Has anyone used one? Do I sound like an obnoxious 1 %er for even asking? It's just an au pair is the same price as the daycare two blocks away for one kid. So, it may be the cheaper and more flexible option since we have two kids. If anyone has experience, agency recommendations? Thoughts on interviewing, etc?
I know someone here had one...but I don't remember who. But I do recall it was a pretty positive experience, once they got some rules nailed down. Hopefully whoever it was checks in!
The guy I shared an office with had one. I don't know all the details, but he talked like it was a very good thing for his family.
It was Lady Grey who had an au pair. BUN, so many of GW's classmates in our old neighborhood in your fair city had nannies and au pairs. In fact, because I am younger than many of the parents and look even younger than I am, most of her friends' parents thought I was an Eastern European nanny! Once they found out that I 1. was her mom and 2. spoke English, they were far friendlier than they had been. It was weird.
Here is the State Dept link for the J 1 visa program for au pairs: http://j1visa.state.gov/programs/au-pair/ Click on the Hosts/Employers tab and it will tell you what your responsibilities are, etc.
MW: that was the first place I looked as well! I am generally comfortable with the responsibilities. We've had a nanny before (and doing that legally gets expensive--much more than the au pair). And there theoretically would be more flexibility with the au pair for evening or weekend coverage (within the confines of the rules) than the nanny. I think the big question is one of my personality--am I ready to have someone else live with us? It's something I've always pictured as part of my life down the road: wayward nieces, foreign exchange students, etc. But when I've found my children exhaust me now socially, am I ready for it now? But, the room for the au pair could offer a fair amount of privacy, so hopefully we can interview for some of my boundary concerns.
BUN, it's the living with us thing I couldn't do. Spouse and I are definitely too introverted to cope with someone not in our family living in our house. Of course, the poor au pair would never want to live where I live, so it's a moot point. :)
I learned during the kids' infancy that I can live with my mom. But, she needs her own space, too. So, she would offer to babysit to get the house for herself or head to "her room" early to do some reading. I guess I'm hopeful that maybe I could get a little more time to myself outside of the house, but alone time might also just be my commute. But still, driving, biking or taking the bus by myself? Sounds spectacular right now. So, my standards for alone time are fairly low right now.
I should clarify that this does mean that I'm planning to return to work. And many infant daycares are really backed up--several months waiting lists. I don't know the turnaround for getting an au pair here, though.
I wrote a reply yesterday, but my phone went crazy and I lost it.
Yes, I had an au pair. It worked out very well for us. We were looking at spending $18000/yr on infant child daycare for Baby Grey and on paper, anyway, it looked like the au pair would cost us $14000-$16000/yr and it would cover Girl Grey's before and after school care, too. Of course, actual expenses were higher, but I think it was still worth it.
Our au pair (Y) was older (highly recommend), at 23 years old when she came to live with us. She was not our first choice, but our first choice girl could not get her visa approved for some reason. Y was from Colombia and she was a double transfer, meaning she had been with two other families that didn't work out. That made us extremely skeptical about her, but we found out a month before I was supposed to go back to work from maternity leave that our first choice couldn't come, so we had to take what we could get. Luckily it worked out well. I think that a lot of families who take on au pairs treat the girls like crap and like indentured servants. Some families near us had two au pairs even though the mother and grandmother stayed home. Weird.
We treated her as an adult (I was only 6.5 years older than her) and we followed all the rules. Au pairs can work 10 hours per day, not to exceed 45 hours per week. You do the math, that doesn't exactly work out to 5 10-hour days and with our commutes in the DC area, we needed her for 10 hrs a day. So, we paid her $10/hr for her extra time, as well as for any weekend baby-sitting (rare). You have to pay up to $500 for her to take classes at an accredited institution of higher education. You also pay some other stuff (escaping em right now).
Our living situation was fairly ideal. We had a three-story townhouse with a walk-out basement that had its own bathroom and bedroom, so Y had plenty of privacy. She could come and go out the back door and never disturb us. A few months into her stay, EG's parents sent us their old car, so we had a third car that Y could use, though I didn't want her driving the kids around much and made her walk GG to school in the mornings. She paid her share of the gas.
Yes, there were times when we'd get irritated with her and I'm sure vice versa, but it really was a positive experience. She loved Baby Grey, though butted heads with GG. I was a little nervous about having a young woman in our house, but it turned out fine. There was no sexual attraction between her and my husband and after meeting many of her au pair friends, I think that's probably often the case. What was a little disappointing was that I was hoping Y would become a little bit more a part of our family. She often ate dinner with us, but sometimes it was more like just having a roommate. I thought I'd learn Spanish better and that she'd cook for us sometimes (she did only a handful of times)--not because I wanted her to do that as a duty, but rather to share each others' cultures, but it just didn't happen much.
The only thing that left a bad taste in my mouth about Y was that at the end of her stay with us (she was with us for 1 year 4.5 months), we were moving to NM and she was going back home, I charged her with packing BG's clothes and she stole one of his newborn outfits. I saw, on FB, a picture of her brother's infant son wearing it shortly thereafter. That really hurt me. I didn't save much from my kids' babyhoods and I saved that one for a reason. Maybe if she had asked, I would have given it to her. I understand that she had a significant bond with BG, but that left me rather disappointed in her.
Regarding the amount of time it takes, I'm an avid planner but they do things on a shorter time scale than I would like. I think I had an interview with the au pair coordinator in our area approximately 6 months before going back to work and it wasn't until 2 months before that I started getting profiles to review. Like I said, about 3-4 weeks before I was supposed to go back to work we finally had to give up on our number one candidate because she couldn't get a visa. We liked her so much that we paid for her visa application the second time and it was still denied. She was from Chile and I hear the politics there are crazy, but maybe there was a genuine reason why she was denied. Y was already in the US, so we didn't have to deal with any of that, so we took her with about 2 weeks to spare. I think she spent a week with us before I went back to work.
Anyway, if you have any questions, ask away.