The Ultimate List of Interview Questions Au Pairs Want to Ask Host Families (But Might Be Too Shy to Ask)

The Ultimate List of Interview Questions Au Pairs Want to Ask Host Families (But Might Be Too Shy to Ask)

Hi, Abbie and Maddie here. For aspiring au pairs, the first interview with a host family can be extraordinarily stressful. Au pairs are just as nervous about finding the right host family as host families are about finding the right au pair. What should au pairs ask host families to start the relationship off well?

There are so many things to think about. What will the children be like and the job entail? What will it be like living with this family and so far from home? What will my free time look like and will I be able to make friends? Then add in a potential language barrier, time zone differences, and technical difficulties.

We have some help for you! Here is our ultimate list interview questions that au pairs want to ask host families.

We designed this list of questions to be a conversation. As the discussion evolves, choose questions from the list to keep up the dialogue and get to know your host family better. We don’t recommend asking every question on the list. Start with the most important ones, then follow up afterwards with extra questions if needed.

For host families, this also serves as a list of questions you can ask yourself. Use these questions when you’re reading the ultimate list of interview questions host families ask au pairs to keep the conversation balanced and not too one-sided. Did you cover this information when talking with your potential au pair? It is often very difficult for au pairs to think of all the things they need to ask when they are first conversing in a new language and with a new family.

Ask Host Families About Au Pairing Basics

  1. How did you find out about the au pair program as a host family?
  2. Have you hosted an Au Pair before? How many and do you still talk to them? Would it be possible for me to speak with your current or former au pair?
  3. If you have hosted an au pair before, what are your favorite things about hosting au pairs? What are your least favorite things about hosting au pairs?
  4. How long are you planning to host au pairs? Would you consider extending with an au pair if it was a good match?
  5. Are you considering au pairs from lots of countries or just from my country?
  6. Which languages do you speak at home? Are you looking for an au pair who speaks a certain language? Would you like your au pair to help your children learn a second language? (A lot of au pairs are looking for an English immersion experience, and want to make sure they get lots of English practice.)
  7. What are you looking for in an au pair?
  8. Do you have any worries about hosting an au pair? What are they?
  9. Do you wish for your au pair to be fully integrated into your family’s life or do you prefer your au pair to be more independent in their off-time?

Ask Host Families About Their Children and Childcare Duties

  1. Tell me about your children. How old are they? What are their interests? What are their personalities like?
  2. Are there any activities your kids really enjoy? What activities have your kids enjoyed with previous caregivers?
  3. How do you deal with bad behavior? How do you reward your children? How do you discipline and train good habits into your children?
  4. What types of behaviors require punishment or reward?
  5. Have your previous caregivers had any trouble with your children? Are there any techniques you can recommend to help me work with your children?
  6. What will a typical day/week look like for your au pair?
  7. Do you provide a written schedule? Is there flexibility in the schedule or is it the same every week? How much notice will you give if  the schedule changes?
  8. Do you have activities planned for your children? Who arranges those plans?
  9. What duties do you expect your au pair to handle?
  10. Will I need to drive as part of my child care duties?
  11. Do you have your au pair help with light housework like kids laundry / cleaning up after kids meals/ picking up toys / etc.?
  12. Will I be helping the children with their homework/virtual school? What resources will be provided?
  13. Do your children have any special needs like allergies/medical needs/special needs/learning disabilities? Is there anything I will need to do to ensure that I provide the care that they need?
  14. How much screen time do you allow for your children?
  15. What do you think children need most from their au pair or care giver?
  16. Is there anything important I need to know about caring for your children?
  17. What is the best way to contact you if something happened? Do you provide an au pair phone?
  18. How do you pay your au pairs and how often? What is your weekly stipend/pocket money? Do you provide other perks to your au pairs?

Ask Host Families About Their Family Life

  1. What do you do for a living? What does your spouse do for a living?
  2. Do you or your spouse work at home? Do you work evenings or weekends? What is your typical work week schedule?
  3. What does your family like to do in their free-time? What are your interests and hobbies?
  4. Do you like to invite friends over? What activities do you enjoy with your friends?
  5. Do your kids like to invite friends over? What activities do your children enjoy with their friends?
  6. Do your au pairs invite friends over? Can they stay the night? What about friends of the opposite sex?
  7. Do you or your spouse smoke or vape? Do you drink alcohol? Socially or at home?
  8. Does your family like to travel? Do you have any trips planned? Does your au pair travel with you?
  9. Do you like being outdoors? What are your favorite outdoor activities?

Ask Host Families About Their Culture​

  1. What is your favorite holiday? Why?
  2. Tell me about a tradition in your family. How do you celebrate birthdays / births / weddings / new years?
  3. Do you have any favorite traditional foods?
  4. Are you religious? Do you actively practice your religion?
  5. Do you enjoy going to church / temple / synagogue / mosque? What’s your favorite part?
  6. When was the last time you went to church / temple / synagogue / mosque?
  7. Are there special things you do or don’t do in observance of your religion?

Ask Host Families About Their Location and Transportation

    1. What is it like to live in your city/town? What activities are close by?
    2. How is the weather in your city/town? Is it hot/cold/rainy/snowy?
    3. Do you have family or close friends who live close by? Do you see them often?
    4. Are there other au pairs who live close by?
    5. Is there a college or university close by so I can take classes? Do you know what types of classes they offer for au pairs?
    6. How do you handle the expenses for classes? What and how much do you cover?
    7. Is there public transportation available in your area? Are there any other transportation options?
    8. Do you have an au pair car? What kind of car is it? Is it a stick shift or automatic?
    9. Is the car shared? Can the car be used by your au pairs in their free time?
    10. What are your car rules? Do you have any restrictions?
    11. Who takes care of putting gas in the car? Who cleans the car?
    12. Who fixes the car when it is broken or needs maintenance?
    13. Will I need to get a local drivers license? Does that include taking a written and/or driving test?
    14. How do you handle the car/transportation expenses while on duty? How do you handle the car/transportation expenses while I am off duty?
    15. What happens if I damage the car? What happens if something happens to the car that is not my fault?

Ask Host Families About What It Will be Like to Live With Them

  1. Do you like to cook and/or eat as a family? What are your favorite meals to prepare?
  2. Who typically cooks the meals? Who cleans up afterwards? Does your au pair join you for meals?
  3. Do your au pairs prepare meals for your children? Would you want your au pair to take a turn cooking meals for the family?
  4. Is there anything your family doesn’t like to eat or can’t eat? Do you eat meat / pork / fish / shellfish / dairy / gluten / etc?
  5. Would you be ok with your au pair preparing foods for themselves that the family doesn’t eat? Who pays for your au pair’s special foods?
  6. Are there food items that you do not want the children to eat or see your au pair eating?
  7. Have you ever tried (fill in the blank favorite food)?
  8. Do you have other household help? Who cleans the bathrooms? Who cleans the kitchen and floors?
  9. What are your house rules? Do you have an au pair manual you can share with me?
  10. What is your usual bedtime? Are you a morning person or evening person?
  11. Do you have any pets? Who takes care of feeding and cleaning up after the pet? Do you ask your au pair to help with any pet duties?
  12. Is there anything important I need to know about living with your family? Do you have any pet peeves?
  13. Can I see the au pair bedroom and bathroom? Where is in relation to the other bedrooms?

Ask Host Families About COVID-19​

  1. What will happen if your au pair falls ill and cannot work?
  2. What are the COVID-19 laws in your area?
  3. How seriously is your family taking social distancing? What COVID-19 precautions are you following now? What safety precautions are you asking your au pair to follow?
  4. What precautions will I need to take before arriving in your home? Will I need to quarantine or have a covid test?
  5. Will I be able experience the area and culture once I arrive? Will I be able to travel during my vacation weeks?
  6. Will I be able to meet with friends or have friends over?

Our Experiences with Au Pair Interviews

AbbieAbbie says: I like to send my au pair candidates a list of questions ahead of time so they can prepare. They are working hard at English, so it helps if they have time to think about how they are going to answer in English. It’s okay with me if their English isn’t perfect. I’m going to try my best to make the relationship work, and I want to know they are going to try their best to make our match good, too.

Maddie AvitarMaddie says: I can usually tell in the first few minutes of an interview if an au pair will not be a good fit for my family. I don’t follow the scripted questions that the agencies provide. Instead I like to have a conversation. I ask questions like “what did you have for breakfast?” or “where was the last place you drove the car?” I need a au pair who can converse – answer my questions and follow up with questions of their own.  I don’t expect perfect grammar or for an au pair to know all the words in English. As long as they find a way to communicate.

Do you have favorite interview questions? Comment below, we would love to hear from you!

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The Ultimate List of Interview Questions Au Pairs Want to Ask Host Families

The Ultimate List of Interview Questions Au Pairs Want to Ask Host Families

The Ultimate List of Interview Questions Au Pairs Want to Ask Host Families
Host Parent Interview With Lisa Sanabria

Host Parent Interview With Lisa Sanabria

This blog post is part of the host parent interview series where we get to know other families who are hosting au pairs. Every family is different and we like to represent a variety of views.

We’d love it if you’d consider being a guest on our blog. Message us on Facebook or Instagram, or email us at hello@myaupairandme.com if you are interested.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

Hi, my name is Lisa and I’m married to my amazing husband, Eric. We have 2 great kids, a boy and a girl, both elementary school age. We live in a northern suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.

So far we’ve only had one au pair from South Africa who joined us in August of 2019 and was due to leave this summer. We matched with our second au pair before things got crazy with COVID but now can’t get a visa. Luckily, our current au pair decided to extend 6 months, which takes us out to the end of January 2021. Our next au pair is thankful for our current au pair’s extension and is willing to wait.

Lisa Sanabria and familyI’ve had some unique experiences that have somewhat prepared me for my au pair. Since 2003 we’ve welcomed interns from a large company I used to work for. It’s hard to keep track, but at this point I’ve had more than 160+ college kids live with us. Most of our interns are from various parts of the US. We’ve also had quite a few international interns. They grew up in India, China, Portugal, Columbia, etc. and moved here for college or graduate degrees.

We are social people and have enjoyed the diversity in our life. Of course, there have also been some challenges (which make for some interesting stories over the years).

I also was a residence assistant (RA) in college and had over 500 girls per year on my floor to host, welcome, and oversee. It really feels like a lifelong passion to be a facilitator of young people.

Q: How did you find out about au pairs?

Before we had children, we would host lots of gatherings for the interns’ friends at our house.

I first learned about au pairs from some Swedish au pairs that worked for one of my colleagues. Years later, when we were pregnant with our first child, we remembered about the au pair program. We signed up with Cultural Care, based on that colleague’s recommendation.

We interviewed an amazing German au pair who helped her mom run a daycare from their home. Unfortunately, we learned that you could only schedule au pairs for 45 hours a week. With both of us working, we’d need more like 60 or 70 hours.

Then we learned that my husband’s employer, The Home Depot, was opening a brand new onsite daycare run by Bright Horizons. This solution was great while the kids were young.

When my son entered kindergarten we had to switch to a local after-school daycare. That’s when we started getting calls that he was getting in fights, etc. and we had to come get him. This was very unlike my child and it was also very disruptive for me at work.

We hobbled by until almost the end of his first grade year. At this point we’d been through at least 3+ after-school programs. None had the patience or oversight to watch and understand what was going on.

Then I remembered another colleague’s advice that getting an au pair became easier once both kids were in elementary school. With my daughter starting kindergarten and my son entering 2nd grade, I re-looked at the hours we would need. It was more like 30 hours. Much more doable, and we could add a few date nights or errands in.

We jumped right in and signed up with several agencies and began interviewing. The rest is history and we haven’t looked back.

Q: Which au pair agency (or agencies) have you used and why?

Since we were already signed up with Cultural Care, we reactivated the search there. We also signed up for another agency, GoAuPair, to see what the differences were and to broaden our search.

We also signed up for Au Pair in America but were rejected due to having college interns who only stay for 4 months at a time. They saw this as instability for our au pair and thought it would be difficult for her to bond and then say goodbye. (Personally I thought this was ridiculous. Isn’t this what we do with au pairs?)

We ended up getting our au pair from GoAuPair. Cultural Care had a bigger database and slightly better search function but our best match was with a South African young lady with GoAuPair.

Our current au pair was supposed to go home on August 1, 2020. We asked her to extend in March but her family experienced a lot of tragedy this year and she felt she had to go home and comfort them.

We were all sad but I jumped back into the agency searches. This time I went even broader. My best chance of finding the best match is to have the biggest pool to search from. I reactivated Cultural Care and GoAuPair, then added Au Pair Care and Au Pair International.

This time we matched with another South African from Au Pair International. I was pleasantly surprised when I compared all four agencies. Au Pair International was the cheapest by almost $2000 when compared to Cultural Care.

We were all set, and then COVID wreaked havoc. My second au pair’s visa appointment on June 23rd was canceled and moved to mid-September. Luckily, my current au pair decided to extend 2 months which put her out to October 1st. Safe again.

Then more havoc, with President Trump’s Executive Order banning overseas au pairs until at least 2021. Luckily, my current au pair decided to extend again, so we’re good until January 31, 2021. Now we’re crossing our fingers nothing else happens. What a wild ride!

On the bright side, both my current and future au pair have been very communicative and understanding of everything.

Q: What criteria did you use for finding your au pair?

As an engineer, I have a very analytical background. I did a ton of reading about au pairs and hosting. I read about not only regulations and life with au pairs, but how host families succeed and fail and all the learnings in-between.

A big help both times around was reading the blog aupairmom.com. I also joined several Facebook groups as this COVID mess blew up, to learn more, and get immediate feedback.

Armed with all this info, I printed out every list of suggested questions I could find and starred what I thought was most important.

Our first basic requirement was for an au pair with mastery of English, so we’d set the filter as mastery or just under. My oldest, who has ADHD, struggles to communicate well. We need someone who can jump right in and be the role model for communication.

We also wanted a strong swimmer since we have a lap pool in our backyard.

Beyond this, I read a lot of profiles. I sent our family’s profile to anyone who didn’t say something that sounded crazy and seemed to fit the basics, then let them decide if we should explore further.

Our profile is very detailed.

On the positive side, Atlanta is a big city with lots to do, but also close to mountains, waterfalls, and nature. Another big selling point is that we like to travel and will take our au pair with us.

On the other side, being an au pair for our family comes with some challenges. My son with ADHD needs a lot of patient repetition. Both my kids are close in age and have a love-hate relationship. My au pair needs to be a referee (unfortunately). I have the schedule detailed out so they can see that they need to work a few hours each weekend. Perhaps the biggest thing against us is that we don’t provide a car.

Armed with all this info we get a 60% acceptance rate.

One mom from aupairmom.com likes to call this method, “Dare to match with us.” A little extreme, but I like to weed out those who might be coming with rose-colored glasses and think their year is just going to be a party.

Once they get here, we shower them with love and make them family. But I need to get priorities and personality set up front.

Q: How did you decide which au pair to match with?

As described early we put a lot of detail into our family profile and handbook.

Our current au pair was the first one we interviewed, and we had a good feeling about her but didn’t want to rush into it. We interviewed three or four more but each one we kept comparing back to her.

This is when it really sunk in that she was for us. We interviewed her 3 times, and at the end of the third interview we offered her the position. We all cried happy tears.

Q: What are some cultural experiences you’ve had with your au pair?

