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I bet all parents can relate when I say my life completely changed when I first became a mom to my son Benjamin. Those immediate, overwhelming feelings of love, devotion, amazement, joy and yes, anxiety, hit me like a ton of bricks (or diapers, in this case) in ways I’ve never felt before.
Truthfully, most of that anxiety really came from finding the right childcare solution. The most important consideration was Benjamin’s safety and well-being, of course, but we also craved flexibility and liked the idea of exposing him to another language. Thankfully last year we found Cultural Care Au Pair, a childcare option that connects international au pairs with American host families to live together as part of a cultural exchange. We quickly found that hosting an au pair is worlds different from just “hiring” help. It means welcoming a young adult, who becomes an extended family member, into your home to care for your children — whether they are babies, toddlers or school-aged. It was especially beneficial to have our first au pair begin her year with us only a few months after Benjamin was born, simply because she was able to immediately connect and bond with him at such a young age.
After an amazing year with our first au pair Rita, we’re so excited to welcome our second au pair, Anais, from Mexico, especially now that our second son Theodore was born in July. So why, as new parents, should you consider hosting an au pair?
A trustworthy relationship
Our relationship with our au pairs has developed quickly and mutual trust has happened much faster than with a daycare provider or live-out nanny, since they live with us. We can more easily adjust to each other’s’ schedules and really learn about each other as people. Our children grow accustomed to seeing the same face every day and developed an obvious connection with both of our au pairs from the start (no stranger danger here!).
Flexibility in my schedule
An au pair can provide up to 45 hours per week of childcare (maximum of 10 hours per day) on a schedule the family decides. While my schedule is very flexible in general, there are times when I or my husband have to travel, or our baby’s schedule changes from week to week. With an au pair, we can choose the schedule based on our own needs.
A cultural exchange without getting on a plane
I have relatives in Italy and my husband comes from a Greek family, so we love experiencing new cultures and traveling. However, instead of taking two hungry babies on a 10+ hour plane ride, we can experience a cultural exchange from our own home when hosting an au pair. Our first au pair was from Brazil and our current au pair is from Mexico, so it’s been wonderful cooking new foods together and learning about their customs and traditions.
A new family member
We joined this program with the mindset that we would recognize our au pairs as members of our family, while also giving them the space and freedom they need to socialize with other au pairs and take classes. Some nights when the babies are asleep, the three adults stay up and cook together or watch America’s Got Talent or Grey’s Anatomy. One other nights, our au pair might hang out with friends. It’s a good balance. We are so lucky to have found a wonderful new family member in both of our au pairs.
So my advice to you if you are thinking about hosting an au pair:
- Communicate – Make sure you establish an open line of communication right away. Tell your au pair how you feel and encourage them to do the same. Work together as a team. I normally sit down each week with our au pair and review what went right and what we can all do better.
- Connect – Be sure to connect your au pair to others in the community so they have a good social life and work/life balance. And make time to get to know her and connect with her, too!
- Have fun – Embrace this amazing exchange and include your au pair in fun family activities.
Written by Emily Alexander