Considering an Au Pair

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • Au pair for twins?

    (3 replies)

    Hello Parents- we are very excited about our twins. we need some help/advice, we work full time and will need a full time live-in nanny for our twins. these are hard to come by. does anyone have experience getting aupair for twins?

    If you have any advice it will help

    Full time child care if very expensive and we don't want to have to sell our home 


    I think an au pair could work in your situation. Just be aware of the regulations and limitations of having an au pair vs. a professional nanny. Au pairs are young and may or may not have a lot of experience with babies. The parents I know who have hired au pairs have had older children, but in theory you might find an au pair who is up to caring for two infants while you are at work.  Au pairs are regulated by the US State Department. They must be between 18 and 26 years old, they can work no more than 45 hours a week, and they must meet various regulations such as being proficient in English, having childcare experience, attending school while they are here, and passing a background check.  This usually means you will be hiring the au pair through an agency who has already vetted the au pair, which you will pay a fee for, on top of the salary you are required to pay the au pair (in addition to room and board.) You should think of the au pair as a young person who is visiting the U.S. and staying with you the host family, providing childcare in exchange for a place to stay and a small salary. Au pairs are not professional childcare providers. But you could make it work if you have room in your home and are willing to do some amount of supervision. See for details.

    I'm in Lafayette with two kids, both me and my husband work full time outside the home and travel quite a bit.  I am on my 6th au pair (we started after my daughter turned 1 year old).  East of the Caldecott there are au pairs everywhere - I think there are 3 within walking distance of my home...

    Initially I also explored the live in nanny route and contacted Town & Country. I was basically told that it is very hard to find live in candidates in this area.  So we tried the au pair route and for the most part it has been successful.  Au pairs, when they work well, are AMAZING. The flip is that when they don't work well it can be pretty rough; you have someone living in your home.  As another posted stated, they are not professional nannies; they are very young (mostly) women, often with little formal childcare experience.  There is a lot of guidance/training, but the rewards in terms of flexibility and cost make it well worth it.  To be successful, you have to completely shift your expectations of what you get; it will not be like a nanny.  If you are interested, I'd speak with host families who do have au pairs to get more of a sense. Or reach out to one of the many agencies, speak with a Local Childcare Coordinator (LCC) to understand if the program is right for you.

    I don't know how old your twins are, but most agencies have a special pool of "infant qualified" au pairs that have more experience with babies. An au pair could be a good fit, as long as your expectations are in line.  Good luck!

    I don’t have twins but I have three kids 3 and under and just welcomed our second au pair (our first one was with us for two years - the max time they can stay). We’ve been really happy with our au pairs and decided to use one because of cost and convenience. Realistically, we couldn’t afford daycare/preschool for three small kids (would have cost more than rent!) and it was important for us that we didn’t have the morning rush to get everyone ready, lunches packed and out the door, or having to do afternoon pick up. Flexibility with an au pair is so valuable. 

    At the same same time I would only suggest an au pair of you are sure you’ll be comfortable having them live with you and you are able to treat them with respect and not as “hired help” as I’ve seen many other families do. As the previous person said, they are not professional caregivers so you’ll be teaching them how to do almost everything (think of them as nannies doing their first job) and you should set expectations accordingly.

    We’ve loved having an au pair and plan to have one for the next several years even after kids are in school! 

  • What is it like to have an au pair?

    (2 replies)

    Has anyone had an au pair and can shed some light on the experience? Pros and cons? Financial obligation? Thank you 


    I think it's relatively more common in Lamorinda or the Peninsula; maybe you should cross post your question to boards focused on those areas.

    I haven't had one but I know a lot of families who have. It really depends on the person. The au pair typically stays for one year and then you get someone new. Some are great, some are not so great. They typically make friends with other au pairs and some want to party a lot. You'll need to set firm rules on the hours that they need to be available to work and the hours that they can go out with their friends. You can't make them work all the time and expect them to be at your beck and call at all times. Even though they're in your house, when it isn't working hours they're not working. That can be hard to navigate.

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Considering an Au Pair


We work weird hours - get an au pair?

Feb 2014

My husband and I are both ER docs and work weird hours. We are thinking of having an aupair move in with us to help us care for our 4 year old and 3 month old. The aupair would primarily be taking them to and from preschool and daycare and staying overnight with them. Does anyone have any advice about: 1) which aupair agency to use 2) what interview questions to ask 3) what sort of ground rules to establish when she/he arrives Thank you!

We have used au pairs for 8 years and have been very happy with the arrangement.

We started with Au Pair in America, switched to Cultural Care to save $, then switched back to APIA as we liked the local counselor much better. Michael and Amii

I have recently done some research on au pair agencies and came across Cultural Care Au Pair - America's largest agency. Check out their website and see what they claim their advantages are over any other childcare option and agency:

Our family has been looking into hosting an au pair from Europe and it seems like the selection of screened candidates is huge. You can immediately see and browse all profiles with pictures and sometimes even video introductions - without being a member: If you already know what key characteristics in an au pair are important to you/your family (personality, experiences, interests, etc.), you can either search the website for a good match or contact the agency to help you find the right au pair. From my understanding you get all the help you need from the agency and they are guiding you through the process of how to interview and even on ''what sort of ground rules to establish when she/he arrives''. So many choices !

We have aupair # 7 and had aupairs since 2006. Great program - a lot of intangible values that you do not get with a nanny. We are also both working full time with not quite the ''weird'' ER hours but with departing early, coming home late plus out of town travel. Aupairs are definitely the way to go in case you do not have a steady schedule.

we use - but I heard good things about Cultural Care as well.

First you select from a database - same as screening resumes for a job. or when you interview somebody for a job. They have a resume consisting of photos, video, a letter etc. I always rely on my first impressions, then I narrow it down to favorites. My husband does the same and then we typically end up with a handful of candidates. Aupaircare provides us with a list of interviewing questions but I also have developed my own over time and will ask why do you think you will be a good aupair, how do you handle cranky/fighting kids, etc. Definitely use skype with video, speak slowly as they are super nervous and English is often not their mother tongue!

re. Ground rules - our area director recommended to have house rules which are stricter than ''normal'' - you can always ease up. We do not set curfews as these are adults. As long as their lack of sleep does not impact taking care of the kids,I do not how long they stay out. And trust me taking care of kids makes them tired - mine never stayed out late. Our concern with staying out late is more the safety issue here in Oakland - I sometimes jumped out of bed in pj's to pick them up at the BART so they are safe.

