The decision to become an au pair host family should not be taken lightly. My family recently embarked on this process when my youngest essentially got kicked out of daycare because he had mastered the art of escaping the classroom. At the same time, I was considering a new job opportunity that would require me to be back in the office full time. I knew my family needed help, but daycares and nannies hadn’t quite solved the issues we were facing as a family with three young kids, two in elementary school, and one wild baby who refused to be tamed and needed to be free to roam outside the walls of a classroom.
I began looking into the prospect of hosting an au pair when I saw a post in a facebook moms group. I thought it sounded interesting, but what would it cost? And how would it work? Would it be weird to have a complete stranger living in our home? I wanted to explore more, so I visited Cultural Care Au Pair website and created a free account. I was able to search for candidates based on specific criteria I knew we wanted. You can search by age, religious beliefs, driving ability, swimming ability, etc. You can really drill down and get very specific as to what your family needs. Fast forward several weeks later and we found our match. Ms. Amanda joined our family all the way from Sao Paulo, Brazil in August 2022.
I’m certainly no expert, but five months into the process I’ve learned a few things that could help others who may be considering going the au pair route.
Here are 5 things to consider before hosting an au pair…
First, consider the impact on your family dynamic. The reality is that someone you’ve never met in person will be coming to live with your family and helping to care for your kids. We talked to our kids a lot about Ms. Amanda and how she would be coming to live with us. We had plenty of Facetime and video chats in the months prior to her arrival so we could familiarize our kids with our future housemate. Once she arrived, my husband and I were intentional about spending individual time with each of our kids so they never felt threatened or that she was taking something away by being here. I recommend thinking about your own kids and how each individual personality would react to a change like this. Prepare them well in advance and make sure they understand how it will be really good thing! It has taken my middle child a longer time to warm up to Amanda than I expected, but she is finally coming around and now seeks out Amanda to play with her even when she’s not officially “working.”
Second, consider the financial aspect. As a family with three littles, there was a point in time when we had all three in daycare at the same time which cost well us over $3,000 a month. Where we live in Raleigh, NC, the cost of daycare and nannies has increased significantly over the past several years. It’s very difficult to find reliable and cost-effective care. When we switched from daycare to a nanny, we were paying about $800 a week. Financially, it just made sense for our family to look into hosting an au pair. The program fees can vary, but we paid about $9,500 upfront for the entire year, plus a weekly stipend for the au pair of about $200 per week. In addition, we supply a vehicle, gas, phone and plan, car insurance, groceries, and any extras like dinners out with our family, etc. Despite all of the extra costs, the au pair option made more sense financially.
Third, consider the lifestyle benefits. Most working parents can relate to the dilemma of trying to work from home with kids when daycare is closed due to Covid or other illnesses. It seemed like every week there was at least one kid out sick. Or a teacher workday. Or a stomach bug. We just couldn’t catch a break. Now with an au pair, we have an extra set of hands and peace of mind when we need it most. Although we don’t expect her to care for really sick kids, our au pair can help cover during teacher workdays or situations when the kids have a persistent cough or something mild that prevents them from being able to attend school. Which means my husband and I are less stressed when it comes to juggling work and having to cancel or rearrange meetings. Another great benefit is being able to have an extra set of hands on vacations or trips. Most parents can relate to the saying that a vacation with little kids is not really a vacation. We recently visited the beautiful NC mountains and brought Ms. Amanda along for the adventure. She got to experience a new place she referred to as “delightful” and we got to have extra help and time to relax and enjoy the mountains and scenery. It was the best vacation we’d ever taken with kids.
Fourth, consider the limitations. There are some limitations to consider. The first is a big one. The au pair cannot work more than 45 hours per week. Which is basically a traditional work schedule of 8-5, and not anything extra. You can use the hours any way you prefer, but they can’t exceed 45. So if we want to have a date night, we’d have to enlist the help of a babysitter. Another limitation is that au pairs cannot work longer than 10 hours per day without a break. So if you wanted to say, take a weekend trip away from the kids, you’d need to have additional help onboard to offset the workload. Additionally, as you might expect, au pairs get homesick. Sometimes it can be difficult to navigate emotional situations and not knowing the exact right thing to say or do to make them feel less sad. Finally, it can be a big adjustment having someone living with you and sharing your space. Shared household responsibilities and upkeep is important, so be sure to discuss ahead of time and level set on what kind of household responsibilities are expected. It took me a bit of getting used to sharing the kitchen space, but it’s not a big deal and the benefits far outweighed the minor inconveniences.
Fifth, consider the fulfillment. While the financial and lifestyle benefits of hosting an au pair are wonderful, there’s something even more rewarding that I didn’t expect. It has been incredibly fulfilling to see my kids benefit from their relationship with Ms. Amanda, to watch them learning from her, trying to speak Portuguese and genuinely adoring her and enjoying their time together. It has also been rewarding to be part of Amanda’s journey as she experiences so many firsts here in America. She’s made friends with many of the local au pairs from her program, she’s travelled to New York City and Washington DC, and has plans to visit Disney World. And I’m just over here living vicariously through all of her amazing instagram stories and posts.
Hosting an au pair is a unique experience that’s hard to prepare for until it happens, but hopefully these considerations give you some good insight into things to think about before taking the plunge into au pair host family status. Have you found this helpful? Anything else you’d like me to write about related to au pair hosting? If so, drop me a note in the comments.