Affordable daycare can be difficult to find. When you do find something reasonably-priced, there’s always that lingering question, If I pay less for childcare, am I getting lower-quality care?
Like many working moms, I struggled with the expense of daycare. I weighed the benefits of working versus the exorbitant fees. And even after reviewing all the pros and cons, it turned out daycare just wasn’t going to work for us.
Quitting my job wasn’t an option, either. So, our search for a better, more affordable daycare led us to a different solution.
The Most Affordable Daycare Turned Out to Be My Own Home!
No, our search for affordable daycare didn’t lead to me starting my own in-home daycare center. I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. But when I ran a cost-benefit analysis of an in-home daycare, I was dismayed to find that the expense would hardly be worth what we would earn.
This is the case for many in-home daycares, and even for larger daycare centers.
So instead, we turned to Au Pair childcare. We already knew the cost would be comparable to daycare, if not cheaper. But the real question was, were we getting a good value? Would it be any better than daycare?
Cost of Hosting an Au Pair
After doing some research, I was shocked to find that the average cost of childcare in our area was $205 per week for a 2-year-old and $195 per week for a 4-year-old. It would easily cost us upwards of $20,000 a year to enroll both children in full-time daycare.
When I looked into the cost of hosting an Au Pair, I found the cost was actually less than daycare in our area. The weekly cost for both children would be roughly $367. The average yearly cost would only be $19,084, meaning we would save at least $1,000 on Au Pair childcare. Plus, we would have the added convenience of having childcare right there in our home.
When weighing the costs and benefits of Au Pair childcare, we knew it wasn’t just about the price tag. There were other considerations too: the logistics of hosting and other factors that would impact the well-being of our family as a whole.
Providing a bedroom for your Au Pair.
To host an Au Pair, you must provide a furnished bedroom with a door, preferably one that your Au Pair can lock. Part of the reason we didn’t start hosting until November 2018 was because we didn’t have an extra room in our old home.
Living with another person.
Unlike other childcare arrangements, hiring an Au Pair means living with a new person, too. If we weren’t prepared to have a “roommate” again, we might not have chosen to host an Au Pair. (My husband and I have had roommates for much of our adult lives, so this was a serious consideration for us).
Was this the right arrangement for us?
In the past, at least half the time, our kids were tended by family. My eldest son was used to being with his grandmother all day, so being watched by strangers wasn’t something he adjusted to easily.
We knew that more personal, family-like childcare was important to us. In addition to finding a more affordable alternative to daycare, this was a big deciding factor in choosing Au Pair childcare over other options.
Value of Hosting an Au Pair (What We Get for Our Money)
One of the biggest motivators for hiring an Au Pair was the value we would get from the program. Not just the money we would save, but knowing that there were many things the Au Pair program can offer that we just couldn’t get from any other childcare option.
This truly made Au Pair childcare the most affordable daycare arrangement, because so many benefits come out of living with an Au Pair. Many of these are things that money can’t buy.
Living with your childcare provider is super convenient. This is why the popularity of live-in nannies is on the rise; even to the point that newer apartments in New York come with built-in “nanny quarters.”
Here are some things that have become more convenient for us since we started hosting an Au Pair:
- We don’t have to rush to get our kids ready in the morning anymore. They can sleep in!
- More flexibility with schedule changes, we don’t rely on the daycare’s hours.
- Adriana can babysit on weekends (we can actually have date nights now!).
- Our kids get to make more friends through playdates with the Host Kids of other Au Pairs.
Quality of Care
This is the real aspect of childcare that we were looking for. It’s what our kids missed most when they could no longer stay with grandma all day.
- The bond between our boys and Adriana is just like family.
- With an Au Pair, there’s more freedom for our kids to be kids. Adriana doesn’t ask them to sit still and be quiet all day.
- The kids receive more one-on-one attention during the day with her than at daycare.
- We have control over how our kids spend the day. We can ask Adriana to include reading time, keep the kids more active, or take naps.
- The boys get out and explore places they wouldn’t see during the day at daycare, such as the aquarium, the zoo, museums, and parks. (She even took them to see a fire truck demonstration at the Fire Station the other day!)
Quality of Life
In addition to the close familial bond, the quality of our kids’ time was impacted by daycare. That has changed for the better now, and we feel they are getting the most out of their time with Adriana.
- Our kids are now learning Spanish and can have short conversations with Spanish-speaking kids at school and in our neighborhood.
- Adriana has become a new friend and family member to us (not just the kids) for life.
- Our kids eat fewer boxed meals and get to enjoy Colombian food every day. They can eat whenever they want (not at designated daycare meal times).
- Adriana and the kids spend a lot of time outside, walking, riding bikes, and going to parks. The kids are active most of the day.
- The boys can nap (or not) as needed. They don’t have designated nap times, but Adriana is free to decide if they need nap time or quiet time.
Peace of Mind
If you take your kids to daycare, I don’t have to tell you how real the morning struggle is. I don’t miss listening to my eldest son scream, “Don’t leave, Mom! Don’t leave!” every morning.
- We no longer have to struggle with dropping our kids off each day and watch them go through separation anxiety.
- Adriana doesn’t tell us how to discipline our kids (a struggle we had faced with daycare). She does her thing, we do our thing; we coordinate and talk about what’s best for the kids.
- Au Pairs generally follow the parents’ wishes for discipline and behavior. They follow the parents’ example.
- Every day, we go to work knowing that our kids are basically with family and they’re spending the day with someone who loves them.
If You’re Looking for Affordable Daycare, Consider an Au Pair.
There are many things to consider before hosting an Au Pair. But if Au Pair childcare sounds ideal for your family, the benefits are worth far more than the money you’ll save. Of all the benefits, just knowing how much Au Pairs love their Host Kids was enough to make me leave daycare behind forever.