We looked up all the South African restaurants in Atlanta. We had our au pair inspect the menus and pick what sounded best, then we went and enjoyed the cuisine. It was enjoyable. My son loved his spaghetti…little did he know he was eating ostrich. =)

Q: Have you had any trouble with your au pair? How did you resolve it?

I think we got really lucky the first time around, as our au pair has immediately clicked in the family and is really mature. Overall, she’s been great.

A little over four months in, my son’s IEP teacher called. He mentioned during class one day that he was afraid to tell the au pair when his sister was being mean to him.

Apparently, the au pair had been trying to encourage them to solve their own problems. She told them if they were fighting they needed to figure out how to resolve it on their own. Sometimes when they earned free time she would put her headphones on. He didn’t know how to deal with his sister trying to hit and scare him.

I was shocked, because my au pair is so loving and patient with them. On the other hand, we all know that too much time with little ones fighting all day can drive anyone crazy.

So after kid bedtime one night, we sat down together. We let her know ahead of time we wanted to talk about how our son was doing in school. The first half of the school year just ended and we had completed teacher conferences, so I don’t think she was expecting any more than that.

We told her some general things that he was supposed to work on. Then I said I thought she was doing great, but that there was one story that the teacher told that we needed to talk about.

I shared the story and my au pair started crying. I hugged her and told her that I understood. The fact she was crying only showed how much she loved the kids.

We talked about an improved way to respond. They should learn how to resolve their differences. If they needed help she could be there with suggestions on how to work through it WITH them.

The three of us then talked with the kids and let them know the changes.

Q: What are some things you wish you did differently (or you plan to do differently with your next au pair)?

Overall I’m pretty happy with how this first au pair experience has gone. I’ve occasionally asked how things have been going, and my current au pair is thrilled.

I continue to read suggestions on how to welcome new au pairs, so next time I’m going to print my new au pair’s pictures from her profile and put them in her room.

I’m also going to warn her to bring an empty suitcase and think ahead about how much she buys when she’s here, and how she will be able to get it home.

Beyond that, not much.

I will ask my au pair one last time about a month before she leaves what my husband and I can improve. Maybe she can write a welcome and advice letter to leave for the new au pair.

Q: What is advice you’d give to other host parents (or parents thinking of welcoming au pairs)?

Really figure out what’s most important to you about your au pair’s personality and skills. We all want the moon and stars for our children and family but no one’s perfect.

For instance, my au pair isn’t a slob but she isn’t much of a cleaner either. This is ok for me because she loves my children and actually enjoys playing with them, even when she’s not on duty. I can give up having a perfectly clean house for the extra play and joy my children get, and the extra few peaceful moments I get.

Also, realize finding someone just like you first of all is impossible and also might not be the best fit. I’ve read stories from people who are take-charge, detailed, in-control people and think an au pair like this might be good. But then they butt heads on who’s taking charge.

Think through some scenarios and how you want your au pair to fit in with your family. Write these skills and personality traits down and search for it.

Q: Do your au pairs talk with each other?​

Once we were down to our final two au pair candidates we asked our current au pair if she’d be willing to talk with them. We asked her to be a sounding board for whatever questions our new au pair might have about us.

Our current au pair didn’t have to tell us anything about the conversation unless there was something completely awful she felt we should know.

We requested they speak in Afrikans so they wouldn’t worry that we were listening in.

They talked for 15 to 20 min and my current au pair says she likes her. I know that we are all on social media together and they talk a little, but not a ton.

Q: Now that you have an au pair, how has it impacted your family, good, bad, or otherwise?

Our au pair has changed our life for the best, 100%.

One example: my son was at an end of Kindergarten level of reading when my au pair arrived in August 2019. Now, not quite a year later, he’s at a beginning 3rd grade level. He jumped two whole grade levels in one year! Amazing!

The few times we are not with our au pair, my kids say, “I wish she was here so I could show her this.”

My husband and I are also able to get a few more chores done, and a little more alone time together. Our stress level has definitely gone down. We are truly family, and will love her forever!

For all the reasons above, I started a new YouTube Channel, American Au Pair Host Mom. I share tips, tricks, advice, and the amazing opportunities families have with the au pair program. I’d love for the My Au Pair and Me family to check it out and share your feedback!

How has your au pair dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Our au pair is an old soul, we are so lucky again in this area. She has au pair friends through social media that she chats with.

Even before COVID, she wasn’t too keen on a lot of outings. Now that it’s hit, she doesn’t go out except to take walks or bike rides.

She’s very concerned about not getting sick and not getting us sick either. So we watch a lot of movies together and sometimes go out on a nature hike to a waterfall.

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Practical Guide to Au Pair Welcome Baskets

Practical Guide to Au Pair Welcome Baskets

Hi, Abbie and Maddie here. We’re all about keeping it real. Some people are super-artsy and create Pinterest- and Instagram-worthy au pair welcome baskets. (If you’re one of those people, more power to you!)

For the rest of us, it’s possible to create a nice, simple welcome package on a budget. The goal is to make your au pair feel welcome, not win a ribbon at the county fair for prettiest display. And your kids might have fun thinking of ways to welcome your new au pair.

Our au pair welcome basket typically includes:

  • Heartfelt family note or gift from the kids.
  • Toiletries.
  • Food and snacks.
  • Office supplies.
  • Region-specific gift (from where you live).

When you’re done, lay them out in the au pair’s room as part of your pre-arrival checklist.

Don’t Send the Au Pair Welcome Baskets Ahead of Time

While you really want your au pair to feel loved and appreciated, it is not recommended to send anything before they arrive. Any care package you send ahead to your au pair’s training school is one more thing they have to fit in their luggage for their plane ride to you. Some agencies also don’t allow gifts at the training center because the au pairs who don’t receive a package can feel left out.

Definitely send a message to tell your au pair that you’re tracking their progress and how much you’re looking forward to their arrival. Don’t necessarily expect a timely reply. They may not have a foreign data plan and must rely on hotel wifi late at night.

Think About the Au Pair

When your au pair arrives, they will have their entire life packed into two suitcases and a small bag. Liquids, gels, and aerosols are minimal or non-existent.

Long story short, the best welcome gifts for your au pair are most likely small creature comforts.

Au Pair Welcome BasketSet yourself a small budget and stick to it. It’s amazing how many small things + a few personal touches you can get without spending a lot of money. Don’t go overboard, as too much is overwhelming. But your au pair will probably have a few small things for your family so it’s nice to have something in exchange.

Heartfelt family note or gift from the kids: Even a short, hand-written note on a piece of notebook paper is a nice personal welcome. The kids can draw a picture (age-dependent), or you can “write” a note from the baby saying, “I love you.” Your kids might also enjoy picking out a small gift for your au pair while you are out shopping.

Toiletries: Your au pair will probably want to make their own choices for shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and lotion. However, you can provide travel-size options or larger bottles from the family supply. Going to the store will be something you’ll do in the first week or so, and then your au pair can pick their own items.

Food and snacks: You might have an idea of what kind of snacks your new au pair likes from emails and chats. Or you can get your au pair some snacks from your region. For example, Seattle has a chocolate company called Theo Chocolate, and Pennsylvania has Tastykakes. Include a water bottle or mug for coffee or tea in case they’re a bit nervous to poke around the kitchen for the first few days.

Office supplies: Your au pair might appreciate a few fun sticky notes, pens, and pencils. A journal or notebook is also a nice touch so they can record their time as an au pair. Stickers to decorate laptops are also popular.

Region-specific gift: A special gift from your area is always a nice surprise. There are so many options for regional gifts. This is a chance to be creative! If you’ve already gone over budget, save some of these items later for a holiday gift or birthday gift.

  • Search on Etsy for items with your hometown name. (If you have trouble finding gifts for au pairs, also search for gifts for nannies and foreign exchange students.) I really like cloth tote bags, but necklace charms, magnets, mugs, and keychains are a perennial favorite.
  • A map or a coffee table book about your area to help your au pair explore their new home.
  • Consider a sweatshirt or other item from your nearest college or professional sports team (though this may make it hard to stick within your budget).
  • Gift card to a local restaurant, shop, or event so they can get out of the house for a local experience. We live outside of Seattle so a Starbucks gift card is a common choice.

Our experiences with AU Pair Welcome Baskets

AbbieAbbie says: When my first au pair arrived, I had twin babies and a preschooler. She got a bunch of things laid out on her bed, but it wasn’t very pretty. I’ve gotten myself a little more organized as time goes on. My most recent au pair had a prettier display, but the same basic things.

Maddie AvitarMaddie says: I love making au pair welcome baskets! And now that my kids are a little older they like to help, too. I typically start with my au pair’s favorite color and use that as a theme throughout. We make a special trip to the store so every au pair gets a unique gift depending on the season and suggestions from my kids. Some years I have arranged it in a big gift basket. Other years I used a gift bag or reusable shopping bag. We have fun putting it together as a family.

Further Reading:

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Practical Guide to Au Pair Welcome Baskets

Practical Guide to Au Pair Welcome Baskets

Help Your Extension Au Pair Renew Their J-1 Visa

Help Your Extension Au Pair Renew Their J-1 Visa

Update June 22, 2020: President Trump has issued an Executive Order barring approval of certain visa types, including J-1 visas. This order is effective until December 31, 2020. Au pairs currently in the U.S. are permitted to remain, and extend. New au pairs who have had visas approved will still be allowed to arrive in accordance with restrictions from the travel ban. Au pairs with active visas may travel outside of the U.S., though it is not recommended due to the travel bans and restrictions. Please work with your local coordinator and your agency. All of this is so new, the Department of State is still figuring out how to apply it. We’re certain there will be many updates ahead. Best of luck to everyone!

Hi, Abbie and Maddie here! There’s a lot of confusion about au pair extensions and visa renewals, so we’ve done some research for you.

After a year with Abbie’s family, Au Pair Y decided to extend with us. We were so excited to host her for a second year. Everything went smoothly with her extension paperwork…until she wanted to renew her visa. Then it became so confusing! Now it’s au pair C’s turn to renew her visa. Even though COVID-19 is making travel plans…murky…I still feel in a better place to help give her advice.

None of Maddie’s four extension au pairs had any plans to travel internationally during their extension year. Her au pairs only renewed their DS-2019s and none of them renewed their J-1 visas.

The DS-2019 and the J-1 Visa

The first thing to clarify is the DS-2019 and the J-1 visa.

The DS-2019 must be renewed for the second year (or any part of it).

The Department of State also reissues the DS-2019, which authorizes the au pair to both stay and extend their stay in the United States. (See j1vsa.state.gov link, as well as 22 CFR § 62.43 – Extension of Program and 22 CFR § 62.12 – Control of Forms DS-2019). The agency is considered the Sponsor and the host family is considered the Host/Employer.

Once the DS-2019 authorizes the extension, the J-1 visa permits re-entry into the United States. If your au pair doesn’t leave the US after their visa expires, it doesn’t matter. The DS-2019 has already authorized extended stay. The J-1 visa is only needed to authorize re-entry to the US.

Does an Au Pair Have to Renew Their J-1 Visa?

No. Not all au pairs choose to renew their visas. It is not required as long as they do not want to exit and reenter the USA in their extension year.

However, it might still be a good idea in case there’s an emergency or sudden need for the au pair to return home.

But if the visa doesn’t get renewed, your au pair can still travel between states within the US. Technically, your au pair can even travel to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean islands (minus Cuba) and still be able to return into the US if they:

  • Were gone less than 30 days.
  • Have their expired J-1 visa, a valid DS-2019, and an unexpired I-94 form.
  • Are allowed to travel to these countries without a tourist visa (based on their home country)

Au Pair and Host Kid on the Beach In MexicoHowever, not all border guards know about au pair rules. Your re-entry at the border or airport is ultimately up to the airline agent or immigration officer.

If you want to chance it, make sure your au pair has their passport, current and past valid DS-2019 forms (not copies), a recent printout of the I-94 form, and a copy of the Automatic Visa Revalidation provision.

Be prepared with extra patience, and especially try not to travel within 30 days of the end of the extension year. (Yes, this may make the au pair’s travel month more difficult if they want to take an international hop and then come back home for their stuff. Plan ahead with our host family and au pair departure checklist.)

Au pair J-1 Visa Renewal Process

It turns out that au pairs can’t renew their visas on U.S. soil. They must visit a U.S. embassy in another country (preferably their home country and a few months before their first year ends).

Make sure to plan ahead! U.S. Embassy wait times can be weeks away.

Au pairs are encouraged to renew their visa in their home country before their current visa expires. This is because there’s a possibility the embassy officer won’t renew the visa.

If the au pair renews their visa in another country after the original visa has already expired, their only option is to go home. That’s going to be an expensive, unplanned plane ticket.

1. Family and Au Pair Confirm Extension with the Agency

Both you and your au pair will confirm the extension. Your agency will have some sort of form for each of you to complete to make it official.

You’ll pay the agency fees to extend a second year, and the au pair will have to provide proof of the six educational credits and proof of the monthly contact with the LCC.

Part of the au pair’s extension fee is the $367 nonrefundable fee to the U.S. Department of State for the DS-2019 extension. Depending on the agency, the au pair may be asked to pay this fee. Some agencies charge this fee to the host family. Some agencies allow the family to pay the fee as a gift to the au pair. This is an excellent opportunity if you want to reward your au pair but can’t afford to give your au pair a raise.

2. The Au Pair Agency Sends the DS-2019

Au Pair Agency confirms all the requirements have been met, communicates with the US Department of State, and sends the new DS-2019 to the au pair.

The DS-2019 Form, also called a Certificate of Eligibility, is the document that allows the au pair to apply for the J-1 visa as part of the au pair program.

3. The Au Pair Schedules an Embassy Appointment

Next, the au pair schedules a U.S. Embassy appointment. Any U.S. Embassy will do, although their home country is preferred. The appointment will be at least a few weeks out, probably longer with COVID-19 (if at all). Check your chosen U.S. Embassy wait times.

In our case, au pair Y was from Japan but renewed her visa at the U.S. Embassy in Vancouver, Canada because we live close to Seattle. It was just like a long sightseeing trip for her and her friend.

Your au pair will start the process by filling out the DS-160, non-immigrant visa application form. At this point in the process, they’ll also schedule the appointment for their visa interview at their chosen embassy, and pay the visa application fee.

Once your au pair has their visa interview date, they can make travel plans. They’ll also need to plan their visit for a few days after the appointment to give time for the Embassy to process the paperwork. It’s not just walk in, walk out, and done.

They’ll also need to get another set of passport-quality photos (Costco is really cheap).

4. The Au Pair Attends the Embassy Appointment

When the au pair goes to their embassy appointment, they’ll need all the paperwork:

  • DS-2019.
  • DS-160.
  • I-94.
  • Passport with current J-1 visa.
  • New passport photos.
  • Money.

Then they wait for processing. In some locations they will be able to pick up the completed paperwork at the Embassy. In other locations they will need to figure out how to receive mail. Typically they can talk to the hotel/hostel staff to arrange for mail delivery.

Further Reading About Au Pair DS-2019 and J1 Visas

If you or your au pair knows you’ll need to travel outside of the United States during the au pair extension year, here are a few more articles to help:

If you’re not renewing the J-1 visa, become familiar with Automatic Visa Revalidation if traveling to Canada, Mexico, or Caribbean for less than 30 days.

If your au pair is renewing their J-1 visa, these links will help:

As always, check with your local coordinator and your agency. Here are links for some agency COVID-19 announcements and updates:

Did Your Extension Au Pair Renew Their Visa?

