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This post contains affiliate links which doesn’t impact YOUR customer experience.  What it means is that when you buy something AFTER clicking on the links THEN the merchant may pay me a commission for the traffic and revenue generated from that sale. To forgo the affiliate process, you would need to separately search for the hyperlinked items listed below on the internet. Curious to learn more about this process? https://soonliving.com/start-here/legal/ has the full details.

This post contains information about the US Department of State Au Pair Exchange Visitor Program.  There are many ways to participate in this program as a host family.  I recommend partnering with an independent agency to streamline the process and have hosted Au Pairs through both AuPairCare and Cultural Care since starting the Au Pair Program in 2014.

My opinions about hosting an Au Pair or working with an agency are all my own. I have not been compensated by AuPairCare or Cultural Care to write this post.  In addition, the guidance, tools and materials included in this post around navigating the Au Pair process are my own intellectual property based on my own experiences.  AuPairCare and/or Cultural Care does not officially endorse me or these materials.

Dear Parents [or soon to be Parents] of the Internet,

CHILDCARE was one of those words I never paid attention to before kids. More importantly, it was one of those “to do” items that I did not prioritize properly after my baby arrived. I remember blazing into a nearby daycare — baby and dog in tow — about six weeks before I was scheduled to return to work.  I made an alarming discovery… a conversation that went something like this:

Daycare Professional: Hi there, how can I help you?

Me: Hi, I wanted to learn more about your rates and sign up for daycare.

Daycare Professional: Sure, for what time frame?

Me: Well, I’m scheduled to return to work on 6/23, so maybe a few days before?

Daycare Professional: (After a pretty judgy head-to-toe scan) Are you on our waitlist?

Me: Oh! There’s a wait-list?  I didn’t realize — how long?

Daycare Professional: Ma’am, we have an 18-month waitlist right now.

Me: Wait, how long? (Quick calculations in my head…) Don’t babies take 9-months to develop?

Daycare Professional: Yes, and our waitlist is 18-months.

Me: O-kay. Well…can I add my name to your waitlist?

Daycare Professional: Sure, there is a $350 non-refundable fee.

Me: Seriously?

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She was serious.  I decided to move on but was surprised to discover that the next three daycares I visited within a 5-mile radius of our condo had the same story.  So I sorted daycares on my Google maps search based on their distance from our home and started working through the list.  I was SHOCKED to learn that the only daycare that could meet our availability requirement was a 30-minute drive from our house EACH WAY.  That didn’t include traffic — which Seattle had become notorious for being horrible at.

It was overwhelming and alarming. I was in the middle of a childcare crisis and I did not know what to do! I immediately felt the need to call every co-worker whom I had written off as lazy after reading their out of office notification marked “WFH — No Childcare”. Now that I knew the truth − that childcare is a necessity — I replayed every eye roll I had made at those poor parents before me and cringed.

But self-reflection wasn’t helping me find childcare and daycare was DEFINITELY out.

The next option was a RETIRED GRANDPARENT.  That older man on the 5th floor whose daughter dropped off her infant son every morning at 7 am now made sense to me. I hadn’t given the arrangement much thought when I was the morning dog walker (post-baby this became my husband’s responsibility). But it was now clear that the reason that man was standing at our building’s entrance each morning was because he was his grandchild’s primary childcare provider.

It also occurred to me that he was standing there because he was saving his daughter time by not having to park, get her kid out of the car seat, go into the building and into the elevator up 5 floors only to drop off the child and reverse everything to continue her work commute.

This would be a GREAT and potentially SUPER cost-effective solution IF my parents were healthy enough to rely on consistently.  My husband’s parents lived on the other side of the country so the retired grandparent option was a FIRM no-go.

So I started searching for a nanny.  After some more Googling, I learned that there are two nanny options: private nanny and nanny share.

A PRIVATE NANNY is a dedicated childcare provider who 100% cares for your child.

A NANNY SHARE is a dedicated childcare provider whom you share with another family.  The time can be split or combined and would depend on both the nanny and the family you share with.

Now.  I also learned there are a lot of ways to hire a nanny.  I felt more comfortable sourcing a nanny through an agency who handled the initial screening and background check vs. also having to take that responsibility on.

That said, after speaking with a few agencies one thing was clear − I had chosen the wrong side hustle in college… Not only do nannies get holidays off, their hourly rate was higher than I expected [between $20-$26 based on experience] AND they got OVERTIME when they worked more than 40 hours a week [meaning $40-$52 for each hour over 40]. So after some quick math, I was starting to consider leaving my job to become a stay-at-home parent since the delta between my ACTUAL income and the ESTIMATED EXPENSE of a nanny was slim.

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It was at this point that I noticed a digital ad for “Affordable Childcare”.

 

Generally speaking, when paired together, AFFORDABLE + CHILDCARE is not a good thing.  But the ad was advertising childcare at $8 an hour and after all my research this was the clickbait I needed to get me curious enough to engage with the ad.

The ad took me to a landing page for AuPairCare.  After a quick review of the site, I learned that an “Au Pair” was not a fancy word reserved for celebrities like Angelina Jolie to describe their childcare team but instead a French word used to describe a cultural exchange program whereby a host family offers room and board in exchange for childcare. I also learned the program was controlled by the State Department and that there were a few firm rules that needed to be followed such as the maximum hours worked each day/week, hourly rate, etc. Yet, even with all the State Department mandated rules — it seemed too good to be true.

Since there were so many variables to compare across the daycare, nanny and Au Pair spectrum, and they didn’t seem to line up easily in an apples to apples type of comparison — I created an Excel spreadsheet [in between naps and feedings] to line up all the costs. After reviewing the data and conducting an analysis, it became clear that an Au Pair was the most affordable/flexible option to meet our family’s needs.

From there, we quickly moved through the process, relocated to a townhome in the same neighborhood [to meet the State Department requirement that the Au Pair MUST have a room with a bed and a door to themselves] and hired an Au Pair from Brazil.

That was in June 2014 and we’ve continued with the Au Pair program every year since. [Three from Columbia, two from Brazil and one from South Africa, if you were curious.] I’m so happy with the program I feel as though I may just have an Au Pair until both my kids are driving!

Needless to say, there is no right way to select your childcare solution.  More importantly, I am in no way claiming my way is the best way.

But this SOMETHING out of NOTHING process helped me with this incredibly important priority.  You can download my original childcare comparison as an example along with the SooN LIVING CHILDCARE COMPARISON CALCULATOR below for free to help you prevent a childcare crisis of your own.

I’m excited to learn which option you landed on — share your decision or feedback in the comments section!

Good luck with your search,

 

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Download the Childcare Comparison Calculator to evaluate the features/benefits of choosing a Daycare, Nanny or Au Pair for your childcare solution.

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Finished with your Childcare Comparison Calculator?

Have you decided to explore the Au Pair option further? If so, checkout my post How to Hire an Amazing Au Pair HERE  my five-part framework to finding the perfect Au Pair.

Feedback? Input? Questions?

We cannot wait to hear from you!

3 Comments

  1. Google

    Usually posts some very exciting stuff like this. If you are new to this site.

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    • Elisha Herzog

      That is such great feedback – thank you!

      Reply

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