Please email or call me: sdeuber [at] or 510 502 2543 I am happy to share our house rules, as well as an ''daily schedule'' with you. stefanie

Hi there, I was au pair for great 2 years so my view will be little bit different than others. First of all I don't thinks so is legally that au pair will working during the nights. Specialy If that will be in her schedule. Au pair can work 45hours per week, no more than 10hours per day and She need to have 1 and half day of per week and 1 full weekend per month.

1. Doesn't matter which agencz you choose, all they have the same or very simullar rule since au pair program is Goverment ''think''. The important is that you will get well with Area Director from agency who you will be talking most. I come here through AuPair Care. Also some agency have more girls from Europe, some from South America, dependence If you have preferences. I am sure you can get to more agency and than choose after you find your right au pair.

3. Agency will help you to set up the rules. But basic is about what she is allowed to do when she is working (use her cell phone, computer, etc.), What time she have to be home at night. When and how far she can use the car and who is responsible for gas. Can she have a guest during the day/night. etc.

Hope that gave you some idea. Please just remember the girl who is coming to US is willing to help you but would be also nice that you will take this person as a part of family (take her for vacation, spending American holidays with her etc.) Good luck Z.


Your experience with au pairs?

July 2013


Hello all, We are seriously considering getting an au pair, and I would love to hear from folks who have had experiences in this area. Specifically: 1.What agency did you use, and how did you like your local coordinator? (the BPN archives are outdated) 2.What should we watch for during au pair interviews? Any red flags that we should keep an eye out for? Any key experiences/skill sets that we should screen for that you thought made your au pair a better fit? 3.We have a young (4 months) infant \xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x80\x9c any tips on finding an au pair who is good with babies? 4.Has anyone had success in asking the agency to modify or amend their legal agreement? 5.We are planning to create a \xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xc5\x93rule book\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xc2\x9d for our au pair, so that we set the standard from the beginning \xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x80\x9c are there any rules or guidelines that you felt were key? 6.Was there anything that you thought worked particularly well in terms of making your au pair feel welcomed, and helping her have a great experience? We would also welcome any general stories about your experiences, either good or bad. Samantha

We had an Au-Pair (or better several ones) a couple years ago and it was the worst experience ever. We went with Cultural Care, who has a fabulous coordinator in Danville (we got to work with her while the East Bay coordinator was on vacation) but the other ones were rather mediocre. We were constantly told how successful CC was and that if we had problems with these girls it was us and we needed to train them more -- for at least three months. Maybe I AM wrong to believe that someone who is coming into our house to help me with childcare should know what they are doing, but I still ended up feeling like a visa provider. The main problem is that you get to select these girls from an online database, the interviews are handled via Skype, and as soon as you choose someone, the three-months long visa application process begins. If you find out that you guys don't ''click'' after the Au-Pair arrives at your house, the entire process starts from the beginning. On Skype of course they will be on their best behavior, but there are certain things that you just won't find out about until they arrive at your house: we had girls who didn't even like kids, who were texting all day long and rolling their eyes on me when I reminded them that texting during work hours was not allowed, one girl would bring in her boyfriend at night through the downstairs entrance and then forget to lock the door, this same girl would also leave my then 4-year-old daughter outside a public bathroom by herself. One girl would let the kids drive in the car without a seat belt on, another kept leaving her handbag in the car despite my warnings that the car window might get smashed in (we would have been responsible for any damage to the car during her work hours...) -- and that's just the beginning of the list. Instead of the help I desperately needed I suddenly had another child -- a teenage daughter who was unwilling to pitch in, lying to me, and just interested in partying -- and who had just found a way to be legally in this country for two years through me. We figured out that without the extra car + insurance, phone, food, etc that we needed to provide, and with renting out the rooms the Au-Pair occupied, the cost for a live-out nanny that we could interview in person would be almost the same -- and we have never looked back! Never Again An Au-Pair!

We had two au pairs when my youngest was ages 2 to 4 (the older child was a young teen). The first au pair was a young woman from Iceland and the second was from Nepal. Both were found through private contacts and were related to friends who vouched for them. Both came from their home countries and could stay for just under a year. We did not meet either of them prior to their arrival at our home, but we did email, talk on the phone and Skype.

Our au pairs were given a private bedroom and a shared bathroom, a cellphone and the part-time use of a car. They had full use of the house, and shared all our meals. Essentially they were treated as family members. Albeit family that gets paid.

Both experiences were good overall. Our child was happy with his au pairs. What we lost in privacy, we gained in flexibility (important for us). The cultural exchange was very cool. It was not completely trouble-free. The Icelander was cheerful and energetic but fixated on finding a glamourous good time. The Nepalese was homesick and sometimes morose but very hardworking and steady.

I was encouraged in the whole adventure by a close friend, a Swedish expat with three kids who was never without an au pair for 15 years. Her advice was to choose young, educated women from affluent countries who just want a paid gap year adventure, as opposed to those who want to get out of their countries for good. Having had both types of au pair, I agree with my pal. After 15 years, she also advised au pairs from smaller towns as opposed to big city girls. Again, I agree.

And don't feel you have to limit yourself to a woman. The favorite au pair of my pal's family was a Swedish young man. My sister-in-law also had live-in, foreign au pairs for many years when her four children were young. Their favorite was a young man from Germany.

Finally, California is the Holy Grail of the au pair world, so you'll get the cream of the crop. Good luck! Merry


What's it like having an au pair?