How did it go? Have any tips or tricks or stories to share? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Or if you’re a host family, pop on over to our My Au Pair and Me Host Family Community on Facebook. It’s nice to talk to other host families and know you’re not alone!

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Help Your Extension Au Pair with J-1 Visa Renewal

Help Your Extension Au Pair with J-1 Visa Renewal

Departure Checklist for Families and Au Pairs

Departure Checklist for Families and Au Pairs

Abbie and Maddie here. Sometimes in the shuffle and excitement of interviewing and planning for a new au pair, details with your departing au pair can get overlooked. How much do you expect your au pair to clean before they leave? Will there be overlap? Will you want to clean and set things up before your new au pair arrives? Will you give a goodbye gift? There are so many things to think about, so we created a departure checklist!

General Tips  – Saying Goodbye to Your Au Pair

  • Prepare your children for the transition between au pairs – Check out our blog for helpful tips.
  • Find or make a farewell gift for your au pair. Consider a photo book or other small keepsake that can be personalized.
  • Plan a goodbye party with your family and/or their friends.
  • Confirm your au pair’s transportation and travel month plans. How are they getting to the airport? When is their departure flight?
  • Make sure you save time for you and your children to say final goodbyes.
Offboarding Departure Checklist Free PDF

Offboarding Departure Checklist for Host Families and Au Pairs

Are you sure you’ve remembered everything before your au pair leaves? Have you and your au pair discussed his or her travel month? Have you set the expectation with your au pair about cleaning their room and bathroom before they go? Don’t be stuck unable to let your new au pair get an Uber because it’s still under the previous au pair’s login, and more!

Download our Free PDF to help you out! We also offer editable versions in Word, PowerPoint, Google Docs, and Slides if you want to customize the checklist for your departing au pair.

Abbie’s Stories

Abbie AvitarHi, Abbie here. We planned to have a two-week overlap between our first and second au pair. Sadly, our first au pair’s grandparents passed away right before the second was due to arrive so we sent her home early. We told her to focus on her family and that we would take care of everything.

Our first au pair had already been selling her extra clothes and paring down her belongings. She wasn’t planning on taking advantage of her travel month, and was planning to go home as soon as her contract ended. She had an easy time packing. I took care of the few things she left behind like some backpacks, hiking shoes, and some clothes she couldn’t sell. I figured that either the new au pair could use it or I would donate it to a thrift store.

After a few months on the job, our second au pair had trouble getting an Uber or Lyft account set up. Our family reused the same phone and phone number for au pairs, and the phone number was already tied up from the first au pair. Luckily we were still in contact and got everything straightened out, but that’s when I realized I needed a departure checklist.

Our second au pair was also quite organized. We had an overlap between our second and third au pair. Not only did they get a chance to meet each other, we all had the opportunity to spend Labor Day weekend at a friend’s cabin and go to the rodeo. (Welcome to America, new au pair!) Then my second au pair went on her travel month, but ended up coming home early. She had packed everything up, with the exception of what she took with her for her travel month. It was at my house for a while, but my parents live about an hour closer to the airport so they agreed to take her suitcases for a while. It took a bit of effort and coordination to reunite her and her luggage for her flight home, but in the end we made it.

Even though this was my second time saying goodbye to an au pair, it still felt more chaotic than it should be. Together, Maddie and I agreed we needed a departure checklist. And if we needed one, then other host parents probably needed one too.

Maddie’s Stories

Maddie AvitarHi, Maddie here! Each of my five au pair departures have been as unique as my au pairs themselves.

On one end of the spectrum, I had an au pair who packed two weeks early to figure out exactly what she could bring home. She also had her travel month planned out to the minute. She added all her plans to the family calendar let us know exactly where she would be two months in advance.

On the other end of the spectrum, I had an au pair packing 30 after she needed to leave for the airport. Her friends came over to drive her to the airport and ended up shoving everything they could into her suitcases for her. She ended up leaving some important things behind and left a mess for me to clean up.

And in between I had an au pair who did a great job cleaning the bedroom and bathroom but totally forgot to clean the au pair car. My new au pair only mentioned how bad the car was when she arrived when she was getting ready to leave herself. I felt terrible that it didn’t even cross my mind to check the au pair car.

Abbie and I made this departure checklist to avoid another last minute disaster!

Offboarding Departure Checklist Free PDF

Offboarding Departure Checklist for Host Families and Au Pairs

Are you sure you’ve remembered to do everything before your au pair leaves? Do you have your house key and garage door remote? Does your au pair know how they get to the airport and when they need to leave to get there on time? Did your au pair remember all her personal items from the au pair car and clean it for the next au pair?

Download our Free PDF to help you out! Want to modify the checklist for your own family? Editable versions in Word, PowerPoint, Google Docs, and Slides are also available.

Further Reading About Au Pair Departures

How Did Your Last Au Pair Departure Go?

How about you? What things did you do when your au pair left? Have any tips or tricks or stories to share? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Or if you’re a host family, pop on over to our My Au Pair and Me Host Family Community on Facebook. It’s nice to talk to other host families and know you’re not alone!

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Departure checklist for host families and au pairs pin

Departure checklist for host families and au pairs
Host Parent Interview with the Jones Family

Host Parent Interview with the Jones Family

This blog is part of the host parent interview series where we get to know other families who are hosting au pairs. Every family is different and we like to represent the variety of views.

We’d love it if you’d consider being a guest on our blog. Message us on Facebook or Instagram, or email us at hello@myaupairandme.com if you are interested.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

Jones FamilyHello, we are the Jones family! We have two children, our girl is a toddler and our boy is a pre-schooler, two dogs, and our au pair from France. This is our 3rd au pair and they have all been from France (and yes the kids are learning French, but no my husband and I don’t know French!)

Our household is very busy with the many activities that we like to do to enjoy life in Denver, Colorado. We live within walking distance to downtown Denver. Both my husband and I work in technology and mainly work from home, however, we have outside hobbies as well.  We partly own a restaurant/gas station and several homes in downtown Denver that we rent. We love enjoying life and being active.

Q: How did you find out about au pairs?

We found out about the au pair program from a family member who had many au pairs and raved about the program.

Q: Why did you use an au pair (instead of daycare, nanny, etc.?)

We chose to use an au pair for several reasons. We loved the idea of being exposed to a new culture and language for our children and ourselves. We like having a busy and full house.

Additionally, we wanted flexibility in childcare hours as we enjoy various activities while we’re not working. This flexibility affords us date nights or to play a sport on the weekend. Our lives are full and we get to all enjoy different activities because we have this flexible coverage.

Q: Which au pair agency (or agencies) have you used and why?

Our first au pair agency was Au Pair Care. I chose them because they had a wide selection of French au pairs.

We then switched to Cultural Care for the last two because they ended up having a wider selection of French au pairs. We stuck with French au pairs because initially we heard great things. After our first was such a success and the children were learning French we decided to commit to French au pairs (but who knows, we may switch at some point.

Q: What criteria did you use for finding your au pair?

When finding an au pair, I had an initial screening before interviewing; pictures with children, good driver, no smoking/drugs, no boyfriend, knows how to cook

Secondly, during the interview, I try to find out how kind and loving they are with children. I ask about their childcare experience, their discipline techniques, and activities they would do with the children.

I also ask if they like to be active, how well they drive, what their relationship is like with their parents, and what they like to cook.

From all of these questions I can also get a sense of their personality. I prefer, loving, responsible, energetic, and positive people.

Q: How did you decide which au pair to match with?

It’s always a tough decision for me and it always ends up with two great candidates. I write all the pros and cons of both and then I ask several questions.

First, will they take care of my children very well (safety, love, care)?

Second, how compatible are they with our family as a whole?

Then, I follow my gut and which person feels lighter. My husband always leaves the final decision to me because I am the one interacting with the au pair the most, but this is a lot of pressure. The decision has never been easy. Thankfully, because I already had two great candidates that I have always ended up with great au pairs. I couldn’t go wrong either way.

For my current au pair, I also had two great candidates. However, I didn’t like some of the pictures that I saw on one of the au pair’s social media accounts. To be frank, the pictures were very provocative and excessive, not the same person that I interviewed with several times. I did approach her about it and let her know that I didn’t feel comfortable with those pictures. It was a tough conversation. I didn’t end up choosing her. I wasn’t sure which persona I could trust as her social media was vastly different.

Q: How has your au pair dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic?

I cannot rave enough how grateful we are to have our current au pair during this difficult time.

We’ve had our ups and downs over the last several weeks of self-quarantine. She has made the best of the situation. The children do several activities during the day and are getting some nice outdoor time in the backyard. Seeing her smiling face and positive attitude is tremendous. We know we are lucky!

Most of our schedule is the same in that my two children are not in school yet. However, our au pair was taking them on an outing once per day (ie. zoo, karate, gymnastics, children’s museum, swim class).

We’ve talked about the situation almost daily, discussing our concerns, fears, and future plans. She knows au pairs that have gone home. She wants to stay for at least 2 more months and if the quarantine remains then go home. She is looking at the positive in that she can focus on learning English and shopping online. However, her main attraction is traveling the US.

We understand where she is coming from and support her in whichever direction she chooses as this unfolds.

Q: What is something funny your au pair did that you didn’t expect?

My au pair made porcupine shaped cupcakes with chocolate chips as the quills. She said it is our family of quarantined porcupines.  It was a nice pick-me up with all of the current news of covid-19.

Q: What are some cultural experiences you’ve had with your au pair?

We always take our au pairs to the yearly western stock show. The western way of life is a large part of Colorado history. 

During the fall we visit a pumpkin patch and run the corn maze. None of the French au pairs have experienced anything like this before and they think it’s pretty cool. 

Last Christmas our au pair and her au pair friends made an authentic French Christmas dinner.  It was amazing!

Q: What are some things you wish you did differently (or you plan to do differently with your next au pair)?

I’ve learned that reviewing the house manual every week for the first month is very important, then every few months after that. There is a lot of information to remember and reviewing the manual reinstates what it takes to have a successful year with your family.

One reason is because the au pairs English improves over time and they understand more as time goes on.

Secondly, it avoids any conflict as it has been written down and agreed upon from the beginning.

For example, we have several child-related chores every week; diaper bag emptied on Tuesday, laundry on Monday and Thursday, new sheets on the beds every Monday. If any of these chores slip then it can be easily reiterated during that weekly review.

Q: What is advice you’d give to other host parents (or parents thinking of becoming au pairs)?

I let other host parents know what a great program it is! There are so many advantages from cultural sharing to someone helping with household, child-related chores.

I also recommend using the program to its fullest. The agencies I have used talk about au pairs helping out with cooking a few meals a week, some grocery shopping, and some light household cleaning that relates to them being part of the family. This extra help is tremendous with our busy household and we appreciate it.

We also stick with the rules: <45 hours per week, <10 hours per day. I’ve heard from other host parents and au pairs that some don’t utilize the cooking or others do 45+ hours. We respect the rules and our au pairs.

We make sure to make them feel part of the family and recommend including your au pair when doing various family activities. At the end of the program you will have another family member!

Q: Have you had a gap or overlap when transitioning between au pairs? 

With our second au pair we overlapped. It was nice to have the first au pair explain things in French when her English was in the beginning stages. Plus, it made her feel comfortable being in a new country. 

The third au pair did not have any overlap. The nice part was that everything was fresh and a new beginning. However, I noticed having overlap was more helpful than not due to language barriers and comfortability.

Q: Have you had an au pair take a travel month? How did that go?

Yes! Our au pair took a travel month and really enjoyed it. She was able to explore and come back and see us one more time before she left. It was very special for her to explore and be free from all obligations yet feel like she had a family in the US she could rely on during her travel month.

Q: Do your au pairs talk with each other?​

Yes, yes, yes…weekly our second au pair would call our first.  Now, our third au pair calls the other two. It’s amazing and they get to talk in French about their experience (hopefully all good). This last week during our toddler’s birthday the first two au pairs were on Zoom while we sang happy birthday. It was very special. We plan to do a small tour of France and visit all of our au pairs in a few years.  We are truly grateful!

Q: Now that you have an au pair, how has it impacted your family, good, bad, or otherwise?

Our family has been positively impacted by hosting au pairs. My children are exposed to another culture and language. My husband and I enjoy getting to know our au pairs and having a young adult in the house with fun energy.

Additionally, we have flexibility with our child care. My husband and I are able to schedule date nights.

Lastly, we end up becoming a family.

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Help Your Kids Transition Between Au Pairs

Help Your Kids Transition Between Au Pairs

Abbie and Maddie here. We’ve both had multiple au pairs transition out of our lives and on to greater things. No matter how old your children are, caregiver transitions can be difficult. Au Pair transitions are emotional and stressful. Not only are you loosing your support system, you are also loosing a member of the family. Children in daycare can also experience caregiver turnover, but it’s more ad hoc. At least with au pairs, it’s a planned (if inevitable) change.

Here are our tips and tricks for helping kids (and you) transition between caregivers.

General tips to help your kids transition between au pairs

  • Talk with your children. Acknowledge it’s sad to say goodbye, but exciting to say hello.
  • Help them name their feelings.
  • Keep in touch with your old au pair (if you want) using social media and video calls.
  • Ask the outgoing au pair to make keepsake for your children. Consider a photo book or a Build-a-Bear that can be personalize with her voice saying a phrase.
  • Involve older kids with picking the new au pair.
  • During the transition, try to keep other changes to a minimum.
  • Reassure them and love them.
  • Take care of yourself. This is a big change for you, too (happy or sad).

Abbie’s Story

Abbie AvitarHi, Abbie here. A few months ago, I read this Daily Mail article about a woman’s feelings when her au pairs left her when she was a child. After reading this article, I felt so sad. Her feelings of loss and insecurity could have easily been avoided. I can also tell she blames her mother for a lot.

So at dinner one night before we started looking for our second au pair, I asked the boys, “Who do I love the most?”

They were surprised because I take great pains to let them know I love them all equally for their individuality. Was this a trick question? Did I really have a favorite child?

Then I explained that our first au pair was coming up on the end of her second year and her visa was going to expire. We needed to choose a new au pair.

But just as I love each of my children, we can also love each of our au pairs. We don’t have to love just one au pair at a time. We also don’t have to love one au pair more or less than another. We can love both of them equally for who they are.

It was nice that our au pair was also at the family dinner table, and got to hear the affirmation that she was loved.

After that, it was much easier to talk about our au pair interviews. Our current au pair was curious how we looked at profiles and made decisions who to contact. The boys also enjoyed sitting down and looking at profiles, reading about all the people who could possibly join our family in the coming year.

We also would include the boys in Skype interviews, after we had vetted our initial list into the top choice through email.

I had also asked our au pair if she would be willing to talk with the new au pair, and all of them have been willing to talk with each other.

Even now, our third au pair will help the children draw pictures for and write letters to our first and second au pairs.

Maddie’s Story

Maddie AvitarHi, Maddie here! We have had au pairs since my daughter was 4 months old so my kids are used to transitions. My 6 year old daughter has welcomed 6 au pairs to our family. My 2 year old son has welcomed 3 au pairs.

We talk about the process openly as a family as we go through it. My kids like to watch the au pair videos with me. My daughter loves all the au pairs and tells me why each one would be great for her. My 2 year old son is curious but would rather play with trucks.

I usually interview the au pairs first and then bring the kids in to say hi if I like them. When we make a match my kids get to know the new au pair a little before she arrives. When my au pairs are preparing to depart my kids like to help them pack, although they are not actually very helpful.

