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Considering an Au Pair Archives – My Au Pair and Me
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 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 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 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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Host Parent Interview With Jenny Coleman

Host Parent Interview With Jenny Coleman

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 if you are interested.

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

Au Pairs enjoying a sunny day by the waterHi there! So just to tell you a little bit about us. I am Jenny, I am 44 (nearly 45…but the last few months of being 44 are VERY important!) I am married to Julian (52) and we are coming up to our tenth wedding anniversary. Julian and I both work within the emergency services.

We have two children, Megan age 11 and Emily age 7. We also have two dogs, Rosie (a Welsh Springer) and Lacey (a working cocker.) To add to this family, we have 11 amazing au pairs who have been a HUGE part of our lives in the last ten years.

We live in Penarth in Wales – UK. Penarth is a very diverse and beautiful seaside town. It’s an affluent area, but full of middle aged professionals or retired people. It’s mainly a family based area with exceptional schools. We live slightly outside of our pay bracket, but to us a home for au pairs and children to grow up in, you cannot ask for a better set up.

Q: How did you find out about au pairs?

I was traveling the UK, lecturing on a specific topic related to work, and met an amazing woman from the World Health Organization. I stayed overnight with her around 13 years ago and I was introduced to her au pair. I didn’t really understand what an au pair was until this point. I had a nanny as a child, as my mother was single at the time and also worked within the Emergency Services.

My husband and I live over three hours away from my parents and siblings, and he has no family, so when I got pregnant I panicked a little. I was worrying about how we would cope with the demands of our jobs and a child. My position demanded 18+ hour days most of the time, so I knew that conventional nannies or nurseries were never going to work for us. I recalled the au pair I had met and started to do some research.

I learnt that an au pair was a person 18-30 looking for a cultural exchange, who in return lived in with you. One thing I noticed about the au pair I had originally met, was that she wasn’t really a part of the family. She went to her room as soon as her chores were complete. I definitely didn’t want this. I didn’t want a ‘live in’ maid or ‘servant’ – I wanted an extension on our family and a friend. My au pairs have all become so much more than ‘a friend’ – they have become surrogate daughters to both Julian and I.

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

We love our au pairMy hours of work can be in excess of 18+ a day. I never wanted either of my children to be bounced between friends or family. To be rushed to breakfast clubs or after school clubs. I also, (as much as I hate to admit it) am not the most maternal of people.

An au pair for me, offers stability, routine, friendship, a big sister, a confidant, love, fun and support for my girls. Personally, they have each made me grow as a person. They have been there through some of the worst times of my life, been a pillar of strength, a shoulder to cry on. They have told me off, made me see sense, laughed with me, cried with me, drank copious amounts of wine and danced around the house with me. They have only extended my family for the better.

If something serious happens at work, meaning I have to stay on (sometimes this has been for days – I literally have not seen my children for a week at a time, and this happened quite often before I changed departments)…I was always able to relax, knowing they were safe, in routine, homework done, a hot and healthy meal in their tummies and to bed on time. We ensured that the time and hours worked by the au pair was made up and paid back.

Thanks to the love and dedication of my au pairs, I have two happy, emotionally well balanced and bright young children.

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

I have always used AuPairWorld. AuPairWorld was the first site I ever tried. It was easy, I liked the search criteria and ‘easy find’. I was able to easily contact and message potential au pairs through their messaging system, and the cost was relatively inexpensive. I also like the fact that the searching and the decision making was entirely left to me as the host. I much prefer this concept over an ‘agency’.

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

Generally I wanted au pairs who had no previous experience of  ‘au pairing’. This was mainly because I wanted the experience to be one that we went through together, and there was no comparison to others. I wasn’t concerned about childcare qualifications. I looked for a warm face and personality. I generally skipped over any au pairs who had a pouting ‘kiss blowing’ photo, or half naked photo as their profile pic. I looked for someone who was family orientated and loved animals as well as children.​

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

I would ‘like’ and message quite a few au pairs that matched my search criteria. I looked for those that replied, and engaged rather than just sending a notification. I always tried to make my profile letter funny and honest. Most au pairs said they loved this and it stood out from people that just listed chores and needs. For me an au pair is not about the chores it’s about the engagement. Of course, helping with general household jobs is part of the role. But they would never be asked to do anything that I wouldn’t do, or that I wouldn’t give my kids to do. Both of my children help the au pair with the hoovering and polishing when they can. I am a bit of an OCD freak, so I would always do this when I can or do with the au pair.

Anyway, back to the question…I would whittle down the search by responding to those that asked questions and genuinely seemed interested in the children, their likes and dislikes, hobbies, interests, schooling, music etc etc. Both of my girls play the piano, one to a high standard. For a brief period, I looked for au pairs with musical knowledge, but I found that this didn’t work and it limited my choice. All the au pairs I have had joined in with the children and started to learn music for themselves, I loved this. 

Once I had the au pair choice down to three or four, I would Skype with them. Speaking clear and fluent English was a criteria I did look for…so Skyping gave me a good sense of their language skills. It also demonstrated their real interest and desire. For me, au pairing is about experiencing a new culture through a family and being part of that family – this, in the main, was what I looked for.

After I had chosen my au pair and offered them a home to come to, I would then get them talking to my previous au pairs. Each au pair was told to be 100% open and honest with the new family member. This meant good and bad. Each family has good and bad points and there is absolutely no point in trying to hide anything. 100% transparency is definitely the key to a successful relationship.