Feb 2013


We are considering getting an au pair. I used to work from home a lot and could spend time with the kids in the afternoon and tote them to classes and playdates as well as host playdates. I have a new job where I need to be in the office every day until 5 or later so the kids are in an aftercare program. We like it a lot but think they need more unstructured time. In the past we haven't had much luck with babysitters being reliable. Our kids are young enough (4, 6, 8) that they really need to be picked up from school, and we went through several babysitters who didn't understand that they couldn't just not show up. We tried finding a nanny for just the afterschool hours but couldn't find anyone who was interested in just those hours.

We are thinking of getting an au pair. In my dreams she will be great with the kids, be able to speak to us in one of the languages that we know or sort of know (Spanish, French, German, Mandarin), start/make dinner, be able to drive kids around, and not expect to come along with us on our many weekends away but also won't have wild parties when we are gone. Is this about right for expectations or is there some way in which I need to adjust them? Or are my expectations so out of wack that we should just stick with the afterschool program the kids are in?

If you've had an au pair, how was it? Was it hard to share your living space with someone? Was she around a lot when not working? If we are going to want close to full time care in the summer but probably 20 hours/week during the school year, is it better to find someone to start in the summer and then be pleasantly surprised by having more time when the school year starts or better to have someone start at the beginning of the school year and then spend more time with the kids once she knows them better? Bonus points if you can tell me which agency you used and if you liked it. The archives information is dated. Anon

We are now on our fourth au pair who is FABULOUS. He is a 25 yr old man from Poland who is wonderful with our kids (and they adore him), very responsible, great to live with, and overall a wonderful person. He does pick-ups and drop-offs for our three kids (ages 8-3), goes grocery shopping once a week, prepares lunches/snacks, keeps the house picked up and does the kids' laundry, and helps with dinner prep a couple times a week. We also have him babysit one or two weekends a month. We initially used to find an au pair and then signed with that au pair's agency, but I will no longer go that route. We have been very happy with AuPairCare and Kim Trutane, the Berkeley/Albany representative for the agency, is great and provides a lot of support to both the families and the au pairs. I will only go through the agency for future au pairs - the process turned out to be more straightforward and less time-consuming (compared with great aupair), and the agency provides lots of support during the search process. After experience with both excellent and less-than-excellent au pairs, here's my advice: 1) expect to treat your au pair relationship as a work/study/cultural exchange situation. An au pair is more than just a nanny or child care worker; they also become an adult member of your household, so you should look for someone that you also enjoy being with as a roommate/member of the household and expect to include them in some of your family activities. They should also be able to act as a responsible adult (we had some issues with this, that I'm happy to discuss with you in more detail). 2) Be very clear about your needs and expectations when you're looking for someone and from day one, including days and hours of work, household rules, etc. Make sure any potential candidates truly understand what you need and expect and are enthusiastic about joining your family. 3) Find someone who has a genuine interest in working with children and has experience working with children the same age as yours. 4) Communication is really important - think about how you will check in daily, weekly, monthly and communicate other important information, resolve issues if they arise, etc. It's good to ask about how a potential candidate has handled conflict or problems in the past. 5) Make sure your potential au pair's approach to discipline is close enough to yours so that you can work with it. There are some big cultural differences out there that can be problematic. I'm happy to talk with you in more detail, so please feel free to email me. Good luck! K.

we are in our 7th year with an aupair - BEST THING EVER!!!! yes there is another person in your house but she is considered a family member. I look at these young women as if they were my cousin's daughters or an older daughter without me feeling responsible for them. They are expected to help as any other family member i.e. unloading the dishwasher, setting the dinner table etc. There is lots to write about the pros and cons - actually we only have pros and each aupair came with her unique style and minor challenges. So you can't generalize. Important is to set proper objectives (like with any other job), have house rules (i.e. no smoking or alcohol while at your house, etc.) and proper planning on who does what when.

One major reason we do not do after school care is that I want my kids to do sports that are not offered at school or there is not shuttle. They have proper home work supervision and don't have to do home work at or after dinner. Your expectations and dreams about an aupair are not unrealistic. All our 6 aupairs have been angels and we have/had a wonderful experience. We use Email me so we can exchange phone numbers There is SOOOO much to share and talk about .. too much to write .... Stefanie

Our au pairs have provided excellent after school care, driven them back and forth and all around, and been loved by our kids. We've had good experiences in terms of our children's enjoyment of their time with the au pair and being able to maintain the private aspects of our family life. The flexibility it lends to our family (no more juggling when there's a sick child or a random in service day at school!!) is priceless. Our experience (both from our own au pairs and their many friends) is that there are many girls/families in the au pair community with very different expectations. You have to be very forthright when you interview so that you get an au pair whose personality/desires match yours. In our Skype interviews, we look for an au pair who has worked full time before and has a balanced perspective on this job (ie: Wants to get to know our family, but also wants to explore and make friends of her own. Understands that she's going to be relied on for childcare and understands what it will be like to be solely in charge of multiple kids for 45 hours a week). We've always prioritized personality, child care experience, and driving experience so we've never found an au pair who enjoyed or wanted to help with dinner prep (but they do exist).

Our au pairs generally chose to have dinner with the family many weeknights (maybe 3-4 days/week). After the first month or two when they're making friends, they've had better things to do than hang out with us on the weekends. For that first month or two when they're likely lonely/homesick, however, we've gone out of our way to make sure they feel welcome on weekends. We look at dozens of applications and Skype interview at least 10 people before matching with one, to give you some perspective on how this process works. Full disclosure, even when the match is ''perfect'' in terms of personality and expectations, all parties still need to be flexible and accommodating of each other. Having an adult roommate takes some getting used to.

