I’m a busy mom of four, twin three-year olds, a seven-year-old and nine-year-old we needed some help! We looked into a variety of childcare options, nanny, daycare, sitters and decided an au pair would fit our lifestyle. It has been an overwhelming process but in the end, we found a match and there has been a lot of benefits.
Searching for an Agency
There are 15 au pair agencies around the United States. These three are the agencies that are popular: Cultural Care AuPair, AuPairCare, and Expertaupair. Choosing an agency can be time consuming but knowing that they are regulated by the government and ideally have the same guidelines made it easier. The only difference that I noticed are the days off. Cultural Care, the one we chose, au pairs must have one and a half consecutive days off, other agency also require one and a half days but doesn’t need to be consecutive. They all work 45 hours and get the same pay. While living in the United Sates the au pairs must earn 6 college level credits either at a post- secondary college or take a weekend class offered at a few different colleges around the states. The host family pays up to $500 for their education.
How is an Au Pair different from a nanny?
An au pair travels from another country on a J-1 visa and becomes an extension of your family. They are required to live in your house and as host parents we are required to have a comfortable bedroom set up while they are here. They can work up to 45 hours a week providing childcare and household duties that involve the children. Their schedule can be flexible or stay the same. My au pair also helps with homework and dinner preparations as the afternoons get busy.
Our path to our Au Pair
Our family started searching for an au pair in February 2017. All the au pairs go through a screening process and are evaluated through interviews and personality analysis. They have all been through background and criminal checks. There are hundreds of applications and profiles to choose from. I felt like I was online dating. I would log in and put in my search criteria. I wanted someone with toddler experience, one that can swim, and that has advanced English level, mainly because they would be working with my toddlers and the language barrier could be challenging! My husband and I skyped with a few then let my kids in on the skyping once we narrowed the list down. After I had two to choose from I then sent them a list of questions involving toddler behavior, how they would handle situations and questions about helping run a busy household. We ended up finding one and I would love to say she worked out but unfortunately, we sent her to another family. She was with us for 3 weeks and her English skills were not strong enough for my demanding three-year olds. She was very sweet but couldn’t discipline and four kids were just too much. Luckily there is a process in place for situations like this. We talked to our local coordinator and after two additional weeks of trying our au pair went back into the pool and she was quickly picked up by a family with one older child. We then went back into the pool and found an amazing au pair that was already working for another family with 4 year old twins. Her year was up with them and she was wanting to extend her stay so she came to us. I don’t know why she would want to relive the three-year-old stage again, but luckily for us she does!
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Our new au pair joined our family in September right when school started. In the beginning of course there’s always a transitional time. She was leaving her twin girls that she cared for and that was difficult. Our kids quickly warmed up to her and she started to blend right into our family.
Right away I felt organized and more relaxed at the end of the day. I was really trying to do it all and that is just not possible for me with four kids at different ages and stages. Especially with all the homework kids get. She has brought her culture to our family and is teaching the kids a lot about Austria and speaking German. I also feel as she is teaching me a thing or two about discipline and keeps me consistent with my discipline techniques. She has definitely been a positive contribution to our family!
My only thoughts about the negative side to having an au pair is that they are living in your house so it can become a “full” house. They are like teenagers that you are in charge of. When she goes out I do worry about her safety and like a mom I set a curfew and some household rules.
We are very fortunate to have her with us and she embraces our constant chaos.
About the author
Adrienne Hutchinson, TLC’s Seattle associate, is a mom to 3-year-old boy/girl twins, a 6.5 year old daughter, and a 9 year old son. She knows first-hand how to balance the life with kids of different ages. Before kids she earned her degree in early childhood education and taught in elementary school for 10 years. Adrienne is part of the largest multiples group in Seattle and is familiar with using various resources to help navigate and survive the daily life of twins. You can reach Adrienne at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on our Seattle services.