Babysitter Solutions: Child Care Dictionary: A Who's Who of Kid-Watching

Anyone who's seen The Incredibles knows that even superkids need watching. Where would any mom be without some help to get her out of the house for a date night, to cook bowtie pasta just the way the kids crave it and occasionally to bathe the family's furry friends. But when it comes to choosing in-home care, many parents are at a loss. It's not hard to see why: With pop culture throwing everything from Supernanny to The Baby-Sitters Club at parents, it's hard to figure out just who you need.

In-home providers come in several forms:

Au pairs
Au pairs are European students who enter the United States to work as a primary caregiver for an American family. Au pair programs are regulated by the U.S. government. If you choose this type of in-home care, be aware that au pairs have required housing arrangements, weekly stipends and scheduled programs that they must complete with their host family throughout the year. Most parents who prefer au pairs like their "older sibling" appeal '- they're often an instant international brother or sister for tweens and teens.

Babysitters
A babysitter is a part-time caregiver hired for an hourly rate to watch kids under the age of 12. Babysitters generally work less than 20 hours a week, and they can work in either their home or yours. Babysitters are usually in high school or college, and as they generally make less than $400 in a calendar quarter they (thankfully) do not have to be reported in your yearly taxes. Babysitters add lots to a  family dynamic. Because they are part-time caregivers, they can become mentors to your kids, and a best friend to you. Just make sure to have some backups in case your sitters have some dates of their own!

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