I would suggest this website for more data points on how to interview au pairs and how to set yours (and his/her) expectations reasonably:

We have had au pairs from both Au Pair in America and Au Pair Care and had no major complaints about either agency (we switched because we preferred an au pair from a country only served by APIA for language reasons). These two agencies were virtually indistinguishable in terms of the match process and their ability to help when we hit snags. R

Hi there- We have had 5 au pairs and it is too big of a conversation to have me and we'll connect and I will happily give you my 2 (or more!) cents! kim

I started as a host mom and then became the local Area Director for AuPairCare. So I have experience on both sides of the fence. Having supervised hundreds of au pairs at this point, years later, I have a good breadth of knowledge. Your expectations are reasonable. Most people find that sharing the living space is not an issue. I hear that all the time from families considering the program, but very rarely are there issues with that after arrival. Most au pairs quickly find a circle of friends and want to explore the area with them in their off-time. The absolute most critical thing is to interview for the traits you want. If you want someone who is more independent, consider only candidates that have lived away from home before. Want someone neat? Skype with her and ask her to show you around her place/room with the webcam. Good driver? Ask detailed get the idea. If you can look at your needs objectively, you will stack the cards in your favor. Hosting is a lot more than hiring a nanny. You will bond with this person, and play the role of employer (mainly), ambassador for the U.S., and adult friend to a young adult. Au pairs provide a lot of help, and when you match with someone you really enjoy, it is an incredibly rich experience for your family. Kim

I've never gotten an au pair before, and couldn't possibly because I can barely handle sharing space with my immediate family! (seriously) But for someone who isn't quite as introverted (with their home life) then I think it has the potential to be a fabulous situation for all of you. I would suggest that you just get very clear about your needs and expectations -with yourself and you partner first- so that you know what to look for in an au pair.

I have some friends with twin daughters. They have had a few au pairs over the years so I asked them to advise you. Here is what they had to say:

''We had 3 au pairs in the past for a total of about a year. 2 of them were just with us for a couple of months/weeks, before eventually going back home. In both situations, the au pair had different expectations than what live-in childcare entails. They never had done full time childcare before and so it was too hard for them. Keep in mind, au pairs are very young girls and some are more mature than others.

''The best thing to do is to interview them well and set your expectations upfront. Even then, it is hard to know because they want to come to the US so badly.

''My recommendation is to go with an au pair who has been in the US for a year and would like to extend for another year with another family. That way you can talk to the person on the phone and maybe even meet her -if she is in the bay area. If we were to hire an au pair again, that is what we would do.''

His husband also chimed in with this:

''I wouldn't recommend getting an au pair from Latin America; too much partying and staying up much too LATE (warm weather year round there).

''I would also say her age and maturity level are important factors as well. Cindy's au pair was from Costa Rica and she worked out fine. She was also a little older (mid twenties).

''Our one fabulous nanny was from Ukraine. Having a degree and being from Eastern Europe seemed to make a huge difference.''

I forgot to ask my friends which service they used. Let me know if you'd like that info. However, these guys live in San Jose, so... You might end up going with another service, just for the sake of proximity. I am jealous! I want to be able to have an au pair too! Good luck! M

Seems like you got some good feedback. However, I wanted to advise against generalizing about someone's ability to care for your child based on their ethnicity and country of origin.
Latin American, who doesn't party and has an advanced degree


Au Pair Sharing?

Sept 2009


I just saw a bit on tv about how affordable au pairs are when you have multiple children. I have only one (and our house isn't really big enough to host an au pair) but was wondering if anyone had ever heard of au pair sharing. I would love to find out if there are families who are considering this type of share. Does anyone have suggestions on where to look or where to start? Thanks in advance. anon

We looked into sharing an au pair and the agencies which do the placements don't allow it. Perhaps if you hired without the go-between? THere are downsides to not using an agency, though, so I would be cautious of that.

I have been the host mom for three au pairs and am now an Area Director for the AuPairCare agency. I can tell you that it is against the Department of State's guidelines to share an au pair with another family. Their contract and yours defines an exclusive arrangement with one family. The au pairs understand that they are allowed to work up to 45 hours a week for their host family. But if they work fewer hours, they still get the $196 weekly stipend. So although it may fit into their possible hours to work for another family, it does not benefit them. It also breaks the contract, and goes against the spirit of an au pair being treated more like a member of the family than an employee. I'm sure these shares have happened, probably with the promise of extra pay, others can reply on that. My family has truly enjoyed this program. My kids, now 4 and 8, talk about all their au pairs frequently and understand things about other cultures. Some au pairs do work only 20 or so hours a week, which doesn't make it the bargain people get when they have three kids and need 45 hours of care, but still calculates out to about $10/hr with the added joy of having an ambitious twenty-something with a global perspective as part of your family. Kim

Au-pair sharing is illegal as of today and can get you, the au-pair as well as the agency in major trouble. All au-pairs and host parents have to go thru an government accredited agency (for the protection of the au-pair as well as the host family - it's a good thing!). I would suggest to contact an aupair agency and share your wishes - they have the best leverage with the government and immigrations to loosen up the rules and be more creative. I like your idea but there is nothing we can do legally today.

A ''legal'' and good alternative for you might be the ''edu-care'' program where the aupair studies AND takes care of your kids - they typically work around 30 hours (compared to 45 hours for a regular au-pair). Not all agencies offer that type of program - just google edu-care. Stefanie

Are you absolutely sure that you do not have room in your house to host your own au pair? Keep in mind that these are young people and many of them are not too picky about living arrangements. They might be thrilled to live in a tiny room in Berkeley as opposed to a huge suite in a small town in Kansas. If you are at all open to the idea, I suggest you talk to a local coordinator for a program and show your house and see what he or she thinks.

Hi. About Au Pair sharing...What I believe you are looking for is a ''nanny share''. If that is the case, there are dozens of postings in the childcare announcement list sent out by BPN. It is a great way to give your child the right amount of personalized attention at an affordable cost. As for cost, we pay about average - $10/hr to the nanny when she watches two kids (so the nanny earns $20/hr), or $15/hr if the nanny only watches one child. The trick is to find another family that needs care during similar hours and lives reasonably close for convenience. By the way, I am seeking another family to share our exceptional nanny Glenda. The other child in our share just started preschool. Our girl is now 8 months old and we live in North Berkeley. We can host almost all or none of the time either way. We use her services 8 am to 5 pm M-Th. She is also available individually on Fridays. So if you are interested, please feel free to contact me by email. Laila

I had a friend who had a lot of success getting an Au Pair when she was living in NM. I let the local experts answer the detailed questions. One thing I did think of if I were ever to do something like this is to possibly rent the Au Pair a room or studio near by my house. Maybe it's still a reasonable price yet do-able if you have a small house. - I'm Curious Too


Thinking of getting an au pair

Feb 2007

We're thinking about getting an au pair and we're curious to hear any recommendations that you might have. Specifically, how do you know that the person will be any good before she shleps across the world and shows up at your doorstep? We'd appreciate any advice about which agencies you used or any other tips that might be helpful. Thanks much.

