Au Pairs

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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

How to Find an Au Pair

Looking for a good Au Pair Agency

March 2006

I am looking for a good au pair agency in the Bay Area. THe current postings are over a year old so anyone with more recent experience with an agency, I would love your input. Thanks! megan

Hi, I used Au Pair Care and have had a great experience. I actually first signed up with cultural care au pair and switched because I didn't like their matching process. Cultural care only lets you see one application at a time, they ''pick'' someone for you, and you don't get to browse thru applications. They kept sending me people I wasn't sure about. Au pair care lets you browse through all the applications so you get a better sense of who is out there. Also, with au pair care's matching process, the au pairs have more control over who they choose as a family, so I think its more likely that a good match will be made. In the end, I matched with a wonderful au pair, she has been here a year and will probably be staying a second. Also, Au Pair Care is local, based in SF.. That said, I know people who have also been happy with Cultural Care au pair, so its just a personal choice. good luck

I have used both Au Pair Care and Cultural Care Au Pair and I found them both to be good. I think the local representative from Au Pair Care is especially good. She is a mom and seems to be very knowledgable about issues that can arise. Au Pair Care also has a nice system where you can see everyone in their database and pick those au pairs you want to interview. Cultural Care just ''matches'' you with an au pair and you can't see who else they have in their database. But I don't think you would go wrong with either of them. anonymous

AU PAIR USA is a great option for a great au pair. All of the au pairs are pre-screened and tested for English language skills; and are trained in CPR, first aid and child development. You can look them up at tracie.wold [at]

Hi, I don't have a recomendation for a good Au Pair agency but would like to advise you to stay away from a specific one. I came to the US 8 years ago as an Au Pair with Au Pair in America agency.They don't offer much support for the family and none for the Au Pairs. Several girls I've meet have had a bad experience, such as the counselor not responding, not caring etc. I personally have had to change families due to the horrible situation I've been placed in and it took months of me complaining to my counselor to say that if I want to change families they would not be able to get anyone since it is a bad ''recomendation'' for an Au Pair to want to switch. My situation was not livable, and I ended up breaking my contract again due to poor care from the agency.(realy, it took over 4 months of me crying for them to even consider a change- the family never provided mediacl insurance for me and refused to pay for my college classes which is mandatory for Au Pair visas and usualy included in the agency contract). Again this is not a recomendation, but I just felt that if you are looking for a great Au Pair, you should also look for an agency that takes good care of you and them. anon

I recently used Au Pair Care which has a local San Francisco Office. I am pleased with my au pair who arrived from Mexico in January, but I have some words of wisdom about using an au pair agency if you care to hear them. If you have specific questions, please feel free to email me. Linda

Hiring an Au Pair without an agency

July 2002

We know a girl in Germany, who would like to spend a year with us as an au pair girl. Since the girl has been a friend of ours since several years, we were wondering if we could hire her as an au pair without going through an au pair agency. They would charge us up-front more than $4000 for service we don4t really need. In particular I am interested to understand if we could sign the IAP-66 for ourselves and what guaranees the department of state requires to ensure that she is returning to Germany after her time is over. Karen

having worked for a student exchange program, I know that only programs designated by the State Dept. can sign an IAP-66 form for the J-1 visa. Your au pair may be able to get an F-1 (student) visa from a school, if you are willing to let her take classes here (which I think the au pairs who participate in au pair exchange programs have to do); you could talk to a junior college to see if that's a possibility. The other idea is to approach one of the smaller au pair exchange programs to see if they will give you a discount on their fees. I doubt that the big programs such as EF Au Pair will be flexible on this, so that's why I say try the smaller ones. (They may tell you that they have to interview and ''screen'' her anyway, in order to fulfill the visa requirement for the program that they are responsible for her. But you can argue that they don't have to find a placement for her, which I personally know constitutes much of the cost.) There are some advantages to using the program - they offer insurance, for example.

A freind of mine, for years while his boys were young, would have his European friends send their daughters or daughter's friends to be the au pair... The girls/women would enter on a tourist visa for 6 months and then, towards the end of the period, would request an extension for another 6 months. They had to show some proof of financial stability and while my freind couldn't ''pay'' them as tourists, he is allowed to host them. Small distinction, but it worked for many young women who cared for his boys. Cynthia

Finding an Au Pair


I am originally from Austria and am currently looking for an Austrian au-pair to come here for a year to help me with my little son. Does anybody know about organizations who facilitate the whole visa issue for au-pair but also organizations who have guide lines for the hiring of au-pairs, i.e. compensation, free time etc. I would very much appreciate any advice. Susi

I have had several wonderful Austrian au pairs through an agency called, Au Pair Programme USA. Their website is My sister-in-law has also used them with great success. Laurel

Although I have never had an au pair, I did work with youth exchange programs for 10 years, so I rubbed elbows with organizations that had au pair programs (Au Pair Care, EF, AISE). My suggestion would be to go with a U.S. Information Agency (USIA) designated program. These programs screen the au pair for you, provide a J-1 visa, and are required to follow the USIA rules governing them. These programs provide training in child care as well as CPR, provide health insurance, coordinate the travel arrangements, and so on. The USIA also has guidelines which protect the au pair from abuses, such as being put into a situation where they are taking care of too many children, working too many hours, or being provided with a closet for a bedroom. And if it does not work out (and sometimes they don't: bad match, the au pair gets homesick, etc.), the program will work with you to get a new au pair. I'm sure that you can get a listing on programs from the USIA in Washington DC., but you could probably also take a look at Parent's Press--lots of them advertise in there. Call around and see which one seems to be the most responsive.

