At first I said no. I hated the idea. Still, my husband looked at hundreds of profiles from around the world, watching videos, reading documents until he was convinced we could find ‘the one.’
Was I actually allowing my husband to choose my mail-order sister wife? No, but sometimes it felt that way. We were actually selecting an au pair to live in our home and care for our son for an entire year.
If you’re thinking about an au pair, or foreign live-in nanny, the best resources for most of your questions are the sites of the major companies themselves, among them Cultural Care and Au Pair in America (APIA).
However, if you want the kind of insights you can only get from a family like yours who has actually experienced the program, read on.
Things We Learned the Hard Way:
We chose a 19 year old for our first au pair, thinking we wouldn’t have to deal with late night partying or alcohol related incidents.
Ultimately, we learned that you can’t control an adult outside the confines of your home; luckily nothing ever became an issue. However, we also learned that a lot of festivals, street fairs, and concerts are 21 and up and this age restriction can make for a pretty bored and lonely au pair- a frustrated one too as many au pairs are of legal drinking age in their home countries.
Originally, we thought we’d be able to simply share one of our existing vehicles with our au pair. Per the company’s policies, this is totally legitimate. However, keeping track of mileage and gas on a shared vehicle was kind of a nightmare. Additionally, we didn’t even think about having ‘the talk’ before handing her the keys (namely, what kind of damage we’d expect her to fix and to what amount).
We’ve since designated a car exclusively for our au pair’s use and this has made life easier for everyone. We’ve also learned that au pairs are responsible for up to $500 in damage (at least through APIA). Our first au pair had two accidents, the second had a run in with a rock, and we’ve heard a lot of stories about other au pairs who have had similar incidents.
For our third au pair, we plan on marking up a schematic of a car together (like they do at rental car places), so we can be on the same page about what dents and dings were there before she drives it. We’ve also learned to be clear on what we mean by damage: in our minds, damage is damage but some au pairs may feel that if the damage is only cosmetic, fixing it is optional. It’s best to communicate before the first incident.
Having an au pair along on vacation can provide you with time to relax sans kids!
It also gives you a chance to get to know your au pair in a new setting and for her to see a new place. However, what is not fun or relaxing for anyone is feeling resentful, frustrated or confused. We learned that it’s important to communicate whether or not the vacation time will be paid, the hours you expect her to work, and the items for which she should pay well before you set sail.
We are expecting our third au pair in October and have learned so much from each girl. What tips do you have for hosting an au pair or live-in nanny?