Monday, May 13, 2013

Help! Au Pair or Day Care?

Getting ready for sabbatical. I worked my entire social network to try to find a live-in Nanny. We got two candidates, both of which withdrew their applications shortly after their graduation. One said she got a job in her field. The other didn't specify. I fell apart a little, but that's for another post.

A live-in Nanny or Au pair (foreign student worker) is really the only way we can afford childcare during my sabbatical in Very Expensive City, because we can deduct the "rent" from our basement apartment from their salary. Or else we can put the kids in an institutional day care like one of those big day care chains for half time (then who takes care of them for the rest of the time?).

A friend suggested an Au Pair because we have a room for one. They have a steep upfront cost for which we would have to take out a loan, but the monthly costs (at least the published ones) are within our budget. Au Pairs are also extremely flexible in scheduling.  I fantasize about this person speaking in their native language to our kids part time, and being a part of the family. I also fantasize about not having the fight to get them dressed and stuffed into a car seat every morning. In this same fantasy, the kids learn at breakneck speed with all the individual attention. And more realistically, if the kids weren't happy, we could "rematch" with a lot of support from the agency. Hub is worried that the kids won't be socialized well. I fantasize that we will make a social network of other kids relatively easily through churches or intentional organizations or Mommy groups.

In the institutional day care, there will be a curriculum, lots of supervision of the kids' caregivers and lots of socialization. However in this particular day care, they have been cited recently for a very stupid abusive treatment of a child. However, that caregiver is long gone, I'm sure. This is the only one that has openings in the area we will live and work.

I realize that on Sabbatical one is to rest but still get scholarship accomplished. The kids don't have to be in day care for 40 hours, but I can't imagine getting a great project accomplished in a year working half time. Besides, part of the ideas was to relieve the heavy burden of being the kids sole caregiver for major portions of the week.

Please? Suggestions? Experiences? Thoughts?


  1. Haven't had an experience with an Au Pair. Did have experience with preschool in a Very Expensive City. We ended up finding that there were still openings in good religious schools. We went with Lutheran, though there were several Jewish schools that also looked good (we are neither Lutheran nor Jewish). It was $1200/month which was less than the $1700/month or so that the fancy booked places would have cost had we been able to get a slot. It was a fantastic year for DC1.

    We found out about the religious daycare by going through one of those websites that had all of the daycares in the city listed, and we called each and every one of them. (There were well over 100, IIRC, might have been far more than that-- just calling took several days and a massive spreadsheet).

    I knew someone in DC who picked the nanny option, and that worked out well for her! Nannies in the expensive city we were looking at were $20/hr. ($15 if you were willing to go without paperwork.)

    I wouldn't worry about the socialization aspect of the Au Pair-- you can request she take them to playgrounds and so on, and they'll have plenty of time to be socialized the rest of their lives.

    We did make a social network very easily in our Very Expensive City, mainly through their mommy forum that someone at work hooked me up with. Be careful though, the people who reached out first were kind of crazy (in terms of very strong and odd beliefs about their childcare philosophies).

    Good luck!

  2. I think I'd lean away from the daycare; if I had the whole Bug-babyhood to do over again I'd hire a nanny.

    Snickolett wrote about finding an au pair - I think she's in Washington State or Oregon now, but still, might be helpful.

    I bet you will make a social network pretty easily; all of the things you list are how I pretty much got an instant group of mommy-friends (people who are friends only because they have kids) - just add water!

  3. We just had to make a similar call. We ended up hiring a nanny (getting them out the door in the morning was the deciding factor since my hubby is finishing his degree on the other side of the country). We are thrilled. I was surprised what a big difference it makes having someone help me fold laundry, do grocery shopping, and prepare dinner. Our awesome nanny takes my girls for play-dates and to the park daily. The best part is that when I get home I can have quality time with my girls instead of rushing about doing a million other things. I love your blog - thanks for writing.

    1. I tried getting a nanny independently, because 1. This is a college town, how hard could it be?!?! 2. The fees for an agency seem very high (my perception, not based on thorough investigation), and 3. My social network would produce a "pre-screening" that would increase our trust.
      I am really looking forward to those other things, if we decide on an Au Pair.

    2. It's like having a 1950s housewife on loan! Someone else to do the laundry! Sounds delightful to me.

  4. I wouldn't worry about the socialization. A lot of the nannies/au pairs (or at least the ones I have known) have friends 'in the business" and get together for play dates the way moms do.

    Growing up, friends of mine had an au pair who was awesome. I always felt bad for her because the kids she had to watch were bratty to her.

  5. Day care! There are some great child care learning centers around. Just make sure that they are a learning center too! They tend to be better for the child as there is learning involved too!