Sarah Vogel is a Cultural Care local childcare consultant with Cultural Care Au Pair. In this role, she helps families decide if hosting an au pair the right childcare solution for them and provides year-round support to host families and au pairs in Bethesda and Chevy Chase. Sarah is also the co-founder of DC Baby, an organization that supports new and expecting parents through networking and educational programs. Her most challenging and rewarding role is being a mom of two little ones (ages 2.5 and 4.5).
(Photo: Cultural Care Au Pair)
“What should I do about childcare?”
It’s a question I’ve heard many times personally (as a mom of two) and professionally (as the co-founder of DC Baby). And it’s not always an easy one to answer. From scouring listservs for nanny recommendations to waiting for a coveted spot in a daycare center; finding the right childcare for your family is no simple task. Especially in the DC area, which boasts the highest childcare costs in the country.
One option many parents have heard about, but haven’t considered for themselves, is hosting an au pair. Au pairs are young people from around the world who provide live-in childcare for American host families for up to two years. This cultural exchange program is regulated by the U.S. State Department. All au pairs have childcare experience and undergo a multi-step screening and training process before joining their host families.
Often, people will tell me that the au pair program sounds great, but they aren’t sure about having an au pair live in their homes. It’s natural to feel a bit uneasy about having a new person live in your home, but there are three big benefits to choosing this option for your family and for your children. These include:
- Convenience: Having a live-in caregiver means traffic jams or Metro delays won’t cause schedule changes that make you (and your caregiver) run late. It also means that you’ll save time explaining the ins and outs of your household because your au pair is part of it. He or she knows how to run the dishwasher and where to look for your son’s lost stuffed animal. And if you ever need to get in touch them outside working hours, you can simply knock on their door or ask them over dinner.
- Flexibility: There’s nothing quite like the flexibility of live-in childcare when there’s a snow day or an unexpected early release from school. When you have an au pair, you can schedule them to work up to 45 hours a week (maximum of 10 hours per day)—and since they’re in the home with you, it’s easy to adjust these hours on the fly. These hours can include days, evenings, and weekends. This flexibility is one of the major reasons why families choose to host au pairs year after year.
- Trust: We all want to trust our children’s caregivers, and living with an au pair helps you develop a stronger sense of trust sooner than you would with a nanny or daycare teacher. Often, au pairs and host families form a relationship that feels like family. In fact, one host family I work with calls their au pair “the niece they wish they had!” Sharing time and space makes it natural to form close ties. And those close ties help your au pair better care for your little ones!
Are you intrigued? I’d be happy to talk to you and share more information about this childcare option. You can also check out my other blog post written for Beltway Bambinos reader on tips for finding the right au pair to welcome into your home!