Another suggestion: one of the things that make these programs work is how much local support there is in the event that there are snags. If you have a local rep who is a flake or who won't be there to answer questions, you may get left in the lurch. A good rep is really the key, as he or she will help match an au pair to your family to help best meet your needs and be there should you need support. I do know of people who have had successful experiences using au pairs without going through a USIA-designated program, but I don't think I would do it. Sarah

Au Pair vs. Nanny

Au Pair or Daycare for an Infant?

May 2014

Hi there: I'm a single mom working full time and getting zero dollars from my x partner until we go through the legal system. Oh happy joy joy! I've had an almost impossible time finding care for my gorgeous little 4 month old and am thinking of going the Au Pair route and having someone live in my home helping me while I'm at work. Makes me want to quit my job and open a daycare... seriously! There is one vacancy in a reputable daycare in the area starting in June but I'd like to know if anyone has any useful opinions on daycare vs. Au Pair as a new mom, I have zero experience with either. Of course I understand some of the pro's and cons; exposure to virus' and socializing my son at a daycare, but any helpful insight from someone who has used both, would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much for your kind responses. Cheers! Baby Needs Care

You should research the regulations for au pairs first. They are not supposed to be working full-time, and what you need is full-time childcare. Au Pairs are more like visiting foreign students who are helping around the house for a specified number of hours in exchange for room and board. These are often college-age kids who want to travel and experience life in the US and you should not expect they have any experience or competance in childcare. The people I know who have au pairs have them for kids in school, not babies. At a daycare on the other hand, you are getting a caretaker who is experienced, who is doing this for a living, who has taken classes in child development and safety, who has been inspected and licensed by the state. You could also consider a nanny share for a year or two - it can be more affordable than a daycare.

As a single mom myself, I found it very stressful to get my baby ready, do the dropoff, get to work on time and then make it back in time to pick up before day care closed. I would have loved to have an au pair or nanny and avoid all that if I could have afforded it. If you don't mind having someone live with you, an au pair might be a good option. You can still send your child to day care when they're a little older and get the benefits of socializing with other kids. I say make it easier on yourself if you can afford it! anon

I would highly, highly recommend an aupair or nanny over daycare. I work outside the home & have three kids we have always had a nanny. It is so nice to have someone come into your home, they can help with the house work, meals & shopping, the kids are not rushed around, they can sleep in late when then need to and nap in their own beds, play with their own toys. They can spend lots of time outside with a nanny and take classes for interaction. Honestly the socialization doesn't come until they are 3 and will be ready to start preschool. You could do a share at your house if you are really concerned about it. You will *love* coming straight home from a hard day at work to a happy kid & a clean house - this will allow you to focus on spending time with your child. Nanny love!

We similarly had a really tough time finding care for our son when he was 4 months old and I was going back to work. The system is set up in a way that there are simply not enough spots in daycare for the number of infants that need it. I suggest taking the middle road between daycare and an au pair with a nanny share! You'll end up saving money (we pay ours $11 an hour for shared hours vs. $15 for non-shared hours). Plus your baby will benefit from socializing with another child. Yes, they will pass colds back and forth, but not as much as in a daycare facility. Just be sure to find a family you trust since potentially half the time your child will be at their house, and of course a nurturing nanny. There are a ton of nanny share postings right here on BPN. Katelyn

Hi, I would love to chat with you about some of the pro's/con's to both as there are many. First, au pairs are a wonderful solution. When you invite them into your home you are allowed to schedule them to work for up to 45 hours a week at a much more affordable rate than a nanny, since you are providing room and board. The au pair can take your baby around town to local parks, library story times, to meet you for a lunch break on occasion, run errands, playdates, and overall stimulate your child in very different ways than a day care. And as an added bonus you'll get some help around the house, which I don't think anyone has ever complained about.

With that being said, all you can do is hope the whoever comes to your home is the perfect fit (as is all you can do whether it's a nanny, au pair, or day care teacher). Fortunately, there are MANY screening tools in place to ensure you get the right fit.

I have been a full-time nanny for years (live-in and live-out), I am a graduate student in Child Development, I have worked in a preschool, and I am also a contracted worker for a local au pair agency. Best wishes Lindsey

What is stopping you from opening up a daycare? You did mention it, and a friend of mine did this so that she could stay at home with her two children. She did have a nice backyard, but I know that people do this even without backyards. She cooked for the kids, took the on little outings, let them play outside, gave them their naps, and collected the checks. She was very good with children and quite loving. All of the children loved her.

Another friend of mine did this and hated it. She went back to work after a year. Whatever you choose to do, I wish you well. Congrats on your baby

As a Nanny myself I have worked in a few ''NICE'' Daycares and independently. Even though there are good daycares out there, the babies do not get the proper care that they need. I recommend getting a nanny as Au Pairs are over price and its mostly just a title . There are many out there that you can find through agencies or places like or..BPN. Maybe a live-in would be better suited for you. Please, just make sure you do a good back ground check as many people i have worked for never seem to do (maybe I look trustworthy), but I am always surprised by the lack of. Also make sure that they are a citizen and get copies of there not take their word for it....Good Luck Nan

Wow - I feel for you. Our son is 6 months old.

We interviewed daycares. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Not at that age... and my husband felt the cost of an au pair (nanny) was too costly vs. group care.

Anyway - I prevailed and we couldn't be HAPPIER! Our Nanny is a dream. She does not live with us, she arrives at 7 AM and stays until one of us gets home. We pay $18/hr and she does way more than just 'babysit'. She cleans, organizes, does the laundry (folds and puts it away) does pretty much anything I ask of her AND takes exceptional care of our son. She has been my lifesaver.

