When people start looking at caretaking options for their children, they discover many options they could choose from. These include a daycare center, a home daycare business, a nanny, or having a relative watch the child during the day. There’s a lot of information about each type of childcare on the web, but it’s often confusing, or incomplete.
This is particularly true of nanny services. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding nanny services, especially in terms of what to expect and what you pay. Below, we’ll work to dispel those rumors by exploring three aspects of a nanny service that most people don’t know about.
1. Nanny’s are Not Babysitters
Many people tend to use the terms nanny and babysitter interchangeably. This is totally inaccurate, and I believe this is where a lot of misinformation about nannies comes from.
In reality, nannies and babysitters are completely different from each other, and there are several key differences you need to be aware of.
The biggest difference by far is the scheduling differences between a nanny and a babysitter.
Babysitters tend to be part-time and only watch children for select, limited periods. For example, you may only need a babysitter each Friday night for a date with your spouse. Some babysitters do invest more time. For example, some babysit daily but only for a portion of the day. The key takeaway is that babysitters are meant to watch your child only for a short amount of time.
Nannies, by contrast, are much more invested. Nannies typically stay with children for at least five out of the seven days in a week. They also spend the majority of their day with the child. Additionally, when most families hire a nanny, they expect the nanny to stay with them for at least a year.
Another key difference between sitters and nannies is the level of training and experience they have.
Most babysitters tend to be under the age of 21, have no additional training, and are there simply to watch your children.
Professional nannies, on the other hand, tend to have more extensive training in childcare. Care.com lists the following as some of the common certifications many nannies have
- Certification in first aid and CPR
- Water-safety training
- The Nanny Basic Skills Assessment administered by the International Nanny Association (INA)
- Training in childhood health and fitness
- Foreign language training (many nannies are bilingual, to begin with)
- Early childhood education
While both you and your children may love your babysitter, it’s very rare that they become “part of the family.” Nannies, however, spend so much time with your children, often in your own home, that they become an integral part of your family structure. While this can have some big advantages for your child’s development, it can also make it especially painful when it’s time for the nanny to move on to another family.
2. Families May Have to Pay Household Employer Taxes
One of the biggest surprises that many families have when they shop for a nanny is that they may be obligated to pay employers taxes. The IRS defines anyone who pays $2,100 or more per year to work in their home as a household employer.
Taxes You’re Obligated to Pay
Once you’re categorized as a household employer, you’re obligated to pay some additional taxes on your nanny, including:
- Social Security
Additionally, you may choose to withhold some of your nanny’s earnings to pay their share of taxes. These can include:
- Social Security and Medicare
- Federal and State income taxes
- Local income taxes
The Difficulty of Filing
Many people who hire nannies don’t have any business tax expenses. It leaves a lot of people anxious about getting their taxes right with this additional burden. The IRS reported that it takes the average household employer up to 60 hours to calculate and prepare their taxes accurately.
If you do opt to hire a nanny, you need to ensure that you know if you’ll qualify as a household employer, and start filing to become an employer before your nanny starts working for you. Use the resources available to help understand what you have to do and how to do it.
3. They Can’t Do Everything for You
Many people assume that once they’ve hired a nanny, they can leave the running of the household completely to them. The Disney film Mary Poppins painted the picture of a super-nanny who can run an entire household from start to finish. This is a misconception, though. While live-in nannies can handle many aspects of home upkeep, including cleaning and cooking, they are not the master of the house. That’s the parents’ role.
When you hire a nanny, both the parents and nanny need to be crystal clear about expectations, responsibilities, and restrictions. Baby Gaga recommended that you handle the following aspects of child and homecare yourself. Some nannies may be willing to do these tasks, but shouldn’t; others will flat out refuse.
Make Major Medical Decisions for Your Child
While most nannies are trained in first aid and CPR and can do some basic things like administering medication, they should never make major medical decisions for your child. If they ever have to take your child to the hospital, their next step should be to call you. Unless it’s absolutely essential to save your child’s life, they shouldn’t be the one telling the doctors what they can do.
Sooner or later, everyone has to call in a plumber, electrician, or trade craftsmen. It’s just part of life. People who have nannies are often tempted to have the nanny oversee their work. This is a big mistake, for several reasons.
- You’re the one who has to live with the results, so you need to check the quality of the work
- The technician may find more substantial damage or additional issues, and you have to be the one to decide what to do next
- While most technicians are perfectly nice, law-abiding individuals, some do have criminal histories and can’t be completely trusted. You don’t want your nanny left alone with a complete stranger in the house.
Establishing Rules and Administering Discipline
Your child is going to act out around their nanny. It’s as simple as that. However, the mistake that many parents make when this happens is to leave the disciplining of the child completely in the nanny’s hands. Some take it a step further and allow the nanny to set all of the rules that the child must obey. The issue with doing this is twofold.
First, if you don’t set the rules, your child won’t respect you as the authority figure you are. They’ll come to regard the nanny as the primary decision maker, and will try to play the “mommy-daddy game” between parents and nanny.
Second, your nanny may have alternate views on child rearing than you do. The nanny may be comfortable with spanking a child, you might not be. You don’t want to leave your nanny utterly powerless to control a disobedient child, but limit what they can do. Time-out or a loss of privileges may be some good options the nanny can administer. Leave anything more severe until after you get home.