Hiring an Au pair can be a great option to your child care needs. Before you decide, here’s what you need to consider when hiring an Au pair.
For many parents, deciding on child care includes many factors: convenience, cost, the proximity to work. In our case, putting both kids in day care would’ve stretched our budget too much. And while we considered a nanny, we eventually decided on hiring an Au pair instead.
I’d like to answer a few questions you may have on hiring an Au pair, and considerations you should make before making your decision.
What is an Au pair?
An Au pair is someone typically from another country who moves in with you and your family as a caregiver for your children.
How much is an Au pair?
You pay a one-time fee to the agency plus a weekly stipend to the Au pair. The fees are the same, no matter the age of your children or how many you had.
Currently, according to the U.S. Department of State, the weekly payment is at least $195.75.
Besides the agency and stipend fees, extra costs may include larger grocery and utility bills. Each family is different, but we make and have dinner with our Au pair, though that’s not required. If your Au pair will be driving, expect an increase in car maintenance, gas, and insurance. Our agency also required our Au pair to take six credits worth of classes as part of their educational stipend.
What are an Au pair’s hours?
With an Au pair, you’ll have the flexibility and convenience of childcare in your home. The Au pair can work any days or hours you need, but many agencies will limit her hours to 45 hours per week, with at least a two-day weekend off every month.
An Au pair will work with the schedule you give her, freeing you from any need to conform to a daycare’s schedule. I couldn’t stand the thought of forcing my one-year-old to only nap once a day at day care!
If you have school-aged children, an Au pair can also help before and after-school. She can drop-off and pick-up your children and create an after school routine. Au pairs can also do child-related household chores like laundry, changing sheets, cooking, and tidying your play and living areas.
What you need to consider when hiring an Au pair
Before deciding on hiring an Au pair, take a look at a few considerations to think about:
1. A stranger in your home
Your Au pair will be a stranger before meeting her in person. Are you ready to welcome someone you don’t know into your home? You’ll need to feel comfortable having her around every day.
The agency will do a thorough background check, so you’ll be okay in that regard. But your personalities may not mesh well together, sometimes enough to make situations awkward or uncomfortable.
Be open to adjusting to your Au pair’s habits, as she will to yours. And most importantly, stress open communication to any problems either of you may feel.
2. Home sickness
If welcoming a stranger into your home feels strange, you can imagine what it’s like to be your Au pair. She’ll not only be away from her family and friends, she’ll live in a completely new country, perhaps with language and cultural differences she’s not used to.
Will you be available to help her transition?
We noticed times when our Au pair felt sad, so we encouraged her to cry and talk about her family. We reminded her that we can be her second family away from home. And we’d ask her how she felt, made sure she felt comfortable asking us any questions or bringing up issues she may have.
3. Language and cultural barriers
Since Au pairs are usually caregivers from another country, you’ll likely need to adjust to language and cultural barriers. You’ll need patience to explain everything, down to the tiniest detail, such as how you want your child’s diaper changed to what they should eat for lunch.
For instance, our Thai Au pair had never used an oven because ovens are uncommon in Thailand. We showed her how to use just about every appliance in the house, and we also typed instructions she could refer to.
Interview questions to ask a potential Au pair
Now that you’ve decided an Au pair is a good choice for your family, you’ll want a list of interview questions (here are important ones to ask). We wanted someone who enjoyed kids, not someone who just wanted to come to America. The “coming to America” should be the bonus, not the focus. Here are the some of the questions we asked:
- What do you enjoy most about children? The least?
- What activities do you like to do with children? We were age-specific when we asked this since we had a preschooler and wanted him to get lessons in the alphabet and numbers.
- What are you hoping to learn or gain in your Au pair year?
Next, we wanted to be sure our Au pair could take care of an infant and preschooler, so we asked:
- What do you imagine it will be like to be with two kids for the whole day?
- What activities can you do that are appropriate for both an infant and preschooler?
- How do you plan to handle stress?
- What would you do if the baby is crying and the four-year-old needs your help?
We had more questions, but these were the ones that separated the Au pairs from one another. We all know how hard it is to take care of kids on our own, so we wanted an Au pair that had a passion for childcare. These questions helped us find the right person.
Get more tips about child care:
- Don’t Do These 8 Things When Hiring a Nanny
- What to Do with Grandparents Trying to Parent Your Kids
- Moms: Asking for Help Does NOT Mean You’re Failing
- Don’t Get Jealous: Why Kids Benefit from Loving Caregivers
- Would You Use a Nanny Cam?
Your turn: Have you considered hiring an Au pair? What’s your child care situation, and how did you decide on that route? Let us know in the comments!
Lisa Ng is the proud mother of a 4.5 year old boy, 18-month old girl, and two bichons. In her spare time, she loves to take photos and devour books. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.
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