Every transition for us has been a little different. Our first au pair, M, loved to play the piano. After our first au pair left, my daughter would get really excited when she heard someone playing the piano. She was heartbroken to see that it was not au pair M.

When our second au pair left my daughter was almost 3 years old. Au pair D was dating a bro pair at the time and for months my daughter would ask “Where is bro pair T?” Even after au pair D and bro pair T broke up, my daughter would ask au pair D about bro pair T. Awkward…but au pair D took it in stride.

When our 3rd au pair, R, arrived, my daughter refused to call au pair R by her name. When we asked her the name of the new au pair she said “You’re my D.” (The name of the second au pair.) It’s as if D’s name was now the label for all au pairs.

Now that my daughter is older she wanted to make our new au pair a sign for the airport. She was also really excited to “teach her to take care of the kids” and “help her know the rules.”

Further Reading

How do you help your kids transition caregivers?

How about you? How have you prepared for changes between nannies, daycare providers, or au pairs? Have any tips or tricks to share? Then comment below.

Or if you’re a host family, pop on over to our My Au Pair and Me Host Family Community on Facebook. It’s nice to talk to other host families and know you’re not alone!

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HelpYour Kids Transition Between Au Pairs

HelpYour Kids Transition Between Au Pairs

HelpYour Kids Transition Between Au Pairs

Interview with host parent Carrie

Interview with host parent Carrie

Interview with host parent Carrie

We’re starting a new series where we occasionally interview other host parents. Every family is different, and we like to represent a variety of views.

We’d love it if you’d consider being a guest on our blog. Message us on Facebook or Instagram, or email us at hello@myaupairandme.com

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

Au Pair Host Mom Carrie with her kidsHello! My name is Carrie, and my husband Tony and I got our first au pair in 2014. Our daughter was a toddler and we had infant twin boys when she arrived.

We’ve had 5 au pairs altogether. I am still in contact with three of our pairs and really do think of them like daughters (or step daughters).

I was older when I had my kids (42 when the boys were born) and we lived in Bothell, WA when we had our au pairs. I worked full time in Seattle before I had my twins. I was expecting to go back full time, because we had opened up a gym that was still in start-up mode. Unfortunately, I was laid off 2 months after our au pair arrived! Rather than go back to work, I decided to start consulting instead. I don’t know how I would have survived that time without our au pair!

Q: How did you find out about au pairs?

I learned about them from a mom at the park, and once I found out about the twins, it seemed like a viable option for us.

Q: Why did you use an au pair (instead of daycare, nanny, etc.?)

We chose the au pair route for two main reasons.

First, I liked the idea of my kids getting to stay in their home environment. With the gym and later my consulting, our hours were unpredictable, so having someone live with us was a great option.

Second, the au pair program was also more affordable than other options.

Q: Which au pair agency (or agencies) have you used and why?

I’ve used Cultural Care and Au Pair Care.

We had a bit of a falling out with Cultural Care after our 2nd and 3rd au pair experiences and took a break from the program for almost two years.

Then when we decided to try again, we made a fresh start. I had been really impressed with the Area Director at APC, so decided to give them a try.

Q: What criteria did you use for finding your au pair?

We learned this as we went!! It was definitely trial and error, so I learned as much from our mistakes.

Au Pair Host Mom Carrie's TwinsOur first au pair was our unicorn! She was 18, from Brazil and spoke nearly perfect English. She had the same sense of humor as we do, was very calm under pressure, and very independent. She made friends and figured things out on her own. I didn’t realize how rare that was!

I have found that the more honest we are in the matching process the better.

Living in Bothell was a bit of a downer, because there wasn’t easy access to public transit. Two of our au pairs had accidents in our cars and two were from South Africa and never felt comfortable driving. Transportation was always an issue.

We had limited means, and with the start-ups we don’t travel. Add to that I work from home, which many au pairs don’t like. Add to that three little kids at home full time and we were probably not a first choice for a lot of au pairs!

We were a better fit for girls who wanted the family environment, were used to babies and noise and chaos, and didn’t want or expect a lot of luxuries.

Q: How did you decide which au pair to match with?

My process was to have an initial email exchange, then a Skype with me and them, and then one with the kids to see how they did. Then I’d email them our family handbook and ask them to look through it. I asked them to reply to see if it sounded like a good match, and if they were rules they could live with.

All that being said, in my experience, I’ve ‘just known’ the great matches and had to work to convince myself on the ones that weren’t so great. So much of it comes down to how well the mom and the AP get along. Especially when mom works from home!

Q: What is something funny your au pair did that you didn’t expect?

I was not expecting the differences in using the toilet/toilet paper!! That has been almost universally something we’ve had to explain 🙂

Q: What are some cultural experiences you’ve had with your au pair?

I’m Canadian, so we always included our Au Pairs in Canadian and American Thanksgivings. We would take everyone to Snoqualmie Falls.

One Au Pair came with us to Canada for Christmas with my family.

Q: Have you had any trouble with your au pair? How did you resolve it?

Out of five au pairs, we had two au pairs that ended very badly.

Our first (unicorn) au pair had planned to extend for a year and then left abruptly when she found out her grandma in Brazil was dying. I was in a panic! There was an au pair in rematch in Chicago who would have to go home to South Africa if she didn’t match in one more day. In her profile it said she was dealing with three toddlers and 2 newborn twins and was overwhelmed and needed a family with less kids. I had a feeling it was a bad idea to make a hasty decision. There were additional warning signs…never being able to get hold of her, drama around technical difficulties. I convinced myself it would be okay.

AFTER we matched I searched her social media profiles and realized she had a very different persona and social life than was a fit for us. The agency brushed off my concerns. As it turned out, her profile was wrong…she was only watching 3 kids and was overwhelmed. She had clearly misrepresented her experience with children under 2. I ended up making signs all over the house to remind her to fasten high chair straps, close baby gates, etc. Then she started sharing a lot of personal drama…enough that I was getting concerned. The agency finally did a psych eval on her and sent her home.

The match after her was also bad. She was from Mexico and after she arrived we realized she didn’t really speak any English. During the Skype calls she had her sister there and blamed the communication on bad reception. I think someone else did her written communication for her! She shared that she didn’t want to be an au pair. She wanted to study ballet in Russia, but her parents wanted her to go to the US first. She was very uncomfortable with me being in the house, and she wouldn’t talk to me when I was in the room. I asked her how we could fix things, and she said the only thing she wanted was for me to stay away from the kids when she was working. It was just awkward and uncomfortable.

When I asked the agency for help, they said considering this was my second rematch, maybe our family wasn’t a good fit for the program, and that au pairs should not be considered child care. Consider them more like exchange students who do a little bit of child care. She (the director) wouldn’t rematch our au pair unless we had a masters in adolescent psychology. So that’s why I stopped using that agency, and stepped out of the program for a year and a half.

Q: What are some things you wish you did differently (or you plan to do differently with your next au pair)?

Go with my gut! Lurk on ALL their social media accounts and pay attention to red flags and inconsistencies.

Just like hiring an employee…any drama prior to the offer is a huge red flag.

Beware of people who are too concerned about what’s in it for them.

Beware of people who say they want to be an au pair because they just love children because children do nothing but bring love and joy (because they obviously haven’t spent a lot of time with real children hahaha).

The better they can speak English and communicate, the easier it will be.

Q: What is advice you’d give to other host parents (or parents thinking of becoming au pairs)?

I’d say if you’re worried about someone living in your house, don’t be. The right match living with you is such a lift, you won’t even mind it. Most of the au pairs really want to experience American life and they won’t be home much on their off time.

At the same time, don’t treat it like you’re getting cheap live in child care. That’s not what’s being communicated to the girls. From what they’ve told me, the recruiters overseas are selling a year of vacation and study with a bit of childcare. If you have a lot of need for childcare, make sure au pairs understand that.

Be patient, and if you aren’t in an emotional or practical space to patiently welcome someone who will have needs and need time and help, hold off. They really rely on their host families to help them, especially at first, and sometimes they’re too scared to ask for what they need. It’s a tough spot to live with your new employer and feel like you have to be perfect.

I’ve learned to be patient and lower my expectations and it goes better.

Q: Now that you have an au pair, how has it impacted your family, good, bad, or otherwise?

I will say that I was worried about the emotional impact of having someone live with us for a year, or more and then leave. I thought the children would get too attached and then bereft when she left.

Turned out they were fine, but I was certainly bereft when a couple left!

The great au pairs and I are still friends and I really love them.

I am really glad we had (and are still having) the experience.

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Worried about new au pair laws? Take Action!

Worried about new au pair laws? Take Action!

Hi! Abbie and Maddie here. If you have been keeping up with the au pair news, then you already know about the Massachusetts ruling including au pairs in their domestic worker bill of rights. Are you worried about the changing domestic worker laws in your area and how they may affect the au pair program? We are! So, we decided it was time to take action.

In total, there are 9 states and two cities across the USA with a domestic worker bill of rights. The state of Washington currently has two open bills, SB6247 and HB2511, providing labor protections for domestic workers.

We started taking action by writing letters to the Washington state senators and representatives about the au pair program. Our au pairs wrote letters, too! On January 21st, we ventured to Olympia, Washington to speak with our state senators and representatives. We support the domestic worker’s rights bill, but we are concerned that it may have unintended consequences on the au pair program. And where the bills don’t explicitly include au pairs, they also don’t exclude them either.

Taking Action in Olympia

Monday morning we woke up super early and ventured out into the cold, winter rain. Olympia is about an hour and a half from the Seattle area on a good day, and we were fighting morning commute. Luckily Maggie’s husband also came along, which made us a carpool and able to go a little faster.

This was our first time ever at the capitol. We knew what to expect from reading the instructions and tips from the Seattle Host Family Facebook group and the Cultural Care emails. We also joined a group chat with other host families going to Olympia for the hearings.

Meeting people in real life after talking with them online is sometimes weird. It’s that feeling of seeing someone’s face that looks familiar but you’re not quite sure from where. After we registered to speak, we figured out we were all together and headed out to a cafe to chat before the first session.

Tip: If you are attending a government session in person coordinate with other host families and au pairs before hand. It really helps to have people posting times and places of where to meet, emails who to send your letter to, and give you friendly faces to look for in the crowd.

Maddie and Abbie at the Washington State Capital

The session begins

When we returned from breakfast, we lined up outside of the designated room until they let us in. The room was completely packed, maybe 100 to 150 people, and many more in the overflow room. Over 50 people signed up to testify.

Immediately the committee moved our issue to the front of the line because of its popularity. The chair also specifically mentioned they received dozens of written statements from au pair families, au pairs, and agencies. It seemed to made an impact. Letters and emails work!

Because the bill was about passing rights for all domestic workers, about half of the testimony was really sad stories of abuse. This included stories of sexual harassment and assault, under paying and refusing to pay for work, threats to call immigration authorities, etc.

Others spoke out in support of the amazing jobs that domestic workers do and how important it is to pass this bill. Many domestic workers are women and people of color, groups that are easily exploited.

An AARP representative asked for further legal clarification and exemption for family members who get paid a small amount for taking care of elders. For example, a college student who goes over to grandma or grandpa’s house once a day to clean the house and administer medications or cook.

It’s pretty eye-opening to realize how many people will be affected by this bill!

Tip: If you are attending a government session in person arrive and check in early. They called us up to speak in the order that we checked in. They gave more time for the first speakers than they gave to the later speakers.

Finally our turn

When it came to the au pair issue we were very well represented. The VP of Cultural Care was the first to speak. We addressed issues of jurisdiction, protections, adequate compensation, mothers in the workplace, hosting an au pair being different than hiring nanny, affordable and alternative childcare, and more.

As host parents, we tried to divvy up the topics. Some host parents tackled the emotional side. They told stories about how au pairs are family, not just employees. They hang up Christmas stockings for former au pairs, and send presents overseas. Other parents told stories of bringing second or third languages and cultures into their homes.

Other host parents tacked the logical side. They explained the program protections and how the matching and rematch processes work. Abbie shared how her local coordinator came and inspected her house and sat down at the kitchen table to go over the contract step-by-step before they even matched with an au pair. Maddie shared about her rematch experience. She also talked about her current au pair who had left a host family that was asked to leave the program. Another host dad talked about how this bill could financially hurt au pairs because of increased taxes. Under the proposed law, taxes would be calculated including the money that goes towards room and board.

The MOST impactful testimony came from two current au pairs. Au pair testimony is FAR more impactful than host family testimony. One dad commented he could see a noticeable body language change in the senators and representatives when au pairs spoke. The au pairs shared that they came to the USA for a cultural experience, not to make a lot of money. They also talked about how their host families provide all the essentials. The stipend is enough for them to travel and have good experiences. Where they wouldn’t mind a little more money, they didn’t want the au pair program to become a transactional relationship. The room burst into applause and the chair had to settle us down.

Tip: If you are attending a government session with other host families it helps to coordinate your testimony. The law makers grew tired of hearing the same things over and over again. We also could have covered more points if we had decided who was going to address which topic before hand.

Au pairs vs domestic workers – our opinions

Although au pairs perform domestic work, they already have as many or more protections as domestic workers. We were there to ask that au pairs be exempted from these important bills.

As au pair host parents, we realized that it was our job to explain to our senators and representatives about the au pair program protections. Au pairs already have written contracts, federal wage protections, and resources such as the local area coordinator and a toll-free hotline. If au pairs go into rematch, the host families are contractually obligated to house and feed them until they depart. Au pairs also have the agency to help them find a new placement quickly. Live-in nannies and house keepers don’t have help or guarantees if something happens between them and the family.

Domestic workers, like house cleaners and local nannies, need at least minimum wage so they can pay for their own food and housing. Au pairs already have all food, housing, and at least a portion of their transportation costs covered. The au pair stipend is only a portion of the overall compensation package.

One of the parents among us works in finance. He calculated that paying an au pair minimum wage is actually harmful to the au pair’s bottom line. By raising their direct income, they pay a higher income tax which is calculated before living expenses are deducted. The current stipend system is the best tax deal for au pairs because they don’t pay taxes on living expenses. The tax on the stipend portion of their income is minimal.

Maddie did some calculations to confirm:

  • Assuming $369 per week in room and board deductions (allowed under the Washington state bill)
  • Assuming an average working week of 43 hours: 40 hours at the minimum wage of $13.50 per hour and 3 hours at $20.25 per hour
  • Her au pair would earn $600.75 in wages, $231.75 after room and board deductions ($36 more per week than at the minimum stipend today)
  • Her au pair would keep $163.32 after paying $68.43 in taxes. (Today she pays $19.83 per week in taxes at the minimum stipend)

Maddie will pay her au pair an average of $36 more per week, but she will actually make $12.60 less than today because of higher taxes!

Did our actions make change?

On February 6th, 2020 the Washington State Legislature voted to pass a substitute bill providing labor protections for domestic workers. This substitute bill does not explicitly include or exclude au pairs. However, it focuses on really important protections like retaining documents, discrimination, and retaliation. It does not include protections for minimum wage, over time, and requiring meal and rest breaks.

 Our letters and testimony made a difference!

Are you ready to Take Action?

If you are ready to take action, start by joining other host families in Facebook groups:

Next, write a letter and have your au pair write one, too. Write about your experiences in the au pair program and what it has meant for you and your family. Also, write about any changes you would like to the laws or proposed laws in your area or any changes you would like to see for the federal au pair program. Send your letters to your local and state lawmakers.

You can also advocate for the au pair program at the federal level. According to an email from Cultural Care, “the court ruling in Massachusetts invites the US State Department to take action in issuing a regulation that expressly preempts the program from state and municipal labor laws.” You can send your letters to the Office of Designation at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at jvisas@state.gov.

