We are not thrilled with our nanny, and haven't had any luck finding a good replacement. Also, it is insanely expensive.
I work full time but work from home 3 days per week. We have just submitted an application to become a host family for an au pair. I am trying to feel positive about it but I have heard a lot of horror stories and so also feel super nervous about it. I am using an organization that a friend has used for 3years and been very happy with...so I'm hoping that increases my chance of finding a good match (reputable organization).
Basically, I am looking for au pair experiences from MDC moms. Also, I know this is problematic as it calls for a sweeping generalization, but are there certain countries where the cultural norm may be more supportive of our AP lifestyle (co sleeping etc.)? I know co sleeping is the norm in India and Japan, but other than that I am apallingly ignorant of mainstream parenting styles in other countries.
Flexibility in scheduling
Cost (versus a live-in nanny)
Young & hopefully energetic
They have a ready-made circle of au pairs (via the agency) which may translate into great playdates for your kids
If an au pair is ok, but not a great fit, you know that it will only be for a year
They're young, often immature & not terribly professional
You can't meet them in person before they arrive
Driving & language can be major issues, & it's hard to really screen for this beforehand
They don't have their own family here, so you have to incorporate them into holidays, family events, etc. which may be fine or may be a drag
You will have to do at least some acclimating to the U.S. - there's also homesickness, and so forth
Their childcare skills vary pretty widely
If she's terrible, you have to "rematch" which is kind of an awkward, difficult process
If she's great, there's a time limit on how long she'll be with you - 1 to 2 years
PM me with any questions, if you like.
Our first Au Pair started at the end of May. She was very gung-ho about working for us, very enthusiastic. However, she put all of her efforts into cleaning our home, rather than caring for our child. She never did any craft-type activities with him, despite being asked to, given supplies for, etc. The worst part was that she had many lapses in judgment that led us to feel that DS1 was not safe with her. Also, she was out partying at 4 am 3 days after DS2 was born and *lost* our car. We had to report it stolen, it was a huge pain at a bad time, and this was just typical for her behavior. The car did eventually turn up as having been towed (she parked illegally). She also broke 2 cell phones that we provided to her, set 2 items in the kitchen on fire on 2 separate occassions, let our son play with a sewing machine and a pincushion filled with pins (these items were out of his reach but she left him unsupervised for long enough for him to climb up on top of a table and get them. He actually had enough time to pull all of the pins out of the cushion and scatter them on the floor). She also left DS1 unsupervised in the house for 10 minutes - my husband saw this one morning when he left for work, then realized he had forgotten to do something in the backyard. He watched her leave the house, go to her apartment (which is detached) and stay up there for several minutes with DS1 alone in the house. Not OK with us.
So, the agency agreed with us that she was not a good au pair for us (the scary part is that they rematched her with another family!). We rematched with a second AP who seemed much more mature, even though she was only 21 (the first AP was 24). She was also a better driver (she was German, and I think that in general their standards are much higher) despite only having a driver's license for 6 months prior to her arrival. BUT, she became very homesick and left us after only 3 weeks, giving us only 3 days' notice. She claimed that her mother became ill, but I'm not sure that I completely buy her story...she seemed very guilty in all of her apologies, etc. Also, she had a serious boyfriend in Germany and I think that was a factor in her decision.
So, 2 au pairs in 3 months. This cost us a lot of money, and it was a huge hassle to have new people in our home to train, get to know, etc. The worst part was that this was a lot of transitions for my sweet DS1 to have to deal with. He skipped naps for a week every time a new AP started. I don't think that we will ever do it again after this experience.
Once the agencies have your $, you are really at their mercy. It is up to them whether you can rematch if it doesn't work out, etc. Our case was actually so bad that the agency is surprisingly giving us a partial refund. This is very rare.
We just hired an experienced nanny (you can see one of my earlier posts about this) and it makes a world of difference. She is excellent with DS1, he is laying down and taking naps for her without any problem - even without someone staying in the room with him (!!), she is very gentle, etc.
Yes, a nanny is more expensive. But, it is also much less hassle than an AP and if you can find a good one, they are much much better IMHO. YMMV. Good luck!
Feel free to pm me if you have any more questions. Sounds like others might be better at picking out au pairs than I am...
If your lucky enough to be matched with the right person it's wonderful!
" rel="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/familybed2.gif"> DD1 12/05, DD2 12/08
Computer Engineer- I write better in 1's and 0's. ;-)
btw, there are some old threads about au pairs here.
|but would only recommend them for families with older children were housework/school help/pick up/park etc. was making up the majority of care. It can be really dicey with little kids who need a lot of care|
Even with our bad experience, I might consider hosting an au pair again down the road when our kids are older, but never again for a newborn + a toddler.
One other thing to add - finding an au pair supportive of AP was not a problem. IME they did not have a lot of childcare experience, so they were very amenable to whatever parenting philosophy that we promoted. Neither au pair batted an eye at the fact that our bedroom is basically one huge bed where everyone sleeps at night.
Last weekend, we scheduled her for a few hours on Saturday afternoon so I could go out and get some shopping done and it was unbelievably awesome - seems like a silly thing, but I just wanted to go out by myself and pick out a new dresser. The kids napped the whole time, and it was so nice to have a couple of random Saturday hours to myself.
We also really like the cultural exchange and social aspects. Ours speaks in her native language to our kids, we're learning about her country and customs (she's even cooked meals from her country for us a few times) and we've been able to meet lots of other au pairs and au pair families as well.
