Almost exactly 1 year ago I was in childcare hell. Our nanny, from a nanny service, had called out sick, or with a flat tire, or an emergency, or whatever the excuse was that particular day. So we got a different nanny…same deal. We strongly preferred a nanny but I would’ve been open to part-time daycare except that is basically not a thing if you have an infant. A friend suggested we look into hiring an Au Pair and I have to admit, I had no idea what that was. As she explained more I still wasn’t convinced it was the right thing for our family since I didn’t work full time and I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about having someone live in our home all the time.
An Au Pair is a childcare worker from a foreign country that comes to watch your kids and share in household duties related to your children. In exchange, you pay them a weekly stipend, pay for 6 college credits, and provide them with room and board. You work with an agency that helps match you, helps the Au Pair get her visa, and just generally helps you throughout the year you are hosting an Au Pair. Each situation is different but many Au Pairs come to improve their English and experience American life and culture. We really liked the idea of exposing our kids to another culture and learning things about how other people around the world live. Oh and the financials of it? The stipend is a federal requirement of $195 a week. Agency costs range from 7-10k so the monthly breakdown for most families is $1600 a month. There are of course other costs like cell phone plan, car insurance, grocery bill increase, etc. (But this still ended up being less than 2 kids in part-time daycare)
So we decided we would take a risk and enter the matching phase of the Au Pair program. We ended up matching with a 19-year-old girl named Mavi from Brazil. I had originally wanted an older Au Pair but we just clicked immediately with Mavi and got a good vibe. We texted, talked, and skyped for months before her arrival and our 3.5-year-old son seemed excited too. I’m not going to lie, the first month was HARD. My son tantrumed, screamed, and just had the worst behavior I had ever seen but Mavi was patient. She tried harder every day to bond with him that month and he pushed back hard. I feared maybe we had actually made the wrong decision by getting an Au Pair and even questioned if I should even be working at this phase in my life. In hindsight, I believe that my son had just been through so much transition and he was testing her to see if she would leave too.
But then the magic happened. After 4-6 weeks my son accepted her and was excited to see her. They had a post-nap ritual where he’d ride like superman on her back to “something just like this” by The Chainsmokers. Mavi got my baby girl on a good sleep schedule and was so loving and sweet even in the midst of baby tears. I developed a relationship with her that is a combination of a boss, a friend, and a mother. We worked as a team and I came to enjoy her hanging out and watching Bravo with me when my husband was traveling for work. She has been with us for birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and everything in between. She has been and will be a part of our family forever.
But here is the crappy thing about having an Au Pair…..they leave. Mavi’s year ends in a few months and to say we are sad is an understatement. As I hear my 20-month-old daughter ask for “Avi” in the morning or when I watch her roll around with my son on the floor I get a little teary-eyed. Au Pairs stay for 1 year but can stay up to 2 if they renew with the same family. Mavi wants to see another part of the country and we fully support her decision but it is still going to be hard to say goodbye. We’ve already matched with our next Au Pair and we are hoping for another great year. I wondered if this turnover every 1-2 years would be harmful to my children or maybe even traumatizing to have the turnover. But I’ve concluded that teachers and daycare workers have a yearly turnover as well so I have to really view this the same way.
In the end, this program has been such a gift to our family. However, like anything, this program isn’t for everyone. You as a host parent need to be patient, understanding of cultural differences, and a good communicator. It’s also important that you are a good interviewer and screener, as all Au Pairs are not created equal. I’d recommend you connect with other host families in your area to hear about their experiences and see what the Au Pair community is like in your city. We hosted Mavi through Au Pair in America but are using Au Pair Care for our new incoming Au Pair since that is where we found the best match this time around.
Any other Au Pair curiosities? Just leave them in the comments!