Guest Post: Au Pair

Dana and Walker live in Seattle with their 2 year old identical twin boys, Finn and Ollie.  They’ve been blogging about their life with the “Deuce” since they were just a plus sign on a pregnancy stick.  Both Dana and Walker enjoy documenting their family adventures, parenting struggles and hilarious toddler antics… Dana through her writing, and Walker through his photographic expertise. 

 

An Ode to Our Au Pair

 

Parents, be warned… this might sound like a sales pitch.  Over the last year or so, I’ve had many conversations with friends that start with, “So, how’s it going with your Au Pair?” and end with, “Where do I sign up!?”

 

I realize that not everyone can say they are 100% satisfied with their childcare arrangements.  Searching for the right ‘fit’ for your family can be exhausting.  I know, because I haven’t always been so happy with our situation. Believe me, I know what it’s like to stress about childcare.

 

Over the last 2 years we have tried every childcare arrangement in the book.  When the boys were 4 months old, they started attending a childcare center that had good references, and flexible hours.  The staff seemed kind and competent, and the price was reasonable.  And although my hectic workday was book-ended with stressful and exhausting daycare pick-ups/drop-offs, I believed this was all part of being a working parent. 

 

But soon the double-baby-barrel-holds up and down two flights of stairs… combined with serious doubts about the owner’s ability to keep staff members happily employed longer than a month… became too much for us to handle.  And so, for the first time we found ourselves in the horrible position that I do not wish upon any working parent: without childcare. 

 

In Seattle, finding another daycare without a 6-month wait list was impossible (especially for twins).  So we expanded our horizons a bit and decided to hire a nanny and found an incredibly loving and playful caregiver for the boys.  And the best part…coming home every evening (without having to manage the double-baby-barrel-hold in and out of the daycare) and just sitting down on the floor with my two happy babies…made it well worth the extra money we were paying.  But 3 short months later we found ourselves scrambling at a moments notice to find replacement care when our nanny decided to return to school.

 

In midst of my frantic search another twin mom suggested getting an Au Pair.  I had never seriously considered the idea, and even then dismissed her suggestion, since I couldn’t fathom how we could fit yet another person in our house.  But once I heard the cost benefit, my ears perked up, and we quickly starting thinking creatively how we were going to rearrange our living space to make it work (for example, our once family room is now our bedroom). 

 

Since welcoming Anna (from Brazil) to become part of our family we’ve learned first hand the many other benefits to this arrangement.   

 

First, the cost…   When you’re trying to swallow double-tuition at a daycare facility, it is a huge relief to know there is a less expensive option.  When you factor in the annual program fees, the weekly stipend, and other expenses (education, car insurance, and food), we are still paying at least 30% less then what were paying at the daycare.  And that doesn’t include the savings in babysitting fees.  We haven’t paid for a babysitter in over a year, and we go out (are you ready for this??) every weekend for a date night! 

anna-at-gateanna-at-grocery

 

Second, the flexibility… Au Pairs can work up to 45 hours per week (regulated by the State Dept.).  My job is pretty flexible, and I actually only work 4 days per week.  Because of the flexibility of Anna’s schedule I’m able to choose which days I’d like to work, and when I’d like to be with the kids (which is as much as possible!).   And then, as mentioned earlier, we work 5 hours into her schedule each week to baby-sit on the weekends. 

 

Third, the ease of our days…  If the boys want to sleep in before I have to leave for work, it’s OK, they can sleep in and Anna will get them up and ready for their day.  If I need to come home early to cook a big dinner, Anna can watch the kids until I’m finished cooking.  Most days when I come home, I just pick up playing with the boys, where she leaves off, and they never have to leave their Lego’s. 

 

Finally, the added love to our children.  I am sure that most caregivers show kindness and affection towards the children the care for.  But I am positive that Anna genuinely loves our kids, and plays with them like a big sister would play and care for her younger siblings.  Also, the boys are immersed in another culture, in their own home.  She is always singing preschool songs in Portuguese, and cooks them Brazilian treats. 

 

There is probably not a day that goes by where I am not honestly and sincerely thanking our Anna for all that she does with the boys.  But, don’t get me wrong; I am not naïve to what could go wrong with Au Pairs… I’ve heard the horror stories.  It is absolutely necessary to do your homework, go with an Au Pair agency that you trust, and interview many, many, MANY people before you find the right fit.  I also recommend really asking yourself whether your family is open to welcoming another family member in your home, sharing your lives with them… not just hiring someone to work with your kids. 

