About a year ago, I barely knew what an au pair was, and I definitely didn’t understand anything about the au pair program.
And then Tim started talking to coworkers and hearing about their au pairs. At the same time, one of my friends told me about her experience with an au pair. I was intrigued, for sure, but didn’t necessarily consider it for our family.
But when we got pregnant with Phoebe I knew we needed to figure out a childcare plan before she was born. One of the biggest mistakes of my motherhood journey was not getting more childcare help after Isabelle was born, and I wasn’t going to make that mistake twice!
Tim and I immediately discussed hosting an au pair and quickly determined that we would try the program out.
Here were the biggest draws to the au pair program:
+ The cost.
Childcare in Seattle is expensive. An hour of childcare (for three kids) can cost almost $30. We pay our au pair about $200 per week for up to 45 hours. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many other costs of the program… there’s an upfront agency fee, we provide a place to live and food and car insurance and a car to drive, etc. Some families have calculated that having an au pair costs about $25k-30k per year. By my calculations, hiring a full-time nanny could cost more than $50k in our area.
+ The flexibility.
This is the huge one. We can figure out our childcare needs as we go most days/weeks. Generally our schedule is consistent week to week, but we can decide relatively last minute if want to take Phoebe with us to a soccer practice, or let her stay home with our au pair. We can also take Saturday day dates, an occasional night out, or change the start and end times of our days without a ton of notice. Being an enneagram type 7, the flexibility is key to my happiness. Do I do a lot of spontaneous activities these days? Nope! But could I? YES! I could! And just knowing that makes me a bijillion times happier.
+ The full-time childcare.
Going back to the cost aspect, if we were paying for childcare by the hour, I would feel a lot of pressure to be super productive on my hours ‘off’. I would constantly be thinking, “was this hour off worth the $30 I paid for it?” However, with an au pair we get 45 hours per week of childcare, so I don’t worry about maximizing every hour. (I might feel differently about this if I worked full time and my 45 hours were spent working at a job and not doing mostly SAHM activities.)
+ The cultural experience.
I think it’s great that my daughters get a little bit of exposure to a different culture. Granted, they keep trying to get our German au pair to teach them Spanish (eye roll), but at least Phoebe is learning some German. 😉 But truly, I love the thought of making friends around the world, for everyone in our family. We’ve all benefited from hearing a different perspective and being exposed to some new things. Plus, our au pair’s parents visited earlier this month and my girls were able to hang out with them and form relationships with them, too. We’re looking forward to getting to know everyone better throughout the year.
Of course, this is just addressing why we chose an au pair instead of a nanny or daycare or some other childcare arrangement. The reason we chose childcare at all is a different question. The short answer is that I needed some help, so we got help. More on that later.
If you’re considering an au pair for your family, definitely reach out to me! I’d love to answer any questions. There are so many factors to consider and we were totally clueless when we started the process.