Abbie and Maddie

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Worried about new au pair laws? Take Action!

Worried about new au pair laws? Take Action!

Worried about new au pair laws? Take Action!

3 Tips to Help Your Au Pair Pass the Driver’s License Test

3 Tips to Help Your Au Pair Pass the Driver’s License Test

Hi, Abbie and Maddie here! In the USA most au pair host parents need an au pair who can drive. In most cases this means that your au pair will need a local driver’s license. Unfortunately, Au pairs dread getting a U.S. driving license. Besides the written test (in a foreign language!), there’s the practical exam.

Rules of the road here in the United States are just similar enough to “home” they feel the same. But they are also just different enough to cause hesitation. And then there’s parallel parking and backing around a corner in a car the au pair is still becoming familiar with. (And au pairs may be exaggerating their driving experience to make a match, but that’s another story…)

As a host parent, it’s another level of bureaucracy that it’s one more thing you may not have time for. And an au pair driver’s license is important for college classes, driver’s insurance, and more.

No matter which state you live in, we have three tips to help make the process a little easier.

Tip 1: Research the Au Pair Driver’s License Requirements

Doing all the research yourself is going to take some effort. Instead, consider delegating some of this work. Your current au pair, past au pair or local community coordinator (LCC) are the people to ask first. If you have trouble delegating like Allie, check out our blog about Engaging Your Village. It takes time and practice to get in the habit.

Start by asking your LCC for support. They are helping other au pairs get their licenses, too. Ask for information on which driving schools offer the best courses and at the best prices. Your LCC may know which Department of Licensing (DOL) offices have the shortest lines. Or even which office has the highest pass rates for au pairs. Your LCC there for you; let them help.

If you currently have an au pair, ask them to write down tips from when they got their license. Or better yet, have them take your new au pair to get their license. Is your past au pair already gone? Have your new au pair ask her friends for help.

One cool thing to know: some states have reciprocity with foreign countries. In Washington State driver’s from Germany and South Korea can walk into the DOL office and back out again. No tests required. (Japanese drivers should go through the Consulate in Seattle.)

How to Get Your Au Pair SSNWhen researching, also look into the required paperwork. Your au pair’s passport, visa, and DS-2019 establish identity and right to be here. Proving residency might be more difficult.

Your state might accept the agency letter that says the au pair is living with you as proof of residency. If you’ve already applied for a Social Security card keep the envelope that it arrives in. It’s an official piece of mail with her name and your address. They may also accept a statement from the bank with their name and your address. If you have added your au pair to a joint credit card or a joint checking account for expenses that mail might count. Keep in mind, some states require mail to be postmarked within the last 30 days to establish residency.

Still stumped? Google to find you official government resources for your state. Or reach out to your local host parent group on Facebook.

Tip 2: Practice the Written Test

The only way your au pair is going to pass the written test is if they study!

We recommend sending your au pair materials to start studying for driver’s test as soon as you match. It is hard! Many people fail the first time they take it.

Your state may have their driver’s books in foreign languages. There’s a chance they may have the book as a PDF in Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and other languages. And if not, you or your au pair might be able to run the PDF or the website through Google Translate. But a word of caution: driver’s test wording is intentionally tricky. The subtlety in the wording of the questions will likely be lost in translation.

The best way to study for the written test is to take the practice tests over and over again. Once your au pair can consistently pass the practice test, they should be ready for the real test. Some states have practice tests on their website (here’s WA state practice test). Others also offer practice test apps (here’s a WA DOL Permit Test app). If your state doesn’t have official practice tests, there are third party tests available online.

In Washington State, you have to pre-register on the website. Then you have to take the written test at an approved driver training/testing location. In Abbie’s location, the au pair gets two tries for $35. In Maddie’s location the au pair gets three tries for the same price.

If you require your au pair to drive your kids, then you should cover the cost of the driving license and testing. You, as the host family, should cover any expenses which are required for the au pair to do their job. If the au pair needs to pay for extra retakes, you can ask them to be responsible for that cost. But you need to communicate that before-hand.

Tip 3: Practice the Driving Test

Au pair sitting in car waving for the cameraIf I had to take the driving test right now, I might not pass the parallel parking part or the backing around a corner. Ugh!

Be willing to do some driving practice while your au pair gets used to your vehicle and the local area. Most au pairs are also not used to driving large, family vehicles.

Here are some YouTube videos that we found extremely useful!

Also, in Washington State, the driving test is an additional cost to the written test. And there may be another fee if your au pair can’t test in your car. For example if you have expired tabs (happened to Allie, oops), or a taillight is out, etc.

Our Experiences with the Au Pair Driving Test

AbbieAbbie: My husband and I matched with our first au pair knowing she had no driving experience. Because we live in a small town, we were willing to do all the driving while she learned. Two months later she had her license! We did lots of practice driving with her and she worked hard.

Our second au pair got her license a little more quickly because she was used to driving in her home country.

Our third au pair arrived right before Labor Day and all the back-to-school craziness. Because she had an international driver’s license, we put off getting her license a little longer.

All our au pairs had to adjust to the larger American car size. They preferred taking the driving test with our commuter car rather than the huge van kid-mobile.

Maddie AvitarMaddie: Our first au pair was in her extension year. She already had an Oregon State license. She just ran into the DOL with her paperwork and came out a few minutes later with a Washington State license.

Our other four au pairs all had trouble with the written test. With enough practice and chances to take the test they were all able to pass.

One of our au pairs failed the driving test the first time she took it. We were concerned that we would have to rematch if she could not pass the test. So we reached out to our LCC for help. Our LCC drove with her and helped her learn all the rules in her native language. They both spoke Spanish! Our LCC also had her take the test at another driving school with historically better pass rates. She passed the second time she took the test and was the only one of our au pairs to not get into an accident while with us.

How did it go for your au pair?

How was your au pair driver’s license experience? Any other tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below or reach out to My Au Pair and Me Host Family Community on Facebook. It’s nice to talk to other host families and know you’re not alone!

Abbie and Maddie

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Happy au pair who just passed the driving test with the caption 3 Tips to Pass the Au Pair Driver's Test
Au Pair driving a car with the caption 3 Tips to Pass the Au Pair Driver's Test
Excited Au pair who just passed the driving test with the caption 3 Tips to Pass the Au Pair Driver's Test
How to search for the perfect au pair

How to search for the perfect au pair

Maddie AvitarHi Maddie here! This month has been bittersweet for me. I have started the search for au pair number six. I find it difficult to start this step in the au pair process. It is not because it is particularly complex process (all I had to do was fill out a form online to begin searching). I find it difficult because this is the beginning of the end with my current au pair. It is also exciting to think about welcoming a new au pair into our family.

I know a lot of families struggle with the process of selecting au pairs to interview. I try to keep it as simple as possible to save myself time and effort. After writing down my au pair selection criteria, I browse through candidates. I then filter and narrow down to a few candidates for interviews.

Abbie AvitarHi, this is Abbie. We recently went through our matching. Sometimes finding an au pair feels a little like being on a dating website. But it’s really important to find the right fit for you. The au pair that’s right for Maggie isn’t necessarily the au pair that’s right for me, and vice versa.

Decide on your au pair candidate criteria

Start the process of searching for au pairs by deciding on your criteria. This au pair selection criteria is specific to your family based on your wants and needs. You will want to look for au pairs who will be comfortable living with your family and be a good fit for your children.

  • Are you religious? Will the au pair of a different religion or no religion be comfortable in your home?
  • Do you have pets? Will the au pair be comfortable with you big dog or overly friendly cat?
  • Do you need daily driving? Will the au pair with little to no driving experience be comfortable driving your kids all over town?
  • Do you or the au pair have dietary restrictions? Will the au pair be comfortable with the way you cook?
  • Do your kids require special care? Will the au pair with experience with one child at a time be able to handle your four children?
  • Do you expect your au pair to step in and run the show or take on a sidekick role?
  • Do you have a certain country you want your au pair to be from? Either for language reasons or cultural reasons.
  • Is age (under/over 21) important? Some host parents like under 21 because then they don’t have to worry about drinking. Some famlies perfer older, more mature au pairs.

No matter what your criteria, write it down. This allows you to think about it and discuss it with your partner. Decide which criteria are absolutely required and which criteria are a preference. Giving up required criteria to make a quick match is a recipe for rematch.

Search for au pair candidates to interview

How to Pick an Au Pair AgencyOnce you have selected your au pair agency (or agencies) and submitted your application, you will be able to review candidates online. With your au pair selection criteria in hand you can start reviewing candidates.

Maddie AvitarMaddie: I always start slow. I filter, watch a few videos. Filter again, watch a few more. This allows me to get a feel for the current candidates and the matching system. How do the filters work? Where are the majority of the candidates from? Is there a large pool of older or younger au pairs? What happens if I push this button? What is in this pulldown menu?

Eventually, I start the selection process by narrowly filtering the candidate pool. This allows me to start with the most likely candidates first. I watch their videos, read their letters, and look at their pictures. If they obviously don’t meet one of my required criteria, I move on. Once I have narrowed down to a smaller pool of potential au pairs, I start taking notes.

When I get down to a list of five or ten candidates who I like and meet all the required criteria I bring in my husband. We watch the videos again together, take more notes, and decide who to interview.

Allie AvitarAbbie: I’m a super indecisive person, so I filter down as tight as possible (age, country) and slowly expand. I only look at candidates that have videos. I scan for things that meet my criteria (driving, cooking, could handle 3 energetic boys, likes cats) and her personality. Would she be happy living in the country, is she outdoorsy, does she like music, etc.

My husband has opinions and is a big picture guy. (I love details, he doesn’t). He’s also a high school band director and use to dealing with a teenage/young adult crowd.

Once I have the initial list saved out, then we sit down together on the couch to go through them together. From there, we decide on our top picks.

Contact the au pair candidates

Next, send an email to the au pairs who make the cut. We send a little intro about who we are and the benefits we offer (Car! No curfew!). We let them know a little about the family, where we live, and why they might be a good match. The email concludes with a request to schedule a time to meet over video call. It is helpful to offer a range of times (converted to their time zone) to reduce the effort of finding a good time to talk.

If they don’t respond in a few days, move on.

Interview the au pairs

We are both strict about interview etiquette. The au pair needs to be on time and ready to talk at the agreed upon time. How will they be ready for work on time if they can’t do the same in an interview?

I usually give them five minutes to log on. Then I contact them by email to see if they are having technical difficulties. The internet is not always as reliable as I would like. If they don’t make contact, move on. Both of us have a policy of rescheduling a missed only if they have a technical issue or emergency. We will also only reschedule once.

What to look for in an interview

There are many schools of thought on what to look for in an ideal candidate. When interviewing au pairs look to confirm the answers to you criteria. Also gauge their ability to

  • Be punctual
  • Problem solve through technical difficulties and communicate if they are having an issue
  • Answer questions
  • Take initiative
  • Be comfortable asking questions
  • Connect on a personal level

When you find a candidate who you think will be great for your family, follow up quickly. Ask more questions, offer to answer more of their questions, and propose some times to meet the rest of my family.

Don’t stop interviewing other au pairs when you find one to move to the next step. Most years my family will follow up with two or three au pairs before we make an offer to match. Instead, repeat process. Adjust your filters and review more candidates. Interview au pairs until you find the right one.

Hone your au pair search skills

Has the search for an au pair been difficult for you? Do you have some tried and true tricks for making the search for au pairs painless? Let us know in the comments below or reach out to My Au Pair and Me Host Family Community on Facebook. It’s nice to talk to other host families and know you’re not alone!

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Massachusetts Legal Decision: Are Au Pairs Domestic Workers?

Massachusetts Legal Decision: Are Au Pairs Domestic Workers?

Hi! Abbie and Maddie here. The Massachusetts Attorney General ruled that au pairs are protected under the Massachusetts Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Among other things, this legal decision means that au pairs in MA must be paid the local minimum wage. Cultural Care appealed and the First Circuit just ruled in favor of Massachusetts.

One of the many reasons we started this blog is to save other host parents time. And to provide a central place for unbiased information. We also believe in reading original documents, not just other people’s interpretations.

Below we have a quick summary of the issues, what it means, resources and links, and more information about domestic workers in general.

DISCLAIMER: Please consult your attorney about your personal legal situation. General, publicly available information provided in this article does not constitute legal advice.

Quick summary

On December 2nd, 2019, the First Circuit United States Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Massachusetts over Cultural Care.

There are two main questions addressed in the lawsuit:

  • Are au pairs domestic workers or cultural exchange visitors?
  • Do host families need to pay au pairs the state minimum wage or the federal minimum wage?

The National Domestic Workers Alliance has been working at the state level to create laws. Someday they’d like to have a national bill of rights. So far, nine states have passed laws extending labor protections to domestic workers: Oregon, California, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and Nevada. Some cities, such as Seattle, have also passed their own laws.

Massachusetts believes that au pairs are domestic workers rather than exchange visitors or students. Because they are workers, they must be paid at the higher state minimum wage.

Cultural Care has promised to appeal again and is in contact with host families in Massachusetts on what to do.

Resources and Links

Here are the links we’ve found so far, both primary sources and news articles. If we’re missing any, please feel free to email us at hello@myaupairandme.com

  • Universal HUB Summary – This article is a great, concise summary of the ruling itself. It includes quotes from the ruling, as well as a PDF copy of the ruling itself at the end of the article.
  • First Circuit Court of Appeals – Search for case number 17-2140. That will lead you to the full court Opinion (publicly accessible) and the Docket Sheet (requires PACER login).
  • Boston Globe  – This article talks about the affects of the law on both the host families and the au pairs.
  • MS Magazine This article describes the background of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and their feelings of victory after the ruling.
  • PageSuite General summary, nothing much more than the other articles say. PageSuite is a digital publishing solution, so not too sure where this article is coming from. The byline at the end is from The Globe.
  • State, city, and general domestic worker links:

New Links Published After 12/17/2019

 

I have an au pair in Massachusetts, what do I do now?

Are you a host family in Massachusetts?

The first thing you need to do is seek legal counsel. The penalties for violating the MA Domestic Workers Bill of Rights are extremely steep. Workers can be awarded up to three times their entitled wages plus legal fees! It also looks like the law may be retroactive for up to 3 years. You need to talk to a lawyer!

Make sure you’re in contact with your agency and local area counselor. If you are with Cultural Care, you may call 1-800-333-6056 or email followup@culturalcare.com

Massachusetts families are also encouraged to contact Senator Elizabeth Warren and Attorney General Maura Healey’s office. They need to hear about the impact this decision will have on your family. You might also want to include your concerns about the impact of this ruling on the au pair cultural exchange program.

How does this change the stipend for Massachusetts au pairs?

We want to start of by saying that this decision only affects au pairs and host families in the state of Massachusetts.

The current au pair stipend of $195.75 is based on the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour. If you take $7.25/hour x 45 hours then you get $326.25. If you take away 40% for room and board, then 60% of the weekly wage is their stipend. (0.60 x $326.25 = $195.75)

For Massachusetts au pairs, the new stipend might be as high as $570 per week. The state minimum wage today is $12/hour (it will go up to $12.75 starting January 1st 2020). Also, host families must pay overtime (time and a half) for any hours over 40 hours per week. So an au pair’s maximum weekly wage is $570. ($12/hour x 40 hours = $480, $18/hour x 5 hours = $90, $480 + $90 = $570). The minimum weekly wage is still $195.75 as set by the State Department.

