Au Pairs vs. Nannies: What’s the Difference?

Au Pairs vs. Nannies: What’s the Difference?

What is an au pair vs. a nanny? Is a nanny or au pair right for your family? Finding the perfect caregiver for your child can have a lasting impact on their development, and can reduce the stress of parenting.

An immense amount of work goes into running a household. Between taking the kids to practice, getting homework done on time, and still managing to keep up with laundry, the list of tasks can seem never-ending.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly 50% of families have two working parents. This not only means that there is less time for those household tasks. It also adds a logistical problem to every day, like scheduling meetings around picking the kids up from school.

Raising children also means near-constant decision-making. In fact, research shows that most adults make a decision every two seconds — that’s about 35,000 choices each day.

Some decisions are less important, like whether to really let them wear the super hero pajamas to the grocery store, or to repeat yourself for the seventh (or was it eighth?) time. Others are absolutely vital, like decisions about your child’s health, safety, and wellbeing. 

These daily hassles like work and the constant influx of choices have a huge impact on the stress of many parents. Having an extra set of hands and eyes to help with the kids can be the solution to this stress, but it means that many families face another massive decision: finding a caregiver for their child. 

Some families enroll their children in daycare or aftercare programs. Others hire nannies, or even a a babysitter from the neighborhood. Many families seek not only a committed caregiver, but also a unique cultural experience for their child, and find that an au pair is the right choice for their childcare needs.

If you have been debating the difference between a nanny and a babysitter, you may want to consider a third option: hiring an au pair. The relationship between an au pair and your family can ensure that your child gets the care they need to thrive.

What Is an Au Pair?

Au pairs are young adults from other countries who travel to the United States on an au pair J-1 visa. They participate in a cultural exchange, au pair program that provides live-in childcare. In exchange, they receive the opportunity to live with and learn from an American family for a year or more, while also receiving a weekly stipend. The live-in nature of an au pair allows them to provide flexible childcare that works for your family’s schedule.

An au pair can help your family with many of the responsibilities of childcare, such as:

  • Helping with homework
  • Taking the kids to and from school
  • Preparing your children’s meals
  • Cleaning up after the kids
  • Taking your kids on outings
  • Helping the kids get bathed and dressed

An au pair can help with dozens of different responsibilities, allowing your family to take some of the stress out of raising kids. So, what sets au pairs apart from other types of caregivers?

Au Pairs vs. Nannies

Au pairs and nannies are two of the many types of caregivers available to lend a hand with the kids. Both work to take care of your children while helping out around the house, but there are some significant differences between these two types of caregivers. What’s the difference between a nanny and an au pair, and is an au pair or nanny right for your family?

Au pairs have a room to stay in your home, and will typically join the family for many activities like meals, outings, and trips. During the year they spend in your household, an au pair becomes a temporary family member.

The arrangements families have with nannies vary. Some nannies live with their host families, while others commute to and from the family’s home. However, there are key differences even between a live-in nanny vs. an au pair. Nannies are hired employees, and this can shape their relationship with the family they work for. In comparison, an au pair becomes part of your household. This gives au pairs the opportunity to develop a close, familial bond with their host families.  

Costs of an Au Pair vs. Nannies

Many families wonder if an au pair is cheaper than a nanny. The cost of an au pair vs. a nanny is notably different. The out-of-pocket expense for a family looking to host an au pair is often lower than the cost of paying a salary to a nanny.

AuPairCare program costs cover the standard training and placement of each au pair. The host family then pays the au pair a weekly stipend. This stipend also factors in the value of room and board, further reducing the financial burden on the host family.

Nannies are paid as employees, and their rates often vary based on the number of children in the household. The cost of each type of caregiver is another clear difference between au pairs and nannies.

Au Pairs



Au pairs are paid a weekly stipend.

Nannies are paid by the host family at a rate of at least minimum wage.


Au pairs receive room and board with their host family.

Nannies may live with their host family, or may live separately.


Childcare is the au pair’s primary focus. They may also help with light housework related to childcare.

A nanny will often see to a family’s housework as well as childcare.


Au Pairs are between 18-26 years old.

Nannies can be any age.


In the United States, au pairs receive a J-1 visa as they are participating in a cultural exchange program.

Nannies generally work in their home country, but some receive visas or work permits to work elsewhere.

Relationship-Based Care

One of the most powerful differences between a nanny and an au pair is the emphasis on relationship-based care that an au pair provides. Au pairs don’t just live with their host families. They share meals, go on family outings, and create irreplaceable memories together.   

During their time with a host family, au pairs truly become temporary family members. This lets au pairs form strong relationships with the children they care for. Many families have shared that their au pair becomes like an older sibling to their children as they develop a close bond during their time together.  

Positive relationships with caregivers are essential for the developing minds of children. In fact, a study by the American Psychological Association found that children with supportive caregiver relationships outside of their immediate family may grow into better-adjusted adolescents and adults.   

Children also learn from the way they see the people around them interacting. Seeing positive interactions between their caregivers, including between their guardians and au pair, can help your child feel secure. As they become a part of your family, au pairs provide another consistent way for children to see these supportive relationships in action.

The meaningful relationships that a host family develops with their au pair is an additional impactful difference between an au pair and a nanny. This relationship creates countless benefits for the children an au pair cares for, such as:

  • Giving children another trusted caregiver available to support them
  • Ensuring that there is always an adult there to focus just on the needs of the kids
  • Creating consistency, reliability, and comfort in their schedule with an au pair
  • Providing children with a meaningful cultural experience

The meaningful relationships that an au pair forms with their host families can help encourage the healthy development of the children they care for. Additionally, au pairs create countless learning opportunities for your children by bringing their unique culture to your family.

