March 27, 2013

Live in nannies or au pairs for parents working non-traditional schedules

3 minutes
Childcare options

Gina and Patrick Reilly, a sergeant and lieutenant (respectively) at their local police department in NY don’t work a traditional 9 to 5 schedule. These Cultural Care Au Pair host parents explain in their application, “Every other week, we work 7am-3pm, and alternating weeks we work in the evening 3pm-11pm. We also work some weekends, and at times we may be forced to stay late or go into work a few hours early.”

Families like the Reillys may feel that their only option is to hire a live in nanny who can be there whenever a work situation requires them to leave their children on a moment’s notice.  But live in nannies can be expensive and difficult to find.  Not many nannies want to live with their employers, so the quality of the candidates also may not be as high as the quality of live out nannies.

Au pairs are another option for families with changing childcare needs.  Au pairs tend to be less expensive than live in nannies.  The International Nanny Association’s 2012 survey of nanny salaries shows the national average gross weekly salary for a live in nanny is $652.  Compared to the average weekly cost of an au pair ($355), a family can save almost $300 a week by hosting an au pair.

Because a day care center would not accommodate their need for childcare coverage, the Reilly family has hosted au pairs since 2009 to care for their two children: Aidan, 5 years old and Emma 4 years old. Au pairs can work a flexible schedule (although they limited to 45 hours per week and 10 hours per day),  and they have found the program to be a great fit for their needs.

Gina recently wrote to us about their current au pair, Marlene Buechler from Austria, saying, “At times we are held over at work on overtime, depending on the severity of the investigation. Marlene never ever complains when this happens, and always let’s me know that she understands and that it is not a problem. This is so helpful as our jobs at times can cause some great stress. Marlene relieves all of that by reminding us that she is here for us whenever we need her.”

They like the fact that an au pair can prepare dinner for the children on those nights when they are working late and be there to get them off to school. Gina and Patrick also rely on Marlene to drive Aidan and Emma to their lessons and playdates.

The Rosen’s au pair Natalia provides the family with the flexible childcare coverage they need.

Rachel Rosen, a host mom in Jenkintown, PA also works a non-traditional schedule. “Balancing a career as a family physician and raising three children can be very challenging,” she admits. “An au pair provides my children with a stable caregiver in the home and provides me with the flexibility I need. I also love the comfort of having that caregiver be a member of the household.”

If she has enough hours left once the weekend arrives, Rachel will also schedule her au pair to be home while she enjoys dinner out on Saturday evenings with friends. Rachel adds, “Natalia is always available to help in any way she can—and always with a smile. She plays and spends time with the children when she is on- as well as off-duty, and asks me daily and repeatedly if there is ‘anything else I need.’ She is extraordinarily flexible and incredibly responsible.”

Cultural Care host parents Bethany and Justin Sacks (pictured in the top photo with their two children and au pair) also work in the medical field and say, “As a parent, it is difficult to know that you’re not able to always be home for your children. My husband and I are both surgeons with occasionally very unpredictable schedules. We needed someone to help watch our two children who could be flexible and creative, and who would make our kids feel happy and loved.”

They found that person in Franciele Goncalves, 23-year-old au pair from Brazil. Shares Bethany, “Franciele has been a lifesaver. She always knows when the kids are running low on their favorite foods and keeps them stocked. She helps me remember when they need to bring in show-and-tell or when the library books are due. She is incredibly patient with the kids and just truly loves spending time with them. Franciele has had a huge impact on them and they both love her dearly.”

Host families, what are your work schedules like? Do you also work unusual hours? How has an au pair worked for your need for coverage?