I was 19 years old when I came to the US as an au-pair. I am now 39 and have 2 young children. The reality is that you don't really know whether the person you are welcoming in your home will be a good match. The agency that you work with will interview the girl and, more than likely, will provide you with as much information as possible. They will do the same with the au-pair. They will get as much information about your family so that she can decide whether this would work for her. I had many au-pair friends at that time and most of the time the ''matches'' worked really well. But there were a couple that didn't. Actually, I was one of them. My first family lived in Fairfax and I had been told that there were really good bus lines to get everywhere. I would be able to use their vehicle every so often if needed. In reality, the bus lines were horribly unreliable and I spent one time 5 hrs waiting for a bus and I was rarely allowed to use their car. The family had no television, so I was extremely isolated and had few ways of getting in touch with other au-pairs. I stayed for 6 months and then found another family to work for. That experience was fantastic. They provided me with my own car and I had very good working hours so that I had time to do the things I wanted to do as well.

Before I came here, I thought that I would be welcomed into a home where they would be interested in who I was and would want to learn from me as well. The reality was that they wanted me to just work. The fact that they weren't providing me with a pleasant experience wasn't taken into consideration. An au-pair uses this opportunity to get a taste of another culture. It is a safe way to live in another country and in the meantime you are able to experience the habits and customs of this country.

Several of my friends took care of very small babies and they were wonderful with them. We would often get together for play groups and learned a lot from each other. I took care of an older child, which I preferred. Try to make sure that your au- pair is interested in the age of your child. JOJ

We've had great au pairs through Cultural Care. Recently I've had not as great experiences with the agency itself and don't think it is as well run as it was a few years ago. Nevertheless, we've had good au pairs through them--not a single bad one in 4 1/2 years. The local Cultural Care Coordinator for the El Cerrito/Albany/Berkeley area is great. Others in the area, less great.

One important thing I think in finding a good person is to be very honest about who you are and what you expect of them. I think some people have the tendency to want to put their family in a good light or ''sell themselves'' to convince a great sounding au pair to choose them. My tact has been instead to warn them up front about all the challenges of the position and ask them to think about if they are really OK doing those things. I think it has helped us end up with responsible people who take caring for our children and helping out in our household seriously.

Based on difficulties we had with our last au pair search and information I got from a Cultural Care operations manager, I would recommend against choosing an au pair from either Columbia or Russia right now because of the possibility that their visa may be rejected. Apparently there have been problems with the US Embassy in both those countries not really understanding the au pair program and rejecting people who seem like great candidates. But, you could talk with whatever agency you decide to go with and ask them about their experiences with visa rejections from various countries and see what they say.

I'd be happy to share more about our au pair experiences with you if you'd like to email me with additional questions. --Julie

Our family has had Au-Pairs for three years and we are overall very satisfied with the solution with an Au-Pair. I've used an agency (Cultural Care Au-Pair) to find my Au-Pairs and I think they are doing a great job. I love the flexibility the Au-Pair gives me and my family, and the experience getting to learn a new person and her/his family, and cultivating a new cultural experience (or in my case: keeping my own (Swedish) heritage alive)

An Au-Pair is not for everyone though - you have to give it some thought on how you as a family will adjust to have a young person living with you 24/7. I have learned that thinking through BEFORE you interview a person is essential: what kind of personality would fit with you and the way you are, do you want the person to be part of your family or just an ''8-5 person'', should she/he be an outgoing personality or should he/she be more introvert? How much own initiative would you like him/her to take (should he/she ''follow instructions'' or are you more the ''do-whatever-you-and-the children-like'' kind of personality)? Are you comfortable with a young person driving your children? Also - depending on who's in ''charge'' at home (I used to think that me an my husband was very ''equal'' when it came to our children but actually learned through our Au-Pair experience that I am the one that gets everything to work :-)) - so the person that ''gets everything to work'' at home (whether it's the Mom or the Dad) needs to be the one comfortable with the Au-Pair. If it doesn't work out between an Au-Pair and a family it's 99% sure that the relationship between the person ''that-gets-it-to-work'' and the Au-Pair doesn't work out. Also, if applicable, talk through as a couple how you deal with the fact that a gorgeous looking young woman will live under the same roof as you and your husband.

Please feel free to contact me directly if you'd like to know more about my experience. Camilla

The experience seems to be either very positive or very negative, with each year being a roll of the dice.

If one of the parents is at home much or all of the time, then problems will likely be prevented (or at least detected) relatively quickly. If both parents are employed outside the home, however, there is little direct supervision and you will be relying on a 19 year old to be responsible and not take advantage of the situation.

One specific recommendation is to have some kind of short-term back-up childcare plan in case trust issues arise and you need to employ a quick hook. Another is to check the odometer each day and look for cigarette butts, etc. in the garbage.

As you may have surmised, I fell in to the 'negative experience' bin, despite having a personal recommendation for our au-pair.

Good luck! jaundiced eye

Hi, we are just finishing up our second year with our first au pair. We have had a WONDERFUL experience . We used a SF based company called Au Pair Care. I like their matching process better than others. Here is some advice: 1st, make sure you interview a lot so you can start getting a sense of what you want. 2nd, don't oversell your family. Tell them all the good and the bad. Tell them honestly how its hard work. 3rd: Interview all of their references. Some references check a box that says ''Don't call me because I am uncomfortable speaking English.'' If they check that box, find someone who speaks their language and call them anyway. 4th:Make sure you choose someone who has a significant amount of childcare experience. Not just the minimum amount of hours. And childcare experience that is confirmable with a school or day care agency, not just cousins or siblings.5th: Look out for au pairs who come from families where they have never had to do their own housework. For us, we need the au pair to help with some household tasks like dishes and tidying up, so I wanted someone who was used to cleaning up after themselves and doing their own laundry. So I asked about this, ''Do you do your own dishes after a meal?