Cultural Exchange With an Au Pair

While both a nanny and an au pair can be live-in caregivers for children, au pairs are unique in that they come from different countries all over the world. Au pairs travel from their home countries to live with and learn from families in the United States.   

Cultural exchange is one of the foundational elements of the au pair program. These caregivers come to the United States to experience the culture of their host family, while in turn teaching their host family about their home culture. The J-1 visa that au pairs receive to work in the United States is specifically for visitors participating in a cultural exchange. 

AuPairCare’s au pairs come from more than 40 countries around the world. In addition to providing care for your kids and helping out around the house, they can also help immerse your family in their culture and even teach them a new language.

This unique opportunity to expose your children to a new culture can have lasting benefits, such as:

  • Increasing your child’s awareness of different cultures
  • Helping your child become curious and open-minded
  • Developing a deeper sense of compassion in your child

Hosting an au pair is also a powerful way to help your children learn a new language. Your family’s au pair can immerse your children in their native language by naturally introducing new words and phrases that are connected to your child’s life. 

Learning a language through immersion is one of the best ways to develop long-lasting proficiency. Speaking multiple languages offers many benefits, especially for children who begin learning their second language at a young age.

Bilingualism is connected to higher cognitive abilities. In particular, speaking a second language can help children become better readers, as it supports their language development. An au pair can create organic opportunities everyday to encourage your children to learn a foreign language.

An au pair can help prepare your children for our interconnected world in many ways, like:

  • Teach them to accept others
  • Helping them understand cultural differences
  • Developing their cultural competence
  • Immersing them in a foreign language
  • Introducing them to foods and traditions from around the world

Au pairs bring much more than an extra set of hands to your household. They also bring their unique cultures, languages, experiences, and more. Dozens of families in the AuPairCare community have shared stories of how their au pairs have enriched their lives.

How AuPairCare Can Help Find the Right Au Pair

Finding an au pair to add to your family can seem daunting. From coordinating the details of their visa to ensuring that your au pair is the perfect fit for your family’s childcare needs, starting the process of finding an au pair can seem like a challenging journey. 

Partnering with our experienced and highly-rated au pair agency can make this process as easy as possible. AuPairCare ensures that the process of finding and starting to work with an au pair is seamless and stress-free.

AuPairCare’s experienced staff handles screening candidates to find au pairs with the experience, education, and passion to contribute to your family. Many members of our staff are previous au pairs or host parents, giving them unique insight into what makes an au pair successful in their placement.

This experience also helps the AuPairCare team ensure that each au pair meets the requirements and regulations set by the U.S. Department of State. This way, you don’t have to worry about anything! These requirements include that the au pair must:

  • Have proficiency in spoken English
  • Be between 18-26 years of age
  • Have a secondary school education or equivalent
  • Pass a background check
  • Pass a reference check

AuPairCare also has additional training requirements to ensure that each au pair is prepared to provide high-quality childcare to their host families.

Department of State Requirements

AuPairCare Additional Requirements

Au pairs must be secondary school graduates or have reached an equivalent education level.

Au pairs must also complete training courses through AuPairCare’s Au Pair Academy.

Au pairs must be between the ages of 18-26.

Au pairs must have previous childcare experience.

Au pairs must complete a physical to show that they can participate in the program.

Au pairs must be in good health and have no criminal record.

Au pairs must receive a J-1 visa.

Au pairs must possess a driver’s license.

AuPairCare’s Au Pair Academy  

When comparing a nanny versus au pair, another difference is the level of training, education, and preparation that each brings to their host family. While there are no formal requirements to become a nanny, au pairs must meet guidelines set by the U.S. Department of State.  

In addition to these requirements, AuPairCare requires that our au pairs receive additional training through the Au Pair Academy.

Every au pair is trained in safety, CPR, first aid, and child development before first meeting their host family, but this isn’t all that makes AuPairCare’s Au Pair Academy special. AuPairCare also provides ongoing, advanced training for au pairs during their placement to keep them up-to-date on the best practices in supporting the growth and development of the children they care for.  

Finding the Right Caregiver for Your Family

Hiring a nanny, a babysitter, or even sending your child to a childcare center often means doing your own research on the difference between a nanny and a babysitter and hoping your choice is a good match. When working with AuPairCare, we handle this process for you.

Our tenured staff, most with experience working as or hosting au pairs before, carefully considers your family’s wants and needs to match you with the perfect au pair. To ensure your au pair is the right fit for your family, we:

  • Provide families seeking a caregiver with a searchable database of au pairs
  • Actively help recommend au pairs to families by considering each family’s needs
  • Help set up and facilitate introductions and interviews with your au pair candidates
  • Handle the paperwork, including helping your new au pair secure a visa
  • Schedule your au pair’s flights and help you plan for their arrival

Our staff at AuPairCare is committed to finding your family not just a caregiver, but a meaningful addition to your household. Our detailed program helps us connect you with an au pair that will truly become a part of the family during their stay.

What Can an Au Pair Add to Your Household?

Parenting is stressful. Studies have shown that, over time, parental stress can impact the development of children as they are shaped by the long-term interactions they have with the people in their environment. Adding an au pair to your household can lower the stress of parenting, while also creating another positive relationship for your child to help them thrive.

Choosing to host an au pair as a caregiver for your children has benefits that reach far beyond getting some much-needed help with the kids, such as:

  • Giving your children a enriching cultural experience
  • Serving as an extra adult in the household whose main focus is the kids
  • Helping your children with homework
  • Lending an extra hand for household chores
  • Monitoring your children’s growth and development
  • Developing meaningful, lasting relationships with your family

Finding the right caregiver for your family is a monumental and important task. Choosing AuPairCare as your au pair agency can make that task easier.

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