries labor laws and customs differ in this regard.
In return, you provide a furnished place for your nanny to live and a salary, essentially less expensive than a live-out nanny.
Separate lodgings from the rest of the family is quite helpful, especially if you are not big on having someone else living in your home or if your live-in doesn’t like the idea of mingling with the rest of the family after hours. A granny or in-law unit is a good option.
Live-in nanny pros and cons
Live-in nanny pros
- Round-the-clock coverage: For those 5 days, you have someone on hand to help, your nanny will never be late for work, and you can leave for work without stressing about daily pick-ups and drop-offs at a nursery or daycare.
- Close bonding: The child doesn’t vie for attention like in a daycare setting. More one-on-one care, stimulation, and attention from the nanny establishes stable bonds with your child.
- Flexibility: It’s easier to arrange a last-minute change in working hours with someone who lives in the same house if you work unpredictable hours than with daycare that closes at the same time daily.
- Gradual adjustment: Your child adjusts more gradually to you returning to work due to the familiar surroundings and security of being at home with all her daily routines and toys.
- Cost: You’ll pay less for a live-in nanny instead of a live-out nanny who also has to pay for their rent and food.
- Additional language and culture: Language development is a proven advantage, especially when hiring a bilingual or multilingual nanny. Your children can learn a lot from the nanny, including fluency in an additional language. Absorbing words and phrases from a native speaker can help improve critical thinking and problem-solving. It’s also an opportunity to expose your kids to different cultures (music, history, cuisines, traditions, crafts, etc.) other than their own and enrich your kids’ view of the world.
Live-in nanny cons
- Employer responsibility: Becoming an employer means investing time to ensure you meet all your financial and legal responsibilities.
- Expenses: Paying someone a salary is not cheap. Since it’s a contract, you will have to add other costs such as paying tax, national insurance, and pension contributions.
- No set qualifications: Although most nannies complete some form of training, some rely on relevant experience and skills only. There’s also no formal registration process unless the nanny is from an agency.
- The selection process takes time: You’ll spend a lot of time finding the perfect match since you’ll have to interview and vet many nannies. You also have to settle on someone you trust since nanny care is largely unsupervised.
- Less social interaction: Staying at home is appealing, but minimal interaction with other kids is a huge problem. Hence you may also want to sign up your kids for classes and encourage the nanny to take them outside for activities.
- Lack of privacy: A live-in nanny is privy to all your most personal information, discussions, and disputes. Hence, there is a need to screen thoroughly and employ a person you can trust and peacefully coexist with.
- Cultural differences: While your child may be a willing student of culture, that may not be the case for some adults who step into homes with a different cultural or religious background than their own lived experiences. Getting a nanny from a foreign country requires having an open mind to acknowledge, respect, and navigate the cultural differences. It may also take time for the nanny to get used to your language.
Nanny cost vs. daycare cost
While you consider whether a nanny or daycare is right for your family by comparing cost, child care quality should be the primary consideration.
Despite daycare centers having rigid pick-up and drop-off times, they are more affordable than nanny care. They also have well-trained staff members and with ample supervision. A daycare can offer services at a low price because they have multiple children for each staff member. Their employee hourly rate gets spread across 5 or more different children.
Home-based daycare may have less stringent licensing requirements, no caregiver supervision, and no backup if the provider becomes sick, but it’s nurturing with a home-like atmosphere. It’s also cheaper than most childcare options.
In the US, the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies report that the average cost for full-time care in a daycare center is $380 to $1564 a month for babies and toddlers. In Kenya, where I live, the average cost of daycare ranges from $60-300 per month depending on the location and age.
Nannies help play a key role in providing care towards children’s development. Today, you can opt for nanny care in place of daycare due to more personalized attention and convenience. A nanny’s pay depends on your geographic location, her years of experience, education level, and extra benefits. A live-in nanny costs less than a live-out nanny since she gets free room and board.
The average hourly rate in the US, according to the 2017 International Nanny Association survey, is $19.14. In a 45-hour week, that’s $861.30. In the UK, the average take-home salary for a live-in nanny ranges from £302 to £351 per week, depending on where you live.
In the UAE, the average salary is $490 per month but a live-in nanny with a driver’s license or a qualification (teaching or midwifery) can expect to earn around $952. A live-out nanny earns $1225.
In Singapore, nanny cost ranges from $759 for a live-in to $1500 for a live-out nanny. You may find unmarried, and older Chinese aunties called Amahs willing to be live-ins for around $700 a month.
In Kenya, the ministry of labor stipulates that a nanny’s average salary should be $100 a month, which is a bit on the higher side for most low income earning families who instead seek other cheaper options such as daycare, as they pay only for the days they actually need care. An expat hiring a Kenyan live-in nanny can pay around the same range, but should consider hiring through reputable nanny agencies (slightly higher pay) for thorough background checks. If it’s a referral from other expats, a follow-up is equally important.