Also, if you meet the requirements you can deduct for room and board. But it is a flat dollar amount, not a percentage. The deductions are $1.50 for breakfast, $2.25 for lunch, $2.25 for dinner per day. Housing deductions are $35 per week. If you take $6/day for food x 7 days per week = $42, add $35 for housing and you can deduct a total of $77 per week. 

Here are some sample stipend changes. Each case uses $12 per hour, minus the room and board ($77), and overtime is time and a half. 

  • 10 hours: $120 – $77 does not equal the federal minimum so stipend = $195.75
  • 20 hours: $240 – $77 does not equal the federal minimum so stipend = $195.75
  • 30 hours: $360 – $77  = $283 weekly stipend
  • 40 hours: $480 – $77 = $403 weekly stipend
  • 45 hours: $480 + $90 (overtime) – $77 = $493 weekly stipend

Some of the articles online say that the stipend is increasing by $250 per week, which means the new stipend is roughly $450. We’re not sure how they’re calculating their numbers. Probably they’re calculating $12 / hr times 45 hours per week (no overtime)?

How Much Does an Au Pair Cost?There are some other legal requirements as well (signing a timesheet and keeping it for three years, can’t make deductions without agreeing first in writing, etc.)

The stipend is still in addition to the agency fee, educational component, and all the rest. (See our post on How much does an au pair cost?)

DISCLAIMER: Please consult your attorney about your personal legal situation. General, publicly available information provided in this article does not constitute legal advice.

What does the Massachusetts Domestic Workers Bill of Rights actually say?

Here’s a summary of some things that apply to Massachusetts au pairs and host parents from the page for Domestic Workers in MA.

The host family is the employer, not the au pair agency. The agency just coordinates the visa and ensures program requirements are met.

The easy requirements:

  • “Every domestic worker must receive a notice of their employment rights
  • “Employers must give domestic workers … a written agreement…in a language the worker easily understands, signed by the worker and employer, and made before work begins.” Sample employment agreement
  • “Employers of domestic workers must keep payroll records and provide paystubs.  Records should be kept for 3 years.” Sample timesheet for domestic workers
  • “Domestic workers who work 40 or more hours a week must get at least 1 full day (24 hours) off each week and 2 full days (48 hours) off each month.” (meets federal au pair requirements)
  • “The employer must pay for all meal, rest, and sleeping periods, unless the worker has no work duties and is allowed to leave during those times.”
  • Workers have the right to privacy and the freedom to come and go. This includes not monitoring private spaces, limiting or recording private communications, taking belongings or passports, and acts of force.
  • “Employers must not discriminate in hiring, pay, or other terms of employment”
  • “Employers who have phone or internet service must give workers free and reasonable access to those services. If they do not have phone or Internet service, they must allow reasonable opportunities to access those services elsewhere at the workers’ own expense.”
  • “An employer must not punish or discriminate against a domestic worker for exercising his or her rights.”
  • “The Earned Sick Time Law requires employers to track the accrual and use of earned sick time.” “Employers with fewer than 11 employees must provide earned sick time, but it does not need to be paid.”

Overtime and Minimum Wage

“If the worker then works more than 40 hours during the week, then the worker must be paid overtime.”

“Overtime pay is at least 1.5 × the regular rate of pay for each hour over 40 hours.”

Effective Minimum Wage

January 1, 2019 $12.00 per hour
January 1, 2020 $12.75 per hour
January 1, 2021 $13.50 per hour
January 1, 2022 $14.25 per hour
January 1, 2023 $15.00 per hour

Deductions for meals and housing

“Food and drinks – Deductions are allowed only if the worker can bring, prepare, store, and eat and drink the foods s/he prefers. If the worker cannot do so because of household dietary restrictions, then the employer may not charge for the food or drink provided to the worker. The employer may charge for the actual cost of the food and drink, up to $1.50 for breakfast and $2.25 for lunch or dinner.”

Housing – An employer must not deduct the cost of a room or other housing if the employer requires the worker to live in that place. An employer may deduct the cost of housing only if the worker chooses to live there and the housing meets the local and state health code standards for heat, water, and light.  The employer must not charge more than $35 a week for a room with 1 person”

Live-in workers: termination

“Unless a domestic worker is fired for cause, the employer must give the worker:

  • Written notice; and
  • At least 30 days of housing where the worker is now or in similar housing OR severance pay equal to average pay for 2 weeks.  If the employer chooses to provide housing at another location or severance pay, the worker must have at least 24 hours to move out.

If the employer fires a domestic worker for cause, the employer must provide:

  • Advance written notice; and
  • A reasonable opportunity of at least 48 hours to move out.

If the employer makes a written statement in good faith saying that the worker did something that harmed the employer or his/her family or household, the employer can:

  • End the employment without notice, and
  • Give the worker no severance pay or time to find new housing.

Important! No matter what the reason for ending the employment, the employer must pay the worker all wages owed, including all earned, unused paid vacation time, on the last day of work.”

Injuries at work

“A worker who gets hurt while on the job may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.  Even if the employer does not have worker’s compensation insurance, workers who miss more than 5 days of work because of work-related injury or illness may be able to get compensated for medical care and lost wages.”

Need a place to vent?

Are you as worried about this ruling as we are? We welcome questions and just general venting in the My Au Pair and Me Host Family Group on Facebook. (The standard “we are not law professionals” disclaimer stands for the Facebook group, but it’s just nice to talk to other host families.)

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Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Au Pair

Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Au Pair

Hi! Abbie and Maddie here. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or anything else, December is a time for holidays and gifts.

It’s hard enough to buy for in-laws and your kids’ teachers, you also want to get a really nice gift for your au pair. But what to get? We have some ideas for you here and on our Pinterest board.

*This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, we may earn a small commission if you purchase through these links. For full details, see our Disclaimer Page.

Are “things” a good gift for au pairs? Maybe

Remember your au pair is only here for a year (or hopefully two years). But then will have to shove everything back into a suitcase or find a way to send it back to their home country.

Holidays with Au pair D and Bro Pair TIf you are going to buy a major thing as the only present, make sure it’s special, useful or something she/he needs but wouldn’t buy themselves. For example, photo gifts or customized jewelry to remember the time with your family. He/she may need a new coat or a good sturdy pair of winter boots. Or another camera lens if interested into photography. (Those can be pretty expensive for an au pair!)

Don’t buy something that belongs with the house like an electric blanket. Although it’s thoughtful if he/she’s constantly cold, it makes a bad gift because it’s not theirs to keep. Similarly, think twice before buying something like a subscription to a meal service. It’s like a husband buying his wife a vacuum cleaner.

If you are considering a gift card, experience, or digital item then add it to a small package to open around the tree. Check out Amazon or Etsy, they have an interesting selection of gifts for au pairs and bro pairs. Some ideas include:

  • A warm scarf or fuzzy socks.
  • A nice framed picture with your family.
  • Local swag like a coffee cup or ornament.
  • Sweets or other consumables.

Should I give my au pair a gift card? Maybe

If your au pair loves going out to eat consider a gift card to a local restaurant to enjoy with her/his friends. Does your au pair love coffee? Consider a gift card to Starbucks or another local coffee shop.

If your au pair loves shopping, they might enjoy a gift certificate to a clothing store or the mall. Even though your au pair will likely have to sell or give away the clothes, he/she will enjoy them while here.

If your au pair prefers to shop on line consider a gift card to Amazon or their favorite online store.

If you are leaning towards a gift card remember that your au pair will only be in the US for a short time. It is best to pick a gift card that they will want to use right away so they remember to use it before they head home. If you’re not sure where your au pair will want to spend it, then consider a visa gift card (or cash) instead.

Will my au pair like an experience instead of a gift? Yes

A common reason people become an au pair is to travel (and improve their English). Gifting an experience is a great way to help them towards their travel dreams.

Abbie has contributed toAu Pair I in the snow

  • A portion of a New Year’s trip to New Orleans (from Seattle).
  • An REI photography trip photographing Mount Rainier in the snow.
  • Tickets to a medieval banquet near where we live.

Maddie has contributed to

  • Concert tickets.
  • A foodie tour and paddle boarding in Hawaii.
  • Sporting events like the Seahawks and Mariners.

Other ideas include theater tickets or admission to local attractions. For us, it would be a ride to the top of the Space Needle (not necessarily cheap).

She might also appreciate a day at a spa, or something else she otherwise wouldn’t do for herself.

Are consumables a good holiday gift for au pairs? Yes

Most consumables are somewhat small and make great stocking stuffers.

Are there “things” you can get for your au pair that don’t involve loading her down with stuff she/he can’t pack home at the end of the au pair year? Are there things they use and need to replace? Maybe your au pair has a passion for art and could use a new sketchpad and a nice set of charcoal pencils. Maybe they need a new backpack or a new suitcase.

And don’t forget about sweets. American chocolate may not be as good as European chocolate, but by golly, we have Oreos!

 

Would my au pair appreciate a digital gift? Yes

Another set of “things” that don’t take up space are digital or online services.

Perhaps your au pair is studying photography and would love a year’s subscription to Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.

Or they are constantly buying music and would appreciate iTunes or Amazon gift money. Your au pair probably shares your family plan of Netflix or Spotify, but maybe you could give money on Audible or another e-book service.

Does she/he play online or mobile games? You can give credits to use on the platform they prefer: Google Pay, Apple Pay, V-bucks (for Fortnite), Xbox Live Credit, Amazon Coins, to name a few.

If you need more ideas…

We’ve rounded up some other blog posts to help inspire you this holiday season:

Have another great gift idea?

What have you given your au pair for the holidays? Did they love it? Share your great ideas below in the comments or in the in the My Au Pair and Me Host Family Community on Facebook. It’s nice to talk to other host families and share your experiences!

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78 Reasons I’m Thankful for My Au Pair

78 Reasons I’m Thankful for My Au Pair

Hi Abbie and Maddie here. The holidays are approaching and the pace of life is starting to get busier. This is the time of year we are most thankful to have an extra set of hands to help with the kids. We are reminded daily why hosting an au pair is such a valuable experience. Thank you au pairs for all your hard work. And a special thanks to our au pairs for supporting us through thick and thin!

1. Thank you for joining my family. We have all grown from the opportunity to get to know each other.

2. Thank you for loving my children. They are the light of my life and I can see that you feel the same way.

3. Thank you for starting dinner. You are the reason we can find the time to enjoy healthy meals together as a family.

4. Thank you for making me laugh. I love that we can share in special moments that no one else will understand.

5. Thank you for teaching me patience. I watch you with my children at the end of your 45 hour work week and am astonished that you are so calm and collected.

6. Thank you for potty training my toddler. You stuck with it even after being peed on for the third time in one day.

7. Thank you for holding my babies when they cry. It breaks my heart to leave them every morning and your love for them helps me through my day.

8. Thank you for giving my children baths. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes its torture. Either way it seems to take forever.

9. Thank you for reading to my children. When you first arrived I could see your struggle with learning English. Now you are confident and it shows.

10. Thank you for not breaking the car again. The first time was plenty.

11. Thank you for cooking us your favorite foods from home. I will always be reminded of you when I eat creme brulee, crepes, lemon pie, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, and shish kabob.

12. Thank you for sending me pictures during the day. I love to see my babies having so much fun with you.

13. Thank you for allowing me time to take care of myself. Because you are with my children and help me with chores I am able to find time to go to the gym and salon.

14. Thank you for trying my cooking. I know it is not what you are used to and I’m not a gourmet chef.

15. Thank you for teaching my children to read. I know it is frustrating but they will eventually figure it out.

16. Thank you for helping with the kids’ laundry. How do such tiny humans produce so much laundry?

17. Thank you for picking up the house before I get home. After a long day it is so nice to not have to step on Legos and trip over toys.

18. Thank you for noticing we are almost out of milk. You have saved breakfast from milk meltdowns more times than I can count.

19. Thank you for holding my sick baby when I can’t be there. I will never understand why my children are always sick when there is a big presentation scheduled at work.

20. Thank you for putting up with my attitude when I was pregnant. I swear it was the hormones talking. Or maybe the sleep deprivation.

21. Thank you for convincing my kids to try new foods. I know they always want macaroni and cheese and it is hard to say no when they give you that look.

22. Thank you for quietly sneaking away when I fought with my spouse. I’m so sorry that you saw that side of my marriage.

23. Thank you for staying late when I got stuck in traffic. I even left work on time today.

24. Thank you for getting my kids to school on time. And with full bellies, matching shoes, warm coats, and packed bags.

25. Thank you for holding me while I cried. Every day can’t be the best day of my life.

26. Thank you for loving my pets (even though it is not your job).

27. Thank you for being you. I am a better person for having spent time with you.

28. Thank you for teaching my children to say “please” and “thank you”. A one year old saying “thank you” is about the cutest thing I have ever seen.

29. Thank you again for helping with the laundry. SO MUCH LAUNDRY!

30. Thank you for running to the store during the day. We always seem to be missing one ingredient for dinner and the lines are always really long on my way home from work.

31. Thank you for noticing that the kids’ pants are too short and shirts too snug. The kids are always growing like weeds.

32. Thank you for helping during the holidays. I love it when my children’s eyes light up with with the wonder of the season.

33. Thank you for reminding my kids to take their muddy boots off by the door. I am so tired of cleaning prints off the floor!

34. Thank you for getting my kids out of the house. There are so many fun things to see and do.

35. Thank you for keeping my kids off their tablets. I know it is easier and they whine, a lot!

36. Thank you for telling me when you need something. We want you to be happy and comfortable.

37. Thank you for cleaning out the back of the fridge. I have no idea what that was or how long it has been there.

38. Thank you for organizing the kids’ toys. Ponies are more fun with brushes and trains are more fun with tracks.

39. Thank you for being safe. With my kids and in your personal time.

40. Thank you for celebrating your birthday with me. I swear I’m fun!

Au Pair C41. Thank you for driving my kids all over town. Why did I sign them up for so many activities?

42. Thank you for being polite to my crazy neighbor. We want to slam the door in her face, too.

43. Thank you for bringing in the mail. I am jealous that you receive things other than bills and junk.

44. Thank you for keeping in touch with my last au pair. I love that my kids can still talk to her, even though It is impossible for us to talk regularly with the kids because of the time difference.

45. Thank you for making yourself comfortable in my home. We want you to feel like this is your home too.

46. Thank you for cleaning up those little disasters. Was it poop or chocolate? Do I really want to know?

47. Thank you for doing crafts with my kids. I have been saving fun projects to Pinterest for years and never find time to do them.

48. Thank you for being consistent. My kids thrive when they have a regular routine.

49. Thank you for being ready to work a few minutes early. It is a relief to know that I will be about to get out of the house on time.

50. Thank you for sharing your culture with us. I am very curious about what life is like in other parts of the world.

Au Pair D51. Thank you for teaching me about new forms of social media. Old dogs can learn new tricks

52. Thank you for being flexible. I try to create your schedule ahead of time but sometimes life happens.

53. Thank you for making sure their homework is completed and returned to school on time. This is just one less thing for me to worry about between dinner and bed. And it’s nice not to worry about one more deadline.

54. Thank you for signing for my packages and meeting with the cable guy. I really needed to be at work and they gave me a 4-hour service window in the middle of the work day.

55. Thank you for maintaining my rules with the children even when I’m not around. I wouldn’t have made it a rule if I didn’t think it was important.

