Choosing childcare is often one of the most difficult decisions parents make. And part of that decision is factoring in whether to consider a live in au pair or nanny. In a recent Cultural Care Au Pair poll, we asked host parents if they, or their spouse, had any concerns about having an au pair live with them. We also asked them to talk about how they overcame those fears and came to appreciate the benefits of live-in care. We hope their feedback helps you decide whether hosting an au pair might be a good fit for your family’s needs and personality.
Concern #1: Will it feel weird to have a stranger join our household?
For many parents, envisioning a stranger moving in for a year can cause anxiety. But the reality is that after a thorough matching and interviewing process, au pairs feel a lot less like strangers. And while hosting an au pair takes some adjustment in the beginning, it feels very normal very quickly for most families.
“We were in touch with our au pair for months before she arrived and we felt like we really knew her pretty well by the time she got here. That helped a lot.”
“It does take a little while to get used to each other. For us, it usually takes about a month for our au pairs to really settle in. By that time, you’ve kind of figured each other out and having the live-in support is just so awesome. It doesn’t feel strange for long.”
“We were worried about having someone else in our house all the time, eating meals with us and sitting with us during down time. However, the moment our first au pair joined us we realized it was like having another member of the family around! It makes our meals, down times, and other times even better.”
Concern #2: Will we lose our privacy?
Our poll results found that losing privacy was at least somewhat concerning for most host families who were considering an au pair. In the end, however, the majority of parents admitted it was much less of an issue than they feared. They also agreed that giving up some privacy was worth it.
“We were pleasantly surprised by how much our au pair likes to go out on weekends with other au pairs, and we get more alone time than we thought! We love our au pair but it is nice to have family alone time, too.”
“We got over it by just deciding having an au pair had more pros than cons.”
“We had visions of our au pair wanting to hang out with us on the couch every night—but it turns out we’re not that cool, and she has much more exciting things to do in her free time!”
“All of our au pairs have respected our privacy so it has not been a problem.”
“Gradually, you just get used to it. And find time for date nights.”
Concern #3: Will we always feel like we’re hosting a guest?
Are you worried about feeling like you’ll constantly be playing the role of “host”? Or that you won’t be able to just be yourselves with an au pair nearby? According to the families we polled, you shouldn’t—because in a busy household with active kids and working adults, there’s just no time for that. Your au pair will quickly become part of your family and acclimate to your normal routine.
“We just decide to act ourselves from the first day to get everyone used to a routine.”
“I was worried at first that we’d feel obligated to have a sit-down dinner every night (which is NOT realistic for us). I was worried about feeling like I would have to be ‘on’ all the time. But that’s not what au pairs expect or want. They just want to feel accepted and loved, and they want to accept and love us for who we are as a family.”
“We are very honest in our profile about what life is like at our house. When au pairs know what to expect, they are happy to be along for the ride.”
Concern #4: Will smart phone and car use or guests coming over be an issue?
Inviting a young adult into your home means you’ll want to set some ground rules regarding phone and car use and guests. If you communicate your expectations from the beginning—during the interview process ideally—chances are good that you can avoid problems during the year. Take it from this parent:
“We had general concerns about our au pair not being focused on the kids due to texting—not knowing what is safe and what’s not safe, not knowing how to react in an emergency, bringing strangers to the house, posting private information on Facebook, drinking and driving, getting involved with drugs or bad company, etc.”
Ultimately, managing these fears comes down to delivering clear expectations.
“We have very clear rules about car usage, internet usage and bringing people to the house and well as other things involving the kids’ safety. The au pair rules are written out and shared with the au pair upon arrival. We always address it immediately if any of the rules are not being followed.”
Concern #5: Will au pairs respect and follow our rules?
Responses to our poll indicated that some parents had initial concerns about a nanny or au pair’s behavior in their absence. They found themselves asking questions like: “When I’m not there, will my nanny or au pair engage my child in the activities I have in mind? Will they discipline them using my parenting philosophies? Will they love and care for them as I would?” The families we polled agreed that frequent check-ins and good communication helped alleviate those concerns. In addition, because they are live-in caregivers, au pairs can closely observe how their host parents interact with the kids and mirror the same behavior.
“We review the plans and the expectations on a daily basis because times can change with moods. Also, there are many temptations for all of us, smart phones, down time, shortcuts, TV…all those things have to be assessed because they affect the function of the family. Teaching structure and planning helps. We believe in communication and honesty.”
“After a few weeks of our au pair living with us, I saw how quickly she grew to love our babies. It gives me so much peace of mind. I trust her implicitly.”