You’ve seen one of our ads, you’ve talked to your friends or maybe you’ve gone so far as to apply to the program, but you're not yet sold on the idea. It’s easy for us to tell you all the great things about au pair childcare. We’ve got a story of a host family and au pair starting a business together, host families traveling to their au pair’s home country and tons of ultimate au pair stories. But what you want to know is what it’s really like to have an au pair. So below we’ve addressed some of the most common fears and misconceptions host families have about the au pair program!
This is a biggie – it is probably the number one concern friends and family who are unfamiliar with the program will bring up to you! The key is to get as familiar with the au pair as you can during the interview process, and there are plenty of tools to help with that. Between our interview guides and Matching Experts, our goal is to facilitate successful matches. We encourage families to really get to know their au pair candidates. She's going to be your housemate, don't be afraid to ask if she's tidy, or a night owl, or a strict vegan, the goal is to get to know her. Multiple video interviews with prospective au pairs are mandatory and families can take as long as they need to make a selection. Ultimately we want you to feel the person coming to care for your kids is someone you can trust -- and someone you can live with.
Your kids are everything. Whether they are being perfect little angels (most of the time) or complete terrors (once in a while), they’re yours and you don’t want any caregiver denying them compassion and respect. We think that the best way for au pairs to develop that skillset is with experience! That’s part of why you can see each au pair’s verified childcare experience hours on their au pair profile. The key is to find the experience that resonates with your family. If you have multiple children, find an au pair that regularly cared for more than one child. If you have an infant, consider an infant specialized au pair, who will have specific experience with kids under two.
We’ve spent a lot of time comparing nannies, daycares and au pairs. In fact, you can call us any time to recieve our Ultimate Guide to Childcare. There are pros and cons to each option and maybe in some cases a nanny or daycare is best for your family. But we’re biased and we really feel that au pairs offer you the most in terms of flexibility, cost and adult to child ratio. When life happens - a work deadline is moved up, your spouse can’t pick up the kids, or your sick child is sent home from school, the benefits of an au pair are unparalleled. Plus having a caregiver that is focused on just your kids means so much for their growth and development.
Not every placement is perfect. The goal is for everyone to have the ultimate au pair but we would be disingenuous to not acknowledge that sometimes things don’t work out. It can be as simple as a difference in personalities or a wave of au pair homesickness. Whatever the reason, we take placement changes seriously - we want you to have the right au pair for your family. Before the program starts we outline everything in your host family agreement. Above all, we do our best to support you and your au pair because ultimately we want you both to be in placements that are positive, safe, and happy.
The length of an au pair year program varies. After the initial program year of 12 months, an au pair and host family can decide to extend for an additional 6, 9 or 12 months. The maximum time an au pair can stay in the US is 2 years. Those goodbyes can be difficult – host families and au pairs really do grow to love one another, so our solution is not to sever that bond! We’ve heard stories of host families going to the weddings of their au pairs years after their program ended. Families and au pairs that get the most out of this program are those that committed to the spirit of cultural exchange.
Au pairs in the U.S. that are part of a Department of State regulated au pair agency will be between 18 and 26 years old. They’ll need a private bedroom in your home and you will set guidelines with them about curfews, use of the car and other house rules. But remember, your au pair is also a secondary school graduate that has made the decision to come to another country alone for a life changing experience. She's an adult that has chosen to dedicate a year (or more) to caring for your children! Instead of thinking of an au pair as another child - think of them like your adult niece living in your home!
Certain au pairs will be stronger in English than others, but all au pairs speak the language conversationally. Most families see their au pairs improve their language exponentially in just the first month or so of being in the country. They’ll pick up the English language nuances that can't always be taught in school. You can also ask for the The Parent’s Guide to To Popular Au Pair Countries, which will give you some pointers not only on the average English level of the au pair country of origin you’re looking at, but also the communication styles and driving abilities that will work best for your household. Also don't forget au pairs are interviewed in English by the AuPairCare team and will speak with you several times before you finalize your match!
Au pairs do want to be in America. They want exposure to our culture and to experience life in a new country. But the accepted applicants in our au pair pool have established lives in their home countries along with families, friends and job opportunities to return to. We do everything we can to make sure that the au pairs in our pool are committed to being the best care givers they can be and are intent on returning home at the end of their program in accordance with Department of State Regulations.
Working moms and dads are well aware of the necessary compromise that comes with being a parent and having a career. So when an au pair comes into the picture and spends the time we wish we had for our kids, it’s not uncommon to feel a twinge of jealousy. The key is to remember that au pairs can help free up some of your personal time. If she happens to be preparing the kids’ meals, or doing the kids’ laundry – you now have some time to read a story or play a game with your little ones. Au pairs can offer a balance you may never have considered.
With the growing costs of raising a child, sometimes it feels like children are for the wealthy! In all seriousness, child care costs can be very high, but live-in childcare via the au pair program is a flexible, family-friendly option. The traditional au pair program costs do not change based on the number of children you have. Compare that to your local annual childcare costs and more often than not you’re looking at a bargain. Au pair care should be considered an enriching cultural experience that benefits both the au pair and your children!
For any of the resources mentioned in this article call a program advisor in our San Francisco Headquarters office. They’ll also be able to answer any questions you have, confirm your home is serviced by our program and put you in touch with your closest area director.