There are downsides I guess - we lose a room in our already small house, and we're all sharing a bathroom. She's around frequently (obviously, since she lives with us), so if you're the type that needs totally alone or private time, that might be a problem. It's also not all that cheap when you add everything up. Daycare in our area is about $15,000 a year for each kid, so it's still cheaper than sending both to daycare, but by the time you add up the agency fees, weekly payments to the au pair, cell phone, extra money spent on classes and activities for the kids, extra food, etc, it's quite a lot.
I would just suggest being really really really meticulous about interviewing and selecting a candidate. You can usually tell pretty easily what an au pair's motivations for coming here are. We passed on ones who had only had childcare experience with family members, ones who seemed like party girls, ones whose main concern was what clubs we had in the area, etc. I think there are definitely some "bad" ones out there, but so far for us it's been a great experience.
OP - any movement on the selecting an au pair? Or did you decide not to go that route? We're still really enjoying ours (she's like a dream au pair), but it has been surprisingly tough to navigate the relationship and it's getting more and more expensive.
I'm curious, too!
KLM99, what about it is getting more expensive? We're paying a live-out nanny right now and may be losing her. As I look at all my options, the au pair thing keeps coming up. I have a hard time wrapping my brain around how the finances work.
Here's a breakdown of what it's costing us. We have an "au pair extraordinaire" rather than the regular au pair program - they are more expensive per week, but also are the au pairs who have extensive childcare experience in a school-type setting or have childcare education degrees or similar. Since we have such young children, we really wanted someone who knew what they were getting into and who really likes children. I just wasn't finding what I considered to be quality candidates in the regular program in our agency. So expenses could be slightly less if you went regular au pair.
Also, I think you could do it much more cheaply if you needed to. We're having our au pair drive, which means expensive car insurance, and we have them signed up for some classes and open gym places around town so they have more places to go - if you have lots of free stuff in the area, maybe you wouldn't do this. I think all considered, it's costing us about $2,000 a month, which is not the bargain I made it out to be in my head, especially considering that we're down a room in our little house, and it's taken a considerable amount of mental energy to be a host mom. I haven't had a single problem and she has been absolutely terrific and a joy to be around and the kids adore her, but it can be really exhausting to maintain the relationship (maybe because I'm an introvert?).
- Up-front Cost: $8,500 (covers airfare, health insurance, agency fee, background checks, initial training week, etc.)
- Weekly Stipend: $250
- Cell phone - $20 (we added her to our family plan)
- Car insurance - $125
- Gas/bus far to take the kids to activities - $25
- Extra utilities - not sure of exact cost, but also consider that we would probably leave our heat/AC off for most of the day if the kids were in daycare, but since they're home, it's running pretty much nonstop, also daily showers, another adult doing laundry, etc.
- Extra food - maybe $100+ - it's surprisingly expensive to feed an additional adult, especially if you eat out/order out frequently (which we don't)
Other Costs to Consider:
- Usually host families are required to pay up to $500 for education during the year
- Gifts - Christmas, birthday, welcome gift, departing gift
- Travel costs if you go somewhere and want your au pair to join you
- Feeding/entertaining her friends - not huge expenses, but she has a friend join us for dinner maybe once a week or eats snacks with her friends while they watch a movie, which we love of course, but it's still an expense
- Little costs - it's $50 to get a license in our state, $40 to take the required licensing course (x2 if she fails it the first time!), etc - seems like there's one or two of these unexpected costs every once in a while
Thought I might add some "pros" and "cons" of an au pair as relates to our experience. Just as background, we mainly have our au pair work during our 9-5 M-F jobs and with our two young (not yet in school) kids. Anyone have any to add or disagree?
- Not having to do the hurried morning routine – getting just myself ready for work is hard enough
- Kids can sleep in as long as they want and we don’t have to be so stressed about having them to bed on time since they don’t have to wake up early
- Cheaper than having two kids in daycare (at least in our area)
- Meeting and getting to know someone that might just be a family friend for life
- Getting exposure (for the kids and for us) to a different culture and a different language
- Your kids get an extra person living in the house to love them and play with them
- Since an au pair sees how you interact with the kids at all times, she can really model how you treat them – good for AP’ers I would think
- Not having to leave two very young kids at daycare all day – kids can stay home, eat and nap when they want to, and get lots of one-on-one attention
- Flexible schedule – can use hours at any time of day, any day of the week
- Assistance with routine chores – since au pairs are supposed to be family members, they assist with dinner making/clean-up, etc.
- Not as cheap as I thought it would be
- Since an au pair sees how you interact with the kids at all times, pressure to be perfect model of how you want them raised, how you want your household run
- Someone else in the house – you have to be good at having “alone time” even if you aren’t really alone
- Managing a relationship with a young adult can be exhausting
- Losing a bedroom and (in our case) having to share the bathroom and the car
- Having to make sure you make enough dinner for another adult (and keep some of her favorite foods in the house)
- Managing and planning out the schedule and activities is time-consuming – unless you have an absolutely regular schedule, you have to be planning out what hours you want her to work and notifying her in some way (we use Google calendars) and helping her decide how to spend the day with the kids
- Sharing your stuff, your house, your life – you need to be really open to allowing another person to feel like a welcome member of the family
- Not enough hours for a regular 9-5 job. You can only use an au pair for 45 hours a week. If you work 40 hours/week + commute, you're cutting it close
- Unless they have frequent playdates, kids don't get that regular social interaction that they would get at a daycare or nursery school