Families have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to child care. Some enroll their children in daycare or preschool, while others hire a local nanny or au pair. For many families, an au pair is the best option. It provides a unique cultural experience, along with family-friendly childcare.
When you host an au pair, they become more than just an extra set of hands for your family. Au pairs come from many different countries, and their presence in your home brings a unique cultural exchange experience you can’t get in any other way. The au pair program allows young people to learn about another culture and improve their language skills while helping a host family with childcare duties. Unlike traditional domestic servants, au pairs aren’t employed by the host family but receive a stipend based on a minimum wage calculation minus room and board. This allows them to work as much or as little as they choose, with no limits on their maximum hours.
It also means your kids get a unique opportunity to develop close relationships with people from other cultures. This is a great way to open their eyes and minds to different worldviews, which will be invaluable as they grow up.
If you’re interested in adding an au pair to your household, finding the best au pair agency for you is essential. There are various factors to consider, including how much money you’re willing to spend and how experienced the agency is. Finding an agency that meets your family’s needs can make you confident that your au pair will have a successful and rewarding experience.
Better Work-Life Balance
When you hire an au pair, you hire a live-in caregiver to help your family function and feel more balanced. Au pairs stay with their families for a year (or sometimes longer) and perform various household duties, including cooking, cleaning, running children to after-school activities, and helping with homework. Au pairs are typically younger (18-26), meaning they have plenty of energy to keep up with your kids’ playtime and other activities. Plus, they can help with household chores like washing the laundry, picking up toys, and scrubbing the kitchen floor. In addition to the usual childcare tasks, au pairs are usually happy to pick up and drop off kids at your work or to their extracurricular activities. This makes it easier for parents to get to their jobs on time and maintain an excellent work-life balance. Choosing an agency with an extensive database of au pair candidates helps you find the right match quickly. It also means you’ll be able to interview multiple au pairs without worrying about another family snapping up the best one before you have a chance to speak with them. Some agency offers a unique three-pronged approach to helping you find your au pair match. This includes a search tool, assistance from a placement representative, and the ability to “reserve” up to three au pairs at a time for a 72-hour exclusive access period.
Unlike nannies and babysitters, au pairs live at their families’ homes and help with household tasks like cooking, cleaning, and caring for children. As such, the line between work and not work can be easily blurred if you don’t establish household rules, expectations, and communication with your au pair from the start. Ask how the agency you’re considering assesses au pair candidates for their suitability for the program and ability to live and work in a family. A reputable agency will be able to provide detailed information about the au pair’s work history, education, and experience in addition to their psychometric tests, childcare certifications, and health and safety certificates. You’ll also want to discuss what kind of home life you expect your au pair to have with her before she starts, including how often she can see her friends, whether you allow overnight guests, and if you’re comfortable with her using your computer for email and Skype or watching TV at night. You may also want to clarify how long she can stay on her American cell phone and if you’d like her to add a pay-as-you-go or monthly plan for family updates. It’s not only crucial for your au pair to understand your family rules but for you to show her that she’s welcome in your home and as a member of the family. This will give her a sense of security and comfort, making her more willing to put in the hard work required to succeed in her new role.
Au pairs provide busy families with a much-needed extra set of hands. They assist with various child-related tasks, including household chores, laundry, and meal-making. This allows parents to spend quality time with their children without the need for after-school childcare or finding a babysitter. Because au pairs are live-in, they also offer the advantage of being flexible with family schedules. They can help schedule school pick-ups, run errands, and make lunches for the kids on their days off. Au pairs may also be able to accompany children on family vacations, a fantastic way for them to travel at an affordable price. Families who host an au pair often seek a more affordable and less stressful alternative to traditional child care. Au pairs are also more flexible with their hours, making them an ideal fit for families that want to juggle working or studying. While some families may experience a loss of privacy due to having a live-in caregiver, this is usually only an issue initially while you and your au pair get to know each other. The best au pair agencies will understand this is a natural part of the process and support you as you welcome your au pair into your home.