Kacy Andrews is mom to the @messitttwins (who star on Fuller House) and their older brother Sawyer. With three boys in their house, having male au pair Gonçalo from Portugal as part of their family has been a lifesaver! Kaitlin Luker, Director at Cultural Care Au Pair, recently interviewed Kacy to learn more about why she chose an au pair instead of a nanny or babysitter, what’s it like to have an au pair, and why the kids love it so much. Below you’ll find part of their conversation.
Kaitlin: Our [chat] today is centered around you and your family and your boys and why your family has chosen au pair childcare. And the impact it’s had on your family.
Kacy: I love having an au pair and I’d love to see more people host au pairs because it’s really been a game-changer. A lifesaving thing for us because parenting is so hard. So if there’s something you can do to make parenting just a little bit easier, I say “Do it!” because it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had
Kaitlin: Kacy, tell us a little bit more about you.
Kacy: So—I have three boys. You might have seen them—the twins anyway—on Fuller House, which is on Netflix. And then I have an older son who is 12. The twins are 6, about to turn 7. And I’m a working mom. I had a job in an office up until COVID. And then I lost that job, reinvented myself, and now I work from home as a photographer and social media manager. I stay very, very busy between managing a [full-time job], a few side hustles and parenting and everything else
Kaitlin: Ok, I’m going to take you back to when you first heard about the au pair program. Where did you hear about it?
Kacy: Actually a friend of ours hosted an au pair. And it just seemed great! I mean she would bring their au pair with them on vacations, and while I was struggling on vacations with my kids she was actually enjoying her vacation! [Laughs] And I was like “Hmm, that looks really interesting. I’d like to hear more about this”. So I started asking her questions. And it just sounded like such an amazing program because of so many reasons . . . It’s not just one thing. There’s so many positive aspects to hosting an au pair. Not only for the parents but for the children as well. And for the au pair! I think all parties benefit, and I think that’s the great thing about this program.
Kaitlin: So, what made you decide to go for it? What made you decide, “Ok, this is actually right for us”?
Kacy: Well, it was during, I think, the second to last season of Fuller House. And I got really tired of juggling babysitters. I was constantly having to figure out—ok, I need this babysitter for this time and this one, and then this one. It was a constant game of chess . . . And if somebody backed out or got sick, it was kind of a nightmare trying to figure out the “how to cover your needs” game. We are from the Midwest—my husband and I—so we don’t have family locally. And so for us, you know, we really rely on others to help us with childcare. And we had our oldest in after-school programs for a long time . . . which he really didn’t like at all. And I didn’t love having to send him to that all the time. But as the twins got older and our needs became greater, and we needed more consistent reliable childcare, I really thought, “I think this is time to really think about doing this. Because we really need somebody we can rely on.
Kaitlin: I think a lot of parents can relate to juggling so many schedules and scheduling babysitters for different days. Did you have any reservations when you thought about hosting an au pair?
Kacy: I didn’t. My husband was not keen on sharing his house—his castle—with another person. And I know that’s a big reservations with a lot of families. You know, just sharing your space and sharing your household. Having somebody actually live with you is probably the biggest hurdle I think people might have with the program. But when I really laid it out for my husband, and just said, you know, there’s so many benefits and it’s not like this person is going to be joined at the hip with us. I really think this is an opportunity we should explore—at least try it and see how it goes! And I was finally able to convince him to say, ok let’s give it a shot. And I’m really glad we did. We’ve obviously loved it because [we] are going on our third year now with hosting an au pair. It’s been a game-changer for our family.
Kaitlin: And how do you think for your husband that his reservations were—I don’t know if you could say resolved—how does he manage having privacy and sharing his home at the same time?
Kacy: I think he realized that he still has the same amount of privacy because—think about it—an au pair wants their privacy too. They have the same concerns and reservations coming to live with the host families . . . Both parties are really able to define how much privacy they want in the off-hours. So, when you’re interviewing au pairs, just make sure you’re on the same page as far as how much privacy both parties would like. Some au pairs want family dinners and when I was interviewing, I was like “We don’t do family dinners. We’re just way too busy. . . so if that’s something you’re looking for and want, this isn’t the right fit for you.” So, it’s really just about setting those expectations, and we were able to find au pairs that really like their privacy. It’s not like we never see [our au pairs] on the off-hours, but for the most part, they like to live their own lives. They like to go out and do things with their friends, or travel or do other things. On occasion, we’ll say “Hey! We’re ARE having a family dinner tonight—I know it’s a rare occasion— but we’re having one, would you like to join?”. And if they’re available and would like to, they do! And if they don’t, they’re busy, then it’s fine, they don’t. It’s very organic and natural and I would say my husband’s fears were quelled when he realized they like their privacy too . . . So, it’s really worked out well, and so that hasn’t been an issue at all.
Kaitlin: Talk us what you were looking for in your au pairs as you were interviewing. And what was your thought process as you were making a decision for who was going to be right for your family?