56. Thank you for asking questions. I can’t help you be successful if I don’t know where you are struggling.

57. Thank you for continuing to try, even when I can tell it’s hard for you.

58. Thank you for all the little things. They do not go unnoticed.

59. Thank you for making it the recitals and the big games. It means so much to my children when you can see them perform and they don’t understand what it means to be “off duty”.

60. Thank you for keeping us all together at the airport. One of the kids always heads in the opposite direction.

Au Pair B61. Thank you for stashing snacks in your purse. My kids can’t seem to survive 10 minutes without something to eat.

62. Thank you for cleaning dog poop off my child’s shoe. Their little feet are drawn to dog poop like a moth to a flame.

63. Thank you for letting me have one-on-one time with each of my children.

64. Thank you for bringing me things I forgot at home. Like my lunch one day, my phone another day, my computer that one time….

65. Thank you for taking all of my quirks in the ways I want things done in stride. I try to let things go, but there are some things that I want done just so.

66. Thank you for taking my kids outside at least once a day, even when it’s winter, cold, and wet. The fresh air is good for them.

67. Thank you for watching movies with us as a family when you probably want to go to your room. It’s super sweet when my kids want to cuddle with you instead of me, and share your blanket and popcorn.

68. Thank you for discovering in my city. Your tips inspire my own adventures.

69. Thank you for watching light-hearted chick flick movies with me. My husband is not interested and the kids aren’t yet old enough to understand.

70. Thank you for not being (too) jealous when we start interviewing our next au pair. We wish you could stay with us forever, too!

71. Thank you for keeping in touch even after you go back home to your family. I wish I wrote you more often. At least you can still see pictures of the family on Facebook and Google Photos.

72. Thank you for being young and full of energy. I may not be that old, but sometimes I feel old.

73. Thank you for being my secret stash of ice cream buddy. My husband just doesn’t understand.

74. Thank you for sharing your playlists with us and for making playlists with my kids. They love asking Google and Alexa to play their songs.

75. Thank you for making it your mission to visit every single library in our library system. And for doing a tour of the parks to find the perfect one. I love that you get my kids out and about!

76. Thank you for finding ways to get my kids’ energy out, like running them around outside or taking them to the children’s museum. If only we could harness that energy…we could power cities with it.

77. Thank you for listening to my children’s jokes. Don’t worry, they don’t make sense to me either. 

78. And thank you again for helping with the laundry!

What about you?

Why are you thankful for your au pair? Leave us a comment below or head over to the My Au Pair and Me Host Parent Community on Facebook. It’s nice to talk to other host families and know you’re not alone!

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How to Pick an Au Pair Agency

How to Pick an Au Pair Agency

Hi Abbie and Maddie here. What matters most when you pick an au pair agency? Cost? Au pair availability? Quality of service? Who you know? Bottom line: the criteria you use to select an au pair agency is personal. You will need to decide what is most important to you and which au pair agency will be best suited for your family.

Here are our au pair agency recommendations, how we chose our agencies, and if we’d stay or if we’d leave.

A quick note about au pair agency referrals

Most au pair agencies offer bonuses to host families who refer a new host family. It’s the same cost for the new host family whether they use the referral code or not. And it could actually save the new host family a registration fee.

This is a great way to make another momma’s day by gifting her a hefty discount for the next time she matches. These discounts can ranging from $250 to $1000 depending on the agency!

You will need to complete the referral before you reach out to the agencies on your own. Some are links, some are a name you fill in on the application form.

The best way to find an au pair referral code or au pair affiliate link is to ask your friends. You can also post the question in the My Au Pair and Me Host Parent Community on Facebook.

Maddie is happy to answer questions about EurAuPair. You can find her on Facebook Messenger or email her at maddie@myaupairandme.com. If you apply to EurAuPair, you can enter “Maddie Clark” in the referral box.

Abbie is happy to answer questions about Au Pair Care and Cultural Care. You can find her on Facebook Messenger or email abbie@myaupairandme.com. If you apply to Cultural Care, you can use Abbie’s referral link.

*This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, we may earn a small commission if you purchase through these links. For full details, see our Disclaimer Page.

Q |

How did you choose an au Pair agency?

Maddie AvitarMaddie: My mother-in-law first introduced me to the idea of hosting an au pair. She suggested that I call her friend’s daughter-in-law who worked at EurAuPair. So, instead of doing the logical thing and calling an expert, I turned to Google.

Typing “au pair” into the search engine bombarded me with ads from the huge au pair agencies. It was very obvious that these agencies spent a lot of money to bring in web traffic to their fancy websites. After spending hours digging around the big agency sites I was able to pull together a list of fees. Every page I opened seemed to add more costs. The intentional separation of the fees across the various pages felt dishonest.

Next, I Googled “Eu Au Pair”. EuAuPair’s website felt totally different to me. It was simple, organized, and presented all the fees on one page! Their straightforward approach made me feel like they cared about more than money. I was also impressed that EuAuPair made contributions to Ronald McDonald House Charities.

I finally decided to call my mother-in-laws friend’s daughter-in-law at EurAuPair. This was a great decision! As it turned out she was a regional director and a former au pair. She talked me through the program and answered all my questions. Then she introduced me to my local community counselor (LCC). The LCC for my area was also patient, down to earth, and great to work with.

Abbie AvitarAbbie: For our first au pair, we knew we wanted an au pair from Japan because we want to visit Japan someday. My husband always had Japanese exchange students as roommates in college, who constantly ask when we plan to visit. We were hoping our au pair could help teach us (and the boys) a bit of the language. (And she did!)

Looking around, the only agency that had a selection of Japanese au pairs at the time was Au Pair Care. So the choice of agency was pretty easy.

After renewing with our first au pair for a second year, it was time for au pair #2. We went with Au Pair Care again because it was convenient and we liked our local area coordinator. We weren’t able to find a Japanese au pair that would fit with our family. This time we went with a French au pair who loved hiking and the outdoors. (We live in Seattle, not a hotbed of fashion or shopping like L.A. or N.Y.…)

For our 3rd (and current) au pair, we looked at Japanese au pairs at Au Pair Care again, but there weren’t many options. So, we expanded our search to Cultural Care and Au Pair in America. This is when we realized that the discount for switching is pretty much the same as the discount for being a repeat family.

We matched with a great au pair from Italy through Cultural Care.

I know Cultural Care has a bit of a bad rap. For a while they allowed au pairs to be in negotiations with as many as six families at once! It’s so stressful to think you’ve found an au pair and reach out, only to be turned down. It’s like you have to reach out to an au pair on the first day she posts. Aaagh! Thankfully, they’ve narrowed it down now to I think two at a time.

Both of our local counselors through Au Pair Care and Cultural Care have been helpful. Our Au Pair Care counselor helped us when our Japanese au pair needed to suddenly return home. Her family needed her support through her father’s hospitalization. And our current Cultural Care counselor is a former au pair herself, so she really knows the ropes.

Q |

Would you stay with your au pair agency?

Maddie AvitarMaddie: I choose to stay with EurAuPair because they are easy to work with and responsive. I like that they treat the host families and au pairs like they care about them, not about the money.

When things went south with my 4th au pair, they supported us in mediation discussions. Then, once we decided to rematch they helped me to find candidates to interview. They prorated the program fees I had left on my contract and applied all of it to my incoming au pair. (There are agencies who only credit a portion of the program fees if you rematch!)

I also like the au pair matching process at EurAuPair. The entire pool of candidates is available to view with easy to use filters. You can add your favorites to a list so you can find them. Once you interview an au pair you can put them on a temporary hold (24 hours) to remove them from the search pool. You can only place one au pair on hold at a time. I always ask the au pairs if they are talking to other families. Most admit to talking to one family other than my own. Only once have I had an offer turned down and it was because she was uncomfortable with my big dogs.

The other reason I stay with EurAuPair is because of the way they handle fees paid by the au pairs. My current au pair paid the equivalent of $950 USD to match with a family from EurAuPair.

I have seen au pair fees at other agencies at $1800 or more plus the cost of their health and travel insurance. (All au pairs who match with a family in the USA also have to pay $200 to obtain their visa, regardless of their agency.)

EurAuPair offers host parents reduced program fees for second year au pairs. They also charge the au pairs nothing if they choose to extend. Some agencies charge the au pairs a program fee (and insurance costs) if they want to extend. They include an option for the host family to pay the au pairs portion when they pay their own program fees. This makes the host families feel obligated to pay for these extra fees.

Abbie AvitarAbbie: Short answer: not necessarily.

The most important thing to me is that I find an au pair that’s a good fit for my family. This is a person I’m going to live with for the next year or two and I will be trusting to watch my children. I want to find the right person as much as possible. I don’t care which agency it’s through.

Staying with the same agency has some advantages. This is true especially if you have a great relationship with your local area counselor. It’s important to have a good relationship with your local coordinator. She is the one who will help you out if things go wrong. If you need to rematch, she’s the one you need on your side. If your au pair has an emergency (or her family has an emergency and she needs to go home), your coordinator can be a big help.

The agencies all have to follow the federal au pair program requirements. This includes monthly check-ins, au pair cluster meetings, educational credits, work hours, etc.

I would recommend that you consider searching multiple agencies at the same time. It can be a pain to write-up your family schedule and introductions that many times. But, if you start from a word document then it’s pretty easy to copy and paste. Though many agencies have a registration fee, most of them also have a way to wave it.

What about you?

What agency do you use? Have you switched agencies? Have a question or story you’d like to share?

If you’re a host parent or thinking of hosting an au pair, come on over to the My Au Pair and Me Host Parent Community on Facebook. It’s nice to talk to other host families and know you’re not alone!

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3 Back to School Tips To Do With Your Au Pair

3 Back to School Tips To Do With Your Au Pair

Hi, Abbie and Maddie both here this post! In the greater Seattle area, school doesn’t start until after Labor Day. But in many cities across the US school starts in the next week or two. The start of school means changes no matter when it happens. We’ve teamed up to bring you 3 tips to ease the transition back to school for you and your au pair.  We wish you a successful start to the new school year!

Abbie: This year, our new au pair arrives August 30th, right before the long weekend and then school starts! We planned for a bit of an overlap with our current au pair, so there will be some continuity.

Maddie: Our au pair doesn’t leave until January, so she remembers the school schedule from last year.

1. Sit down with your au pair and go over the new schedule (in writing!)

Take a few moments to sit down and go over the new schedule with your au pair. Whether you write it out beforehand or draw it during the conversation, make sure you put it in writing. Having something in writing is not just a courtesy, it also helps with language translation.

Maddie’s Tip: We use a Google family calendar to share schedules with everyone who cares for our children. We can all see it online or on our phones. I keep it up-to-date, for the most part. But it allows us all to add one-off events which may cause a scheduling conflict for someone else.

Think of how you feel when your work schedule changes. How would you feel if your boss talked to you about major changes to your schedule but didn’t give you any material to reference? Or even worse, what if your boss didn’t give you any notice in advance of the changes?

Besides going over the new schedule, you should talk about the ripple effects. Having to wake up on a schedule again means going to bed early. This means having dinner at 6:30 pm followed by bath and pajamas.

Abbie’s Tip: Talk specifics: What time of day will she make the kids lunch and snack? At night or in the morning? Can the kids help? Can you provide a list of snacks for her to choose from? Check out our Pinterest boards for kids snacks and lunches if you are looking for ideas.

2. transitioning back to school is an opportunity to make adjustments

Lazy summers also mean the opportunity to slide into some bad habits. This is a great opportunity to talk to your au pair about needed adjustments. Pick three things you can compliment your au pair on and up to three things she can improve. Try not overwhelm her/him with a laundry list of things she can do better. Work with your spouse ahead of time to narrow down to your top three improvement areas. Then ask how you can do better.

First Day of SchoolWhen you pick three compliments, be genuine. Don’t pick something generic so you can get to the things you want to fix. Be specific, you can even pick a specific moment. I choose to highlight behaviors I want to encourage. “Yesterday it was so cute when you were playing with Aiden. You were down on his level and completely focused on him. I could see in his eyes how much he loved you back.” Or for an older kid, “I really appreciate you taking Sophia swimming this week. With both of us working, sometimes it’s hard to make things happen during the middle of the day. She sure had a lot of fun with you.”

When you pick behaviors to fix, be specific. Have suggestions for what your au pair should do instead, and let her/him give input.

Think about your end-of-year evaluations at work. It’s so frustrating to be told you need to improve leadership, or that you don’t run meetings effectively. It’s so much more useful to be told that your meetings are ineffective because people don’t understand action items. It is even better if your boss coaches you on how to make improvements and asks if you have any other ideas. A simple suggestion, like following up meetings with minutes, might be the edge you need to make the change.

Abbie’s Tip: Let’s say your au pair isn’t pulling her fair share of the housework lately. Instead of saying, “please pick up more,” give a specific example and what success should look like. “Please help me keep the house clean during the day. I’ll leave you a clean sink and playroom in the morning. I’d like you to have a clean sink and playroom when I get home from work. The kids can even help you put dirty dishes in the dishwasher if you help remind them. Or maybe when I get home and check in with the kids about their day, you can finish cleaning up from snack? And when I text that I’m on my way home, have the kids sing the pick-up song and straighten up for dinner. What do you think?”

Finally, we all can improve in some way. To avoid the feeling of criticism, you can ask your au pair how the new schedule will run. “Once school starts, what are some things I can do to help you be successful? Is there anything I’ve forgotten that you’ll need to make the new schedule work?”

Consider using a Start Stop Continue Retrospective

Another idea is to do a Start/Stop/Continue review . This exercise aims to retrospectively look at the work that just finished and find ways to improve.

Start by sitting down with you, your spouse, and your au pair to jot down ideas on sticky notes. It can be something general or it can be something for a specific person. Then post your sticky notes on the wall or whiteboard in one of the three categories:
1) Ideas to start to make things work better in the future
2) Things that didn’t work and need to stop
3) Great things that need to continue.

Unlike a direct conversation, the retrospective is a less confrontational way to give feedback. This is especially true if you balance the notes you write down about yourself with what you write about your spouse as well as your au pair.

Maddie’s Tip: Be careful not to turn your Start/Stop/Continue exercise into a case of 2 against 1. Encourage everyone to write posts for each person in the exercise, including themselves. We all have things we need to work on.

3. Include Your Au Pair in back to school activities

What can your au pair do to help get ready for school? Can she/he help take your child(ren) to the store to get school supplies? Or can you give her/him a budgeted amount to take the kids shopping for new clothes?

Abbie’s Tip: Maybe your au pair can make those cute Pinterest back to school boards that you never seem to have time to do?

This can also be a great opportunity for cultural exchange. What time of year does your au pair start school? What are some of her memories of starting school? What are some of your memories of starting school?

Maddie’s Tip: The more bonding you can do over little things, the tighter your connection becomes. This makes everything easier.

What else do you do to get ready for school?

Every family has their own rhythm, and we’d love to hear yours. What does your family do to get ready for back to school? Share your tips below in the comments.

Have a question? Join our group of host parents in the My Au Pair and Me Facebook Community. We would love to hear from you!

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What You Need to Know About the Au Pair Class Action Lawsuit

What You Need to Know About the Au Pair Class Action Lawsuit

Note: This blog post is about the class-action lawsuit brought by au pairs against the 15 agencies. If you’re looking at laws individual states and cities are passing regarding au pairs as domestic workers, please see our post about how you can take action regarding new au pair laws.

In 2014, the nonprofit group Towards Justice filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of au pairs against the 15 au pair agencies. Thursday July 18, 2019, a judge pronounced a final ruling on the settlement.

What’s the Lawsuit About?

