I definitely was wrong about a number of things as I entered into motherhood. First, I underestimated the amount of help I would need as I tried to continue being a #BossMom. Second, I highly UNDERestimated the cost of daycare in America. Thirdly, I highly OVERestimated the cost of an in-home nanny….also known as an au pair.
The government definition of the au pair program is….
Through the Au Pair program, participants and host families take part in a mutually rewarding, intercultural opportunity. Participants can continue their education while experiencing everyday life with an American family, and hosts receive reliable and responsible childcare from individuals who become part of the family.
The Brookshire family defines the Au Pair program as a God send. Let’s take a step back and look at the steps we took to get here.
Another Woman in MY Home
The part that is probably the most difficult for some moms is the thought of having another woman in your home…. especially one who is likely younger than you.
Fact: All au pairs must be between ages 19-26
For me, my main priority was the safety and well being of my child, but I also place language as a high priority. I have always wanted Skylar to be multilingual. In my travels around the world, I have full appreciation for the role bi/tri/multilingual capabilities can have on your life’s opportunities.
“Around the world, more than half of people – estimates vary from 60 to 75 per cent – speak at least two languages.” – Gaia Vince, BBC Report, August 2016
I understand that the best way to teach a child another language is to do so at the same time they are learning their primary language. In order to do that, I needed someone who would simply ‘do life’ with her. Someone who didn’t teach her from flashcards, but someone who would become her family and a person with whom she would constantly interact.
Therefore, I made myself okay with another woman living in my home.
I was under the impression that having live-in help is incredibly expensive and meant for people who have butlers and drivers and for the most part…look nothing like me. This was definitely not for someone like me, who lives in a normal neighborhood in Indianapolis with an incredibly normal paycheck and abnormal bills. Right? Wrong!
When we did the math, we found that the au pair program was approximately $6 more per week than our current daycare. The big difference is the payment scale. Instead of paying $359 every week with our daycare, we had the option of paying a large fee upfront ($8,675) or paying the large fee in 4 installments. After your large fee is complete, the cost is $195.75 per week…NO MATTER HOW MANY CHILDREN!!
If you have multiple children, you could be SAVING money on childcare. After you pay your upfront fee, you weekly fee is…
1 Child= $195.75
2 Children= $195.75
3 Children= $195.75
20 Children= $195.75
My point, the weekly price stays the same no matter how many children you have in your home. For a lot of parents, that would be an immediate saving.
“The annual cost of center-based day care for infants ranged from $6,615 in Arizona to $19,805 in Washington, DC. The annual cost for a nanny caring for one child was just $27,566 in Utah, but $34,592 in Massachusetts.” Care.com, Member Data, 2018
Daycare versus In-Home
In removing her from daycare, the number one concern I had revolved around her socialization. If she is anything like her mom, which she is, she already isn’t very social unless she has to be. What would happen to her social skills if we pulled her from daycare and kept her in the home everyday? We live in the suburbs, so it’s not like there are a lot of activities in walking distance for her to practice socializing.
Then I really started to search for alternatives. Church! We need to make sure we are diligent and faithful churchgoers, for our salvation of course, but also so Skylar can interact with her peers.
Indianapolis Children’s Museum has an amazing membership package. If we got the membership, we could schedule museum dates for the family at least once per month.
Indianapolis Zoo was another option for us when trying to find children her age looking for interaction. Like the Children’s Museum, they have a great membership package.
Hands down, our BEST and most cost-effective tool has been our local YMCA!! For a low monthly fee, we could add our au pair as a student in our family and purchase the family membership. This membership to the YMCA allows Skylar the ability to play with other children, while giving our au pair free time to work out, take classes and interact with adults.
We find it VERY important that she has opportunities to interact with other adults during her time here. She needs to be physically, emotionally and mentally healthy in order to provide the best care for our daughter(s).
Requirements of an Au Pair
Because this is a government-regulated program and the various companies managing the au pairs, like Au Pair Care in the United States must adhere to strict rules, all au pairs must be:
- Proficient in spoken English
- A secondary school graduate or equivalent; and
- Between 18 and 26 years old
- Capable of fully participating in the program as evidenced by the satisfactory completion of a physical
- Personally interviewed, in English, by an organizational representative who shall prepare a report of the interview which shall be provided to the host family; and
- Successful in passing a background investigation that includes verification of school, three, non-family related personal and employment references, a criminal background check or its recognized equivalent and a personality profile. Such personality profile will be based upon a psychometric test designed to measure differences in characteristics among applicants against those characteristics considered most important to successfully participate in the au pair program.
What Does She Do?
