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We talk about what exactly an Au Pair is, what they can offer in terms of child care and the steps to adding one to your family.
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Are you looking for a child care option that will expose your children to different cultures and languages? An au pair may be the right choice for you. We will tell you everything you need to know in this episode of Happily Unmarried. Hi my name is Danielle.
and my name is Daniel.
And you're listening to the Happily Unmarried podcast. A podcast about adulting and living your best life.
In this episode we will talk about what exactly an au pair is, what they can offer in terms of childcare and the steps to adding one to your family.
A few months ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Since we're close to both having exhausted our baby leave. He will soon need to go in a child care. Now finding good child care is hard and it's expensive.
Especially in the Bay Area. Child care spots are few and far between and the average full-time infant care easy cost upwards of $1,500.
While were looking for childcare options, Daniel suggested we look into au pairs. At first I thought that would be way too expensive, but once we actually looked into it, it turned out to be quite competitive with our other child care alternatives.
We started looking into this option a little bit more seriously. Like most people we had a rough concept of what an au pair is but we didn't really know the details.
Well you might have had a rough concept of what an au pair was but I always thought that an au pair was simply just the French word for a nanny. Turns out that is not the case.
Right so what au pair actually stand for it is it's the French word for au par or equal to you.
So that indicates that the relationship is intended to be one of equals. So an au pair is intended to become a member of the family. So they are not a nanny, they are not a housekeeper, and they are definitely not indentured servants.
So, it is important understand that when you're hiring an au pair you're not just hiring a caregiver for your children but you actually opting into a cultural exchange program. So the idea is
your family is going to be exposed to the culture and language of the au pair,
and the au pair will have the opportunity to be exposed to American culture and have the family share that with them.
So since an au pair is intended to become a member of the family. What exactly are the responsibilities of an au pair?
So the primary duty of an au pair is child care. That being said there are restrictions on how many hours they can work in a day and in a week.
per their contract an au pair cannot be asked to work more than 45 hours in a week and no more than 10 hours in one day. They are also required to have
one full weekend off a month. So if you happen to work you were or your spouse or whoever happens to work on the weekends you would have to ensure that you
found a alternative care for at least one weekend.
The nice thing though about the schedule is that it is flexible. So as a host family you have the ability to create what that
schedule is going to be .Which will,
in our case, one thing that we're actually really looking forward to is being able to, you know, adjust the schedule once a month or so. So that we can carve out an additional four hours or so for a date night.
Daniel mention that the primary responsibility of the au pair is to care for the child,
but that doesn't mean just taking care of the baby so there are some additional duties that they will be and can be responsible.
Since their primary duty is to care for the child that involves everything related to the child. So obviously they're going to be feeding and,
changing and picking up after the child but your chores related to the child so cleaning up a bedroom doing laundry putting up dishes,
if they prepared a meal for the child. As well as dropping off and picking up from school if that falls within their,
workday, the hours up there with their work.
What about the rest of the household chores?
Exactly, so I think it's important to note thatthe au pair is not your housekeeper,
you are still responsible for maintaining your own household. It is not the au pair's job to cook you dinner every night, to keep your house clean, and to scrub your toilets. Again, their duty should only be restricted to,
the chores that are related to the care of the child. So the next thing I wanted to know really was who are the au pairs?
Au pairs are typically women between the age of 18 to 26. So all of them have either just graduated from college or have just graduated from high school and,
having a gap year between whatever they doing there.
most au pairs typically take a one-year placement.
Exactly, so they will stay with your family for a year. There is an option to extend after that. I think you can I send you the for 6 months or 12 months.
Right yeah I believe so. But both parties have to agree.
Yeah both the au pair and the host family have to agree on that.
Now that we have a better understanding of what an pair and a cultural exchange program is, let's see if an au pair is a good fit for your family.
Right let's start by looking at costs. So we already mentioned earlier that.
the prices for an au pair are actually quite competitive compared to other child care options in our area. This is important to understand, child care here in the Bay Area is ridiculously expensive.