It’s mostly about the stipend.

Have you ever wondered how the agencies come up with $195.75 as the minimum weekly stipend for au pairs? It’s because that’s 60% of the federal minimum wage for a 45-hour work week. The federal minimum wage was set at $7.25 per hour in 2009 and has not been updated since.

$195.75 / 45 hours = $4.35/hour

$4.35/hr = 0.60 x $7.25/hour (or 60% of $7.25/hr)

The argument is that au pairs are providing childcare, working at a salary of just over $4 per hour and comparing that wage to indentured servants, human trafficking, and other exploitive working conditions.

HOWEVER…That’s not their complete salary, only the taxable salary. Their complete salary is supposed to include room and board, which means the other 40% of their salary is supposed to be rent, food, utilities, and everything else. The stipend is meant to be more of an allowance and spending money, not the complete salary.

But what about states or cities with a higher minimum wage than the federal minimum wage? The agencies argue that the 40% of the au pair’s salary covered by room and board still meets the local minimum wage because the cost of living is higher in those areas. For example, Seattle has a $15 minimum wage but the cost of rent in Seattle (or San Francisco, New York, etc.) is much higher than, say, the cost of rent in Texas or Wyoming.

Also Muddying the Waters

Some host parents have abused the definition of room and board. They’ve made au pairs pay the car loan payment, the car insurance, utility bills like electricity and water, or restricted what the au pair was allowed to eat. Host parents also sometimes ask au pairs to work overtime (not allowed in the first place) without paying extra money, which isn’t cool. Or host parents ask the au pair to do tasks not associated with childcare (gardening, pet care, moving, etc.)

Yes, there are bad au pairs as well, but they are limited by age and by their visa. The maximum, consecutive amount of time they can spend in the United States is two years, tracked by the Department of State.

If a host family is so awful they get kicked out of an agency and not allowed to host an au pair again, there is no system in place to prevent that family from hosting through a different agency. Theoretically, a bad family could work their way through all 15 agencies until they don’t need childcare anymore.

What Does This Mean Going Forward?

From the brief filed July 18, 2019:

Within thirty (30) days after the Effective Date, and going forward, Defendants (and their agents, where applicable) will provide a statement to host families and au pairs to the effect that the weekly au pair stipend is a minimum payment requirement and host families and au pairs are free to agree to compensation higher than the legally applicable minimum.

Both you and your au pair should receive mail and/or email from your agency that you and your au pair can negotiate a higher stipend.

You might point out all of the “extras” that au pairs might not realize go into their room and board (like car payments, insurance, phone bill, etc. Check out our blog post How much does an au pair cost? for our breakdown of au pair costs.) Au pairs might argue for more money if they have actual teaching experience, or based on number or age of kids in the family, for example.

Also from the brief:

Effective upon the Effective Date, [host families] shall be released and forever discharged by all Settlement Class Members (the “Releasing Parties”) from any and all causes of action, judgments, liens, indebtedness, costs, damages, penalties, expenses, obligations, attorneys’ fees, losses, claims, liabilities and demands of whatever kind…

It’s good news that the terms of the release of liability that the au pairs (a.k.a. Settlement Class Members) agreed to includes host families in addition to sponsor agencies. So, host families should not need to worry about future legal action from the au pairs covered in this settlement unless there are other, unrelated claims.

It looks as if no new claims are being accepted (http://www.aupairclassaction.com/claim). If you hosted au pairs from 2009 to late 2018 and they didn’t register before the May 2019 deadline, it’s probably too late.

Personally, we hope there will be some sort of system, or at least a watch list, set up between agencies to track the bad host families that give the rest of us a bad name.

Where Can I Find Out More?

If you do a Google search for “au pair lawsuit” you’ll see lots of stories from lots of places. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to go straight to the source and read it for yourself.

Source Websites

Towards Justice is the non-profit legal agency bringing the suit on behalf of the au pairs. Their webpage, Fighting Wage Suppression for Childcare Workers on Au Pair Visas: Beltran, et al v. Interexchange, Inc., et al, includes case documents and a list of press releases through January 2019.

AuPairClassAction.com is the website set up to help au pairs and host families make claims on the class action suit. This website also includes links to the source court documents.

You can also read an email sent to Abbie by Cultural Care.

July 2019 Stories

We’ll keep this list updated as much as possible. If you want to add to the list, please email hello@myaupairandme.com or host families can join our My Au Pair and Me Facebook Community.

January 2019 Stories

What Makes a Great Au Pair Host Family?

What Makes a Great Au Pair Host Family?

Hi, Maddie here! My au pair recently came home from a friend’s house, gave me a huge hug, and said “thank you for being a good family!” I have heard the term “good family” from au pairs in the past. So, I started probing her about her day. It turns out that one of her friends was having issues with her host family about the use of the car in her off hours. My au pair had spent the afternoon trying to coach her friend through her difficulty.

I often ask myself “what makes a great au pair host family? What would I want from a host family if the roles were reversed?” We also see this question pop up in au pair Facebook groups, so we know other host parents are interested, too.

*This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, we may earn a small commission if you purchase through these links. For full details, see our Disclaimer Page.

General Advice and Themes

Besides our own opinions, we asked our current and former au pairs for their opinions on what makes a good host family. We have also included opinions from more than 300 Facebook comments.

Mostly the au pairs want to feel like part of the family. Four major themes emerged from our research:

  1. Inclusion
  2. Clearly set expectations
  3. Sharing food
  4. Trust

1 Great Au Pair Host Families Include Their Au Pair

“I left my family to come to your family. I really appreciate having you as my host family because you make me feel like one of you and included.”

-Au Pair I.

Au pairs want to feel like they belong and will be loved even after they leave. When families don’t invite the au pair to family events, start tracking miles on the car, or fretting about every dollar and penny spent, the au pair feels like an outsider. Of course, it’s always good to keep an eye on things just in case the au pair really does have a misconception about what’s acceptable. But, in general, consider what a few extra dollars is worth in the larger scheme of things.

Reciprocation is key. When you go above and beyond, so will your au pair. This doesn’t have to big or expensive, just thoughtful. You can serve her favorite vegetable with dinner. When she has a particularly long day, pitch in to help her finish her duties. If you get home a little early, you can let your au pair get off early. Most importantly, say “thank you”. Consider workplaces that have thank you cards or instant recognition awards of $5 or so. Those companies know that even a small unexpected reward builds loyalty and goodwill.

Abbie finds something every day to say “Thank you” for. Even if it’s just for something small and expected. “Thank you for picking the kids up from school.” “Thanks for making my work life possible.” “Thank you for doing all the dishes today.” Also, when you’re not happy your au pair, saying “thank you” provides a good buffer for cooling down. (Because sometimes moms are just hangry and need to table things until they have a chance to be a human again.)

Au pair A gave a great example of feeling included in a Facebook post. “I as an au pair did appreciate a thank you from time to time. It made me go the extra mile because I got appreciated. For me, a great host family is including the au pair to activities, dinner, maybe vacations and treats her as a member of the family and treats her as a grown up. On the other hand if an au pair wants to be treated as a member of the family it should be normal for her to help around the house without getting asked. (Helping with dishes by a family dinner, bring the trash out, etc.)”

2 Great Au Pair Host Families Set Clear Expectations

“It’s important to be aware of expectations on both sides! Sometimes both host families and [au pairs] are great but they don’t match expectations. Just be honest and straightforward about the rules in your house and things you expect.”

– Au Pair AJ on Facebook

The trickiest part about having an au pair is that they are both family and an employee. Being too lenient will backfire as much as being too strict. It’s important to find that right balance. And like each child has a different personality, that right balance will be different for each au pair you welcome into your home.

One au pair on Facebook asked for advice because she felt nothing she did was right. If she dressed the toddler in jeans, the mother would replace them with sweats. If the au pair dressed the toddler in sweats, the mother would replace them with jeans. As a host parent, either choose your battles or promptly explain what you want and why it needs to be that way.

Abbie finds similarities in correcting misconceptions with parenting and how she’d like to be treated. No one likes to be told they suck, which puts the person more on the defensive and less focused on learning and solving the problem. By repeating what to do and why, it is a positive way to reinforce what should happen and focus on the solution rather than the problem. For example, “Hey, I’d like to show you again how to clean the lint from the dryer. It’s really important because it could catch fire like what happened to our friend’s house.” or even “I noticed the dryer lint isn’t getting emptied when the kids clothes go through the wash. Can you help me think of a solution that would help?”

CL, a 7 time host parent, discussed her expectations in a Facebook thread. “We have high expectations, but we try to communicate those well, and we try to treat our au pairs as well as we can. Understanding where the line is when it comes to an au pair’s responsibilities is important, but an au pair needs to understand her responsibilities as a roommate as well. If a mess was made during my au pair’s off time (a sink full of dishes from cooking a big meal, for example) it is reasonable for me to expect the mess to be cleaned up by my au pair, and on her off hours.”

When giving instructions or directions, remember there’s also some things that might get lost in translation, especially in the beginning. Sometimes writing a follow-up text can help because then there’s something in writing the au pair can refer to. Another good suggestion is to have the au pair repeat the instructions back to you.

Also, keep in mind that au pair agencies have already set some basic expectations for the host family and the au pair. If the balance has swayed too far in one direction, the local councillor may get involved. Good families are “responsible for all the rules. Don’t take advantage, pay their [au pair’s] salary.” – Au pair B

3 Great Au Pair Host Families Share Through Food

It’s supposed to be an exchange. Families and au pair should share and communicate a lot

-Au Pair D.

Have you ever heard the phrase “sharing is caring”? Sharing, especially food, shows your au pair that you care about them as a member of the family.

Most au pairs really appreciate when host parents try to make their au pair’s home comfort food, even if they get it wrong. Sometimes the host families benefit because the au pair ends up making his or her comfort food for everyone!

When Abbie stops by the local Asian market, she picks up a bottle or two of Oi Ocha, their Japanese au pair’s favorite tea. It was only a few dollars and really made her feel cared for. For their French au pair, the brie at Costco was only $5 for a large wheel that was $10 or $15 at the regular supermarket. Since Costco only allows two members, they always got some when they were out.

Granted, some food from overseas is really expensive or difficult to obtain. But the effort of even looking up a recipe is a gesture of goodwill that really goes a long way.

Au pair LC also spoke of this on Facebook. “I really appreciate when my host go grocery shopping and they bring me things that I only eat without asking (they’re Chinese so we don’t share the same culture and I eat a lot of things they don’t), also whenever I cook something and they give it a try it’s really nice. They’re just little things that make a difference.”

4 Great Au Pair Host Families Build Trust

“Remember the AuPair is an adult and you’re trusting your kids to her during work time. So don’t treat her as a child/teenager in her time off.”

-Au pair SF on Facebook

Trust is huge for both host parents and au pairs. Au pairs want to be trusted and good host families work at building trust relationships with their au pairs.

The biggest complaints we hear from au pairs are curfews, unnecessary restrictions which make their lives difficult, and a lack of respect for their private space and time. All of these issues center around the trust relationship between the au pair and the host family.

Think about the message you send your au pair by giving them a curfew or unnecessary restrictions. You trust your au pair with the care and well being of your most precious asset, your children. Can you really not trust them to manage their personal time and still be ready to work when scheduled? Why can’t you trust them with the car in the evening when they drive your kids around all afternoon?

Personally, I am far more concerned about my children being well cared for than I am about anything else. Concerns for my children put the other concerns in perspective for me. I am open about this with my au pairs, as well. I only have two rules in my home: 1) You are an adult, I trust you to act like an adult. This includes being respectful of people and property, cleaning up after yourself, taking your job seriously, and doing your best. 2) I want to meet your friends before they meet my children. This is clearly for safety concerns, and especially true if their friends are not au pairs.

“Maddie told me once ‘I trust you for my kid so I trust you for everything of course’ which is exactly the way it should work.” – Au pair D

If you are struggling with trust I would recommend that you start small and expand overtime. For example, if your au pair proves that they can drive safely in your neighborhood, then expand the radius to your town, then the next town over. Once you are confident that your au pair can safely be home by 10:00 pm and be ready for work then next morning, then extend to midnight, then remove their curfew entirely.

Trust takes time and energy to build, but in the end it will more than make up for your efforts. Both you and your au pair will be happier and healthier for it.

Further Reading

Struggling with trust? I highly recommend The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey.

Want to hear it from the source? Here are the links to the original Facebook conversations:

What do you think? What have you done to help build a good relationship with your au pair? We would love to hear your opinions about what makes a great host family in our My Au Pair and Me Community on Facebook or in the comments below.

Easter, Passover, and Spring Roundup

Easter, Passover, and Spring Roundup

We can’t believe it’s almost Easter already! This spring is just flying by. In case you’re just as distracted as we are, here are some links and ways to share Easter or Passover or whatever spring celebration you have with your au pair.

Fun ideas:

What Abbie’s Family is Doing for Easter…

This year we’re keeping it simple and just doing Easter at my parent’s house, about an hour away. I have two sisters, and since it’s hard to coordinate Thanksgiving and Christmas between all our various in-laws, Easter is the holiday that my mom claims as just for our family, no one scattering or sharing the day with in-laws.

Saturday we might go spend the night but probably not as we’re still remodeling our bathroom. Sunday we all sleep in and the Easter Bunny comes and leaves his baskets for the boys during the night. Since we have a bunch of varying tastes in my family, we’re going to just do hamburgers (I know, very American) but it gives my dad a chance to grill with his son-in-laws while the boys get to dye eggs with their aunties, our au pair, and me.

Our current au pair is French, and grew up doing egg hunts. She also introduced us to oreillettes, or little ears, (similar to beignets). They’re usually served during Mardi Gras, but her mom did them for Easter. In France, the Easter Bell (les cloches de Pâques) takes the place of our Easter Bunny. The bells leave go silent on Thursday night and fly to Rome on Good Friday, then return again to ring Easter morning. They both hide eggs and, most importantly, leave chocolate!

Our previous au pair was Japanese. The didn’t really celebrate Easter, although the commercialism of the Easter Bunny (and chocolate!) does show up in stores.

What Maddie’s Family is Doing for passover and easter…

We celebrate with a mish-mash of Passover and Easter. My husband grew up in a Jewish household and I grew up in a Christian household, so the Passover Bunny visits our children.

Girl Eating Parsley on PassoverLast week my mother-in-law invited all the grandchildren over to dye eggs and bake challah. Also, our au pair (who grew up in a Muslim household) attempted to dye eggs with my kids. Fun tip: If your au pair has never dyed eggs before don’t buy the complicated “tie dye” egg kit. They had a great time but ended up tie dying their hands more than the eggs.

This coming Friday we will head over to my in-laws house for an extremely abbreviated “kids” seder. I’m sure we will be enjoying my mother-in-laws amazing leg of lamb, matzah ball soup, latkes, and horoset. The kids favorite part is searching for their color coded plastic eggs filled with specialized prizes and searching for the afikomen. The prize for finding the afikomen is always chocolate bunnies.

On Sunday the Easter Bunny will bring baskets full of treats, toys, and books. This is typically a lazy morning for us. We spend time reading Easter and Passover books to the kids after a breakfast of rainbow hard boiled eggs, matza, and horoset. In the afternoon we will join the neighbors in the annual egg hunt. To top off the weekend, we will have traditional Easter ham, cheesy potato casserole, and finish off the last of the matzah ball soup.

How do you celebrate the season?  Join the My Au Pair and Me Facebook group and share your traditions with other host families. We would love to hear from you.