Families: What Level of Care is Right for You?

I’ve recently been job hunting. Some families know exactly what they want from a caregiver; they have in mind the perfect age, height, education level – those families have their ideal candidate drawn up and they’re ready to hire. Other families aren’t quite sure what’s right for their family, but they know they need to hire someone soon. Not knowing what you need is okay, but it can be frustrating for the nanny and the family if either one isn’t completely sure of themselves. For those families, I’ve developed the “five levels of care,” five different kinds of childcare that can be provided in your home by a nanny or a babysitter. If you find one that fits your needs, you are then better prepared to hire a nanny that is the perfect fit for your family!

Level One: The Date Night Sitter

Struggling for time alone with your spouse? Need to run errands but just can’t find the time? A date night sitter can be a great asset for busy families who just need a little regularly scheduled help. Date night sitters generally come one to two evenings a week. The best girls for these jobs are generally in high school. They can spend their evenings playing with the children, feeding them, putting them to bed, and then doing their own homework or quiet activities. Younger girls can gain valuable experience while you have a – regularly scheduled – night off without the kids.

If you want to hire a date night sitter, look for a teenage girl in your neighborhood or the daughter of a close friend. The pay rate is flexible depending on where you live, but it should rarely exceed 10 dollars per hour. Finding a reliable sitter can be difficult, but having one stay with your family at least while she’s in high school can be great for both of you.

If you’re worried about hiring a young sitter, don’t be! Check out my post on the benefits of hiring a young sitter.

Level Two: The Afternoon Sitter

This type of sitter is generally employed during the school year, and then “promoted” to a nanny during the summer. She is your coverage from the time your kids get off the bus to the time you get off the bus, or out of the car. She can be of any age, but typically an older teenager or college student works best, especially if driving is involved. Their primary concern is your children’s’ safety and happiness. They are not meant to educate or act as a housekeeper, except in picking up after themselves and the kids. They should not work more than three to five hours a day, especially if their workload at school is heavy. Pay is negotiable depending on where you live, but most afternoon sitters draw 10 to 12 dollars an hour. If you need the sitter to pick up the children from school, be sure to reimburse for gas!

Level Three: The Nanny

This gal is your lifesaver. This is who you hire when you just can’t do it by yourself. She is employed 30 to 40 hours a week, depending on your needs. During the summer, a teenager or college student can be employed as a nanny without a problem, but if you’re looking for a long-term arrangement, hiring an older woman can be extremely beneficial. If you work a part-time job or have multiple young children, having a nanny around the house part of the time can do wonders. Not only is this woman asked to keep the children safe and happy, she can also be responsible for meals (for the kids), planning educational activities, and supervising games the kids might otherwise not get to play – messy ones, for example. She is paid to allow you time to run your household or work. As such, she is paid a bit more than a regular sitter. I recommend 11 to 14 dollars an hour, depending again on your location and financial ability. In exchange for a lower pay, offering paid holidays or dedicated time off (say, every Wednesday afternoon), can make a job more enticing for a nanny. Look for a future post regarding choosing a “pay package” for your help.

Level Four: The Super-Full-Time Nanny

You’re busy. So is your spouse. We, as caregivers, totally get it. The Super-Full-Time Nanny (a term soon to be copyrighted by me) is basically your right hand in running your household: she’s there from the time your kids get up to the time they go to bed everyday of the week, and sometimes Saturdays, too. This woman will do anything and everything – for the right price. Be careful before considering hiring someone to work this many hours; neither of you want to get tired of each others company too quickly. Typically, a Super-Full-Time Nanny will get your kids to school, activities, and sometimes even church, and then get them home again. She will fix their meals, make sure they make their beds, and basically act as a second mothering figure in your home. This arrangement is especially ideal for a family with two hard-working parents. The pay for this kind of care can be steep, especially if you’re asking for educational or housekeeping duties, too, but can definitely be worth it. Look for a young woman or an older grandmother; someone who has either dedicated their career to childcare or has finished a career and is ready to help a new family. Look for a future article on hiring and interviewing a Super-Full-Time Nanny.

Level Five: The Live-In

Do you remember that show The Nanny? This is your Fran Fine, minus the crazy outfits and attitude. She shares a place in your home – quite literally. This girl will be your best friend – or your worst enemy. Sharing a home with another woman can be difficult, so I typically warn against the live-in unless you find yourself in a situation where nothing else is appropriate. If you do make the decision to hire a live-in nanny, look for a college student with a flexible schedule. Chances are, she’ll be happy for free room and board, and you’ll love having someone you can rely on to be there when you can’t be. There are quite a few challenges to having a live-in caregiver, which I hope to cover in a future post.

Up Next: Hiring a Young Caregiver

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