We (my husband is now a convert) are THRILLED with our choice to bring our Nanny into our family. I am so glad we didn't go the daycare route. Our Nanny will be taking our son to the park for socialization. Right now though, our feeling is he needs consistency and security more than socializing with 'strangers'. Happy with our Nanny Choice

Congratulations to your new baby! While I know this is an exciting time in your life, it is also a very exhausting phase. In order to find out if a daycare program works better for your family than a live-in au pair, I'd like to shed some light on the differences between these two options. As a Local Childcare Consultant in the East Bay I am familiar with the overwhelming decisions family have to make when it comes to childcare. Here are my thoughts for you:

(1)Au Pairs are an affordable childcare option regardless how many children you have. In your case you would want to check how much a daycare facility charges you per month. The costs for an au pair agency would weigh in with an average of $360 per week (per family, not per child)

(2)While your daycare hours or time with a nanny varies, an au pair provides up to 45 hours of care per week. It is a great and convenient option for working parents, especially if you are a single mom.

(3)Usually daycare facilities don't have flexible hours. An au pair enables you to create your own childcare schedule week-by-week.

(4)You cannot beat the low care-giver-to-child ratio you get if you have an au pair take care of your baby. Since your baby is only 4 months old right now, it would be very reassuring for you to know that it would get undivided attention all day.

(5)An au pair assists you with household duties and lends an extra helping hand with kids' laundry, meals and room pick-up.

(6)While it is very convenient to a have a live-in caregiver, you need to be able to provide a separate bedroom for an au pair. So if your house doesn't provide the extra room to host a young adult, you might have to choose a nanny who comes into your home during the day or your baby would have to be placed in daycare.

(7)Many au pair host families enjoy the opportunity for cultural exchange. They are getting exposed to a new culture, language and way of life. What a great benefit to have your baby listen to and learn a new language at such a young age!

(8)Depending on the au pair agency a host families chooses, au pair candidates are qualified in CPR/AED and First Aid. You will have the peace of mind knowing that your childcare provider is Red Cross certified in adult and pediatric CPR.

I hope this information is helpful for you when it comes to finding the right childcare option for your little family.


Here are some thoughts from an 8-times host parent. We are with since Jan 2006.

An aupair is definitely more cost effective with a work schedule around 40 hours than a quality (!!!) day care. Besides the pure cost, we love the intangibles that do not come with daycare: cleaning up your child's toys/room, doing the child's laundry and feeding. Plus no struggle to find a babysitter for a night out. In case we run out of time, our aupairs also complete small errands for us (i.e. pick up from the cleaners, small grocery shopping). We expect a lot from our aupairs but they can also expect a lot from us. We allow them to have our car on the weekend without any limitations (of course we coordinate and talk before), we give them free movie tickets, or a gift card or a pedi go the extra mile. Just to be clear: there are very specific rules issued by the US government for both host parents and the aupair: Aupairs are not maids, cooks, gardeners, or cleaning ladies.

We love to cook together with our aupairs and have family dinners with her/him almost every night. Yes - there are male aupairs - we are getting our first male aupair this summer but we have boys 8 and 10.

Another thing I liked with having an aupair was that our kids could and can enjoy all these activities a daycare or school does not offer: swim class, music class, soccer, karate etc.

How does your child socialize if it is only with an auapir? Our aupairs had plenty of play dates - either on playgrounds or with other aupairs who had children the same age. We had playdates in our house over numerous years - always the same kids but different aupairs.

Eventually we did a mix of daycare and aupairs (2-3 days/week in daycare).

the challenge for a daycare-only option would have been for us: - be on time for pickup - which we never can do as we have crazy work schedules, travel out of town and commutes - being organized in the morning and getting everybody ready including lunch for the kiddos (love the helping hand) - what when your child is sick and cannot go to daycare? Can you then stay home?

Hello everyone who posted a response.

Thank you so very much for taking the time and making the effort to respond to my post. I really appreciate the insight.

I posted an add on and I was overwhelmed with responses. I also took the little guy in for a couple of days into daycare and I was grossly underwhelmed and heartbroken when I saw him at the end of the day sitting in a little chair by himself not being held or interacted with. Truly heartbroken.

I ended up looking into the Nanny share option and the pro's are outstanding plus with the share it turns out only a few hundred a month more for the personal care than daycare.

So again, really lovely of you all to write responses. They really were very helpful.

Have a lovely day. Baby Needs Care

Nanny or Au Pair for 1-y-o twins?

April 2010

Hello Fellow BPNers, I have a two-part question abt our nanny situation. We have a very loving nanny who is not literate and does not have strong English skills. Our boys love her, as she does them. We had hired her when we saw how good she was with her previous family. The agreement was that she would help us with housework and care for the twin babies while I worked from home. Our babies are nearing a year now and I feel the lack of having literate help. The babies love to look at pictures in books, etc. but she can't read to them and does little other than sit with them, take them for walks, shake rattles at them, etc. The other thing is she is somewhat resistant to house-work. She comes in at 7 each morning and naps for a couple of hours every day with the children (which, is fine, she needs to rest too), but when I tell her about laundry that needs to be done, or folding, she gets upset and sulks. We pay her 17 an hr but as I am home, I help out a LOT with the kids, changing diapers, feeding them, etc.

1) Are we expecting too much from her? Is that fact that she's helping with some vacuuming, house-work more than what other nannies do? She tells me often about how all the previous familes used to pay her more and had a housekeeper to do chores.

2) We can't get a more-eudcated nanny who will charge more. As it is, what we're paying her now is bordering on being unafforadable. Should we consider an au-pair? What experiences have other parents had with au-pairs? I am concerned that a young person will not be able to handle 10-month old active twins. Any other suggestions? Thank you! FrazzledMomofTwins

Hello, As I read through your situation, I felt that your expectations are not at all high. I am a nanny myself looking for a job. In my recent searches, I saw that the usual rate is around $14/hour. Moreover, given that your nanny is illiterate, that you help her a lot, and that she resents doing some house choirs, I felt that you are being rather generous.