At home, do you do your own laundry or does someone do it for you?'' 6th: When the au pair arrives, spend time together. Go with her on outings with the kids. This is time consuming, but its worth it. She will see how you handle the children, discipline, etc. 7th: Get an au pair who looks like a social person, not a party girl, but generally social. Someone who will have an easy time making friends. Its good to get an au pair who is over 21 so they can go out with the other au pairs to bars and places at night that require ID. The worst case scenario, I think, is a lonely sad au pair. On that same note, we picked an au pair who was brazilian because there are a lot of brazilians in Berkeley. This has worked out well for her making friends and being happy. Finally, be pretty strict at the beginning. Tell them you don't tolerate ANY alcohol, drugs, smoking, etc. Tell them that you don't allow any overnight guests. Then later, if they are great and you trust them, you can be more lenient. But its better to start out more conservative and then get more liberal later.

So basically, be very clear in the beginning about exactly everything. How much housework y ou want, how much tv the kids can watch, everything. Writing all those things out in a ''handbook'' is a good approach, because you can refer back to it later if things get off course.

In the end, its a crap shoot. But the way I see it is that if you were to hire a nanny who you met in person, that's also a crap shoot. good luck

We are on our second au pair, 3rd year of having someone live with us to provide child care. There are definate advantages to going through an au pair agency. All of the ''rules'' are laid out (by the state department) so a lot of the problems are resolved before they ever start. We used Au Pair Care and had total control over the selection process. Not sure if it is that way at all agencies. There are strengths and weaknesses to the au pair program, but as my co-worker keeps reminding me, no childcare arrangement is ever perfect. I would say the strengths are never having to worry about getting a child to, or picking them up from a childcare center or home. Or never having to worry if you childcare provider will show up on time, or what to do if your child is sick. Reasonable cost for the number of hours your au pair works. Same cost if it is 1, 2, 3 or even 4 children. Our child has bonded really well with all three live-in caregivers. Downsides are they do live in your home, and like having a dependent family member live with you, it will take up some of your time, particularly in the beginning to get them adjusted, get them into school, get them their drivers license, get them their social security card etc. I have also found the english levels of the girls we have had, and their au pair friends is not as fluent as Au Pair Care would lead you to believe. Luckily my husband is bi-lingual, so it has not been as much of a problem for us. Most of the girls are responsibile and self-sufficient (they almost have to have this type of personality to take on coming to another country for a year), but you do have to screen for those who just think it will be a good time for THEM, or think they are moving into a Beverly Hills Mansion. Make sure they understand the hours, work expected, where you live, etc. I think most are generally more happy if you treat them like a member of the family as opposed to an employee. Age is not always an indicator of maturity (as we learned from our very naive and shy 21 year old au pair who was very sweet but had no control over our child), so we went a different route the second time and chose an 18 year old, who is responsible and mature, but costing us an arm and leg for car insurance (Never thought that out in advance!).

You are not stuck with them if it is not working out for you or the au pair. Au Pair Care will help find a different au pair. Hope these comments help. We used , which is based in San Francisco. anon night'' then say ''I don't like your boyfriend and I don't want him to spend the night.''

5) be sure you like your area director for the agency you use. In our case we had to have a lot of conversations with them and her support was critical when we finally decided it wasn't working. We asked for references and called other families who have worked with the agency we chose (which was aupairecare.)

All in all we would recommend the au pair program with some reservations. We are trying it again because we've seen it work for other people. good luck! anon

We have had an Au Pair for 3 months now taking care of our 1 year old daughter. It has been a fantastic experience for us, and our daughter loves her. We interviewed her through email/phone extensively and checked all of her references, since we couldn't meet her in person. We also had one of our parents in the house for the first few months watching over things and reporting back, and our Au Pair got a stellar report card.

Sometimes it feels like we have a teenager in the house -- lots of phone calls and internet time catching up with friends (after hours). That hasn't been a problem for us, b/c we don't use the phone a lot. She helps with the cooking time to time which is fun for everyone and she feels like a part of the family. European countries usually have folks become Au Pairs between high school and college, so they are younger. Our Au Pair is from Thailand, so she is 24 and a college grad. She also had working experience in a nursery. That was important for us.

We used Au Pair Care, they are local. I think they do a good job. They pre-screen, getting medical backgrounds, references and do an orientation in NYC before the au pairs arrive in your home. I think they have a referral program where you save money if someone refers you, so drop me a note if you are interested or have more questions. Overall I would say we are very enthusiastic about the experience. And we would do it again. Good luck, Anna

After MUCH deliberation and searching, we had an au pair move in with us for the first time this fall to help care for our preschooler and baby. Previously I had only hired live-out nannies. The experience has been positive so far, but there are several factors to consider. First, I'm a stay-at-home mom, so the au pair is more like a mother's helper than a nanny. Given the ages of my children, I don't think I would be comfortable having an au pair solely responsible for the children. Keep in mind that most au pairs are quite young (19-26 years old, with most falling on the younger end) and have little experience with running a household even though they are required to have had some childcare experience.

The first thing I noticed (and have gathered from talking to numerous other host families) is that the au pairs are not as experienced as professional nannies and may take longer to get up to speed on all of the things involved in taking care of kids and a household. A common complaint is that the au pairs don't take the ''initiative''. What this often means is that you must tell an au pair EXACTLY what you want her to do and not assume she knows when it's time to change the baby, etc.

There are restrictions on how old the baby must be before an au pair can stay alone with him or her -- I think it's 4 or 6 months, so you should make sure that that timeframe works for you. Also, since your children are under 2 years of age, you will need to have an ''infant-certified'' au pair, who is someone who has documented at least 200 hours of experience caring for children under the age of 2.

I found it very difficult to find an au pair even though we were able to offer a separate wing of our house and live near public transportation. I later learned that many au pairs do not want to work with younger children, so I would recommend giving yourself at least three months to find someone and get them settled if you decide to go this route.

