When a new host family was switching from a nanny to Au Pair in America, the host father wrote about the transition for the Wall Street Journal blog The Juggle: “choices and tradeoffs people make as they juggle work and family.”
In the post, Mr. Edwards described why they were switching:
Our interest in the program doesn’t stem from any deficiency in our kids’ current care: We’ve had the same babysitter for almost nine years, since our 10-year-old daughter was 1½ (and our 7-year-old son’s whole life), and she’s been wonderful with them and unfailingly reliable.
But an au pair costs less—a lot less. Even after spending some money on renovations to create a bedroom for our new guest/employee, we’ll save many thousands of dollars a year.
Beyond that, we’re excited about our kids having a caregiver who’s more hands-on and energetic than their current one, who’s in vibrant health but is a rather reserved woman in her late 50s. When they go to the pool on summer afternoons, for example, the au pair might actually get in and splash around with them. And, of course, having a houseguest from a foreign land should be a great cultural experience for the whole family.
We’re a little nervous about the unknowns of sharing our far-from-huge house with someone, but the placement of her room should afford plenty of nighttime privacy for her and for us. And the advantages in schedule flexibility and cost savings will go a long way in helping us get comfortable with the idea.
That first post was in February. In July, Mr. Edwards checked back in with his readers for an update on how things were going with their new au pair. The answer? “In a word: great!”
The au pair—to protect her privacy, let’s call her Mary—arrived a little over two months ago and acclimated quickly to the rhythms of our family. She got used to driving on the right side of the road with a steering wheel on the left, which she had never done, and she learned our suburban New York streets easily. She made friends with some other nearby au pairs and now spends a lot of time with them during her time off, exploring the city or just hanging out (she spent hours at the Bronx Zoo last weekend). And, most important, she was immediately warm and engaging with our kids.
The kids themselves took different paths in getting used to Mary, but they’ve arrived at the same satisfying destination. Our 10-year-old daughter was immediately thrilled and has remained so—Mary, who’s 20, is like the older sister she never had. They enjoy doing their nails together and talking about fashion. Our 7-year-old son had a tougher time with the transition initially, saying he missed their former caregiver (the only one he had known) and engaging with Mary more warily. But her calm, patient demeanor and caring nature soon won him over, and now I very often come home to find the two of them laughing together about some bit of silliness.
My wife and I greatly appreciate the additional schedule flexibility we have now. Mary’s hours never exceed her allotted 45 hours a week (as times when the kids are in school or camp don’t count), so we haven’t had to worry about rushing home by a certain time or paying overtime, and we’ve been able to rely on her often for a weekend night of babysitting. It’s also good being able to text or email her during the day; the previous caregiver could sometimes be hard to reach by phone. And the significant cost savings are helpful as well—we’re spending about $2,000 less per month in child care.