A Flexible Childcare Option to Fit Your Unique Family Needs

by Meghan

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This is a guest post by Jennifer Terra, a Local Childcare Consultant for Cultural Care Au Pairthe leading provider of intercultural live-in childcare. Learn how an au pair my be the flexible childcare option your family has been searching for.

I will never forget my childcare search when I was pregnant with my oldest. Before we had kids, both my husband and I worked long, unpredictable hours in the finance industry. I had made the move from hedge fund analyst to hedge fund marketing in the hopes for some improvement in work-life balance before having a family, but I still traveled regularly for work, and none of the options we explored seemed to meet the flexible childcare our careers required.

I will never forget sitting in rush hour traffic on I-95 trying to make it to a daycare visit before they closed at 5:30PM. The thought of living through that everyday was enough to convince me it was the wrong option for us. Then, we hired a nanny – who wanted a 20% pay increase before she even started – and that ulimately led to my decision to leave my career and stay home. I wish I had known about au pair childcare, a more flexible childcare option, back then.

Today, my dear friend Jennifer Terra, is sharing her experience with au pair childare – both as a mother of 2 who has an au pair and as a Local Childcare Consultant for Cultural Care Au Pair, the leading provider of intercultural live-in childcare.

Demystifying Au Pair Childcare

Has writing your nanny’s schedule become more tedious than getting your children to brush their teeth? Do you curse under your breath when you are charged for being 5 minutes late to pick up your child from daycare due to rush hour traffic? Do you now need a weekday nanny, as well as a weekend babysitter to cover your family’s unique childcare needs? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, au pair childcare may be the flexible childcare option perfect for your family.

Selecting childcare can be a challenging task on which many parents spend hours researching available alternatives and seeking recommendations from family and friends. If having a more flexible childcare option sounds like a dream, then the au pair program is worth learning more about.  Perhaps the most misunderstood form of childcare, the au pair program, is actually quite straightforward and provides the flexibility and affordability that many parents are looking for.

What is an au pair?

The translation of “au pair” is “on par” or equal, based on the idea that an au pair becomes like a member of the family.  Au pairs are young adults, ranging in age from 18 to 26, that arrive in the United States on a J-1 Cultural Exchange Visa. They typically come for one year, but can extend their stay for up to two years. Au pairs hope to acquire a better understanding of the cultural aspects of American life, while living with an American family and caring for their children.

However, there are many misconceptions associated with the au pair program. Let’s address some of the biggest ones, to give you a better sense for how the program really works.

Myth: Au pairs are for the rich and famous.

Fact: Au pairs are not just for the uber wealthy. The average monthly cost is just $1,579 for 45 hours of childcare coverage weekly regardless of the number of children in a family. Au pair host families come from all walks of life, with dual working parents and single parents, and have a wide range of occupations with both traditional and non-traditional work schedules.

Myth: Au pairs work 9-5 and don’t want to work nights and weekends.

Fact: Au pairs are carefully screened and understand that flexibility and working up to 45 hours per week and 10 hours per day is a requirement of the program.  Parents customize au pair childcare according to their schedule and, unlike a nanny or daycare center whose service is typically based on a set schedule, an au pair works when parents need them. This makes au pairs an excellent flexible childcare option.

Myth: Au pairs only provide childcare.

Fact: Unlike daycare or a babysitter, an au pair can perform all household duties associated with children, so they can clean a playroom, prepare and clean up after meals, do children’s laundry, make the children’s beds and organize their toys and closets. In addition to childcare and help around the house, having an au pair also enriches a child’s playtime through exposure to another language and culture.

Myth: Anyone can be an au pair.

Fact: Actually, the au pair program is highly regulated by the Department of State and requires that all candidates have significant childcare experience and complete a thorough application. During the screening process, the potential candidate is personally interviewed, tested on English competency, takes a personality profile survey, submits a criminal background check and provides personal and professional references. At Cultural Care Au Pair, this screening is conducted by staff in their own overseas offices and not through the use of third-party agents.

Myth: Once an au pair arrives, parents are all alone in making it work.

Fact: Au pair programs like Cultural Care Au Pair provide ongoing personalized support throughout the year. Local childcare consultants maintain monthly contact with host families and provide a social outlet for the au pairs in the area by hosting monthly meetings. A member of the staff is available 24 hours per day, seven days a week and Cultural Care has an active on-line community that provides answers and advice from other host families, local consultants and veteran staff.

Myth: Not having a native speaker will affect a child’s language development.

Fact: Studies have shown that exposing children to a second language enhances their language and cognitive development and does not impede their ability to learn English.  With an au pair, parents can have a caregiver who speaks English and is also willing to teach their native language and share their culture with the family. Having an au pair can also reinforce a child’s language learning at school.

Learn More about Au Pair Childcare, The Flexible Childcare Option

For more information on hosting an au pair, please call Local Childcare Consultant Jennifer Terra at 203.561.6583, follow her Facebook page,  or visit her Local Childcare Consultant website.

About Cultural Care Au Pair

Cultural Care Au Pair is the leading provider of intercultural live-in childcare. Since 1989, Cultural Care Au Pair has placed more than 110,000 au pairs in welcoming American homes. A division of EF Education and a U.S. Department of State regulated program, Cultural Care Au Pair is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with an extensive network of recruitment, screening and orientation offices worldwide.

How does your family handle childcare? What options have you explored? For more Practical Parenting tips, be sure to follow my Practical Parenting board on Pinterest.

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