I agree with you that some younger nannies might not always be unconditionally loving to the children, but there are surely plenty who can be as caring as any experienced nanny. On the other hand, younger, well educated, and energetic ladies are generally able to engage your children much better. Especially, given the age of your kids, very different activities like talking and reading to them, letting them draw, playing with and experiencing different objects, and teaching them words are very important for their development at this stage. I would highly recommend finding someone literate because as the kids grow, you will see that your kids would benefit from it increasingly more.

Wishing best of luck, Nadya

This could have been me a few years ago with my son. Our doctor recommended that his speech delays (he actually did not have a speech delay when tested) were related to not being read to during the day. Of course we freaked out and put him in a home day care where he immediately began to talk a lot. Connection? I don't know. We get so many scary news as parents it's hard to sort through everything.

One thing I do know is that you don't have to settle for childcare because of price. Great childcare comes in all price ranges. Quote your price up front and start interviewing if you want to find someone and keep your mind open to all types of childcare--family day care, coop, nanny share, etc. been there.

Hi! I'm a local representative with AuPairCare, a sponsoring agency designated by the US Dept. of State to place foreign au pairs with American families. Assuming your nanny works 40 hours per week, an au pair would cost about 1/2 what you're paying the nanny. Plus, the au pair can work 45 hrs. a week, the hours can be flexible, they're all high school graduates (so they are more than just literate) and au pairs don't take a 2 hr. nap on the job! I have worked with hundreds of au pairs and host families over the years. You may worry about your kids missing their beloved nanny, but from my experience, kids usually have no trouble getting used to a new caregiver who is loving and fun. The au pairs are young (18 - 26)so they've got plenty of energy for keeping up with two toddlers. Many of our au pairs care for multiples.

Au pairs are expected to do any household chores related to the children in the family. They can't do general housework like a house-cleaner would, but let's face it - most of the mess in the household is related to the children. She can do the children's laundry, but not the parents'. If an au pair is lax about this, usually a call from me will take care of that problem.

Keep in mind that an au pair has to have a private bedroom and you must provide her with meals. Both parents also must be US citizens or permanent legal residents. If you meet these criteria and would like to discuss the AuPairCare program further, please contact me. Julia

As a working mother of 3 kids, I've had nannies and au pairs for 6 years. I have a couple of thoughts for you:

1) your children have changing needs as they grow. As you said, your nanny is loving and sweet with the twins which was perfect for their first year. Now, they need more interaction and stimulation. It is perfectly appropriate to now look for someone who meets your current needs.

2) Housework. It is my experience that you either get someone who is amazing with your kids OR is good at housework. Most nannies will do basic stuff: vacuuming, dishes, laundry... pretty willingly, but the heavy cleaning is usually not the first priority. I break out the 2 functions, reducing the hours of the nanny a bit to cover the cost of a heavy clean 1 or 2x per month.

3) pay: $17 for twins and light housekeeping is about right in this economy especially.

4) au pairs: we LOVE having au pairs. they have enormous amounts of energy to play, be silly, teach, read, sing, go to the park, etc. you get to set the 45 hours they work each week. they are also young women here to explore the US so you need to be sensitive to that. there are hidden costs in au pairs: cell phone, car, classes, extra babysitter for vacations, food, wear and tear on your house. sometimes, it's like having a younger sibling live in your house with the drama, but can be kind of fun (my current au pair and I read all the twilight books together...) au pairs do NOT clean. i would suggest au pair in america if you are interested in au pairs. my experience is they are a bit more expensive, but have the best screening and support processes. best of luck finding the best solution for your family. aimee

These are tough times. Sounds like your nanny hasn't adjusted to the new economics.

Look at Banana's. There was a stack of caregivers 100 high when I was there in late Fall. We found one who cares for our 1 daughter and also does the laundry, takes out the trash, cooks 2 x per week, plus a few other tasks. We put it all in the contract and we explained our needs up front in the interview. Only one baby, but we pay less than you. ($13+ w/taxes and it's $12 take home for her)

When we were looking, we found that the nannies who had the parent's recommendation in BPN newsletter wanted more money and were willing to do less. Banana's was a better route for us. We wanted someone who would be happy doing what we wanted. happy with the extra extra help

Dear Frazzled Mom, It sounds like your needs are changing (children are becoming literate), and you shouldn't feel bad about making appropriate professional adjustments (like switching to an au pair, or hiring a more literate nanny). Some words on the transition: I was an au pair for over a year, and although they ended up being parents/mentors to me by the end, I had difficulty entering a household that had had a NANNY for 8-9 years previously. My family expected more from me than I had anticipated, and I had to come to my employer with the initial application to look over my listed duties and clarify what it was, exactly, they needed me for. Light housework? Fine. Picking up after the boys, practicing their English? Okay. Hanging all the laundry and doing dishes every night, staying in 3 nights a week? Um... wtf? We had to be extremely clear from the very beginning, on what her needs were (help with the boys, not the house) and what mine were (time to see the city, advance notice on babysitting nights, etc), so no one felt like sulking. I would encourage you to look into an au pair, as it can be a very rewarding experience for all parties involved. Lauren

Wow - $17 an hour and you are home to help out and she gets a nap! That's wild - I have 4.5 year old twins and I pay $17 an hour to my sitters (they are in school all day at this point) When I lived in Manhattan they were infants and I paid $15 an hour (though I was generous with rounding out numbers) For that my wonderful nanny tidied our apartment (granted it was tiny), washed all their clothes, cooked and fed for them (it was all focused on the kids) and I swear she never napped (though I often told her to rest when they were). $17 is a very good rate for twins (unless Ca is even more expensive then Manhattan); Join your local twins club (if you have not already). Mine are now too old for me to join here but these clubs are incredible resources for nanny shares, advice and rates everyone pays -- so you know if you are getting burned or not.

