Childcare Solutions: Au Pairs

An au pair is a foreigner who performs childcare and light housekeeping duties in exchange for room and board and usually a weekly stipend. Having an au pair care for your children is a wonderful way to enrich your children's lives and add a cross-cultural element to their growing experience.

How to Find an Au Pair
Most au pair agencies have strong criteria for prospective au pairs; the candidates must be warm, nurturing caregivers who understand their integral position in the child's positive development. They also have matching systems to narrow down your search for an au pair. An au pair agency's screening process for host family and au pair ensure an ideal match and a wonderful experience. You can also chat with other mothers about their experiences with an au pair. They may even have some tips on how to find the best au pair for your family.

Au Pair Responsibilities
An au pair offers childcare, can drive children to school, lessons or appointments and performs light housekeeping duties, such as cleaning the children's rooms and preparing meals. Most au pairs work up to 45 hours a week according to a schedule you arrange for them. Au pairs provide not only basic childcare, but they know that play is important in helping your child's social, emotional, intellectual and physical growth.

Why an Au Pair?
What sets au pairs apart from other childcare arrangements? They provide your children with a glimpse of their culture and experiences. They also live in a private bedroom in your house, meaning that they are available in the event of an emergency. In terms of comparing au pairs to nannies, there are some important differences. If you find an au pair through an agency, it is guaranteed that the au pair has training in CPR, first aid and childhood development. Nanny training varies. Au pairs are also usually considerably inexpensive compared to nannies. The au pair is also committed to a year (sometimes up to two years) of caring for your children and providing a consistent and secure environment for your children to develop.

Recommended Agency
The process of searching for the right au pair can be challenging for a family. Considering that the household is busy enough to need extra help in the form of child care, doing the searching, choosing and interviewing process can be tough. The best option is to let an agency perform the search process for you.

A good agency will conduct extensive interviews with you and your family, to learn about your lifestyle, preferences, interests, and special needs or requests, and take those into account when matching you with au pairs from their roster. Once you have your matches, you can choose which people you want to interview, and the final decision will be left up to you.

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Questions about an aupair? Chat with other moms in our forum.

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