First, an introduction to our guest host mom blogger! LauRen Merola is a trendy mom living in North Carolina whose favorite things are fashion, food family and fun—all of which inspire her blog, All of the f-words. LauRen is a former NFL & NBA dancer as well as Miss Pennsylvania USA 2008 and Top 5 at Miss USA! Currently she is a host on the popular Charlotte radio station, “Kiss” 95.1, and a busy mom to 3-year-old son Cashton. LauRen, her husband Dallas and Cash welcomed their first au pair Elena to their family in January of 2019. So far, the Strager family has loved being a part of the au pair program and taking advantage of the chance to embrace a new extended family member and culture.
When I tell people we have an au pair to care for our son Cashton, I get all kinds of reactions and questions. Isn’t that crazy expensive? Is it weird having someone else live in your home? How did you find her? And I think the most popular question…Do you like being a host family? The honest-to-goodness answer to the last one is, “No, I love it!”
Having an au pair has not only enriched our little guy’s life by exposing him to different cultures and giving him stability in a caretaker, but it has also made our lives more manageable and helps our household run like clockwork. The stress I used to feel every day trying to schedule care for Cashton while I am at work and my husband Dallas is on the road for business is a thing of the past.
Although we have been extremely satisfied with our decision to become a host family, it was not a commitment we took lightly. I spent months researching programs and following au pair agencies on social media. One of the things I loved about Cultural Care Au Pair was their “takeovers” on Instagram because it gave me a better understanding of what to expect as a host family and an insight as to what the experience should be from an au pair’s perspective.
I also spoke to other families who had hosted au pairs before, to get an honest “read” on the situation. I asked so many questions like how to be successful in finding the right person and setting house rules. Luckily, my husband’s boss had hosted au pairs for years for their twin daughters and had lots of insight to give us, including their “household handbook.” Which was a layout of where to find things in the house, what their family schedules and curfews were as well as emergency contacts, and how both parties should respect each other. This was especially helpful once our au pair arrived. As for the other questions my friends and family had, let’s take these one by one.
“Is hosting an au pair expensive”?
I used to think au pairs were for the super-wealthy. But for us, the cost of hosting an au pair is pretty comparable to what we were paying for childcare with our nanny—and we were getting a lot fewer hours from the nanny. Plus, having someone who becomes a “big sister/ brother” figure to your child is invaluable. This person becomes someone who is caring for your child with your ethics, principles, and disciplinary beliefs in mind.
“Is it weird having someone else live in your house?”
I could see why a family would be concerned about this topic at first glance. Questions like, “will we ever have our own private family time again” could be a worrisome thought. But as the host family, you set the tone. Different families will be looking for different candidates. We happened to want someone who would become a part of our family and not a distant roommate. Other families might want an au pair who is a little more independent and who spends less time at home when they are off. That is why the interview process is so important and for BOTH sides to be open and honest throughout the process.
“How did you find your au pair?”
After doing my research to find an au pair agency that was right for our family, we decided on Cultural Care Au Pair. In my opinion, they had the largest selection of countries to choose from when matching with au pairs. With our Italian background, we knew we wanted Cashton to be exposed to our heritage and Italian language. You can also search by age, demographic and gender. We were looking for someone a little more mature for our first au pair experience, but as lots of us parents know, maturity doesn’t always come with age. So we were a little more open to speaking with au pairs of all ages. Most importantly, we were looking for someone who would fit into our family dynamic, who could keep up with our busy schedules and gave us “that” feeling. After all, this person is coming to live with you.
“Is it scary to invite someone into your home before ever meeting them in person?”
Yes, but imagine how your au pair feels. You are in the comfort of your own home. Only one constant is changing for you, but everything is changing for them. Of course, you have to be confident in your match, but once they arrive, the faster you can make them feel welcome and settled the stronger your bond can become. Think of it as your niece or nephew coming to stay with you for the first time. They will need to know where the grocery store is and maybe how to use the washer and dryer. Little things that we take for granted and do every day might be a first for them.
I think once you realize that your au pair truly wants to be there to support you and your family, your nerves will be put to ease. I knew as soon as I met Elena at the airport that we had made the right decision. Now, that is not to say that things will always be easy. There will be a learning curve as well as times your au pair may feel homesick but if you try to work through things together as a family, I truly believe you can be successful in this experience. You also have the support of your local LCC (Local Childcare Consultant) to help with a transition if needed.
Here is a look at our first week as a host family!