Do not feel guilty about looking for another nanny - ultimately you must do what is best for you and your family and a nanny should be a wonderful and stress reducing help for your family. I know this is not very eastbay-ish -- but she is an employee and if you are not comfortable with her then find someone else. And since you said she was great with infants you can easily recommend her for something similar...

Good Luck and do what is best for you and your family.... Good Luck

1. $17/hour is low, but ok for twins, not for housework too, except for picking up after kids, doing their dishes from meals, quick kitchen sweep. Good for you for letting her nap, she needs it!

2. Adult schools offer excellent ESL programs. Not sure about literacy programs, definitely libraries will have that sort of program. Please support your nanny by looking into these sorts of programs for her and nudge her to get enrolled in one. Reading to your children is important and would be the perfect way for your nanny to practice reading.

3. I think the au pair programs take advantage of young women to work for sub par wages. But, hey, if everyone is agreeing to the deal then everyone is consenting to the exploitation. former nanny (live-in and hourly live-out)

I can't believe how brazen this nanny is in the way she is taking advantage of you. I am shocked that an illiterate worker has the nerve to charge $17/hour in today's economy. I feel bad for you but I also feel you are being ROYALLY used by this woman. Have you considered a nanny share? Mom of a tot

IMHO, $17/hr. is a very fair amount, and you are absolutely not expecting too much. Since the fact that she naps while you pay her doesn't bother you, you seem to be a kind hearted, understanding person. Is she actually illiterate, or just literate in her own native language? I would agree that as the children get older, literacy becomes important, even if only for thr ability to read instructions on prescription meds, etc., never mind fostering a love of reading.

I would say that if she can get a job that pays better for less work, she should take it. I would. However, in my experience you can find literate (and loving) care for your kids at the same rate. I paid a nanny considerably less (I'm almost embarrassed) to do similar work, including light housework. True, she did not have to care for twins. She was able to bring her older child to my house after he finished school, so she got something ou of the deal. SHe is fabulous, and looking for a new family to work for, I believe. SHe doesn'tspeak English well, but is an avid reader in SPanish, has lots of common sense, loves my kids, thinks of fun little art projects to do with them, etc. You didn't mention your geographic location, but if you live around San Leandro, I'd be happy to refer her.

While I understand, and share, the desire to pay as much as you can for someone to care for your children (a very important and demaning job) the reality of life is that different families have different budgets. Some attorneys make big $$$ for corporate clients, and some make pennies working passionately for non-profits. The fact that some nannies make more and some less is a reflectiopn of that, and of varying levels of skill and qualification, for example: literacy, a driver's licence, CPR, higher education, etc.

Good luck! Michele

Hi twin mom! As a nanny to twins and a mother to three I was really surprised to read your posting! Wow, what a great easy job your nanny has! I have been a nanny for five years, the past year I have been a nanny part time for two sets of twins. I earn $16/hour and I would consider myself a well read well spoken woman. I also do household chores while the twins are napping such as, vacuuming, dishes/kitchen, laundry, or whatever else needs to do done! Since one of my twins family is losing me due to them no longer needing help, please feel free to call me!! You really need a competent nanny who can help your twins thrive with books, art projects, outings, play dates, and more. Do no put it off. This woman I'm sure was great for the first year of infancy but the twins are going to need much more stimulation now. You and they deserve it! Alicia

I have had a local nanny and three au pairs. My nanny was paid much less than yours, and she also felt strongly that her profession was childcare. She would pick up toys and clean the kitchen after their meals, but would not do more unless it was a separate agreement for more money. The BPN nanny survey is helpful on the ''package'' that most local nannies negotiate for. My first and third au pairs were great, well able to take care of my two kids. The middle one wasn't a great fit, but the agency helped me make the change, which is something you don't get on your own. I started working for the agency, so I am speaking now from my professional experience. Many twin families get au pairs precisely because they have the energy to take care of twins, and are far less expensive than the locals. I have seen in my own house and in the nearly one hundred au pairs I have managed that these young people are quite different than your local Berkeley 20 year-old. I have found the great majority to be responsible, hard working, and honestly fond of children. IMO you should make a change, because it sounds like your original agreement is not being adhered to, and you feel like your children would profit from more active, engaging care. Check the Better Business Bureau ratings if you do decide to go with an au pair. Not all are highly rated. Kim

Can't afford our nanny - au pair?

Jan 2005

Hello Fellow-Parents:

We\xc2\x92re expecting our grand finale \xc2\x96 a baby girl in late April. We\xc2\x92ll have our two boys and our little princess \xc2\x96 all under the age of three. With that said, we cannot continue to employ our incredible day-nanny. She has been with us for around 2 years and believe me, the thought of not having her makes my stomach knot up. However, in order to have some help around the house and eventually return to work (on a flexible work arrangement); we must look into \xc2\x93other\xc2\x94 childcare options.

We have space to provide a person with her own living space (bedroom, full restroom), small sink, refrigerator and microwave in her own bar area, and offer her 40-45 hours of week in exchange for room, board and salary.

I wanted to reach out to all of you first to see what thoughts you may have for us? Any advice, recommendations and/or referrals will be greatly appreciated. It\xc2\x92s daunting for me to think of not having our day-nanny with us, having a new childcare provider, and inviting a stranger in our home but my options are limited.

We've been told to look into the Au Pair USA or the Au Pair of America Programs.

Do you have some advice for me?

Warmly, Nervous Mom in Lafayette

We had a horrible experience trying to get an au pair. We wanted a Spanish-speaking au pair, and went through Cultural Care.

The candidates they had available had very little experience with children for the most part, and mostly come from very upper-class families. We did find one that we liked and invited her to come live with us. She was extremely depressed for the 2 weeks she was here, and wanted to go home immediately (it was Winter and she was from the tropics!). Then after looking through many, many applications, we found 3 different candidates that we liked, but each of them in turn was denied a visa- they were all from Peru. Apparently the US Embassy in Peru does not let out working-class to middle-class, educated young ladies with experience in childcare come to the US. The poor ladies we selected told us they had each been asked to spend considerable amounts of money to the agency in Peru, and for appointments at the US embassy, only to be rejected (in two cases they even paid for a second appointment, only to be rejected twice). There is no refund for the candidates the US embassy rejects.

