Choosing what childcare option works best for your family can be one of the most stressful and important decisions a parent can make, especially if both parents work full-time and the children will be spending most of their days with someone who isn’t a family member. While Nannies and Day care are the two most popular childcare options for such families, there’s another choice to explore: The Au Pair.
Although the name might sound fancy and exotic, there’s no reason to be intimidated. There are, however, many ways Au Pairs differ from Nannies, all of which might mean they either are or are not right for your family. Here’s everything you need to know before you dismiss hiring an Au Pair completely.
What exactly is an Au Pair?
Officially, an Au Pair is a domestic assistant from a foreign country working for and living as part of a Host Family. The French term Au Pair means “at par” or “equal to,” indicating that the relationship is supposed to be one of equals: The Au Pair is intended to become a member of the family, albeit a temporary one, rather than a traditional domestic worker. Typically, Au Pairs provide child care and help with child-related housework, including cooking, cleaning, and laundry, and Au Pair is usually between 18-30 years old.
The difference between an Au Pair and a Nanny?
An Au Pair will live with you and your family and must have their own private bedroom. Our Partner Agencies screen and check references for our Au Pairs to make sure you feel confident in their qualifications. Since Au Pairs can work up to 45 hours a week, you’ll have more flexibility about when you use their care than you would a Nanny.
I have to provide my Au Pair with housing? What else?
If you hire an Au Pair, be prepared to provide them with housing. The arrangement shares a few similarities with hosting a foreign exchange student. An Au Pair is invited to come to New Zealand to care for children in exchange for room and board, specifically with their own private room. Most Au Pairs are also given the use of a vehicle through their Host Families, and all receive a weekly wage.
What are the biggest advantages about an Au Pair?
Au Pairs provide live-in child care, meaning you won’t spend as much time coordinating schedules like you would with a Nanny, and you can skip day care drop-off and pick-up. An Au Pair’s available working hours means increased flexibility (and that your Friday date night could get a lot easier to schedule). In addition, an Au Pair will provide your children with cultural and language learning opportunities that a domestic Nanny probably would not.
What disadvantages are there to hiring an Au Pair?
Au Pairs hold a Work/Holiday Visa and are allowed to stay in New Zealand from 6-12 months. Because of the Work/Holiday Visa restrictions it might make it difficult for families who want to develop a long term relationship. You can however keep in touch after your Au Pair leaves.
Some families may also find it strange to have someone you don’t know living in your house. This is usually an adjustment period only as the benefits quickly outweigh any misgivings. Its good to think of an Au Pair as a long lost distant relative coming to live with you. That is, someone you have just met but someone who is excited and hopeful about joining you and getting to know your family.
Writer: KATHARINE STAHL