Au Pairs : Oh No or Oh Yes?

Au Pairs: You know about them. You've probably considered employing one at some point. You've maybe even filled out an application. But what stopped you from moving forward? My guess is that it was the au pair horror stories you've heard from friends. Or perhaps struggling to part ways with your exceptional nanny.

But I want to flip the script. This is dedicated to all of my amazing au pairs (two to be exact, both past and current), who have served as extensions of me and my husband since we moved to the suburbs two years ago.

Nope, sorry, no negative au pair horror stories here...okay, maybe just a few little LOL stories now that I've got your attention:

That one time when....

1. Our first -ever au pair, who was loved and adored by ALL, happened to drop the "I hate your children” bomb after five months and broke up with me over an appreciation dinner at Abigail's.

2. Our beloved au pair locked herself out of the house and, instead of getting the key from the secret pot outside, ringing our doorbell, OR calling me, slept in-between two car seats in the back of an SUV. I kid you not.

3. Oh, oh and when someone else's au pair showed up at my house at 4 am, drunk, wearing the shortest skirt and fishnet stockings, with makeup running down her face. She had had a night, to say the least, and was looking for a place to sleep because...our au pair had her garage door opener, and she didn't want to wake up her host family. Not a joke.

4. And lastly, our amazing au pair--whom we LOVE--who knew better than to drive into the city, followed her Google Maps to a Turkish Market in an unsafe neighborhood and got the car towed. Then, she called her friend’s host mom to help bail her out.

But I digress.

This is a positive story, after all. It is an experience that I want to share with everyone—from those unfamiliar with au pairs, to those who may have considered employing an au pair, to those who have been burned by an au pair. Perhaps this will persuade you to join a program for the first time, or even give it another go! OR maybe, after reading the stories above, you will steer clear?

The truth is, besides these small bumps in the road that are now funny memories and stories to tell, having an au pair has changed my life for the better. Because of my au pair, I am able to build in time for myself (hello, self-care!), spend more alone time with my husband if we need to reconnect, and live a happier, more flexible life without the confines of a daycare center that closes at 6pm or a nanny that is always on the clock.

For my family, the au pair program in a nutshell is a flexible childcare option that is fiscally more desirable. How much more fiscally desirable? About $25,000 more desirable than what I was paying my nanny.

Is it always perfect? No. But, in my opinion, nothing is ever perfect.

Here is the scoop: Au pairs work 45 hours a week. 45! For a family that has children who are in pre-school already, think about how you can allocate those hours to fit your work/life.

In truth, most weeks we do not use the 45 hours, but knowing we have them and can use them is what helps me sigh a big deep breath each day. I try to best plan my week and her schedule on Sunday evenings, but things change and, as long as I give notice the day before, the schedule can be adjusted. This gives me room to have an impromptu date night, run a few extra errands at the end of a day, cook dinner, and…gulp...just take that extra after-work time All.To.Myself.

We have been pretty lucky; our au pairs have been top notch! The interview process isn't always easy, nor is starting over with someone new if it isn't a good match. But now, I like to think we are "au pair extraordinaire" when it comes to searching for the right person. I've learned that an au pair who is in rematch is not a lemon; in fact, she was my lemonade for two years.

We've gotten over the hurdle of not-so-great driving with our current au pair. With driving lessons and continued support, she has shown us she is safe and responsible on the road, something I was very worried about when she first arrived. It was a bump that many other au pair families would not be willing to see through.

Having someone live in your home and share your space is really personal! It’s tough at first, but it does grow on you over time. Having an au pair is a great lesson in opening your heart and home, being patient and understanding, learning about different cultures and backgrounds, and most of all giving your children the experience of having--for lack of a better term--an “older sister” (or brother, hello Bro Pair) to play with and look up to.

I believe that having au pairs from all over the world has helped my children to develop into smart, caring, and kind girls (who happen to sing songs in German and are now learning Spanish). Our au pairs have truly been extensions of our family; ones that I know I could not live without in my life.

Thank you, Betul Kegin & Paola Cruz. I'm forever grateful for you.