The stated duties of an au pair are something like this:
- Entertaining children and teaching them about their culture
- Preparing children’s meals and cleaning up after mealtime
- Bathing and dressing the children
- Packing lunches, helping with homework and taking the kids to school
- Changing diapers, entertaining and feeding babies
- Bathing and dressing children
- Preparing meals and snacks for children
- Helping to keep children’s rooms tidy
- Helping with homework
- Doing children’s laundry
- Putting children to bed
- Taking children to parks, playgrounds and other activities
- Traveling with the host family on vacations and providing care for the children
Those are the stated duties on Au Pair Care’s website. However, our definition of our au pair’s duties is something like this:
- Loving our baby
- Knowing our baby better than anyone else and providing consistent care and love
- Teaching our baby a new language and cultural norms that we could not find anywhere else.
- Helping this working mom navigate life as a BOSS and a MOM, making my way to #BossMom one day
- Making sure the sense of anxiety that can arise after walking into a crazy house after a long day of work is gone.
Everyday, Skylar’s room is clean, clothes washed and a new word in Spanish is learned…not to mention, MY BABY IS HAPPY!
Au Pair Care has area directors who manage the overall well-being of the au pairs. The regional directors are local and will visit you in your home before placement and once after the au pair arrives.
One of the biggest responsibilities of the area director is to provide a monthly event for all au pairs in the area to attend. There are more au pairs in your community than you would think. In the suburbs of Indianapolis, there are nearly 30 and mostly from Colombia and Mexico and they are a tightly knit group.
What Are the Host Parent’s Responsibilities?
As the host parent we try to do our best to make her feel like she is part of our family. As a person who has traveled a lot domestically and abroad, I know what it is to be in a foreign country and not know anyone nor speak the language. I know some host families are different and that is okay!
Some families keep everything separate. Essentially, when the au pair is on duty she is an employee of the house and when she is off the clock, the au pair goes her way and the family goes their own way. That is perfectly fine and for some family structures it may even be ideal. That just doesn’t work for me.
I was raised to treat anyone who comes in my home as a family member, young or old. If you are a child visiting my house, you are my child for that time frame, I will treat you as I treat my own. You may get ice cream or you may get put on time-out….it’s up to you.
The US Government says…
Per Au Pair Care, host families are required to:
- Pay up to $500 toward the cost of the au pair’s required academic course work;
- Provide an appropriate suitable private room;
- Be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents fluent in spoken English;
- Pay a weekly minimum stipend based on the program option selected;
- Give the au pair one complete weekend off each month (Friday evening to Monday morning);
- Facilitate the care provider’s requirement to enroll in and attend an accredited post-secondary institution to fulfill her Educational Component requirement;
- Provide a minimum of two weeks paid vacation for each 12 month exchange term (prorated for extension periods of six or nine months), in addition to regular weekly/monthly time off;
- Include the au pair whenever possible in family meals, outings, holidays and other events; and
- Host families and Au Pairs must sign an Agreement detailing the au pair’s obligation to provide childcare prior to the Au Pair’s placement in the host family’s home. In the event of questions regarding refunds or other adjustments, host families and au pairs should refer to their agreements. The Department of State does not have jurisdiction over contractual obligations.
The Down Side
There are very few downsides to having an au pair, if any. Our biggest issue is our physical address, we live in the ‘burbs. We do not have great access to public transportation; therefore, trying to find a college for her to learn English and the transportation required for those classes have been a journey. We came to the conclusion that she will simply use our car 1-2 per week in the evenings or ride with another au pair.
Other than that, it has been a DREAM!
My Psychological Journey
It is absolutely AMAZING having another set of hands in our home. Having a person we trust with Skylar during the day and an added family member who can teach us customs/norms is priceless.
I will admit that there were times when I didn’t know if I was taking the ‘easy road’, I mean, my mom and grandma and great grandma raised wonderful humans without the assistance of a nanny or au pair. Why couldn’t I?
The reality is, I CAN raise her without an au pair. On the other hand, if I am already going to spend an enormous amount of money on childcare, why couldn’t I get the best bang for my buck. Why wouldn’t I get the person who makes our flexible lives easier?
I also kept having thoughts of her getting things confused about who her mom is. Two things about that; first, all au pairs are sent to au pair academy before arriving in your home and I think boundaries (especially with the woman of the house) are a heavy topic. Also, there are certain things that, if I can help it, I am the only person who does it. I am the only one who wakes her up in the morning and the main one who puts her to sleep at night. Early mornings and late nights are Skylar and mommy time, it is special, and our au pair respects that time.
There you have It
In short, if I had to do it all over again, I would make the same decision for our family and baby. Our au pair has been a God send and I have heard MANY stories from host families that resemble our experience.
More information on Au Pair Care
If you are interested in more information on Au Pair Care, please click here.
Thank you for reading my story. Please follow me on Instagram for more of our journey @TaliaBrookshire
Until next time,