One way to get someone sooner is to request a ''transition'' or ''extension'' au pair who is already in the country but needs to find another family or wants to extend for another year. I was told that many au pairs who decide to stay an additional year want to come to California, so that is one possibility to explore. There are several advantages to getting a second-year au pair including the possibility of meeting her if she's local and getting a reference from her previous host family.

Some other factors to consider are:

1) Do you expect your au pair to do a lot of driving? If so, you might want to get a second-year who's been driving in the States or a German whom I'm told have a rigorous driving test in their home country.

2) Do you have a separate living space for her or do you mind compromising some degree of privacy?

3) Are you near public transportation or do you have a separate car for her? If not, how will you share your car?

4) How do you feel about your au pair hosting overnight guests (not necessarily of the romantic variety)? Many au pairs have slumber parties on the weekends when they get together with their friends or have family members visit.

All of these things should be discussed with the au pair before hiring her.

Finally, rest assured that the au pair will be out of the house for much of her free time. My husband and I were worried that we'd be trying to entertain a 20-something in her off hours, but she definitely has better things to do than to hang out with boring 40 year olds and their noisy kids in her free time. I gather that's the case with most au pairs.

The agency we used is Cultural Care. Overall it's worked out for us, but I can't say that they've given much support to either our au pair or to us. You're pretty much on your own to work out issues or lend support or guidance to your au pair. Host mom

We've been a host family for 5 years, and are on our 5th au pair. We've loved the experience, as has our kids - and with three children and both parents working, we couldn't do it otherwise. I think the past advice hit many of the ''issues'' that you can encounter, and this is not a situation you should go into lightly. It requires work on both sides, and if this is done, it can be very fulfilling. Setting boundaries and guidelines at the BEGINNING is essential - it's always easier to loosen those, if necessary. The 'Rules' - like No boyfriends spending the night, cell phone minute overage is au pair responsibility, etc are much easier to set up at the start. We use Cultural Care Au Pair, and have to agree that your LCC really helps to drive your support from the agency - but the au pairs are lucky in the Bay Area, as there are so many here and so much for them to do. We've never had an au pair be ''bored'' on a weekend or time off - they're always out and about. It can be a truly wonderful experience, just make sure you are going into with your eyes wide open. Oh, the biggest thing that has helped us is that our aupair has her own space (which in SF is virtually unheard of), where her bedroom/bath is in the lower part of our house, and so when she goes to her area, she's alone and the kids/parents aren't in her private space. That's also why, on the weekends, most of her other au pair friends spend the night here - it's almost like an apartment. Good luck! Melissa

Infants and Au Pairs

May 2004

We have just had our second daughter and are currently looking at various childcare options for the fall. After some initial analysis, we have decided to look more carefully at hiring an au pair. Our other daughter will be 4 in the fall and is enrolled in a montessori preschool (where we will keep her part-time). I have looked at a number of au pair agency sites and wonder if anyone has had experience with au pairs and young infants. Our second daughter will be 5 months old when we would be looking to start an au pair. It is pushing our expenses as it is to have 2 kids in care and would prefer to not subscribe to the more expensive contract, but I am concerned about the level of experience and qualifications of the less expensive one. Any advice that you have - from experience please - is greatly appreciated. Also, has anyone had an au pair contract while living in a small apartment? We have an extra bedroom, but our place is anything but generous (UC Village). Thanks! Freyja

We've had 4 au pairs, and through our agency, I know that if you have an infant, they require the au pair to go through infant specialized training. And I also believe that the experience level must be higher. We've liked going through the agency because of the assistance we have received (and you don't have to worry about the visas, etc). With all the charges included, it averages out to $265/wk for 45 hours of care (doesn't matter how many children you have.) You can't beat that...Our kids have thrived in this type of setting (and we've had all types of childcare)...but it's been like having a big sister in their lives. If you have space in your home (and heart), I think an au pair can be a wonderful thing. You can contact me directly if you have questions. Good Luck! Melissa

We have had great luck with au pairs caring for our sons. We began when they were 2 months old. The agency's require that any au pair working with children under 2 has at least 200 hours of experience with children under two years of age. The au pair who worked with our children starting at 2 months had never worked with infants as young as ours, but she was clearly somebody that loved children and had good instincts. Even though you cannot meet au pairs in person, you can learn a lot from their lengthy applications and from talking with them and their references on the phone before deciding that they are a good match for you. If you only want somebody who has experience with really young infants, you can tell the agecy that. If you would like to talk more about our au pair experience, feel free to email me. --Julie


Live-In, Au Pair, or Rent Room?

April 2004

We've just spent a fortune adding on an extra bedroom, and as we don't have a second child yet, I'm wondering what to do with the spare room. Don't get me wrong, I could fill it with stuff in a snap, but we are in the position of needing to get more value out of it than that. I work part-time and have a three-year-old in preschool five days a week until 2:00. We are considering trying to find someone who would exchange lodging for childcare (to cut down my child's preschool hours)and housecleaning. I hesitate to commit to an au pair agency--having someone come to live in my house for a year without ever having met them gives me the willies. I would feel more comfortable with a UC Berkeley student that we could interview. But it's probably a 20 minute uphill slog to campus on a bike, and they wouldn't have their own bathroom or kitchen. What about friends, noise, etc.? Can anyone relate their experiences of trying to make a spare room pay for itself? Hopeful, but doubtful

Hi, You posed a really good question about how to best utilize an extra room in your home. I just wanted to clarify something related to your concern about au pairs. You may not be aware that when an au pair comes to live with you, you as the host have a right to end the relationship. No reputable agency would ever lock you into a one-year relationship. You have the right to replacement with our agency for up to six months after the au pair starts (not that it takes that long to know, but . . .) Also, the screening, matching, and interviewing process is very thorough, so the risk you take is the same as hiring a student or anyone else to stay at your home. Au pairs are interested in and experienced in child care, so at least you know what you are getting. I've placed four au pairs in the last few weeks and it's really a wonderful feeling when the family finds a good match. If you'd like to know more, please call me at 420-0656. You may decide that's a good way to go. I can give you local family references as well. Take care. Leanne

i'd recommend posting your request for a live-in/aupair at the uc berkeley housing department. when i was a student at cal and paying for everything myself, i lived and worked with about 4 families doing a typical mix of housecleaning/childcare/cooking. it was a win-win situation as i didn't have to pay rent and in some cases didn't have to pay for food, and the families got their needs met. i had to share a bathroom in two families and it wasn't a problem. this would be a good way to have the room in use and recoop some of the costs of the add-on. good luck! kristy


Au pair - OK to cook?

