June 16, 2014

Family spotlight: the Caprons from Massachusetts

4 minutes
Au pair stories

Host parents: Erin and Aaron
Host children: Maxfield (10), Norra (7), Graham (2.5)
Pets: Moxie the dog
Host family since: 2013
Current au pair:  Yvonne Steinlechner from Austria
By day, Erin Capron’s title is Director of Sales at Cultural Care Au Pair, but her duties as a mother of three require her 24/7. She and her husband decided that au pair childcare was the best for their family because of they required flexibility as two busy full-time working parents, the live-in coverage for their two and a half-year-old son, and for the cultural exchange!
To share the cultural exchange with the community, the family’s current au pair, Yvonne Steinlechner recently volunteered in 10-year-old’s Maxfield’s fourth grade classroom and shared about her native country of Austria. To educate the class on cultural differences, she brought in Euro coins for them to touch and feel.  She crafted little dictionaries for the class and asked the class which words they wanted to translate into German to add to their dictionaries.

What type of childcare did you try before getting an au pair?
We had a babysitter but she wasn’t able to do all the hours we needed. Three kids with varying schedules made it difficult for drop offs and pick ups as a working parent. Plus, since our sitter has her own life too, it was if I had to manage her schedule as well. We also tried daycare for our youngest, but he didn’t transition well to this type of environment and for about a month or so, I got calls to come pick him up early which defeats the point of daycare. That is when I decided having him home, with his “stuff” was a better option. Having an au pair was by far the most economical choice for at home care.

Why does this work better for you?
Inevitably, things come up with having three children in a busy household. Having the au pair means that when there’s a bump in the schedule, we have a reliable adult who can help when our schedules don’t go as smoothly as we’ve planned. Also, for my daughter, having Yvonne has been like having a big sister. They are very close.

How did you go about the matching process?
We relied heavily on the recommendations of our placement manager, Maddie. She helped us very much by understanding the needs of our household and recommended au pairs that fit our needs.

How did you “know” this was the au pair for you?
Namely, Yvonne’s video was very helpful. She shares a common love of music, adventure and playfulness. She was also extremely prompt in following up on our interview questions and reaching out to the office in Vienna to share that she would like to be our au pair. Since she has been here, she’s proved every day that she’s the right fit for our kids.

What were your concerns about welcoming an au pair?
We were at first concerned with welcoming her because of the size of our home. We live in an area where the homes are not large, so space would be an issue. We found a way around that by bunking our 2 older children and creating a separate play area in our walkout basement for those winter months when no one can go outside. Also we chose an au pair who we thought would be pretty independent and want to connect with other au pairs, which meant we very rarely are all home at the same time!

What’s it like actually having an au pair living with you?
An adjustment! But just because they live with you full time, doesn’t mean you will always be in each other’s space. Our au pair goes out on her time off or travels on long weekends. On the flip side, having her in our home means another adult to keep track of all these kids!

How do you schedule your au pair’s 45 hours per week?
Yvonne has a pretty regular schedule. We use roughly 40 hrs a week. She spends a good majority of her time with our youngest, but is working to help me get the older kids off to school in the a.m. and keeps an eye on our youngest while I prep dinner and help the older children with homework. When we can, we like to use the other 5 hours for “date night.” In the past 10 years, I can count on 1 hand how many date nights my husband and I have had. Since Yvonne joined our family in October, we go out at least a couple of times a month.

How has your au pair shared her culture with your family?
Yvonne was very excited to share Austria with us. She and her family have given us lovely gifts from their home country including sweets, honey, nuts (from a tree in her great uncle’s yard). She baked her favorite Christmas cookies with us at Christmas and shared the holiday traditions that her family enjoys in Austria.

What advice would you give other families who are considering this type of childcare?
When I first considered au pair childcare, the idea came with the stigma that it was for the “wealthy” and would be very expensive. The more I weighed all of the options that were available to us, I found that au pair childcare was the least expensive option for our particular needs. What I would say to parents who are considering different options: decide what it truly is that you need for childcare, then also factor in the residual benefits of having a live in au pair. Cost became so much less a factor when we realized all that we would gain from having Yvonne join the family for the year! Not only do we get childcare, that is consistent, reliable, loving and tireless, but we get the benefit of a big sister for Norra, exposure for my kids to another culture (they are learning German with Yvonne) and a unique opportunity to share our American family! We look forward to lots of cook outs, fireworks, beach fun and travel with Yvonne this summer, we’re proud to be able to offer her the American experience she wanted!