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Let's break down some of the costs that come with an au pair. There are two major components to the cost of an au pair that is
one the program fee that you pay to the agency that takes care of,
sourcing the au pairs and having them travel here and organizing the Visa and all the stuff that the agency does for you,
the other big part is the stipend that you pay your au pair. The program fee is,
in our case was roughly $9,000 for the year,
and then the stipend that we're paying the au pair is approximately $200 a week.
Right and so we pay them $200 a week but it again it's important to understand that they are getting free room and board. So they don't have to pay anything to stay here and we're essentially giving them $200 a week in spending money.
here a couple of other small costs of example there's a match free that you have to pay every time you match with an au pair. So if you match with an au pair but you're unhappy with them you can rematch,
you have to pay the math fee again. So the au pair is required to attend college, how many credits do you know?
I believe is take six credits which is two classes.
And so you have to contribute to that education with $500 for the year. So in total if you break all of that, if you sum all of that up
and divide it by 12. You come down to approximately $1,670 a month, not a terrible deal. So if you look at some other alternatives, in-home daycare here in the Bay Area you pay approximately $1,500 or more,
per month for that.
Something like a child care center or Nursery School is easily $1,900 or more and then if you wanted something that is in a lot of ways is more comparable to an au pair in terms of how they work and an in-home nanny.
Right or even,
one on multiple of your children which is actually one of the benefits of an au pair compared to some of the other alternative is right they can not only take care of one child but the au pair can
help other children with homework and stuff or pick them up, drop them off somewhere as well.So in the nanny is like $3,300,
but there are some additional costs associated with an au pair are not.
Outlined on the front page basically. Since they will be living with you they will incur,
costs in that regard. So for example, you have to provide room and board, that's we said, you may have a room spare room in your house that you're not actively using for anything. While
that doesn't incur any direct cost it is lost opportunity cost that you have to consider. In additional to that they will eat will use.
They'll be driving your children so you have to put them on your car insurance.
o you can think of them in a lot of ways,
an additional child. What they what they incur in costs for you. We mentioned before you have to provide room and board. That also means you have to be able to provide room and board. Which I think for a lot of people is probably the biggest,
problem with hiring an au pair.
Not having the space.
Right you want to talk about.
Sure yeah you are required to provide a dedicated room
to your au pair. So they were very clear to us in that that room could not be a closet, that room cannot be a laundry room, so there are no Harry Potter's
living under the stairs. Those do not count as
dedicated rooms. So when you're deciding if an au pair is a good fit. You know, you need to consider the overall size of your home. So for us you know one of the things that,
help seal the deal so to speak is that we recently purchased a new home and our family lives on the top floor and we have our guest room which is downstairs I.
Just basically an in-law apartment downstairs. There's a little living space and there's a bathroom and there's a separate bedroom. While obviously the au pair,
is going to live with us as a family and we will welcome the au pair into our family and we going to spend time with the au pair, there's the opportunity for retreat whenever that is required.
Yeah, I mean, and not just for her for us as well. That was something for me, if we didn't necessarily have that dedicated space if
we had less bedrooms you know we have four bedrooms. If we only had a three-bedroom and everyone was right next to each other. You know I might have felt a little bit differently about it but because we had the space
I was more comfortable with with everyone living together and you're not driving each other crazy,
and the last thing to consider is your commitment to the program and we've mentioned already multiple times that you're not hiring a nanny. As a host family you are required to put in effort and
help incorporate this person into your home and ensure that they are having a good experience not just that your children are having a good experience.
I think considering the word host family here is important you are hosting a cultural exchange au pair. You're not hiring someone and then just bossing them around.
You're not renting a room eitherthey're not roommates.
Exactly, so you should want to provide a good experience to your au pair and allow them to participate in family life and.
Go on trips.
pend time with the family.
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So once you've decided that an au pair is the right path to go for your family you will need to start looking.
Yeah and the best way to do this really is to go through one of the many au pair agencies. Wetook a look at a few and did a little bit of research and we settled on Au Pair in America.
