Is an Au Pair Right for Your Family?

Here’s everything you need to know about hiring an au pair.

By: Amanda Mushro

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A female babysitter of African descent is indoors with a young Caucasian boy. They are wearing casual clothing. They are reading a storybook together. The boy is on the girl's lap.

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A female babysitter of African descent is indoors with a young Caucasian boy. They are wearing casual clothing. They are reading a storybook together. The boy is on the girl's lap.

Photo by: FatCamera

FatCamera

There’s a reason that childcare isn’t one size fits all. You and your family’s needs are unique, and when you start the childcare search, you’ll need to find the right person or people to take care of your child. If you are seeing au pairs in your research, but you aren’t sure what exactly an au pair is and what they do, keep reading.

What Is an Au Pair?

An au pair is a caregiver, usually between the ages of 17-30, who is from a different country. The au pair will move into your home and provide live-in childcare for your family. You’ll need to provide a living space for the au pair while they work for you, as well as meals, basic necessities, and money for expenses. In French, the term "au pair" means "on equal terms," signifying that the au pair and you as the host family treat each other as equals.

Au pairs can work up to 45 hours per week, but you as the host family and the au pair will need to agree on the schedule. An au pair can also take and pick up your child from school, take them to appointments, and help with cleaning and making meals. However, an au pair is not responsible for all of the cooking and cleaning — just what relates to the child. Also, au pairs are often required to complete credit hours at an accredited university during their stay.

An Au Pair Can Be a Great Option If...

  • You have extra space in your home and can easily accommodate the au pair. A bedroom with a lock is required and while a private bathroom is a good option, they can share a bathroom — but only with the kids and not the parents.
  • Your work schedule changes often and you need flexible childcare.
  • You are looking for a more budget-friendly childcare option and you still want your child to be in your home.
  • You are looking to introduce your child to other languages and cultures.

What Are Some of the Pros of an Au Pair?

Flexibility: Since the au pair lives in your home, you won’t have to worry about following a strict childcare schedule for pickup and dropoff like at daycares. Since you and the au pair decide on the schedule, this can mean early mornings, evenings, and weekends.

Introduction to Other Cultures: Since your au pair will be from another country, they will have the opportunity to teach other languages and cultures to your child. From an earlier age, your child will be exposed to more than just the language spoken at home.

In-Home Care: Your child is able to stay in your home and be cared for, which can be very appealing when they are younger. As the child gets older, your au pair can coordinate playdates with other au pairs.

What Are the Cons of Having an Au Pair?

Sharing Your Home: Because the au pair will be living in your home, you do have to give up some level of privacy. If you enjoy a lazy weekend in your pajamas, you may need to rethink your choices because you will have a long-term guest in your home. Also, the au pair will be able to travel and meet new friends during their time off. This may mean bringing friends to your home when they are not working.

No Formal Training: Your au pair may not have formal early childhood training. While a daycare provider may have particular training they need to complete, your au pair will not. However, you will receive information on their previous childcare experience.

Usually a Short-Term Option: Often, au pairs only stay with families for a year or at most, two years. If you are looking for a more long-term solution, an au pair might not be a good fit. However, if you are open to welcoming a new au pair, many families have several au pairs while their children are young.

Is Having an Au Pair Cost-Effective?

Surprisingly, yes. The cost of hosting an au pair is often even more budget-friendly than other childcare options, like daycare or a nanny. Typically families pay a fee to the au pair agency as well as a minimum weekly stipend directly to their au pair. Even with the extra costs for food, insurance, and cell phones, it’s often less expensive than other options.

How Do You Hire an Au Pair?

You’ll need to work with an au pair agency to hire an au pair. The agency will vet potential au pairs and run the interview process. You’ll pay a fee to the agency and you’ll be required to sign an agreement when the au pair arrives.

What if the Au Pair Isn’t a Good Fit?

If the au pair doesn’t work out for any reason, you as the host family are still required to provide housing while the au pair matches with a new family. The average time is two weeks.

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