Nanny? Sitter? Live-in? Mother's Helper? Au Pair? Which Caregiver Will Best Suit My Needs?

Nanny? Sitter? Live-in? Mother's Helper? Au Pair? Which Caregiver Will Best Suit My Needs?

by Martha Scully

Nanny, Live-In Nanny, Au-Pair, Mother’s Helper, Night Nurse, Nanny Share, or Babysitter?

What are the differences between these caregivers? Which is right for your situation?

In-home child care offers parents flexibility and convenience. It is an advantage not having to wake the children up and deliver them to daycare first thing in the morning but with so many options how do you evaluate which caregiver is right for you and your family?

In this article, we will define each caregiver’s role to help you evaluate which in-home child caregiver option is right for you.

Evaluating In-Home Child Caregiver Options

There are several in-home child care options. We will define each one


Nannies have several years of childcare experience. Nannies do not necessarily seek a cultural exchange. They are more interested in a career-building experience in childcare. If you are looking for a long-term relationship with a committed caregiver, finding a good nanny is the answer.

Live-out Nanny

The caregiver comes to your home each day to look after the children.

Live-in Nanny

The caregiver lives in your home and is given separate sleeping quarters. Generally, the live-in nanny receives a lower salary since you are deducting room and board.

Hiring an International Nanny

If you are hiring a nanny from outside Canada, you are required to go through the Live-in Care Program. Live-in caregivers are individuals who are qualified to work without supervision in a private household providing care for children, the elderly, or people with disabilities.

The live-in caregiver MUST

  • work for you in a private home
  • live with you, the employer
  • have a private, furnished room within your home
  • be employed on a full-time basis
  • meet the requirements set by CIC for language, education, and work skills necessary to function in the Canadian labour market.

A live-in caregiver CANNOT

  • work for more than one employer at a time
  • work for a health agency or labour contractor, or in a day care or foster care

In order to qualify under the Live-in Caregiver Program, candidates must meet four main requirements

  1. They must have successfully completed a course of study that is equivalent to a Canadian secondary school diploma.
  2. They must have completed six months of full-time training in a classroom setting or 12 months of full-time paid employment (including at least 6 months of continuous employment with one employer) in a field or occupation related to the job they are seeking as a live-in caregiver. This experience must have been obtained within the three years immediately prior to the day on which they submit an application for a work permit.

  3. They must have the ability to speak, read and understand either English or French at a level sufficient to communicate independently.
  4. They must have a written employment contract with their future employer.

Before you apply to hire a foreign worker, HRSDC and CIC will expect you to

  • demonstrate comprehensive and on-going efforts to recruit Canadian youth, aboriginal peoples, recent immigrants and Canadians in areas of high unemployment
  • show efforts to hire unemployed Canadians through HRSDC and provincial employment programs
  • consult with the local union if the position is covered under a collective agreement
  • sign an employer-employee contract outlining wages, duties, and conditions related to the transportation, accommodation, health and occupational safety of the foreign worker - cover all recruitment costs related to the hiring of the foreign worker
  • help the worker find suitable, affordable accommodation
  • pay full transportation costs for the foreign worker to and from his/her home country provide medical coverage until the worker is eligible for provincial health insurance
  • register your worker under the appropriate provincial workers compensation/workplace safety insurance plans

If you want to hire a foreign worker, you must

  1. Submit the application for an HRSDC Labour Market Opinion to a Service Canada centre.
  2. Fill out a copy of the employer-employee contract
  3. When your job offer is approved, send a copy of the HRSDC confirmation letter and your signed copy of the employment contract to the foreign worker
  4. Tell the foreign worker to apply for a work permit from CIC

Note: your job offer will not be confirmed if you are offering wages below rates paid to Canadians in the occupation and region where he/she will be employed.

Note: Foreign live-in caregivers cannot be shared by families while under the Live-in Care Program.

A foreign national who wishes to work in Canada as a live-in caregiver must apply for a work permit before seeking entry to Canada. For more information about the Live-in Care Program, visit the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website

Au Pair

An au pair is a foreigner who lives with a family in return for doing childcare and light housework. An au pair often has basic childcare experience.

Au pairs usually stay with a family for one year – long enough to enjoy the benefits of a cultural exchange and to gain childcare work experience.

Unlike nannies, au pairs typically are not looking for a career in childcare work.

If you are home full-time and are looking for someone to help with light housekeeping and babysitting, this may be the best option to consider.

Mother’s Helper

A mother’s helper is hired to assist the mother with childcare and household needs. Quite often a mother’s helper is younger and does not have significant childcare experience.

They do not take sole charge of the children - the mother is usually in the home for the majority of the time.

Nanny Share

Families will choose to nanny share with their neighbours, friends or with families they have met through local community programs.

A nanny share can be very beneficial to your child, as it will also provide a regular playmate for your child. It will also cut the costs for you by nearly half.

The share can operate on a week here, week there, basis. Or monthly or even one home at all times. This would be decided between the two families and you will want the nanny’s feedback on what she feels comfortable with.

To make the nanny share a successful experience you must be able to compromise so that both families feel they are getting an equal deal. Both sides must listen to each other for it to be a success.

You must avoid situations where the nanny may feel like she is being pulled in two different directions.

With most nanny positions the nanny is responsible for the children’s washing and ironing, and cleaning duties. In a nanny share situation, this may be difficult to arrange.

Night Nurse/Night Sitter

A night nurse comes to your home in the evening and leaves in the morning, giving you the opportunity to enjoy a full night of rest.

Generally, you pay 50% more per hour for a night nurse – roughly $15 to $20 per hour.


A babysitter cares for your children on an occasional basis. Babysitters can range in age from a teenager to a grandparent or “senior”.

Babysitters care for the children and tidy up after the children and themselves.

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About the Author
Martha Scully
Martha is the founder of Martha has been featured as a Child Care Expert in hundreds of publications across Canada including The Globe and Mail, CBC, Today's Parent and The National Post, She lives in British Columbia with her husband and two daughters.