Nanny or Governess: What are the Differences, And Which Is Best for My Family?

For many, Nanny and Governess are seemingly the same jobs, and while both do involve caring for children, in reality these roles differ in key aspects and have different goals for the child. This article will detail both roles and explore the differences between nannies and governesses, helping you choose the right method of childcare for your family’s needs.

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The Role of a Nanny

The main role of a nanny is to ensure the welfare and development of the children they care for. A nanny can be hired for a child of any age, usually starting at 6 months, following the employment of a maternity nurse who helps new parents for a few months after a child’s birth. The nanny can then stay on for many years depending on individual preference. Some choose to keep their nanny until their children are 9-10 years of age while others keep their nannies on for longer. There is no specific age at which a nanny is no longer required, however, nannies are generally employed to care for younger children meaning they are present for important development stages, childhood milestones and are instrumental in their development and wellbeing.

A nanny isn’t only present to care for the child and help them in their development, they also act as a support for parents who can rely on them for any and all daily tasks, enabling them to breathe while juggling careers, family life, multiple children, and seemingly endless responsibilities. Nannies can become an additional family member and truly be a rock for some parents. As opposed to daycare or other forms of shared childcare, nannies fall under private childcare and will typically provide in-home care for families.

A nanny’s main responsibilities include:

  • General childcare including feeding, bathing, dressing, bottle sterilisation…
  • Setting up a routine for the child including bedtime / waking up
  • Keeping the child’s bedroom / playroom tidy and doing the child’s laundry
  • Organising stimulating and age-appropriate activities to help children reach important milestones including toilet training, weaning, sleep training etc…
  • Providing specific care in case of illness, disabilities, struggles, including first aid when necessary
  • Taking the child to and from school, activities, appointments, play dates…etc
  • Communicating with parents on the child’s development, informing them of any milestones or difficulties they may notice
  • Supervising the child at all times, proxy parenting when required
  • Travelling with the family when required to ensure the child maintains their habits and to relieve parents if needed
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Nannies are employed to help with general childcare, development, and family support, hence their being employed to care for younger children although they may stay on until a child’s teenage years, especially for families with children of varying ages.

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The Role of a Governess

A governess is also responsible for a child’s development, however they do so mainly from an educational perspective and are therefore most often employed for children aged 5 and above, although some families choose to employ a governess or governor for children as young as 3 years old when they start their formal education. A governess will provide educational support as well as general childcare if needed, essentially balancing the roles of a nanny and a tutor. However, due to the age of the children they care for, governesses will not be present for early childhood development milestones or nursery care. Many governesses will have an education or teaching background and will have knowledge of the curriculum the child is enrolled in, enabling them to provide at home-support, keeping in line with, and expanding on the knowledge and skills the child is learning in school.

A governess can provide general educational support for children, or they can be hired to help with specific subjects a child is having difficulties with. Many also choose to hire a governess who speaks another language to help their child gain proficiency and receive a native speaker’s help. Individual educational support can be especially beneficial for children facing difficulties in school as classrooms don’t offer the opportunity for personalised, one-on-one help. Aside from helping with the learning and understanding aspect of homework, a governess can also help install a homework routine, something many children struggle with on their own.

A governess’s main responsibilities include:

  • Organising stimulating and age-appropriate activities to help children reach important milestones including reading, writing, and reporting any flagged difficulties to the parents or to the school…
  • Providing educational support by helping with homework, tutoring, home-schooling when applicable and liaising with the school
  • Implementing an educational routine with homework & extra-curricular activities…
  • Helping with life skills and age-appropriate development including helping children become independent, confident, and resilient.
  • Teaching new hobbies such as languages, instruments, sports etc…
  • Teaching manners & etiquette
  • Providing help with exam preparation
  • General childcare if required including feeding, cooking, dressing…
  • Providing specific care in case of illness, disabilities, struggles, behavioural issues, and first aid when necessary
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A governess is more focused on the educational aspect of a child’s development although they can still care for their general needs if required. Some families will hire a governess in addition to their nanny enabling each of them to focus on the key aspect of their role. This enables the governess to fully focus on the child’s educational development, manners, and etiquette, while the nanny would exclusively handle the general childcare/nursery/support duties.

Deciding which role is best suited for your family essentially depends on your child’s age and their needs. If you have young children, if you need basic care, someone to supervise your child while working or occupied elsewhere, support you, or take some of your pressure off, then a nanny is the professional you’re looking for. However, if you have older children and your main focus is their formal education, supporting their schoolwork, teaching them a new subject, or introducing etiquette and manners while focusing less on their general needs, a governess may be more suited to your family. While they will be able to provide some help with childcare if required, their focus will be on your child’s education instead of day-to-day support.

Knowing the differences between a nanny’s role and one of a governess is essential to avoid hiring the wrong professional. Expecting a nanny to act as a tutor and help with formal education isn’t viable if they aren’t familiar with the child’s curriculum or if they don’t have the right methods and pedagogical approach to teaching. In the same way, a governess should not be hired to care for young children as that isn’t what their role entails. Discussing the implications of a job beforehand is essential in the hiring process to avoid a mismatch and will help you and your family make the right decision when choosing a childcare professional. Platinum Nanny can help you explore and understand your childcare options to find the perfect match for your family.

Platinum Nanny is an international bespoke search consultancy in the placement of childcare, household & estate staff in Monaco · London · Dubai · Switzerland.

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