Finally, they sent us a Czech au pair who was already ''in country''. Well, she was a player who had been rejected by her initial family, she was very demanding (wanted her room redecorated, wanted full use of my cell phone immediately, etc) and we did not feel we could trust our children with her, so we asked that they relocate her or send her home after 1 week. We were fortunate to have our substantial deposit (more the $5K) returned, but woe be it to you if for some reason your au pair disappears after 5 or 6 months of a 12 month program, you will not be entitled to a replacement or a refund.

We gave up looking at application after application of inexperienced, bourgeouis, often untruthful (look carefully at applications and call references, you will be surprised at how many of the references, supposedly checked in the home country are flat-out false) young women whose main objective in coming to the US is to go to the clubs on the weekends (this was on the tip of the tongue of the Czech au pair nearly at all times).

We wanted a young woman from a modest background (who would appreciate the opportunity of coming to the US, and have had experience actually holding a job), with at least 500 hours of documented child care experience. This did not seem like too much to ask for, but in fact, only a very few of their candidates fit this profile.

If you don't live in walking distance of BART or don't wish to give the au pair a car, the au pair will not last long, either (this is what the Czech au pair told us).

Basically, we found that the supply of good au pairs seems to be very low, and the agencies (at least Cultural Care) misrepresent (1) how well the candidates are screened, (2) how many of their candidates actually have experience. They also tell the au pairs that the main objective of the year in the US is for them to study English and other classes and to travel, while at the same time telling families that the main objective of the au pair program is childcare.

I think the au pair concept may work for families with school- aged children, but we have much more peace of mind with an experienced nanny taking care of small children. We might actually try again later on when our kids are older, but with a different agency. I really believe in the au pair concept, but I don't think many of the candidates are equipped to care for babies or toddlers. You want an experienced caregiver for children under 5. I hate to bring it up, but remember that British au pair who shook the baby to death in Boston (OK, they didn't convict her, but let's face it, an experienced caregiver would be much less likely to shake a crying baby).

A live-in nanny might be an option for you, but if I were you, I WOULD KEEP THE NANNY YOU DESCRIBE AS ''INCREDIBLE''!!! They are hard to find. Also, with a new baby and two other children under 3, you will probably need to take more time off from work than you were planning (just a friendly suggestion). Good luck!!

Mom who has been there too

We have twin boys who just turned one, and have an au pair through Au Pair in America. We also have twin neices, and my brother-in-law's family used Au Pair in America for 5 years. The limitations of having an au pair is that they can only stay with the family for 2 years (a change from the previous one year limit), but the advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages. Our au pair is fabulous, is completely a part of our family, and because she lives with us, knows the children's rhythms in a way that a day nanny usually can't. Also, because she lives here and is always eager to earn more money, we can pay her for extra hours beyond the 45 she's supposed to work so, for example, on Monday nights we pay her to stay home while the children sleep and my husband and I can have a dinner date :). The other great thing is that the hours are flexible so that we can shift hours from her regular schedule to another day if for some reason I have the boys out with me alone for part of a day. There are some hidden costs you should consider, however...For example, we provide our au pair with a car and pay her car insurance so that she has more independence, we pay for her meals when she is out with us even when she's not working, we take her with us on family vacations and pay for her expenses, etc. Also, in the beginning, it's a bit of work to help them get their US driver's license, social security card, and bank account set up. If you do decide to go with having an au pair, it's also important to make house rules and expectations very clear. I'd be happy to talk with you if you choose this route and would like more info. Good luck with your decision! alesia

Considering an au pair for next baby

Nov 2004

We are considering the au pair program for our next baby, so if you have feedback/recommendations with any of the programs, or what it is like having a ''live in'' (we had a nanny for our first child), it would be appreciated! michael

We opted for an au pair and have had a mixed experience. After three months we decided that it wasn't working out with our original au pair and now we are waiting for our second to arrive.

The hardest thing about the au pair system in my opinion is that you don't get to meet the person before they come. Also we have found that there is a bit of white lying that happens -- and that the applications you receive should be followed up with a detailed interview with the person (at least two times) and checking their references. Our au pair over represented her skills (she said she could cook and she didn't even know how to reheat something) and I don't think the agencies do a thorough job in checking on all the nuiances of their application.

In short (although I could go at length on this) my advice to you would be:

1) Be really clear what your priorities are (eg. ability to speak English, childcare expereince, personality) when you look through applications.

2) pick somebody who has had the exact experience you need in childcare (for example if they have mostly watched five year olds they might not be so good with a baby). And verify this reference.

3) be really clear how much you want this person involved in your household. Many au pairs come here to ''party'' and you are just a vehicle for them. If you don't want a person to be eating dinner with you, etc. then this is the person for you. If you want somebody to be part of your family then be clear about this from the start.

