There are a number of names you will hear when it comes to child care positions. You will hear the words nanny, mother’s help, au pair and babysitting. These names are mostly interchangeable though there are differences.

The great thing about child care positions are they are mostly live-in. Meaning you will be provided with your own room which is usually near the children you are looking after. That takes care of finding a job and accommodation in the one hit. You will also receive a wage and full board. Some jobs include use of a car and maybe family holidays (though you will most likely be looking after the kid/s). Many travellers pick up this type of work. You may need to make a commitment of a certain period of time and sign a contract to confirm this.

Au Pair

An au pair is someone who is usually untrained and is going to another country on a cultural experience, ie. To learn the language. You will assist the parent/s to look after the child/children on a part-time basis and spend the rest of your time experiencing the culture of the country.

The au pair industry, particularly in Europe and the USA are regulated by the government and therefore you would enter a country under a ‘cultural exchange visa’. You will need to meet the stipulated criteria.


A nanny is usually formerly trained or has extensive experience with children. Many travellers who have had experience in other professions like teachers, nurses, etc. often apply for live-in nanny jobs.

A nanny will undertake full-time (sole charge) care of the child/children in the parent’s absence. All duties will revolve entirely around the children. So you will make their meals, tidy their room/s, do their washing and take them to activities.

Mother’s Help

A mother’s help usually has no formal qualification, may have some experience and can be young. As the name suggests, you will be helping the parent look after the child/children and often undertake light housework.


Babysitting is just that, looking after a child/children while the parent/s go out. And they don’t have to be babies, they can be of any age but usually under 15 years old. Many a traveller has picked up this type of work. It is often cash in hand which comes in useful to help you continue your travels.


Being a child carer means you need to interact and do things with the kid/s you are looking after.

About the child care industry

The child care industry is dominated by females however, positions for males do arise. Some families request male carers, particularly in Europe.

As mentioned, the big advantage of child care work is that most positions are live-in. This takes care of finding a job and accommodation in the one go. If you don’t want to live in there are daily nanny positions where you come every day and look after the child/children but live somewhere else. You should be paid more for this as accommodation is not included in the deal.

Before you accept a position you should have clarified: the hours you are expected to work and your time off; the duties required of you (how light is the light housework. How simple are the meals you need to make.); your salary (including the day you will be paid); is health insurance included; how long the position is for; and whether you need to sign a contract.

Find out as much about the family and children as possible before you take on the job. Know the age/s of the child/children. Do not take on newborns if you have not had the experience.

Finding a child care job

Most child care positions can be found through a specialist child care agency. A good agency should match you with a family. Once you are in a position they should offer you support if you need it. It should be free for you to register with an agency as the agency charges the family a fee for finding them a child/children carer. You could also advertise your services by placing them on a noticeboard.

To find an agency I suggest you do a google search however, a few I would recommend include:
Australia: Dial-an-Angel
UK (and for Europe): pick up a copy of The Lady magazine or view on line at
USA: Au Pair America.

About the Author:

Sharyn McCullum has spent a lot of her life travelling. While living in London she had a live-in mother’s help position. She spent her time looking after 2 great kids. Each day was different but usually included getting the kids ready for school. Taking them to activities after school. Light housework revolving around tidying the kids’ rooms, doing their washing and making them simple meals. She found her job through The Lady magazine.

Thanks for sharing!

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