Nov 2003


My wife and I are considering hiring an au pair, and I've done some initial research (including the advice from these newsletters) and discovered that au pairs are only supposed to do work directly for the kids. We were hoping an au pair could cook dinner for the family a couple of nights a week, but this seems to be forbidden. Does anyone have experience with this? Is this just a no-big-deal kind of thing that we could just ask someone about in an interview, or is it really Not Ok? - Eliot

Given our experience, I say it's just a no-big-deal kind of thing to have the au pair cook. We had an au pair last year and she did all sorts of stuff for us including some cooking, all grocery shopping, all laundry, light housekeeping. Once in a while she ran errands for my husband and me, but not too often. We also took her on vacations with us; we paid her hotel, all food costs and entry fees as well as her regular pay for the time. We also made sure she had time to herself on these trips. Most people I know have their au pairs do more than just stuff for the kids. As extra thanks, we would give her some extra cash every now and then just for fun. We made sure not to treat her like an indentured slave and we all seemed happy with the arrangement. She ofte! n asked if she could do more for us. I think you should be upfront with the au pair when you interview her and make sure she is comfortable with your needs. linda

We've had 4 Au Pairs, and all of them occasionally cooked for us. One cooked once a week. They are supposed to participate in the family life; someone has to cook, do dishes etc, and it;s natural for all adult family members to rotate through the chores. Be warned, however, that many Au Pairs will *say* they know how to/enjoy cooking, and this turns out to be not usually the case(unless boiling up some Ramon noodle is your idea of cooking). Be sure to talk with them at length before you take them on about exactly what they cook, and best, check if they've prepared meals for a family before. Karen

Most au pairs start to develop a social life or to take classes in the evening so they don't generally eat dinners with their host family. This means that they are often either doing their own cooking or eating your left overs. So, its' really no big deal that when they cook, they make enough for the whole family as well and that when you cook, you make enough for them.

We know of many au pairs who cook for the families as well as do grocery shopping and other household things not directly related to only caring for the children. The key is to talk (or email) your prospective au pair and be really clear about what your expectations are to make sure that it is o.k. with them.

As a previous poster mentioned, you may want to check their idea of cooking. We had an au pair who we did not ask to cook meals and she never used the oven or stove her entire year here. All her meals were made in the microwave or toaster oven, and they rarely were something we would have wanted to eat. On the other hand, my sister has always given her au pairs the recipies she wants them to cook, and had it work out well.

In general, we have found having an au pair to be a wonderful experience and by far the most affordable and flexible form of childcare.

Feel free to email me about it. bussgang


Experience with Au Pairs?

August 2003


Has anyone had any experience with au pairs? What agency did you use? Any tips? Thank you Renu

We're on our fourth Au Pair in as many years and have loved them all, starting when our oldest was 20 months. Their ages have been 19, 19, 21 and 23, all very different but terrific in their own ways. Also their own flaws, which we lived with as you must when living with anyone (eg, one who was fantastically creative and enthusuiastic with our daughter was often like a surly teenager in her interactions with us.) By law, they are not supposed to do housework, though, except for child related stuff like straightened kids' room, preparing kids' meals, etc. Some of them really pitched in around the house without asking any way----the likelihood of this is a good kind of thing to ask the references as it won't otherwise show up on the application. We screened them all very carefully, calling the references in their home countries, taking to them extensively on the phone, etc. People who have relied on the agency's reports of such reference checks have not always had such good luck.

At the time we made the decision to do get an Au Pair, I researched around the internet a bit and decided that there seemed to be very little difference between the agencies in terms of the basic program: they are all bound by the same governmental rules. We started with ''Au Pair in America'' and have been mostly happy with it, but since moving to California from out of state, less so, because the support person they have for the East Bay at least is not very good for the girls. Where we lived before, the support person was much more knowlegable and avaiable for the Au Pairs and organized monthly trips for them. So you might want to check out some of the others. I found lots easily by internet. karen

We're currently on our 4th Au Pair - and have found this to be the best day care situation for our family. We've had a nanny, family day care, and a day care center - so I feel confident that we've experienced them all. If you would like to speak with me more on this, please feel free to email me directly. The agency we use is Cultural Care Au Pair, formerly EF Au Pair. They've been wonderful - and I can't recommend them more highly. Melissa


Have live-in mothers' helpers worked out for you?

January 2002


I am considering various types of live-in arrangements, and want to hear how things have gone with other people -- what worked, what didn't, what to watch out for. One possibility is an au-pair, but I'm leaning toward trying to find someone who will drive my son to and from daycare, get him ready in the mornings, and entertain him a bit in the evenings while I make dinner, in exchange for room and board. Does this sound like a reasonable exchange? Am I asking too much? Could I ask for a little more, for example some light housecleaning? How do people work out the roommate aspects of this arrangement, for example doing one's own dishes, cleaning up after oneself, etc.? Any thoughts you have would be greatly appreciated.

We currently have an aupair (our second), and we really love it. The arrangement has been great, and we did use an agency (EF AuPair). It's nice (we've had almost all other arrangements, including live-out nanny), because as a parent, it's really the most convenient. Our au pair gets paid a small stipend ($140/wk) plus room/board in exchange for 45 hours of childcare, childrens' errands, laundry, cooking, etc. It's great. As an aupair, they are required to take classes (ours is in English), but beyond that, there are really no other requirements. It's different having a 21 year old live with us; but because we have made her living quarters very private, it's worked out very well. Our kids love her like family, and we won't go back to any other childcare arrangement. If you have questions, please let me know. Melissa