4) Imagine the worst case scenario and write rules from the beginning to avoid them. Better to say ''no boyfriends spend the

Au Pair instead of live-in nanny

February 2003

Re: Live-in Nanny Rates

If you are looking for a live-in situation, by far the most affordable is to get an au pair--approx $250 a week for 45 hours worth of childcare and household help. The au pair program is a US Government regulated program that needs to be done through an agency. Two that operate locally are Culture Care Au Pair (formerly EF Au Pair) and Interexchange. Work conditions and pay are all clearly defined--no more than 45 hours a week, no more than 10 hours a day, at least 1 1/2 days off on the weekend and one full weekend a month, two weeks paid vacation and major holidays off. Beyond this, their schedule can be very flexible and change from week to week. The au pair actually only gets about $140 a week, the rest of the money goes to the agency and covers things like Visas, au pair training, au pair airfare, and once a month au pair meetings with the local area coordinator. Also averaged into the cost is the up to $500 the host family is responsible for paying for the au pair's enrollment in university level course work (all au pairs are required to take 6 units during their year in the US). The au pairs fill out an extensive application (about 16 pages) and include references. They tend to be young (early 20s), but all have experience with children (and list the ages of children and number of hours of experience on their applications). You can review all of their materials as well as speak to them on the phone before deciding if it is a good match for you. You unfortunately cannot meet them in person--except in the rare instance that you request an au pair who is ''in transition'' (ie. already in the US and placed with a family that is not working out for some reason) and happens to be local. If your au pair does not seem to be working out, you talk to the local au pair coordinator who tries to mediate--if after 2 weeks, it is not resolved, you can terminate their employment. It is also worth noting that au pairs can only stay with a family for 12 months. Their Visa does not permit a longer stay and cannot be renewed (though some find other ways to get new visas and stay in the country, as a student for example). anon

I think the rate depends in part on how many kids you have and how many hours you need. I believe that many live-ins get weekly, rather than hourly rates. Also, other things can affect the salary, such as whether you provide a car, phone, health insurance, etc. Depending on how many hours you need, you may want to look into getting an au pair. They are generally cheaper, but are limited in the number of hours per week they are permitted to work. Also, they only stay for one year. If you email me, I'll be happy to share my personal experience with having a live-in (which has been a fabulous experience for us). Stephanie

Au Pair Problems & Issues

New au pair not connecting with kids

April 2008

We just embarked on our first experience with an au pair through Au Pair Care. She has been here for five days and I just don't feel the ''click'' yet. Her first day was awful. She didn't even look at my children. I spoke with our regional coordinator and told her I wanted our au pair to leave. The regional director spoke with our au pair and basically told her to ''get with the program'' otherwise, we won't want her to continue with us. She really has been trying since then, but it seems like it is SO MUCH effort for her to be with my children and that it isn't genuine. She doesn't seem to have an innate maternal side to her and I have three little little kids (3 yrs, 22, months, 5 months) and I feel like I need someone who will love my kids as if they were her own. Our nanny of three years is moving back to Poland this June and we LOVE her and are devastated that she is leaving. When we hired her, we loved her immediately. She is SO wonderful with my kids. And it was an instant connection with my kids. So... for those of you who have had experience with au pairs, here are a few questions:Can an au pair be amazing? How much time does it take for them to show their true self? IF she doesn't seem maternal and it seems like a lot of effort for her to be with my kids (I really give her credit for trying), do I just wait and see what happens? When and how do I know if this au pair match is going to work out? Any advice is appreciated!! Stephanie

Hi, we've had three au pairs. Two have been fantastic. and one was horrible (similar to what you describe). The bad one was bad from the moment we picked her up from the airport. Negative, not engaged, not interested in the children. It never changed. We went thru 6 weeks of hell, only to finally get rid of her. It was the best decision we ever made. Because I had had a good au pair before, I knew this was not normally. I say get rid of her asap and work on getting a new one.

The thing is, there IS a normal adjustment period with an au pair. But with a good au pair, she will be engaged and at least ''trying'' from the get go. It is worth it to spend as much time with her and the children together as you can the first week. It might take the children awhile to get used to her, but if she has a natural way with children, you will know it from the beginning. We finally fired our bad au pair and got a new one. We were much more careful about making sure that the new au pair was mature and had child care experience. Also we chose someone who had lived away from home before so the adjustment was easier. Also, make sure you are really clear while interviewing a new au pair that the job is really HARD. Don't sugarcoat anything. Tell them it will be 9 hour days with your kids and that the house will be a mess and you will want help tidying, etc and make sure they are OK with that. Exaggerate how hard it is to be a nanny so that they are prepared when they come. Now we have our third and totally amazing au pair. don't waste another second on the bad egg. anon

I'm sorry you are having so much trouble with your new au pair. We have had two au pairs and I have found that they immediately clicked with my children and sometimes it took a little longer for them to click with me. So, I would keep on this and see if you can work this out but if she isn't good with the kids, you should insist on having her placed elsewhere (they can do that) and find someone new. There are really great au pairs out there and if yours doesn't turn out to be one of them, don't despair. host mom

An au pair can be amazing. But it sounds like yours is not. I would stop now and insist she be replaced (if that's possible). And if she can't, then find someone else anyway. You don't want someone caring for your kids and living in your home without a good feeling. Really, you don't. The kids will totally pick up on it. been there but with a nanny

I'm an au pair and I have to tell sometimes it's difficult for us to be natural at the beginning. We are afraid the children won't like us, the family won't treat us well, we won't make friends, etc. It's also a great pressure to us, really. My family is wonderful and my twin boys are adorable but it was hard at the beginning! They were 2 1/2 years and when I was left alone with them they cried the whole day, really (for a whole week). But my host parents did not give up on me and now we are a great team!

It's just a matter of understading we all (family and au pair) need a time to adjust. Even when I wanted to kiss and hug and play with my boys they'd ignore me and it really hurt us, to be sincere, because we feel we are doing our best but that's not enough. Please wait more time and if she truly likes children she'll, in time, show herself a wonderful nanny.

Now I'm leaving my family and they're already crying because we are wonderful together. I'll miss and I'll alwyas love them.

Hurt 'cause I'm leaving au pair hucastil

I have had an au pair since October of last year. Although there have been some challenges, her caring, warmth and effort to bond with my son were evident from the very first day. She has grown to be a loved, trusted member of our family, and I am thankful every day for her help. I would trust your instincts and demand that the agency give you a new au pair. The fees you pay them are very high, and that's what you're paying for. Many times the relationship doesn't work out - our au pair has had five of her friends change families or decide to go home, and knows of several other families that demanded to switch. Don't wait until it gets even harder on everyone - you'll be much happier with someone who is a fit with your family and there are so many wonderful au pairs out there. Blessed to have a great au pair.