So once you settle on an agency,
create an account with them. They all have websites where you can log in and then there's the au pairs they have profiles so you can,
kind of like filter and search and sort through those profiles and find a au pair that matches your requirements. So in our case,
it was important to us that the au pair was able to speak German. We are raising our children bilingual,
I have heritage in Germany, I was born in Germany and so,
Finding an au pair that able to speak German and help us with raising our children bilingual was number one priority.
And another one of our requirements with age.
I was not interested in bringing someone into our home that was either 21 or going to be 21. I remember what I was like when I was 21 and we are already bringing a,
essentially a teenager into our home I just didn't want to deal with that. Even though I know that the drinking age in Germany is already below 21 that's just an added,
piece that I just didn't want to deal with. So we look specifically for an au pair was under the age of 21.
And all the au pairs they have driver's licenses. They they are all at these 18 when they start the program. There are certain minimum requirements that those agencies have towards the au pairs.
And then the last thing for us that was important was educational aspirations. So we were looking for an au pair that you know was doing a gap year but has intention of going back to school,
and completing their their degree. Education is something that's really important to us and we really want to instill into our children. So we wanted to make sure that whatever au pair
we brought into our family also had those values as well.
Once you've established basically your filters and you found a couple of au pairs that match your criteria,
you can you can actually look at their material that they have provided to the agency. At least for Au Pair in America, that is each of the au pairs has a little introduction video where they talk about who they are where they're from, what they do.
Why they want to do the program.
Why they want to do the program. So basically you have, you'll sit down with your 5 or 10 or whatever how many au pairs that match your criteria and you look at their videos and there's a bunch of other supporting material that,
they provide through the agency so there's.
There's a letter to the family, the agency does an interview and provides you with notes on the interview they,
get their entire work history, their child care history, and they also get the references. So you can review all of that material before even speaking to one of the girls.
Right and that's really great. I think we were able to filter out at least 50% or more of the of the au pairs that matched our original criteria just of of that material.
Right and we landed I think on three that we were interested in interviewing which is the next step.
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Once you've selected to your request yeah.
One thing that we do recommend is a couple things when you're going to be scheduling. We recommend that you scheduled these interviews via video chat,
rather than just over the phone and prepare for the interview I think we allocated 45 minutes for interview,
and you know we had a lot of questions and we looked up a lot of questions we prepared our own questions. You have to figure out what's most important for you. You also have to remember that,
they are not native English speakers. So you have to make sure your questions are easy to understand and when you are interviewing that you're asking your question slowly and clearly and giving them time to respond.
Yeah I think that what else really helps is let them know that you know.
That they are not native speakers and if they have any questions in regards to understanding or if they want you to repeat a question or something that they should just ask. Make them feel comfortable about that.
Because one of the primary reasons a lot of these girls want to come to America specifically is because they want to practice their English. One of their goals is to improve their English skills while they're here.
After the interviews, we took notes during the interviews, so we reviewed the notes afterwards and we then chose one of the au pairs that we wanted to move forward with that we liked the best essentially.
You make then an offer,
a job offer essentially. I sent her an e-mail, let her know that we were really excited about the interview and we wanted to move forward and make her an offer to join our family,
and once they, they'll respond whether yes or no. But the minute that they say yes, that's when you officially match with them through the the portal and that's what really gets the ball rolling with the agency.
And so then once you connected with the au pair both you and the agency will prepare for arrival.
Yeah and I should point out too that a lot of au pair start
after they've completed High School. Which means, that the start dates are spread out throughout the year but there's a significant amount of start dates that occur in the summer time. So when we started looking for an au pair it was I think back in February
once we completed this process and she's not joining our family until July. So there's a significant amount of time before, I mean I'm sure there are some families who may match,
a few weeks before but we didn't want to put that to chance. So we did it early which meant we had a very big gap of time. So that being said what,
are some of the things that the agency takes care of for us?
The agency takes care of a lot of the formalities and logistics which is the value that the agency adds in the end. So for one,
all these au pair, they need visa paperwork,
so they can't just come to the US for a year. They actually need to have the proper documents and the agency takes care of all of that. In addition to that the agency will provide health insurance for the au pairs,
and the agency will organize the arrival of the au pair into the u.s.
at the location of the orientation .So all the girls that start at the same time, they come together and have a two to three-day orientation where they learn the basics about child care and,
how to fare, and how the program works...
