What’s it really like to have a live-in nanny? If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question, I’d probably have enough money to pay for my au pair. Seriously. Because it’s not just this question, but a million other questions that spin off from the fear that having a live-in childcare provider will be… well, kind of weird. Awkward. But believe me when I tell you that having a live-in nanny is not awkward. In fact it’s pretty awesome.
Before you become totally skeptical, know that “awesome” came from my husband. Because not only do I think having a live-in au pair is a godsend, but my husband does as well. As if it wasn’t enough that I love having an au pair because of how happy my kids are and how much easier my life has become, he also loves it because of the convenience…..and, let’s face it, I’m a lot more relaxed during these times. You see, having our au pair live with us means that we don’t have to scramble to get the kids dressed and ready for school before the sun comes up. When someone is sick, they stay home and I don’t have to step away from work.
Our au pair knows our routine and the ins and outs of our daily lives, saving her precious time and making for a seamless transition. If you are like everyone else who has ever asked me this question, you probably still don’t believe me. It’s okay, I won’t take it personally. But let me go ahead and try to answer the other questions you most likely have.
So what does she do each night? Does she just hang out with you? Well, yes… and no. See, we like it when our au pair is around. It gives us a chance to know her better and for her to have fun with the kids without having to remind them to clean up their rooms. But most nights, we don’t see her a lot. She has class, plans with friends, or heads to her room to watch a movie or Skype. On a typical week night, she finishes her shift, we all have dinner, and then she goes upstairs while we finish homework, do some chores or watch a show. She might come down to do her laundry or grab a snack, but for the most part she does her own thing. On the weekends, things are a little more unstructured, so we let her know our plans and tell her to join us on whatever she chooses.
What's it like having an au pair while everyone's at home during the pandemic? Well, like everyone else, we're adjusting! At first, the house felt pretty tight with everyone at home all the time, but we quickly realized that it was a godsend to have our au pair "stuck" with us - she is majorly helping with child care shifts! While my husband and I squeeze in work and meetings during 9 to 5 (ish), our au pair is able to get the kids ready for zoom school, help prep snacks and lunches while the kids are in class (most of the times). Like most families, some days the kids stay on their zoom schedule and some days...well, it's a bust! But I can't imagine how my husband and I would be juggling work with home school plus childcare without the help from our au pair. We feel so lucky! And in a weird way, spending all our time together has made us feel like even more of a family.
Don’t you feel self-conscious or awkward in your own house? Actually, no. For the first few days it felt like we had a house guest, and we did a little tiptoeing around. But we quickly decided that in order to feel comfortable in our own home and truly get to know our au pair, we would have to be ourselves. This includes quirks, fights, and anything else, no matter how awkward it might be! We encourage our au pair to do the same and just be family. It took a little getting used to, but we have been rewarded with easy, authentic relationships with both of our au pairs.
Aren’t you just ending up with another child to take care of? Unless that child cares for herself and all the others, chops salad for dinner, folds laundry, and plays games in Portuguese with my kids, then absolutely not! The truth is, she is a member of the family. So if she runs into an issue with her class or needs help booking a flight for a trip, we help her out. That is what family does. But day to day, she is nothing but a huge help!
Listen, super-tired mom and stressed out dad: raising family, having a career, and managing a household will always be difficult. Live-in au pairs and nannies can ease that pain and give you a little breathing room – to spend time as a couple, hit the gym, or just relax. Trust this busy mom of three when I say it will be a lifesaver!
Erika is a Marketing Manager with extensive personal and professional experience in cultural exchange, having worked with and hosted au pairs and exchange students. Her family is currently hosting their second au pair from Brazil.