Every family’s child care situation is different. Finding the right type of provider is a key part of making sure your kids have the care they need. Are you thinking about hiring a nanny? Or have you considered becoming a host family for an au pair? If you’re wondering which way to go, I have some advice to point you in the right direction.
In the past, we’ve had two nannies—both worked out great! To this day, Amanda and Natalie are like family members, even though our boys are older and no longer need a nanny. For us, a nanny was the right fit, because we mainly needed afternoon care. We wanted someone to supervise the boys after school, make sure they got to all of their activities, and had regular help with their homework.
Other parents, like my friend Dave, were looking for a little more from their care provider. As a busy single dad, Dave needed to find a full-time caregiver who was flexible enough to manage the daily juggle of his three kids’ competing schedules. He also wanted to have someone who was around to be a “big sister” to his daughter (she’s the youngest and has two older brothers). For Dave’s family, an au pair was the right decision.
So what about your family? What’s best for you? If you’re trying to decide between hiring a nanny or hosting an au pair, here are some signs an au pair could be the right call:
We want someone to live with us full-time.
Taking on an au pair is more than hiring an employee—you become a host family for that guy or girl. Since au pairs are foreign nationals, part of the reason they come to work as child care providers in the United States is for the chance to experience life in another country. But that also means the families they work for have to meet special U.S. State Department-mandated requirements, which include providing housing, food, and transportation.
We’re able to provide a little extra for the au pair.
As I mentioned before, you have to be willing to provide extras like room and board for your au pair. If you have the space for her to live though, an au pair can really be cost-effective. Right now, families are required to pay an au pair a weekly stipend of $195.75 and a one-time fee of up to $500 towards educational costs. Over the course of a year, that can mean overall savings—although you’ll have to keep track of other expenses, as well.
Schedules change often in our family.
One of the big benefits of having a live-in care provider like an au pair is that most are available and willing to work around your schedule. If you’re a parent who travels a lot or have a job with fluctuating hours, an au pair can cover those times where work keeps you away from home. Keep in mind, though, that the State Department also regulates an au pair’s hours: each can work up to 45 hours a week or 10 hours a day.
A one-year commitment works for us.
Typically, au pairs stay with your family for up to one year (that’s how the visa works). That means if you choose an au pair, you’ll have to find a replacement a year later. Transitioning to a new caregiver can be tough for your kids, so you’ll have to figure out if you want a child care provider to be a part of your family longer than a year. If not, why not try an au pair?
Cultural experience is very important to us.
One of the best things an au pair can bring into your home is their own country’s culture and heritage. Having someone live with you from another country can open your kids’ eyes to the world outside of the U.S., and showing them how other cultures live (as well as showing your au pair how things work in America) can be a blast! Think about how these types of cultural experiences will impact your family before making your decision.
So, what do you think? Is an au pair right for you?
If you’re looking into hosting an au pair, you should definitely check out these three great organizations: Cultural Care Au Pair, goAUPAIR, and Au Pair in America. Right now, Care.com is working with all three companies to let our members search for au pairs, view their profiles, and start looking for a great child care provider right from our site.
Check them out!