Want to Hire an Au Pair? Here Are 5 Questions to Ask Yourself First
Is an au pair the right fit for your family? Here are five questions you should ask yourself before you move forward with the hiring process.
More and more, families across the country are using au pairs to help provide in-home child care for their kids. This unique arrangement can be a bigger commitment for parents than hiring babysitters or nannies because the family who hires an au pair also becomes her host for a year, but the potential bonuses of hosting au pairs are huge!
Au pairs are foreign nationals -- young people from outside the United States who are looking to come here for a year to work in child care, take classes in higher education and experience life in America. It's as if they're one-part nanny and one-part exchange student. An au pair lives with a host family, cares for their children and, in return, the hosts provide room, board and a weekly stipend.
The term "au pair" is French for "on par" or "equal." An au pair is supposed to be an equal part of the family, rather than someone you simply hire to help out.
Many parents love hosting au pairs because they're such a cost-effective way to provide high-quality child care. Au pairs generally cost less than $8 an hour, and they're required by the U.S. State Department to have special training before they're accepted into a placement program
But they're not the best solution for every family. So what about yours? If you're trying to decide if hosting an au pair is right for you, here are a few questions you'll need to ask:
1) Do We Want Someone to Live With Us?
Taking on an au pair is more than hiring a babysitter or a nanny -- you become hosts in the process. As a host family, you have to meet a list of requirements from the U.S. State Department. They include providing housing, food and transportation, so (depending on where you live) you'll need to have a spare car and extra living space for the au pair.
2) Can We Provide More Than Just Living Space for Our Au Pair?
If you do have the living space, an au pair can really be cost-effective, but she isn't free! The State Department requires families to pay au pairs a weekly stipend of $195.75 and a one-time fee of up to $500 towards educational costs.
3) Do Our Schedules Change Often?
If you're a parent who works odd hours or travels for work, au pairs can help cover those times when your career keeps you away from home. Au pairs are great because most are available and willing to work around your schedule. But you do have to keep in mind that the State Department regulates the hours an au pair works: each can work up to a maximum of 45 hours a week or 10 hours a day.
4) How Long of a Commitment Do We Need From Our Au Pair?
Typically, au pairs stay with your family for one year. That means if you choose an au pair, you'll have to find a replacement for her 12 months down the road. Transitioning to a new caregiver can be tough for your kids, so you'll have to decide if you want a child care provider to be a part of your family for a longer time period.
5) How Important Is the Cultural Experience an Au Pair Can Bring Into Our Home?
Every au pair brings her own country's heritage, culture and history with her. It's exciting to have someone from another country live in your house and help open your family's eyes to the world outside of the United States. Plus, showing your au pair how we do things here is so much fun! But you'll have to think how these cultural experiences will impact your family before making your decision.
If you're looking into hosting an au pair, check out goAUPAIR. Care.com is working with this organization so our members can search for au pairs, view their profiles, and start looking for great child care providers right from our site.
Tiffany Smith has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyiswrite.