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Considering an Au Pair
How to Find an Au Pair
We are considering getting an au pair. I used to work from home a lot and could spend time with the kids in the afternoon and tote them to classes and playdates as well as host playdates. I have a new job where I need to be in the office every day until 5 or later so the kids are in an aftercare program. We like it a lot but think they need more unstructured time. In the past we haven't had much luck with babysitters being reliable. Our kids are young enough (4, 6, 8) that they really need to be picked up from school, and we went through several babysitters who didn't understand that they couldn't just not show up. We tried finding a nanny for just the afterschool hours but couldn't find anyone who was interested in just those hours.
We are thinking of getting an au pair. In my dreams she will be great with the kids, be able to speak to us in one of the languages that we know or sort of know (Spanish, French, German, Mandarin), start/make dinner, be able to drive kids around, and not expect to come along with us on our many weekends away but also won't have wild parties when we are gone. Is this about right for expectations or is there some way in which I need to adjust them? Or are my expectations so out of wack that we should just stick with the afterschool program the kids are in?
If you've had an au pair, how was it? Was it hard to share your living space with someone? Was she around a lot when not working? If we are going to want close to full time care in the summer but probably 20 hours/week during the school year, is it better to find someone to start in the summer and then be pleasantly surprised by having more time when the school year starts or better to have someone start at the beginning of the school year and then spend more time with the kids once she knows them better? Bonus points if you can tell me which agency you used and if you liked it. The archives information is dated. Anon
One major reason we do not do after school care is that I want my kids to do sports that are not offered at school or there is not shuttle. They have proper home work supervision and don't have to do home work at or after dinner. Your expectations and dreams about an aupair are not unrealistic. All our 6 aupairs have been angels and we have/had a wonderful experience. We use aupaircare.com. Email me so we can exchange phone numbers There is SOOOO much to share and talk about .. too much to write .... Stefanie
Our au pairs generally chose to have dinner with the family many weeknights (maybe 3-4 days/week). After the first month or two when they're making friends, they've had better things to do than hang out with us on the weekends. For that first month or two when they're likely lonely/homesick, however, we've gone out of our way to make sure they feel welcome on weekends. We look at dozens of applications and Skype interview at least 10 people before matching with one, to give you some perspective on how this process works. Full disclosure, even when the match is ''perfect'' in terms of personality and expectations, all parties still need to be flexible and accommodating of each other. Having an adult roommate takes some getting used to.
I would suggest this website for more data points on how to interview au pairs and how to set yours (and his/her) expectations reasonably: www.aupairmom.com
We have had au pairs from both Au Pair in America and Au Pair Care and had no major complaints about either agency (we switched because we preferred an au pair from a country only served by APIA for language reasons). These two agencies were virtually indistinguishable in terms of the match process and their ability to help when we hit snags. R
I have some friends with twin daughters. They have had a few au pairs over the years so I asked them to advise you. Here is what they had to say:
''We had 3 au pairs in the past for a total of about a year. 2 of them were just with us for a couple of months/weeks, before eventually going back home. In both situations, the au pair had different expectations than what live-in childcare entails. They never had done full time childcare before and so it was too hard for them. Keep in mind, au pairs are very young girls and some are more mature than others.
''The best thing to do is to interview them well and set your expectations upfront. Even then, it is hard to know because they want to come to the US so badly.
''My recommendation is to go with an au pair who has been in the US for a year and would like to extend for another year with another family. That way you can talk to the person on the phone and maybe even meet her -if she is in the bay area. If we were to hire an au pair again, that is what we would do.''
His husband also chimed in with this:
''I wouldn't recommend getting an au pair from Latin America; too much partying and staying up much too LATE (warm weather year round there).
''I would also say her age and maturity level are important factors as well. Cindy's au pair was from Costa Rica and she worked out fine. She was also a little older (mid twenties).
''Our one fabulous nanny was from Ukraine. Having a degree and being from Eastern Europe seemed to make a huge difference.''
I forgot to ask my friends which service they used. Let me know if you'd like that info. However, these guys live in San Jose, so... You might end up going with another service, just for the sake of proximity. I am jealous! I want to be able to have an au pair too! Good luck! M
I just saw a bit on tv about how affordable au pairs are when you have multiple children. I have only one (and our house isn't really big enough to host an au pair) but was wondering if anyone had ever heard of au pair sharing. I would love to find out if there are families who are considering this type of share. Does anyone have suggestions on where to look or where to start? Thanks in advance. anon
A ''legal'' and good alternative for you might be the ''edu-care'' program where the aupair studies AND takes care of your kids - they typically work around 30 hours (compared to 45 hours for a regular au-pair). Not all agencies offer that type of program - just google edu-care. Stefanie
We're thinking about getting an au pair and we're curious to hear any recommendations that you might have. Specifically, how do you know that the person will be any good before she shleps across the world and shows up at your doorstep? We'd appreciate any advice about which agencies you used or any other tips that might be helpful. Thanks much.
Before I came here, I thought that I would be welcomed into a home where they would be interested in who I was and would want to learn from me as well. The reality was that they wanted me to just work. The fact that they weren't providing me with a pleasant experience wasn't taken into consideration. An au-pair uses this opportunity to get a taste of another culture. It is a safe way to live in another country and in the meantime you are able to experience the habits and customs of this country.
Several of my friends took care of very small babies and they were wonderful with them. We would often get together for play groups and learned a lot from each other. I took care of an older child, which I preferred. Try to make sure that your au- pair is interested in the age of your child. JOJ
One important thing I think in finding a good person is to be very honest about who you are and what you expect of them. I think some people have the tendency to want to put their family in a good light or ''sell themselves'' to convince a great sounding au pair to choose them. My tact has been instead to warn them up front about all the challenges of the position and ask them to think about if they are really OK doing those things. I think it has helped us end up with responsible people who take caring for our children and helping out in our household seriously.
Based on difficulties we had with our last au pair search and information I got from a Cultural Care operations manager, I would recommend against choosing an au pair from either Columbia or Russia right now because of the possibility that their visa may be rejected. Apparently there have been problems with the US Embassy in both those countries not really understanding the au pair program and rejecting people who seem like great candidates. But, you could talk with whatever agency you decide to go with and ask them about their experiences with visa rejections from various countries and see what they say.
I'd be happy to share more about our au pair experiences with you if you'd like to email me with additional questions. --Julie
An Au-Pair is not for everyone though - you have to give it some thought on how you as a family will adjust to have a young person living with you 24/7. I have learned that thinking through BEFORE you interview a person is essential: what kind of personality would fit with you and the way you are, do you want the person to be part of your family or just an ''8-5 person'', should she/he be an outgoing personality or should he/she be more introvert? How much own initiative would you like him/her to take (should he/she ''follow instructions'' or are you more the ''do-whatever-you-and-the children-like'' kind of personality)? Are you comfortable with a young person driving your children? Also - depending on who's in ''charge'' at home (I used to think that me an my husband was very ''equal'' when it came to our children but actually learned through our Au-Pair experience that I am the one that gets everything to work :-)) - so the person that ''gets everything to work'' at home (whether it's the Mom or the Dad) needs to be the one comfortable with the Au-Pair. If it doesn't work out between an Au-Pair and a family it's 99% sure that the relationship between the person ''that-gets-it-to-work'' and the Au-Pair doesn't work out. Also, if applicable, talk through as a couple how you deal with the fact that a gorgeous looking young woman will live under the same roof as you and your husband.
Please feel free to contact me directly if you'd like to know more about my experience. Camilla
If one of the parents is at home much or all of the time, then problems will likely be prevented (or at least detected) relatively quickly. If both parents are employed outside the home, however, there is little direct supervision and you will be relying on a 19 year old to be responsible and not take advantage of the situation.
One specific recommendation is to have some kind of short-term back-up childcare plan in case trust issues arise and you need to employ a quick hook. Another is to check the odometer each day and look for cigarette butts, etc. in the garbage.
As you may have surmised, I fell in to the 'negative experience' bin, despite having a personal recommendation for our au-pair.
Good luck! jaundiced eye
At home, do you do your own laundry or does someone do it for you?'' 6th: When the au pair arrives, spend time together. Go with her on outings with the kids. This is time consuming, but its worth it. She will see how you handle the children, discipline, etc. 7th: Get an au pair who looks like a social person, not a party girl, but generally social. Someone who will have an easy time making friends. Its good to get an au pair who is over 21 so they can go out with the other au pairs to bars and places at night that require ID. The worst case scenario, I think, is a lonely sad au pair. On that same note, we picked an au pair who was brazilian because there are a lot of brazilians in Berkeley. This has worked out well for her making friends and being happy. Finally, be pretty strict at the beginning. Tell them you don't tolerate ANY alcohol, drugs, smoking, etc. Tell them that you don't allow any overnight guests. Then later, if they are great and you trust them, you can be more lenient. But its better to start out more conservative and then get more liberal later.
So basically, be very clear in the beginning about exactly everything. How much housework y ou want, how much tv the kids can watch, everything. Writing all those things out in a ''handbook'' is a good approach, because you can refer back to it later if things get off course.
In the end, its a crap shoot. But the way I see it is that if you were to hire a nanny who you met in person, that's also a crap shoot. good luck
You are not stuck with them if it is not working out for you or the au pair. Au Pair Care will help find a different au pair. Hope these comments help. We used www.aupaircare.com , which is based in San Francisco. anon night'' then say ''I don't like your boyfriend and I don't want him to spend the night.''
5) be sure you like your area director for the agency you use. In our case we had to have a lot of conversations with them and her support was critical when we finally decided it wasn't working. We asked for references and called other families who have worked with the agency we chose (which was aupairecare.)
All in all we would recommend the au pair program with some reservations. We are trying it again because we've seen it work for other people. good luck! anon
Sometimes it feels like we have a teenager in the house -- lots of phone calls and internet time catching up with friends (after hours). That hasn't been a problem for us, b/c we don't use the phone a lot. She helps with the cooking time to time which is fun for everyone and she feels like a part of the family. European countries usually have folks become Au Pairs between high school and college, so they are younger. Our Au Pair is from Thailand, so she is 24 and a college grad. She also had working experience in a nursery. That was important for us.
We used Au Pair Care, they are local. I think they do a good job. They pre-screen, getting medical backgrounds, references and do an orientation in NYC before the au pairs arrive in your home. I think they have a referral program where you save money if someone refers you, so drop me a note if you are interested or have more questions. Overall I would say we are very enthusiastic about the experience. And we would do it again. Good luck, Anna
The first thing I noticed (and have gathered from talking to numerous other host families) is that the au pairs are not as experienced as professional nannies and may take longer to get up to speed on all of the things involved in taking care of kids and a household. A common complaint is that the au pairs don't take the ''initiative''. What this often means is that you must tell an au pair EXACTLY what you want her to do and not assume she knows when it's time to change the baby, etc.
There are restrictions on how old the baby must be before an au pair can stay alone with him or her -- I think it's 4 or 6 months, so you should make sure that that timeframe works for you. Also, since your children are under 2 years of age, you will need to have an ''infant-certified'' au pair, who is someone who has documented at least 200 hours of experience caring for children under the age of 2.
I found it very difficult to find an au pair even though we were able to offer a separate wing of our house and live near public transportation. I later learned that many au pairs do not want to work with younger children, so I would recommend giving yourself at least three months to find someone and get them settled if you decide to go this route.
One way to get someone sooner is to request a ''transition'' or ''extension'' au pair who is already in the country but needs to find another family or wants to extend for another year. I was told that many au pairs who decide to stay an additional year want to come to California, so that is one possibility to explore. There are several advantages to getting a second-year au pair including the possibility of meeting her if she's local and getting a reference from her previous host family.
Some other factors to consider are:
1) Do you expect your au pair to do a lot of driving? If so, you might want to get a second-year who's been driving in the States or a German whom I'm told have a rigorous driving test in their home country.
2) Do you have a separate living space for her or do you mind compromising some degree of privacy?
3) Are you near public transportation or do you have a separate car for her? If not, how will you share your car?
4) How do you feel about your au pair hosting overnight guests (not necessarily of the romantic variety)? Many au pairs have slumber parties on the weekends when they get together with their friends or have family members visit.
All of these things should be discussed with the au pair before hiring her.
Finally, rest assured that the au pair will be out of the house for much of her free time. My husband and I were worried that we'd be trying to entertain a 20-something in her off hours, but she definitely has better things to do than to hang out with boring 40 year olds and their noisy kids in her free time. I gather that's the case with most au pairs.
The agency we used is Cultural Care. Overall it's worked out for us, but I can't say that they've given much support to either our au pair or to us. You're pretty much on your own to work out issues or lend support or guidance to your au pair. Host mom
We have just had our second daughter and are currently looking at various childcare options for the fall. After some initial analysis, we have decided to look more carefully at hiring an au pair. Our other daughter will be 4 in the fall and is enrolled in a montessori preschool (where we will keep her part-time). I have looked at a number of au pair agency sites and wonder if anyone has had experience with au pairs and young infants. Our second daughter will be 5 months old when we would be looking to start an au pair. It is pushing our expenses as it is to have 2 kids in care and would prefer to not subscribe to the more expensive contract, but I am concerned about the level of experience and qualifications of the less expensive one. Any advice that you have - from experience please - is greatly appreciated. Also, has anyone had an au pair contract while living in a small apartment? We have an extra bedroom, but our place is anything but generous (UC Village). Thanks! Freyja
We've just spent a fortune adding on an extra bedroom, and as we don't have a second child yet, I'm wondering what to do with the spare room. Don't get me wrong, I could fill it with stuff in a snap, but we are in the position of needing to get more value out of it than that. I work part-time and have a three-year-old in preschool five days a week until 2:00. We are considering trying to find someone who would exchange lodging for childcare (to cut down my child's preschool hours)and housecleaning. I hesitate to commit to an au pair agency--having someone come to live in my house for a year without ever having met them gives me the willies. I would feel more comfortable with a UC Berkeley student that we could interview. But it's probably a 20 minute uphill slog to campus on a bike, and they wouldn't have their own bathroom or kitchen. What about friends, noise, etc.? Can anyone relate their experiences of trying to make a spare room pay for itself? Hopeful, but doubtful
My wife and I are considering hiring an au pair, and I've done some initial research (including the advice from these newsletters) and discovered that au pairs are only supposed to do work directly for the kids. We were hoping an au pair could cook dinner for the family a couple of nights a week, but this seems to be forbidden. Does anyone have experience with this? Is this just a no-big-deal kind of thing that we could just ask someone about in an interview, or is it really Not Ok? - Eliot
We know of many au pairs who cook for the families as well as do grocery shopping and other household things not directly related to only caring for the children. The key is to talk (or email) your prospective au pair and be really clear about what your expectations are to make sure that it is o.k. with them.
As a previous poster mentioned, you may want to check their idea of cooking. We had an au pair who we did not ask to cook meals and she never used the oven or stove her entire year here. All her meals were made in the microwave or toaster oven, and they rarely were something we would have wanted to eat. On the other hand, my sister has always given her au pairs the recipies she wants them to cook, and had it work out well.
In general, we have found having an au pair to be a wonderful experience and by far the most affordable and flexible form of childcare.
Feel free to email me about it. bussgang
Has anyone had any experience with au pairs? What agency did you use? Any tips? Thank you Renu
At the time we made the decision to do get an Au Pair, I researched around the internet a bit and decided that there seemed to be very little difference between the agencies in terms of the basic program: they are all bound by the same governmental rules. We started with ''Au Pair in America'' and have been mostly happy with it, but since moving to California from out of state, less so, because the support person they have for the East Bay at least is not very good for the girls. Where we lived before, the support person was much more knowlegable and avaiable for the Au Pairs and organized monthly trips for them. So you might want to check out some of the others. I found lots easily by internet. karen
I am considering various types of live-in arrangements, and want to hear how things have gone with other people -- what worked, what didn't, what to watch out for. One possibility is an au-pair, but I'm leaning toward trying to find someone who will drive my son to and from daycare, get him ready in the mornings, and entertain him a bit in the evenings while I make dinner, in exchange for room and board. Does this sound like a reasonable exchange? Am I asking too much? Could I ask for a little more, for example some light housecleaning? How do people work out the "roommate" aspects of this arrangement, for example doing one's own dishes, cleaning up after oneself, etc.? Any thoughts you have would be greatly appreciated.
I am looking for a good au pair agency in the Bay Area. THe current postings are over a year old so anyone with more recent experience with an agency, I would love your input. Thanks! megan
We know a girl in Germany, who would like to spend a year with us as an au pair girl. Since the girl has been a friend of ours since several years, we were wondering if we could hire her as an au pair without going through an au pair agency. They would charge us up-front more than $4000 for service we don4t really need. In particular I am interested to understand if we could sign the IAP-66 for ourselves and what guaranees the department of state requires to ensure that she is returning to Germany after her time is over. Karen
I am originally from Austria and am currently looking for an Austrian au-pair to come here for a year to help me with my little son. Does anybody know about organizations who facilitate the whole visa issue for au-pair but also organizations who have guide lines for the hiring of au-pairs, i.e. compensation, free time etc. I would very much appreciate any advice. Susi
Another suggestion: one of the things that make these programs work is how much local support there is in the event that there are snags. If you have a local rep who is a flake or who won't be there to answer questions, you may get left in the lurch. A good rep is really the key, as he or she will help "match" an au pair to your family to help best meet your needs and be there should you need support. I do know of people who have had successful experiences using au pairs without going through a USIA-designated program, but I don't think I would do it. Sarah
Hello Fellow BPNers, I have a two-part question abt our nanny situation. We have a very loving nanny who is not literate and does not have strong English skills. Our boys love her, as she does them. We had hired her when we saw how good she was with her previous family. The agreement was that she would help us with housework and care for the twin babies while I worked from home. Our babies are nearing a year now and I feel the lack of having literate help. The babies love to look at pictures in books, etc. but she can't read to them and does little other than sit with them, take them for walks, shake rattles at them, etc. The other thing is she is somewhat resistant to house-work. She comes in at 7 each morning and naps for a couple of hours every day with the children (which, is fine, she needs to rest too), but when I tell her about laundry that needs to be done, or folding, she gets upset and sulks. We pay her 17 an hr but as I am home, I help out a LOT with the kids, changing diapers, feeding them, etc.
1) Are we expecting too much from her? Is that fact that she's helping with some vacuuming, house-work more than what other nannies do? She tells me often about how all the previous familes used to pay her more and had a housekeeper to do chores.
2) We can't get a more-eudcated nanny who will charge more. As it is, what we're paying her now is bordering on being unafforadable. Should we consider an au-pair? What experiences have other parents had with au-pairs? I am concerned that a young person will not be able to handle 10-month old active twins. Any other suggestions? Thank you! FrazzledMomofTwins
I agree with you that some younger nannies might not always be unconditionally loving to the children, but there are surely plenty who can be as caring as any experienced nanny. On the other hand, younger, well educated, and energetic ladies are generally able to engage your children much better. Especially, given the age of your kids, very different activities like talking and reading to them, letting them draw, playing with and experiencing different objects, and teaching them words are very important for their development at this stage. I would highly recommend finding someone literate because as the kids grow, you will see that your kids would benefit from it increasingly more.
Wishing best of luck, Nadya
One thing I do know is that you don't have to settle for childcare because of price. Great childcare comes in all price ranges. Quote your price up front and start interviewing if you want to find someone and keep your mind open to all types of childcare--family day care, coop, nanny share, etc. been there.
Au pairs are expected to do any household chores related to the children in the family. They can't do general housework like a house-cleaner would, but let's face it - most of the mess in the household is related to the children. She can do the children's laundry, but not the parents'. If an au pair is lax about this, usually a call from me will take care of that problem.
Keep in mind that an au pair has to have a private bedroom and you must provide her with meals. Both parents also must be US citizens or permanent legal residents. If you meet these criteria and would like to discuss the AuPairCare program further, please contact me. Julia
1) your children have changing needs as they grow. As you said, your nanny is loving and sweet with the twins which was perfect for their first year. Now, they need more interaction and stimulation. It is perfectly appropriate to now look for someone who meets your current needs.
2) Housework. It is my experience that you either get someone who is amazing with your kids OR is good at housework. Most nannies will do basic stuff: vacuuming, dishes, laundry... pretty willingly, but the heavy cleaning is usually not the first priority. I break out the 2 functions, reducing the hours of the nanny a bit to cover the cost of a heavy clean 1 or 2x per month.
3) pay: $17 for twins and light housekeeping is about right in this economy especially.
4) au pairs: we LOVE having au pairs. they have enormous amounts of energy to play, be silly, teach, read, sing, go to the park, etc. you get to set the 45 hours they work each week. they are also young women here to explore the US so you need to be sensitive to that. there are hidden costs in au pairs: cell phone, car, classes, extra babysitter for vacations, food, wear and tear on your house. sometimes, it's like having a younger sibling live in your house with the drama, but can be kind of fun (my current au pair and I read all the twilight books together...) au pairs do NOT clean. i would suggest au pair in america if you are interested in au pairs. my experience is they are a bit more expensive, but have the best screening and support processes. best of luck finding the best solution for your family. aimee
Look at Banana's. There was a stack of caregivers 100 high when I was there in late Fall. We found one who cares for our 1 daughter and also does the laundry, takes out the trash, cooks 2 x per week, plus a few other tasks. We put it all in the contract and we explained our needs up front in the interview. Only one baby, but we pay less than you. ($13+ w/taxes and it's $12 take home for her)
When we were looking, we found that the nannies who had the parent's recommendation in BPN newsletter wanted more money and were willing to do less. Banana's was a better route for us. We wanted someone who would be happy doing what we wanted. happy with the extra extra help
Do not feel guilty about looking for another nanny - ultimately you must do what is best for you and your family and a nanny should be a wonderful and stress reducing help for your family. I know this is not very eastbay-ish -- but she is an employee and if you are not comfortable with her then find someone else. And since you said she was great with infants you can easily recommend her for something similar...
Good Luck and do what is best for you and your family.... Good Luck
2. Adult schools offer excellent ESL programs. Not sure about literacy programs, definitely libraries will have that sort of program. Please support your nanny by looking into these sorts of programs for her and nudge her to get enrolled in one. Reading to your children is important and would be the perfect way for your nanny to practice reading.
3. I think the au pair programs take advantage of young women to work for sub par wages. But, hey, if everyone is agreeing to the deal then everyone is consenting to the exploitation. former nanny (live-in and hourly live-out)
I would say that if she can get a job that pays better for less work, she should take it. I would. However, in my experience you can find literate (and loving) care for your kids at the same rate. I paid a nanny considerably less (I'm almost embarrassed) to do similar work, including light housework. True, she did not have to care for twins. She was able to bring her older child to my house after he finished school, so she got something ou of the deal. SHe is fabulous, and looking for a new family to work for, I believe. SHe doesn'tspeak English well, but is an avid reader in SPanish, has lots of common sense, loves my kids, thinks of fun little art projects to do with them, etc. You didn't mention your geographic location, but if you live around San Leandro, I'd be happy to refer her.
While I understand, and share, the desire to pay as much as you can for someone to care for your children (a very important and demaning job) the reality of life is that different families have different budgets. Some attorneys make big $$$ for corporate clients, and some make pennies working passionately for non-profits. The fact that some nannies make more and some less is a reflectiopn of that, and of varying levels of skill and qualification, for example: literacy, a driver's licence, CPR, higher education, etc.
Good luck! Michele
We’re expecting our grand finale – a baby girl in late April. We’ll have our two boys and our little princess – all under the age of three. With that said, we cannot continue to employ our incredible day-nanny. She has been with us for around 2 years and believe me, the thought of not having her makes my stomach knot up. However, in order to have some help around the house and eventually return to work (on a flexible work arrangement); we must look into “other” childcare options.
We have space to provide a person with her own living space (bedroom, full restroom), small sink, refrigerator and microwave in her own bar area, and offer her 40-45 hours of week in exchange for room, board and salary.
I wanted to reach out to all of you first to see what thoughts you may have for us? Any advice, recommendations and/or referrals will be greatly appreciated. It’s daunting for me to think of not having our day-nanny with us, having a new childcare provider, and inviting a stranger in our home but my options are limited.
We've been told to look into the Au Pair USA or the Au Pair of America Programs.
Do you have some advice for me?
Warmly, Nervous Mom in Lafayette
The candidates they had available had very little experience with children for the most part, and mostly come from very upper-class families. We did find one that we liked and invited her to come live with us. She was extremely depressed for the 2 weeks she was here, and wanted to go home immediately (it was Winter and she was from the tropics!). Then after looking through many, many applications, we found 3 different candidates that we liked, but each of them in turn was denied a visa- they were all from Peru. Apparently the US Embassy in Peru does not let out working-class to middle-class, educated young ladies with experience in childcare come to the US. The poor ladies we selected told us they had each been asked to spend considerable amounts of money to the agency in Peru, and for appointments at the US embassy, only to be rejected (in two cases they even paid for a second appointment, only to be rejected twice). There is no refund for the candidates the US embassy rejects.
Finally, they sent us a Czech au pair who was already ''in country''. Well, she was a player who had been rejected by her initial family, she was very demanding (wanted her room redecorated, wanted full use of my cell phone immediately, etc) and we did not feel we could trust our children with her, so we asked that they relocate her or send her home after 1 week. We were fortunate to have our substantial deposit (more the $5K) returned, but woe be it to you if for some reason your au pair disappears after 5 or 6 months of a 12 month program, you will not be entitled to a replacement or a refund.
We gave up looking at application after application of inexperienced, bourgeouis, often untruthful (look carefully at applications and call references, you will be surprised at how many of the references, supposedly checked in the home country are flat-out false) young women whose main objective in coming to the US is to go to the clubs on the weekends (this was on the tip of the tongue of the Czech au pair nearly at all times).
We wanted a young woman from a modest background (who would appreciate the opportunity of coming to the US, and have had experience actually holding a job), with at least 500 hours of documented child care experience. This did not seem like too much to ask for, but in fact, only a very few of their candidates fit this profile.
If you don't live in walking distance of BART or don't wish to give the au pair a car, the au pair will not last long, either (this is what the Czech au pair told us).
Basically, we found that the supply of good au pairs seems to be very low, and the agencies (at least Cultural Care) misrepresent (1) how well the candidates are screened, (2) how many of their candidates actually have experience. They also tell the au pairs that the main objective of the year in the US is for them to study English and other classes and to travel, while at the same time telling families that the main objective of the au pair program is childcare.
I think the au pair concept may work for families with school- aged children, but we have much more peace of mind with an experienced nanny taking care of small children. We might actually try again later on when our kids are older, but with a different agency. I really believe in the au pair concept, but I don't think many of the candidates are equipped to care for babies or toddlers. You want an experienced caregiver for children under 5. I hate to bring it up, but remember that British au pair who shook the baby to death in Boston (OK, they didn't convict her, but let's face it, an experienced caregiver would be much less likely to shake a crying baby).
A live-in nanny might be an option for you, but if I were you, I WOULD KEEP THE NANNY YOU DESCRIBE AS ''INCREDIBLE''!!! They are hard to find. Also, with a new baby and two other children under 3, you will probably need to take more time off from work than you were planning (just a friendly suggestion). Good luck!!
Mom who has been there too
We are considering the au pair program for our next baby, so if you have feedback/recommendations with any of the programs, or what it is like having a ''live in'' (we had a nanny for our first child), it would be appreciated! michael
The hardest thing about the au pair system in my opinion is that you don't get to meet the person before they come. Also we have found that there is a bit of white lying that happens -- and that the applications you receive should be followed up with a detailed interview with the person (at least two times) and checking their references. Our au pair over represented her skills (she said she could cook and she didn't even know how to reheat something) and I don't think the agencies do a thorough job in checking on all the nuiances of their application.
In short (although I could go at length on this) my advice to you would be:
1) Be really clear what your priorities are (eg. ability to speak English, childcare expereince, personality) when you look through applications.
2) pick somebody who has had the exact experience you need in childcare (for example if they have mostly watched five year olds they might not be so good with a baby). And verify this reference.
3) be really clear how much you want this person involved in your household. Many au pairs come here to ''party'' and you are just a vehicle for them. If you don't want a person to be eating dinner with you, etc. then this is the person for you. If you want somebody to be part of your family then be clear about this from the start.
4) Imagine the worst case scenario and write rules from the beginning to avoid them. Better to say ''no boyfriends spend the
Re: Live-in Nanny Rates
If you are looking for a live-in situation, by far the most affordable is to get an au pair--approx $250 a week for 45 hours worth of childcare and household help. The au pair program is a US Government regulated program that needs to be done through an agency. Two that operate locally are Culture Care Au Pair (formerly EF Au Pair) and Interexchange. Work conditions and pay are all clearly defined--no more than 45 hours a week, no more than 10 hours a day, at least 1 1/2 days off on the weekend and one full weekend a month, two weeks paid vacation and major holidays off. Beyond this, their schedule can be very flexible and change from week to week. The au pair actually only gets about $140 a week, the rest of the money goes to the agency and covers things like Visas, au pair training, au pair airfare, and once a month au pair meetings with the local area coordinator. Also averaged into the cost is the up to $500 the host family is responsible for paying for the au pair's enrollment in university level course work (all au pairs are required to take 6 units during their year in the US). The au pairs fill out an extensive application (about 16 pages) and include references. They tend to be young (early 20s), but all have experience with children (and list the ages of children and number of hours of experience on their applications). You can review all of their materials as well as speak to them on the phone before deciding if it is a good match for you. You unfortunately cannot meet them in person--except in the rare instance that you request an au pair who is ''in transition'' (ie. already in the US and placed with a family that is not working out for some reason) and happens to be local. If your au pair does not seem to be working out, you talk to the local au pair coordinator who tries to mediate--if after 2 weeks, it is not resolved, you can terminate their employment. It is also worth noting that au pairs can only stay with a family for 12 months. Their Visa does not permit a longer stay and cannot be renewed (though some find other ways to get new visas and stay in the country, as a student for example). anon
We just embarked on our first experience with an au pair through Au Pair Care. She has been here for five days and I just don't feel the ''click'' yet. Her first day was awful. She didn't even look at my children. I spoke with our regional coordinator and told her I wanted our au pair to leave. The regional director spoke with our au pair and basically told her to ''get with the program'' otherwise, we won't want her to continue with us. She really has been trying since then, but it seems like it is SO MUCH effort for her to be with my children and that it isn't genuine. She doesn't seem to have an innate maternal side to her and I have three little little kids (3 yrs, 22, months, 5 months) and I feel like I need someone who will love my kids as if they were her own. Our nanny of three years is moving back to Poland this June and we LOVE her and are devastated that she is leaving. When we hired her, we loved her immediately. She is SO wonderful with my kids. And it was an instant connection with my kids. So... for those of you who have had experience with au pairs, here are a few questions:Can an au pair be amazing? How much time does it take for them to show their true self? IF she doesn't seem maternal and it seems like a lot of effort for her to be with my kids (I really give her credit for trying), do I just wait and see what happens? When and how do I know if this au pair match is going to work out? Any advice is appreciated!! Stephanie
The thing is, there IS a normal adjustment period with an au pair. But with a good au pair, she will be engaged and at least ''trying'' from the get go. It is worth it to spend as much time with her and the children together as you can the first week. It might take the children awhile to get used to her, but if she has a natural way with children, you will know it from the beginning. We finally fired our bad au pair and got a new one. We were much more careful about making sure that the new au pair was mature and had child care experience. Also we chose someone who had lived away from home before so the adjustment was easier. Also, make sure you are really clear while interviewing a new au pair that the job is really HARD. Don't sugarcoat anything. Tell them it will be 9 hour days with your kids and that the house will be a mess and you will want help tidying, etc and make sure they are OK with that. Exaggerate how hard it is to be a nanny so that they are prepared when they come. Now we have our third and totally amazing au pair. don't waste another second on the bad egg. anon
It's just a matter of understading we all (family and au pair) need a time to adjust. Even when I wanted to kiss and hug and play with my boys they'd ignore me and it really hurt us, to be sincere, because we feel we are doing our best but that's not enough. Please wait more time and if she truly likes children she'll, in time, show herself a wonderful nanny.
Now I'm leaving my family and they're already crying because we are wonderful together. I'll miss and I'll alwyas love them.
Hurt 'cause I'm leaving au pair hucastil
That said, I always take good *care* of them from the first moment. If the au pair could barely look at your kids? No, I don't think so. Your kids are young enough that they need to be held and loved, quite a lot - and to be emotionally neglected is quite dangerous from a very young age in terms of how your children turn out; there are studies on this. The worst sociopaths were not held as infants. Is your 5 month old going to be loved and held when you're not looking, 1 week, 1 month from now?
I can understand if it takes time to develop closeness, but is this girl even into it? Some au pairs only do it as a free pass to see another country. I could never be comfortable with this situation - I would always worry my children were neglected. These are your precious babies; there is no room to say ''well, it doesn't feel right but maybe I *should*''. NO. You are their mother and who is going to protect and provide for them if not you? Trust your gut - get rid of her as soon as possible.
We switched from a home based day care to live in child care about 6 weeks ago. We are expecting another baby and wanted both the children to be cared at home. However, our 2 yo doesn't seem to be bonding with our au pair. She rejects her when she sees her and wants either me or my husband. We have given her the time it has taken to adjust -- but we are over six weeks into this and she is still screaming for me or my husband.
We thought somebody living with us would make it easier, but for some reason this has been harder. Our daughter is usually very easy going and happy, and usually bonds with care providers very easily (this is her third transition since starting care at 8 months.) What I'm not sure of is if my daughter simply doesn't like this woman or if the fact that there is a new baby coming in the next week or two is making her feel more in need or me and my husband -- which I understand to be a common and normal reaction. It is really taking its toll on my daughter, my husband, me and the au pair.
From what I can tell the au pair does engage with her and play with her, but she is clearly inexperienced at taking care of children. There have been a few times I have walked in unexpectedly, and she was sitting away from our daughter kind of staring off into space. When we all go out together and she often sits to the side and doesn't interact with us. It is frustrating since she knows we are having problems bonding. I've asked her to be more interactive and told her I thought that would help, but I don't know if she gets it or will ever get it.
at my wits end
There are so many wonderful caregivers in the Bay Area. Look in the Childcare digest and I'm sure you will find an absolutely ideal person. It is so important to have a caregiver you trust absolutely. If you have any problems whatsoever it's best to move on. Your au pair can't be too happy with the situation either.
Regardless of the cost, or if you have a contract, I'd break it and find someone else. You don't want there to be even a slight problem between you and your caregiver. Especially when there are so many wonderful people out there. Sometimes it's hard to fire someone (I've been there), but you will feel so much better afterwards, and it will be better for both your children. Good luck!
I located an au pair (canadian) on-line and she tried to enter the US and was turned back at the border. Does anyone know the least expensive way to get an official au pair visa? All the agencies cost between 5-6,000 for their services. I'm not too hopeful but thought I'd ask. thanks. anon.
We have a lovely 22 yr-old Korean woman who has been living with us for 6 weeks now. She is attending ESL classes and helping us out as a part-time au pair. Many of her ESL classmates are married w/ young children or working full- time, so she is having a harder time than expected meeting people with whom to explore the Bay Area with. If there are any international students &/or au pairs who live nearby who are looking for someone to meet up with, please let me know. We live in N. Berkeley near the Rose Garden. Or if anyone knows of any social clubs for young adults that would be a safe place for her to meet new people, that would be helpful, too. Thanks!
A friend of mine is hiring a 21-year old Au Pair from Sweden and she was wondering where she could meet other Au Pairs in Berkeley. What are the preferred cafes and playgrounds or other hangouts? I'm sure some readers have Au Pairs at home. I'd appreciate it if you ask them and e-mail me. If there are any other Swedish Au Pairs out there, maybe we can connect them. Heike
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