Should I get an Au Pair? To Host or Not to Host?
“Should I get an Au Pair? How do I know if hosting is right for me and my family?”
Families often ask me these questions. The thought of living with an Au Pair is often jarring to families. It feels like a lot to consider. Whether hosting is really worth the time and effort. Whether you have enough room in your life to be a good host to a foreign visitor.
In my experience, Host Families are often pleasantly surprised when they discover what an asset Au Pairs can be to their families, even more than they thought they needed.
Families who are interested in the program often have a love for learning about cultural differences. But for most families, the need for reliable childcare is more important.
If you’ve been wondering whether you should get an Au Pair, this post will walk you through the considerations you should make before deciding.
What do the Au Pairs get out of living with you?
When people ask me, “Should I get an Au Pair?” often they wonder about the Au Pairs’ motivations for joining the program.
Au Pairs come into the program with a love of travel, learning English and the American culture, and of course, a love of caring for and learning from children. The kids are the obvious winners here, but it gets even better.
Where does the rubber hit the road, so to speak? The children, of course! Au Pairs love their Host Kids like little brothers and sisters. Many Au Pairs say they learn from the kids just as much as they teach the kids about their home country, its customs, traditions, music and naturally, food!
What does the family get out of living with an Au Pair?
Au Pairs are excited to meet you and your extended family. They want to learn about your community, state, and region. Host Families love to sample foods prepared by Au Pairs as a way to share cultures and bond together. Many families also love to learn or practice a foreign language with a native speaker to gain conversational skills.
Host Parents really care about the safety of their kids and the reliability of child care when life gets busy, though. Families count on Au Pairs being there when parents cannot, providing supervision, rides and consistent love and support.
Kids love having an adult in the home who is strictly dedicated to them! Kids love teaching an adult about their home, family, friends and community. Au Pairs love their new level of independence in a new place with so much to learn in a limited time and are very grateful to their American Host Families.
Consider what you need and want most when deciding whether you should host an Au Pair.
Stranger Danger: Is it safe to get an Au Pair after a few Skype interviews?
If you’re concerned about “stranger danger,” you’re not alone. This is another common concern that crops up when people ask, “Should I get an Au Pair?”
“When we first made the decision to welcome an Au Pair to our home, we were pretty hesitant,” says Jennifer, a Host Mom from Colorado. “But we had no other choice… we didn’t have any open options for childcare when I went back to work.”
Jennifer used Go Au Pair’s screening process to select an Au Pair whose values aligned with hers. She quickly found candidates who were engaging, exciting, daring, educated, experienced, eager and ready for just about anything. But she and her family connected with Ale right away.
“Family means the most to her,” Jennifer says. “It has changed the way we all view each other as a family.”
(Au Pairs are the bravest group of people I’ve ever met. If you think having one stranger in your home is unnerving, imagine leaving everything you know to travel thousands of miles from home to live and work for strangers who do not speak your native language).
“We have had more than a great experience,” says Jennifer. “We have had an AMAZING one.”
Au Pairs have supportive families back home and are hoping for involved Host Parents who will treat them like young adults, but who also have their backs. Some Host Families go so far as to keep in touch with the families of their Au Pairs, as a way to include the extended family and enhance the entire exchange experience for both families. Family is universal and knows no language.
This was certainly the experience for Jennifer and her family. As she says, “To say Ale came to ‘watch our kids’ is nominal. She came to show us how much we could love each other.”
Other fears families have about getting an Au Pair…
Families considering an Au Pair might also have a fear of someone coming into their home and taking over everything having to do with the kids, or to the other extreme, the fear of someone who has no control over the kids and whom the kids do not respect.
Both situations are pretty rare, in my own experience as a Local Area Representative over the past six years. Au Pairs are young people with experience caring for kids.
However, there is something to be said for all the adults “being on the same page” with an approach to the kids. While an individual’s approach may differ, the end goal is always the same: responsible, respectful, engaging, curious, competent young people with a greater understanding and appreciation of the value of diverse cultures and people of the world. Our candidates bring this to the table every time!
Parents also ask, “Should I get an Au Pair if I don’t have time to host a guest? … What about my privacy?” Other common concerns include sharing the car and common living spaces, and whether the Au Pair will follow the rules.
Go Au Pair’s staff, including other Local Area Representatives like myself, can walk you through setting clear boundaries and expectations from the first interview. I typically find those clear boundaries prevent many of the concerns families have about hosting before the Au Pair even arrives.
Is the Au Pair Program Right for You & Your Family? How to Decide Whether to Find an Au Pair.
If you need reliable, consistent, and affordable childcare, hosting an Au Pair can be a wonderful experience. Hiring an Au Pair is an even better idea if you need an extra set of hands to help with all things child-related. (I should know, with six kids of my own!)
I haven’t always needed childcare for all of them at the same time, thankfully. When I did require childcare, though, it was expensive and not as reliable as I needed.
What really counts when you’re looking for great childcare?