Living in America,
it's also a good opportunity for them to meet girls who are going to be staying in other areas of the country. They are required. that's another requirement, to get two weeks,
paid vacation. So a lot of them make friends then coordinate trips for when they take their vacation and then since Au Pair in America
host their orientation in Connecticut they then also organized a trip to New York City for the girls as well.
In our case, San Francisco and the Bay Area is a little special in that regard. The agency also organizes the the trip from the orientation to the destination so basically to us.
We were able to take advantage of the offer which allowed us to not have to pay for their travel to our home from from the orientation. But I do believe that,
depending on where you're located you may be required to pay for the travel.
So that's the stuff that the agency takes care of but obviously you are inviting another person into your house and so you need to prepare for that.
Right so there's a few different things that you need to do to prepare for your
au pairs arrival in your home. I think the easiest thing to do is just preparing the room for arrival. Making it welcoming, you know, providing some helpful household items, things that you know she might need that she may have forgotten,
things like you know a hairbrush and hair ties, just basic necessities. Also one of the things that we're going to try to do is include a couple,
gifts, you know have welcome gifts for her
so that part's easy that parts fun just getting the room ready to go. The other couple things that you need to do, that do require a little bit of work. The first thing that I did was prepare what we call a welcome guide and this is really just an outline for the first few days,
that she will be with us one thing to mention is that
you are required to spend the first 3 days with your au pair. Its not like they arrive and then you say peace out,
we're going to work and you're in charge. So that being said we were a little uncomfortable with just three days so we're actually going to be something about a week and a half with her.
So what we did was outline essentially every day for the first week and let her know who's going to be home
what things we have planned. Going to Target, going to the grocery store on the weekend. Things like that, just so that she knows before she gets here and we've already put a little thought into what her first weeks going to be like and that will just help
relieve some of the anxiety that she's probably having. The other part of the welcome guide was a breakdown of all the things that we need to complete in the first month and that's things like
getting her social security card, getting her driver's license, getting her a bank account, all of the things that she needs to be able to function,
in the US for the next year and then the last thing that I prepared or actually I shouldn't say I, that we've been working on together.
Actually takes up the most amount of time is preparing what we're calling a family handbook and this is something that the agency
suggests that you put together. Esentially a guide to your home and family for the au pair that they can easily you know flipped through.
It has you all the important phone numbers, information about your children, what they like, what they don't like, what you should do when you know the child misbehaves, where the child should
eat. What their schedules are and then obviously any household rules or guidelines just in general that you have. The more information you can provide her about your home and your family the easier it's going to be for her to
get comfortable with with her new role.
So these are basically the things that you need to prepare or you want to have ready before the au pair comes.
Then to bridge the the time between you matching with her and she actually arriving you want to make sure that you stay in contact with her the entire time. So don't just match with her and then peace out for six month.
Ghost her for six months.
Send her messages, photos of the children, videos, and let her know that you're excited about her, and let her know the children are excited about her coming.
We scheduled a couple additional Skype sessions where she got to talk with,
our oldest and she got to see how much bigger our youngest has gotten. Then we can just check in with her and see how she's doing because she's finishing up school just making sure that she understands that we're interested in her life and we want to make sure that you know when she gets here she feels like she knows us a little bit,
So continuing to stay in contact with your au pair will allow everyone to get to know each other a little more and make the arrival feel more natural and familiar.
Yeah and then you just wait for your au pairs arrival, which is what we're currently doing.
We are super excited to see our au pair of start later in the summer and we can't wait to share with you our experiences living with an au pair in a future episode.
Until then let us know if you have considered an au pair. Do you have any reservations or reasons, why an pair wouldn't be good for you? Or are you looking for an au pair or maybe even already living with one, what do you like best about it? Let us know on Twitter @UnmarriedMedia. I am Daniel.
And I'm Danielle and we're Happily Unmarried.