Kacy: Basically when I was doing the interviews, we did have one—I wouldn’t say bad experience—but one failed match right out of the gate, before Melinda. We matched with a male au pair. And it was his second year and he came here. And he realized right away it was a lot of work. It was more work than he had anticipated or wanted to take on compared to his previous family. And so within two weeks, we both realized this was not a right fit. I needed more from him and he didn’t want to give more. And we left amicably. He ended up going back home.
So it’s like interviewing a therapist or a doctor or anybody else. You need to find the right fit because everybody’s going to have different needs. Everybody’s going to feel comfortable with different people. So it may take a little bit of time until you find that right chemistry or that right match. So, we had the one failed match, which again, ended amicably, and then Melinda came . . . She was with us not quite a full year, maybe 9 months. And we had a great relationship. It was weird because [there was] COVID when she was here—that whole thing happened. So it wasn’t a typical situation in a sense. We were all really on top of each other, living together. And then she wanted to go home because she had a boyfriend and missed her family.
So I just said, you know we have three very active boys, and I really feel like getting a big brother into this house would be great for them. Just to have a guy that they can climb on and wrestle around with. You know, they’re very active. So I really wanted to try a male au pair again . . . I just wanted that different kind of dynamic in the house. And it’s really worked out well. The boys really respond well to kind of having a big brother in the house and I know it’s something they’re going to look back on and cherish—the couple years they’ve had with Gonçalo.
Kaitlin: I would love for you to clarify for everyone, what having an au pair does for you that a nanny or a babysitter doesn’t.
Kacy: There’s quite a few things. First of all, there’s the reliability. You have that constant same person, day in day out, that you know you can rely on. They’re gonna be there. . . so you’ve got the reliability factor. And you have the constant factor for your kids—they’re not having to rotate through a bunch of people. You also have the cultural aspect, which is huge! There are so many benefits to having somebody from another country living with you. Because my kids’ minds have opened up. We have a globe near our breakfast table and they’re constantly going over and asking “Oh you live here?” and it brings up other questions about Europe and this and that. . . It’s like, “Oh, this person’s from somewhere different with a different language, and they start asking him questions all the time. “How do you say this in Portuguese?” “Do you have this issue or problem or great thing in Portugal?” And he’s able to address that. And Melinda did the same thing, and it was great…I think it naturally makes your kids more curious and opens their minds up to a more global perspective. Which is really cool, I think.
Kaitlin: It is. It is really cool and it strengthens their relationship with their caregiver when they have that consistency of the same person every day, but then it also—I don’t know if I can go so far as to say—is strengthens their character. It gives them a perspective outside their own home that maybe they wouldn’t otherwise have.
Kacy: I think so. It really does open up their little minds a little more, and gets them more curious, which I love. Kids are curious in nature anyway, and so anything you can do to promote more curiosity into their lives and getting them to ask questions and think more globally. . .We did have nannies for the first couple of years of the twins’ lives and that was great. Not knocking nannies, not knocking babysitters—it’s like you said—different times in your life you need different things. And as my kids were getting older, this made a lot of sense. More so than the other options.
Kaitlin: So what do the boys think? Both Sawyer and Fox and Dash? What do the boys think of having an au pair?
Kacy: I mean, they love it! They have so much fun with the au pairs. Both Melinda and Gonçalo have brought a lot of energy. My husband and I—we’re Mom and Dad—and we like to have fun too, but we also have to hold the line and we can’t always be their playmate and doing fun stuff. And so to have a young adult in the house just brings about more energy and fun to their lives. Gonçalo will be out playing basketball with them or playing different games or reading books to them, or helping them with homework. I think that’s something they just think is a fun, cool thing.
Kaitlin: What advice do you have for families who are considering the program?
Kacy: I would say definitely do it. We’ve had a misfire, so we’ve kind of run the gamut on some of the issues, but it’s a great program overall. And like I said, everybody benefits. And so, if you’re hesitant or reluctant, I would say just try it one year and see. Because I think you’ll be a convert like we were! It’s a great gift to your children, I think. My son. . .can come home and do more after-school activities, instead of just being in the program at school. And they get to see their friends more. And they just have a lot more freedom and flexibility. And I get to see them more because now I’m working from home. So, when they get home from school, the first thing they do is run up to my office and give me hugs and I’m like—that’s so awesome and I wouldn’t be able to do that if I didn’t have an au pair. It’s just great.
Kaitlin: And what would you say to families that have any reservations or hesitations—what should they do?
Kacy: They can talk to other host families. You’re hearing from me, but I know there’s a lot of other host families who have had great experiences too…It is really all about finding that right match. And once you find that right match, you’ll see all the great benefits the program has to offer.
For more from Kaitlin and Kacy’s interview, check out Cultural Care’s Instagram channel. Thank you to Kaitlin and Kacy for sharing!