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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
My opinions about hosting an Au Pair or working with an agency
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.
Daycare Professional: Sure, there is a $350 non-refundable fee.
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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
But self-reflection wasn’t helping me find childcare and daycare was
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
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,
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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
From there, we quickly moved through the process, relocated to a townhome in the same neighborhood [to meet the State Department
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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