I remember those last-minute calls, “I’m not coming.”
Or waiting at the door to do the tag-off so I could leave for work, late again.
I wish I’d known about the Au Pair Program when my hands were so full! Hosting an Au Pair is a great idea, especially if you need flexibility, have at least one child, care about your money, and are concerned with preparing your child for a global society.
Your family should consider hosting an Au Pair, depending on your individual needs and expectations. How badly are you losing your mind, what have you done to create success, and how soon do you need help?
If you’re still asking yourself, “Should I host an Au Pair?” here are some guidelines to help you decide.
Definitely Host an Au Pair If You…
- Want a childcare provider who loves kids
- Are looking for reliable, one-on-one childcare
- Want the opportunity for language immersion at home
- Are concerned with preparing your child for a global society
- Need an affordable option that gives you more for your money
- Are willing to open your heart and home to a new family member
- Would benefit from help with simple, child-related chores such as kids’ laundry
- Are tired of shuffling your work schedule for your kids’ sick days and school holidays
- Like the idea of hiring a childcare provider backed by an agency with thirty years of success
- Need a childcare schedule YOU control (and can operate within 10 hours/ day or 45 hours/ week)
- Want candidates with proven experience, who’ve passed a background check and psychometric test
“We know that they receive love every day,” says Stacie, one of our Host Moms. “Not only from us, but also from Ale. It is clear to us that all three of them love her in return.”
Psst… Go Au Pair is the only agency that lets you interview multiple candidates simultaneously!
Don’t Host an Au Pair If You…
- Aren’t prepared to make some compromises and adjustments
- Don’t have a private room (with a door) that can be dedicated to your Au Pair
- Aren’t ready to be open-minded about bringing another culture into your home
- Are only looking for an employee-employer relationship (Au Pairs want to be part of the family!)
- Want a nanny with certifications who can manage complex housekeeping or take care of your pets
(Even if some of the above things are true for you, there are ways to compromise and still host an Au Pair successfully. For example, if your children are responsible for pet care, your Au Pair can supervise and remind your kids about their responsibilities).
It’s Important to Choose Carefully Once You’ve Decided to Get an Au Pair.
This is where careful evaluation of candidates and selective interviewing with detailed questions and support materials become vitally important. When evaluating candidates, families need to think about what works best for their kids. It’s wise to consider which types of personalities you could live with for a year.
Choosing someone exactly like you or your spouse, though, is not necessarily good advice. Again, approaches to children differ around the world.
Conflict can happen, (in fact, conflict is part of all human interactions), but with open discussion and a willingness to try new ideas, everyone wins! This is an area where Host Families and Au Pairs alike are pleasantly surprised, or sometimes culturally surprised, and is a great opportunity for learning and communication on both sides.
Think about your spouse. Do you have everything in common? Probably not. What are your differences? When you first started your relationship, those differences may have been very interesting to you.
Give candidates that same benefit. Differences are good. That is what this program embodies. Although people may have a different language, culture, and traditions, we are really more alike than different.
Appreciation for differences and the discovery of similarities is at the core of what makes this program a success. Acceptance of differences and discovering those similarities is a learning process many families choose over and over again once they discover its value.
Keep an Open Mind, Ask Open-Ended Questions About Living Arrangements When Getting an Au Pair.
Choose Au Pair candidates whose interests match those of your family or kids, to some degree. Select questions to ask which will give more than a yes/no response, but will include the how, when and why details too.
For example, don’t just ask if a candidate can drive; ask him or her to tell you about the last time he or she drove, how long ago. Find out was the destination, whose vehicle, how long the trip, what kinds of roads, etc.
Ask questions like, “What would you do if my child behaves in this way or that?” Suggest a situation and ask the candidate how he or she would respond to give you more information to consider.
Even when you share common interests, Au Pairs will still have their own ideas about America and what they want to accomplish while here. Take time during the interview process to learn more about why your candidate wants to participate in this dynamic program.
Consider ways in which you and your family can support your Au Pair’s goals during their stay. Au Pairs need time to find friends, explore their new communities and just enjoy off-duty time. Communication between Host Families and Au Pairs during the interview process and throughout the program is vital to helping both parties understand the needs and expectations of the other.
Decisions, Decisions. How to Select the Au Pair Who’ll Live with You.
Hopefully, by now, you know your answer to the question, “Should I host an Au Pair?”
When you do decide to go all-in and host an Au Pair, we have plenty of support for you. Your dedicated Placement Coordinator (PC) will be available to help walk you through the process and the paperwork. Your PC can also give you advice on whether an Au Pair seems like a good fit to live with you.
Within your city of residence, you’ll have the personal support of a local expert, your Local Area Representative, available throughout the year with monthly contacts, helpful suggestions, and cultural events. When you compare costs, benefits and flexibility, the Au Pair Program is second to none in today’s changing and challenging world!
If you’re interested in learning more about hosting an Au Pair, see our Au Pair vs Nanny page, which also includes comparisons including Day Care.