 

If anyone is interested in learning more about the agency that we used, or you have any logistical questions, I’m always happy to help a fellow twin parent find the perfect fit for their family.  Parenting twins is hard enough… it’s good to know that there’s a childcare option that makes things a little easier! 

 

15 thoughts on “Guest Post: Au Pair

  1. We considered an au pair, but the 45 hour limit was prohibitive. I work 40 hours a week, and just that plus lunch is 45 hours, and I still have a commute to fit in.

    I’m so glad your childcare situation is working for you. I’m not 100% happy with mine right now.

  2. Who knew an au pair could be affordable? I thought only famous people in Hollywood had them:) It was a fascinating story and how cool that your family gets the chance to share your life with someone else and that your children get to experience a new culture while still in your home.

  3. I am loving this week’s theme. What hard choices no matter how you cut it. Our girls are 10 months old, and your post reminded me that I need to resurrect date night. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. I know some families who work 50 hours and more have used the au pair and complemented the hours with a sitter. The sitters and/or nannies are more expensive per hour that the au pair, but at least this way, the au pair is rested, and can take care of the kids well. Have you tried this? The main thing is that you have the au pair to take care of the main hours.

  5. I’ve always wondered about having an au pair. I’m not sure I’d share “my space” very well though ;)

    Loved reading about this though! Isn’t it great when your kids get cultural experience … just by being there! Wonderful :)

  6. I’m so glad you shared your experience with us. I’ve had numerous au pairs over the years and feel like they allow our entire family to spend more QUALITY time together, especially on vacation. Bermuda with our au pair was the best family trip we’d ever had! We are so dependant on au pairs at this point that au pair care helps us get the next au pair in place before the previous one leaves.

  7. Hi Dana and Walker,
    This is kind of random, but I have ID twin boys too, and couldn’t help noticing in your photos that it seems that one of your boys has a rounder face, and one longer. Which is the case with mine. Plus the other day some woman at the park remarked on that fact alluding to my boys, and then mentioned that she knew a set of ID boys and it was the same with them! I’m not going anywhere with this, just find it interesting!

  8. I love reading about other moms who have chosen to host an au pair for their childcare needs. I always feel like it’s my little secret bc parents just dont realize how affordable it is. As one mom mentioned, many write off au pairs as something for the “rich and famous.” for a funny read that touches down on this, go here: http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2009/03/celebrity-lifestyle-alternatives-for-the-everyday-woman.html

    Anyway, great post! I’m so glad it’s working out well for you.

  9. Childcare is one of the biggest stressers for parents. Au pairs are a wonderful alternative to daycare, nannies, and babysitters because they are able to provide personalized care with flexibility around parents’ schedules with the added bonus of a cultural learning experience.

    With the rising costs of childcare parents, especially those with more than one child are seeking affordable cost effective options. The average cost of having an au pair is $7 an hour, significantly below the hourly averages of nannies, daycares, and babysitters. For many parents the fact that au pairs schedules are based around their needs and time constraints is invaluable. Parents working outside the home are at ease with the knowledge that their child is receiving one-on-one personalized attention that au pairs offer, rather than having a caregiver’s attention being split between multiple children with varying needs and demands.

    Live Program Advisors and local representatives strive to provide host families with the best possible experience and satisfaction. The online system used to match families with au pairs, called Family Room, allows 24-hour access to au pair profiles that can be sorted based on specific family needs. To further assist families, Matching Experts are on hand to provide personalized support to help find each family’s best au pair match.

    For more information about AuPairCare, interested families should visit http://www.aupaircare.com.

  10. Such a great post. This is an option I’ve honestly never considered but I really loved reading about how it is working for your family. Thanks for the insight!

  11. Pingback: From the Archives: Childcare Expenses - How Do You Do It?

  12. I am *very* interested in hiring an au pair. Which agency did you go through? Our twin boys are due next month and I will be home with them for about 3 months before having to return to work. :(

    • Mandi, unfortunately, I don’t have Dana’s email address, but I’ve left a comment on her blog bringing your question to her attention. Good luck with your little ones! We’re always here to answer questions and provide moral (and sometimes more real) support!

  13. Hey Mandi! We use Cultural Care Au Pair, and are actually back with them again after the birth of our 3rd son last year! We can’t say enough about how great their services are… so helpful with the selection process, and supportive throughout your time with hosting your au pair. if you want more details, you can email me directly at lockhart.dana@gmail.com
    good luck!

    Dana

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