Finding and keeping good childcare can be a seemingly endless struggle. Selecting childcare is a very personal matter, one that many parents spend hours on, researching available options and seeking recommendations from family and friends. Many people don’t really understand the au pair program and don’t know that an au pair can be a very affordable, quality childcare option. If you are open to a live- in situation, an au pair might just be what you’ve been searching for. “I did the math (in-home care for less than $8 per hour) and realized that I would be saving $19,000 annually by trading in my nanny for an au pair” said Melisa Barlow, a host mom on Cultural Care Au Pair’s program. “The savings motivated me to seriously consider a live-in when I hadn’t before.” Melisa’s family has had 4 au pairs and was initially attracted to the program because of the affordability, but continues because of the greater flexibility and the meaning that cultural exchange has brought to her family.
What is an au pair? The definition of an au pair is “on par” or equal, based on the idea that an au pair becomes like a member of the family. Au pairs are young adults ranging in age from 18-26 and that arrive in the United States on a J-1 Visitor Exchange Visa. They typically come for one year, but can extend their stay to two years. Au pairs hope to acquire a better understanding of the cultural aspects of American life, while living with an American family and caring for their children.
There are a lot of misconceptions associated with the au pair program. I hope to demystify them so you can make an informed childcare decision for your family.
Myth: Au pairs are for the rich and famous
Fact: Au Pairs are not just for the wealthy. Due to the flexibility and affordable offered by the au pair program, our families come from all walks of life and have a wide range of occupations. We have firefighters, teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, and pilots on our program. Our service is a tremendous help for families with twins or triplets, single parents and families with non-traditional work schedules.
Myth: Au pairs don’t want to work nights and weekends
Fact: Au pairs are carefully screened and understand that flexibility and working full time is a requirement of the program. You customize the care according to your schedule, and unlike a nanny or daycare, whose service is typically based on a set schedule, an au pair works when you need them. Au pairs can work 45 hrs per week and up to 10 hours per day, with 1.5 days off per week, one full weekend per month, and get two weeks paid vacation a year. And because they live with you, you don’t need to use up precious vacation time when your child is home sick, or when there is a weather event that closes a daycare center or prevents your nanny from driving to your home.
Myth: Au pairs are women
Fact: Cultural Care Au Pair recruits male au pairs too because we have found that there is a high demand for male caregivers. They are a favorite of families of several boys seeking someone both active and nurturing. Selecting a male au pair is one of many ways you can customize your selection. Many families match with au pairs that reflect the own cultural heritage, or have a particular skill (e.g. a skier or piano player), or background (e.g. teaching or working with special needs children). With a pool of over 8,000 au pairs to choose from, we work hard to find you an au pair that reflects your family’s lifestyle and fits your needs.
Myth: Once an au pair arrives I am all alone in making it work.
Fact: Our business is all about personalized service and support. Our local childcare coordinators maintain monthly contact with host families and provide a social outlet for the au pairs in the area by hosting monthly meetings. We pride ourselves on our excellent customer service and receive high marks on our customer satisfaction surveys. We rely on the word of mouth referrals from our customers to make our business grow and almost 80% of our host families are repeat customers.
Myth: They let anyone on the Au Pair Program
Fact: Actually the au pair program is highly regulated by the Department of State. And because we care about providing the best childcare for our customers, last year we became the only agency in the world to use only our own staff overseas for recruitment, screening and orientation, instead of relying on third-party agents. During our screening process, the potential candidate is personally interviewed, tested on English competency, takes a personality profile, and submits to a criminal background check as well as personal and professional reference checks. Acceptance into our program is highly competitive. Only 1/3 of the people who apply are accepted into our au pair pool, and out of thousands of applicants in the pool, only about 1/3 actually match with a family.
Myth: Not having a native speaker will affect my child’s language development
Fact: Studies have shown that exposing your child to a second language enhances a child’s language and cognitive development and does not impede their ability to learn English. With an au pair you can have someone who speaks English and is also willing to teach their native language and share their culture with your family. Having this exposure can reinforce the language learning that your child has at school.
Myth: Au Pairs act only as a babysitter
Fact: Unlike daycare or a babysitter, an au pair can perform all household duties associated with children, so they can vacuum a playroom, prepare and clean up after meals, do children’s laundry, make the children’s beds and organize their toys/closets/playrooms. An au pairs’ assistance with these day-to -day tasks allows you to spend quality time with your children and spouse after a long day at the office.
Myth: Daycare, nannies, sitters are my only childcare options
Fact: Cultural Care au pairs have worked with over 80,000 US families since our program began over 20 years ago. When considering the best option for your children you may want to ask yourself:
- Do I want my child to receive personalized care that reflects our family values and preferences?
- Would I prefer my child to be cared for in my home, versus at a facility or someone else’s home?
- Is exposing my child to another language/culture important to me?
- Would I benefit from the extra help in my home?
- Is flexibility with scheduling important to me?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, an au pair may be the answer to your search for childcare.
Families interested in learning more about au pair child care can call Sierra at 1-800-333-6056 ext 5575 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website for additional information on the Cultural Care Au Pair program. We are offering readers of this blog a special $500 program fee discount – contact Sierra for the promotion code and more information!
*Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Cultural Care Au Pair.