After being a nanny for many years, I will admit there isn't always an instant connection and I'm vaguely uncomfortable with new children (and I've worked for many families). Basically, the rapport and love just take some time to develop.

That said, I always take good *care* of them from the first moment. If the au pair could barely look at your kids? No, I don't think so. Your kids are young enough that they need to be held and loved, quite a lot - and to be emotionally neglected is quite dangerous from a very young age in terms of how your children turn out; there are studies on this. The worst sociopaths were not held as infants. Is your 5 month old going to be loved and held when you're not looking, 1 week, 1 month from now?

I can understand if it takes time to develop closeness, but is this girl even into it? Some au pairs only do it as a free pass to see another country. I could never be comfortable with this situation - I would always worry my children were neglected. These are your precious babies; there is no room to say ''well, it doesn't feel right but maybe I *should*''. NO. You are their mother and who is going to protect and provide for them if not you? Trust your gut - get rid of her as soon as possible.

2 yo not bonding with au pair

Sept 2004

We switched from a home based day care to live in child care about 6 weeks ago. We are expecting another baby and wanted both the children to be cared at home. However, our 2 yo doesn't seem to be bonding with our au pair. She rejects her when she sees her and wants either me or my husband. We have given her the time it has taken to adjust -- but we are over six weeks into this and she is still screaming for me or my husband.

We thought somebody living with us would make it easier, but for some reason this has been harder. Our daughter is usually very easy going and happy, and usually bonds with care providers very easily (this is her third transition since starting care at 8 months.) What I'm not sure of is if my daughter simply doesn't like this woman or if the fact that there is a new baby coming in the next week or two is making her feel more in need or me and my husband -- which I understand to be a common and normal reaction. It is really taking its toll on my daughter, my husband, me and the au pair.

From what I can tell the au pair does engage with her and play with her, but she is clearly inexperienced at taking care of children. There have been a few times I have walked in unexpectedly, and she was sitting away from our daughter kind of staring off into space. When we all go out together and she often sits to the side and doesn't interact with us. It is frustrating since she knows we are having problems bonding. I've asked her to be more interactive and told her I thought that would help, but I don't know if she gets it or will ever get it.

Any advice?
at my wits end

After six weeks, it sounds like you should get a new childcare provider. The au pair sounds like she is not that good with children... and it is likely she will not be good with your newborn either.

There are so many wonderful caregivers in the Bay Area. Look in the Childcare digest and I'm sure you will find an absolutely ideal person. It is so important to have a caregiver you trust absolutely. If you have any problems whatsoever it's best to move on. Your au pair can't be too happy with the situation either.

Regardless of the cost, or if you have a contract, I'd break it and find someone else. You don't want there to be even a slight problem between you and your caregiver. Especially when there are so many wonderful people out there. Sometimes it's hard to fire someone (I've been there), but you will feel so much better afterwards, and it will be better for both your children. Good luck!

Visa for Au Pair

Feb 2004

I located an au pair (canadian) on-line and she tried to enter the US and was turned back at the border. Does anyone know the least expensive way to get an official au pair visa? All the agencies cost between 5-6,000 for their services. I'm not too hopeful but thought I'd ask. thanks. anon.

We've had 4 au pairs, and only gone through an agency. This year though our au pair, from Germany, did have problems receiving her visa on a timely basis. The agency stated that they had had problems since 9/11, based on increased security and visa changes, but it all ended up okay. She got her visa 2 days before she arrived in the US. I know the agency fees seem steep; but there are payment programs and you don't have to worry about the legalities, etc. If you include the up front fee, and the stipend, you are still only paying about $250/wk for 45 hours of care. The other au pairs that we know that didn't come through an agency have come illegally (on tourist visa and never left)...and two have since been deported. Good luck. Melissa

Helping au pair find friends

Helping our Au Pair meet Friends to Explore With

Feb 2011

We have a lovely 22 yr-old Korean woman who has been living with us for 6 weeks now. She is attending ESL classes and helping us out as a part-time au pair. Many of her ESL classmates are married w/ young children or working full- time, so she is having a harder time than expected meeting people with whom to explore the Bay Area with. If there are any international students &/or au pairs who live nearby who are looking for someone to meet up with, please let me know. We live in N. Berkeley near the Rose Garden. Or if anyone knows of any social clubs for young adults that would be a safe place for her to meet new people, that would be helpful, too. Thanks!

I am the local Area Director for AuPairCare. I'm not quite clear on your situation, but if you are with an au pair agency, your coordinator should provide your au pair with a list of the other local au pairs. Au pairs are required to meet monthly for a ''cultural event'', some agencies make sure that happens and others let that slide, but it is a great way to ensure they have a supportive network of peers. If she is over on a tourist or student visa, then social connections are a little more difficult. Kim

I suggest she attend the Korean Church that meets at Willard Middle School on Sundays. Lots of UCB students go there. She may meet people she can befriend there, or they may have suggestions on how to meet people. anon

How can my au pair meet other au pairs in Berkeley?

October 1998

A friend of mine is hiring a 21-year old Au Pair from Sweden and she was wondering where she could meet other Au Pairs in Berkeley. What are the preferred cafes and playgrounds or other hangouts? I'm sure some readers have Au Pairs at home. I'd appreciate it if you ask them and e-mail me. If there are any other Swedish Au Pairs out there, maybe we can connect them. Heike

Regarding Au Pair hangouts: Lots of Au Pairs take their children to play at Codornices Park across from the Rose Garden in Berkeley. Nancy