Choosing a childcare provider is no easy decision – after all, when it comes to our children, their safety and sense of well-being is the absolute most important thing. Parents want the best for their kids, which means finding a childcare provider that they can trust like their own family. For many families across the USA, that means hosting an au pair.
Welcoming an au pair into your home and your heart is certainly a commitment – but it’s one that comes with lifelong benefits. An au pair can provide flexible, loving childcare while opening your children’s eyes to a multitude of new cultures, languages, traditions and more. Of course, having an au pair also comes with its share of challenges – all surmountable, but still important to consider thoughtfully before welcoming them officially.
To help shed more light on the intricacies of hosting an au pair – and to help parents across the country choose a caregiver that will perfectly suit their family’s needs – we’ve compiled the pros and cons of au pair childcare:
What are the pros of hosting an au pair? There are many incredible benefits of au pair childcare – but perhaps the greatest advantage of having an au pair is the low cost. Compared to other forms of live-in childcare, au pairs are far and away one of the most affordable options. It’s especially affordable for families with more than one child; the rate of au pair childcare is not calculated based on number of children, so whether you have one or six, an au pair will cost you the exact same amount per week/month.
Another pro to hosting an au pair is the flexibility it allows you in your daily lives. As a live-in childcare provider, an au pair can jump in to help at any time. They’re never “late” to work because they live right in the home with you – and they’re always there for emergencies or for last-minute cancellations. Au pairs can provide up to 45 hours of childcare per week (up to 10 hours per day) on a schedule you decide, including early morning, evening and even weekend coverage. You can adjust your au pair’s working schedule to align with school hours, summer camp, weekly playdates and more! You can also ask your au pair to help with child-related chores around the house, making it even easier to maximize your precious family time and reduce the ever-growing list of to-dos around the house.
An undeniable benefit to hosting an au pair is the level of trust that’s built between the family and the au pair almost immediately. Again, because the au pair lives in your home with you – and comes to be considered an extended member of the family – there’s a deep sense of trust and mutual respect that forms quicker than it would in out-of-home childcare options. Time and again, Cultural Care host families describe a feeling of comfort and security knowing that their children are being cared for by someone they know well and have come to love.
Last but not least, an au pair teaches your children to embrace cultural exchange and to become a global citizen – an invaluable life lesson and long-term benefit. Au pairs bring with them the languages, recipes and traditions from their home countries, and are eager to share their backgrounds with their entire host families. Your children will adopt a sense of cultural curiosity and develop an affinity for foreign foods, words and customs. Most importantly, au pairs help your family gain a renewed appreciation for their own environment and a desire to see more of the world.
What are the cons of hosting an au pair? Au pair childcare comes with some cons – for instance, living costs. Having an extra person residing in your home with you means you should be prepared for an increase in your water, heating, and food expenses. It also means another body in the house, which can throw off any daily routines when it comes to sharing a bathroom, transportation, living room usage, etc.
Another challenge can be communication. If you do decide to host an au pair, you’ll want to ensure that their English level is quite good – otherwise, they may have trouble expressing their needs. If their understanding of English is lacking, you may not have as easy a time giving feedback or making special requests. This can lead to difficulties around the house and perhaps even with the managing of the children themselves. A breakdown in communication can also make things tough in the early phases of your relationship – a low level of English can make it even harder than usual to get to know your au pair and settle them into your family life.
Additionally, you’ll want to consider the ages of your children before going with an au pair. A potential con for some families is that in order to care for children under two years of age, an au pair must be “infant-qualified” – which means they’ve received the necessary training and have gained the minimum number of experienced hours caring for very young children. The good news is that there are plenty of infant-qualified au pairs out there looking to care for kids in the USA – but it could mean waiting a little longer to find one that suits your exact needs.
Of course, hosting an au pair goes beyond simply hiring someone to care for your children. It’s a decision to welcome a young woman or man from a foreign country into your home and into your community – and you are on some level responsible for making them feel happy and accepted in their new environment. Some may consider this a con, but in actuality, it’s an opportunity! A chance to show someone what makes America such a special place to live and grow up – and to introduce them to the pieces of your own culture that you’re proud of.