Guest Post: Au Pair

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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! 

 

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