If you are a parent of multiples, you probably have a little more difficulty in finding suitable childcare than most. And if you are a parent of triplets or more.. well, it’s even harder. I stayed home with my triplets for their first 2 years, and loved every (ok, not every) minute of it. After the kids were born, I couldn’t have imagined having the kids in daycare, and even if it was an affordable option for us (which it is not), I envisioned spending countless days in the pediatrician’s office while I missed work. A nanny would cost $15 to $20 an hour, which would also make it not worth the expense. And another prohibitive factor: my husband and I both work irregular hours/schedules that would make it hard to find a childcare provider who could accommodate us.
After two years of staying at home, our bills were piling up, and I was starting to itch to return to work. The opportunity arose, and I knew I had to find affordable childcare that would allow me to take it.
Enter: AuPairCare. Have you ever wondered exactly what an au pair is? An au pair is someone participating in a program, regulated by the department of state, by which they receive a special visa which enables them to provide childcare for a family in the United States. Au pairs are men and women (although, mostly women) between the ages of 18-26, and they actually live with the family they work for. They earn a small weekly stipend of $195 in return for up to 45 hours a week of childcare. The host family provides room and board for the au pair, and has the ability to schedule the au pairs hours to fit their schedule.
The “matching” process is different with different agencies, but I really like the way that AuPairCare does it; potential host families can view all of the au pair applications online, and choose which ones they would like to interview. All applicants are screened You can choose applicants from over 40 different countries, and interview them via telephone or skype. After several conversations, if you feel comfortable with someone, you can request a match, and essentially “hire” them. I interviewed several au pairs from Latin American countries over the phone, and while they all seemed pleasant, most of them had difficulty in understanding my questions. I hung up the phone with more questions than I began with. I was able to do a search for candidates that had experience with multiple small children- either multiples, or in a daycare setting. I also searched for candidates that were on the older side of the spectrum, as I couldn’t picture an 18 year old being able to handle 2 year old triplets. Two solid applicants came back from my search, one from Japan, and one from Thailand. Both were older, had lots of experience, and had completed college.
It is extremely difficult to interview candidates from Asia, since the time zones in that area of the world are essentially the opposite of here in America. Nevertheless, I was able to connect with the Thai applicant and was immediately comfortable speaking with her. She completely understood my interview questions and was very easy to talk to. I had a feeling from our first conversation that she would work well with our family, but I had a few concerns.
I knew there were a few aspects of the job that might deter a potential applicant (besides the fact the we have triplets, and the job is not easy!) I made clear that our au pair would not have access to our car, since we both work fulltime and only have 2 cars, we personally prefer that our au pair not drive. We also use cloth diapers, and laundering and folding them is part of our au pair’s responsibilities so we made sure that we stated that up front as well. And lastly, since our schedules are different each week, so is our au pair’s work schedule. We do not get weekends off, and therefore, she usually doesn’t either. I stressed these points during our interview to make sure that potential au pairs would be ok with them.
Another of our major concerns with having an au pair was making sure that we found one that is really interested in the program for the right reasons, and not just to party- after all, they are young people experiencing a new country, meeting new people. While we want our au pair to enjoy her time in our country and have the best experience possible, we do not want someone who is just here to party. Luckily, Au Pair Care’s policy is that there au pairs must be home at least 8 hours before any scheduled shift- and since we discussed this prior to matching, this issue has never been a problem for us.
A few other aspects of the program to be aware of:
• Au pairs are on a student visa, and must take 6 credit hours (usually 2 classes) while they are here, in a campus setting. Host families are responsible for up to $500 to pay for these classes, and responsible for providing transportation (either letting them use your car, or driving them)
• The program fees are about $7-8,000, which covers the au pair’s visa, travel costs, and training class which is completed before the au pair arrives in your home. It sounds like a lot, but over the course of a year, it averages out to 7.50 per hour, regardless of the number of children you have. (This makes it a great option for parents of multiples!) It is definitely the cheapest, most flexible form of childcare available. (Next to grandma and grandpa, of course!) There are payment plans available, so the entire program fee is not due up front.
• If for some reason your au pair does not work out, you can find a new one. Au pairCare has a local coordinator who helps their families with any difficult situations, but if no compromise is possible, you can find someone new. It is important to note, though, that it takes a while for you and your au pair to settle in and be comfortable together!
• Your au pair cannot work more than 10 hours in one day, and 45 hours in one week.
These are the cold, hard facts about having an au pair, but here is my experience so far: I love it! It is like we have a new member of our family, and I am very happy with our choice. I was very nervous (as I’m sure she was as well) about having someone we didn’t know just come and live in our home with us, but as time goes on, it is getting more and more comfortable. She is great with our kids; calm, patient, and kind. In our home we have a very chaotic vibe; always rushing and anxious, and her calm presence sort of balances us out. My husband and I can now go out once a week- something we haven’t been able to do since before our kids were born. I am able to go to the gym a few times a week, and even keep up my blog! I also love that I do not have to get up early to get my kids ready to go to daycare, and rush to pick them up at a certain time. I try to schedule our au pair to work a little longer than my workday, so in case I run late, there’s no need to rush.
There are just so many great aspects to this form of childcare, it truly is the perfect fit for my family. For more info on becoming an au pair host family, check out www.aupaircare.com! They currently have a special running for parents of multiples!
Got questions about having an au pair? Leave them in the comments section, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!