Every time I write about childcare options — daycare, nannies, before-care and after-care programs — someone writes to me singing the praises of hosting an au pair. Au pairs are generally young people (ages 18-25) visiting from a foreign country for 1-2 years under a special visa. In exchange for 45 hours of childcare a week, they receive room and board, a stipend, and access to various programming (educational and otherwise).
For families with kids who are in school for at least a few hours a day, au pairs can provide a lot of flexibility for a fairly affordable price. Most childcare providers wouldn’t want to work from, say, 7-8:30 a.m. and then from 2:30 – 6:30 p.m., but those hours could be just fine for someone who lives with you. An au pair could also provide some weekend coverage. Unlike an after-care program, an au pair can drive children around to sports practices. And many children love having the equivalent of a cool older sibling living with them.
Of course, there can be challenges too. Au pairs are young people, and young people have varying levels of maturity; you might ponder what you would have been like if let loose in a foreign country at age 19. Families need to have enough room to give au pairs their own space, and there are restrictions on what they can do (some agencies specify no overnight coverage; others have it count against the 45-hour/week limit). It’s also a time-limited program; you’ll wind up with someone new every 1-2 years.
In any case, for many families, the au pair option might be worth considering as part of the mix. In today’s episode of Best of Both Worlds, Sarah and I talk with Aimee Hall, a placement counselor with the Cultural Care au pair agency. We also talk with Felix, an au pair from Germany who’s been working with a family in the DC area.
Thanks for tuning in!