Monday, June 10, 2013

Which Au Pair (exchange babysitter) would you choose for sabbatical?

Hello, Friends.

Things are really moving (literally) for the sabbatical. I had very serious anxiety about this sabbatical, primarily because of money. We took out a home equity line of credit (excellent credit, btw), and now the problem is mostly solved. No one should have to take out a loan to go on sabbatical. But we make a lot of choices we don't like. Goes with the territory.

For day care, we have decided to go with an Au Pair, and are in the matching process now. Have any of you had Au Pairs, and if so, how did it go? Do you have advice?

I have never met anyone with a Nanny or Au Pair. I figured the terms were synonymous for expensive child care that only rich people could afford. In fact, I looked down a little on the parents who weren't "toughing it out" like I am. In the region we are moving to, Au Pairs are cheaper than regular institutional day care or even home day care. This is a budget friendly move. My eyes have been opened.

I've been explaining to friends that Au Pairs are basically an exchange student, but a babysitter instead. An exchange babysitter, if you will. That means the Au Pair lives with you as a part of your family and takes care of your kids full time. The whole thing is tightly regulated by the state department. For example, you can ask her or him to work whenever you want, but there are regs about how many hours they can work, how much time off they get in a row,  and what tasks they can do. You pay an agency (there are about 12) that takes care of things like screening potential Au Pairs in their home country, screening potential host parents (including inspecting the Au Pair's room), taking care of visas, insurance, training, travel arrangements, support for solving conflicts, etc.  

And then there's matching. As you can imagine, this is a pretty serious deal. Not only are you trusting them with your beloved children, but they are going to live in your house, too. There are lots of good stories online, but some scary ones, too. Read here for more. You don't get to meet them in flesh before they show up. It's a lot like online dating, but all by Skype. I'm having some fun with it, and learning that Hub an I are extremely tolerant.

"I liked her. I could live with her quirks"
"She seemed great. That lack of experience probably won't be too important"
"How sweet. Nevermind the anger issues"

I'm exaggerating, of course.  It seems like we keep coming down to whether we want a conscientious, steady, excellent communicator, who may be less patient with the children's chaos or whether we want a warm, loving, creative, patient somewhat forgetful type. For your info, all else is equivalent... driving experience, age, country of origin. And we are the warm chaotic types, so we are looking for either a complementary person or a person who would understand and perhaps tolerate us better.

Which would you choose?


  1. Patient and tolerant of chaos probably trumps all else.

  2. My sister had Au Pairs for many years when her kids were young. She works for the state department and had Au Pairs when she was in DC between overseas posts. Some were better than others (of course), but over all she had 3 different ones and it was a good experience. We all still keep in touch with them through facebook and it has been >12 years. I would think that patient and loving would win out in my opinion as that would describe all of them (2 women and rare male au pair). Good Luck