Once the new au pair had a few weeks engaging with the current and old au pairs, I would then start about four weeks of Skyping with the children. They would slowly build up a rapport with both girls and the current au pair. The girls would play games with them online, and generally build up a rapport. I always found this eased the transition for everyone. 

Photobooth costumes with host family and au pairsQ: What is something funny your au pair did that you didn’t expect?

Oh where do I start? We have sooooo many funny stories from each and every au pair. From first time drunken nights out, to wearing goggles whilst cleaning the shower. Spraying nappy poo’s when Megan was a baby, to dancing around the kitchen. I have endless videos of the girls and au pairs singing to songs, dancing, playing, camping, surfing, dog walking. You name it – we have done it. These memories are treasured. I have belly laughed with each of them… sometimes so hard that a little bit of pee (apologies for the graphic description) may come out. Honestly, the fun we have had is irreplaceable.

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

Vacation with past au pairsWe have had au pairs from Australia, Austria, Holland, and Sweden. The majority of our au pairs are Swedish, and our new au pair due to start after lock down is also Swedish.

Last May we traveled to Sweden and as one big group (au pairs and the Coleman-Humphreys family) we hired a big Airbnb in Gothenburg, right on a lake. We had a long weekend together and the Swedes showed us around. We ate Swedish food, visited national parks, and had a stunning and valuable few days away.

Here at home, we try to cook national foods. Most of my au pairs love to bake and cook. I’ve woken to the fresh smell of cinnamon buns, and eaten lovingly prepared dishes from their home country. The girls are introduced to games from each country, and we have had each set of au pairs parents and siblings also over to stay. Some au pairs have had their boyfriends to live with us for a few weeks. They have engaged with the kids just as much as the au pairs have – and my girls have grown really close to them also. We try to learn cultural traditions and celebrate their own national holidays.

I have always told my children that they are the luckiest children in the world – they can literally travel the world and have a second home to go to in each of the countries. I know that they are always welcome and will remain part of each au pairs family, forever.

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

Life is not a bed of roses. An au pair is a person who you watch and help grow, emotionally and mentally. They are away from everything they know and love, and whilst this is an exciting time for them, they can get home sick and feel sad. I have had au pairs feeling very low and down at times. It’s a really hard job at times. Overnight they are becoming a parents, friend, big sister, and more. It’s a lot of pressure for them and that has to be remembered. I loved Japan when I was younger, and I always tell my au pairs that it took me three months to stop feeling homesick. This is very normal. I find it takes time and patience for everyone to adapt. 

We have a complete open and honesty policy in our house. If there is something they don’t like, or worried about, they are allowed to say it. They won’t be judged, and vice versa… we will adapt and change accordingly. It took me a while to learn how to adapt, and there are mistakes I made with some of my first au pairs that I don’t make now. I guess as a person and family we have grown also.

I have had a couple of au pairs who have started and we have had to return home. We have had to find a new aupair very quickly and that’s made the transition harder. I say harder, because we have 3-4 weeks where the old au pair helps transition the new aupair. When one has been replaced because its not ‘worked out’ its been difficult to transition so seamlessly.

One example of such, was when I was pregnant with Emily. Sofie looked after Megan who was 4, me who had hyperemesis gravidarum and was very very ill, and also a poorly puppy (Rosie had IMPA). I would just like to add at this point, that the love and care Sofie gave us, made us not only very close, but exceptionally grateful. I love her like a child of my own, and she literally saved my life.

Hanna started with us when Sofie was due to leave. As the weeks went on, I started to get concerned about Hanna. She wasn’t engaging with Megan at all. When Sofie left – all communication stopped… and we agreed to part ways. I think it must have been very difficult for Hanna, seeing how close Sofie and I were, but also with me being very poorly and constantly in and out of hospital.

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

Our next au pair, Thea, starts with us in June and our current au pair, Mary, leaves us mid May. Unfortunately this is because of the restrictions of the lock down. It means that Thea will miss out on building a relationship with Mary, whilst gently being transitioned into the role. If the girls are home still and being home-schooled, it’s even more pressure on her. This is going to be a first for us, and we will just take each day as it comes.

As I have had more and more au pairs, I have learnt to park my OCD, and accept that the house doesn’t need to be spotlessly clean and tidy, timetables have a habit of going out of the window, and there are bad days as well as good days.

To start with – I think I expected too much. But with the help of my au pairs I have grown as a person and seen myself develop and  become more accepting. We have rows like any parent and teenage daughter would – but we have the respect and closeness to talk and park it. Learn from it and adapt.

I would urge any one having an au pair to just be ‘human’ and treat them as you would want someone to treat your son or daughter. Never forget that they are someone else’s son or daughter. They deserve to be treated with love, kindness, and fairness. They are not a housemaid or servant, they are part of your family. 

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

Be accepting, open, and committed. Make the au pair part of you and your children’s lives. Embrace the experience. Become friends. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, but do it diplomatically. Take them with you on holiday and out for walks, bike rides, swims, meals etc. This is a relationship for life. They are here to learn and grow with you. Remember that they are new to this, and still young. Treat them as you would want someone to treat your own child. Enjoy the experience. My life is enriched because of my au pairs, and I owe them the world.

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

Yes – we have four weeks of having two. The first week, I let them sleep and find their feet. They join in when they want…and generally get a feel for the house.

The second week I like to see them engaging more with the kids and just having fun. The current au pair takes them on dog walks and shows them the town. They go to after school clubs with the kids so they know where to go and get to meet any teachers etc.Looking up at kids and au pairs

The third week they muck in with the housework and kids, meal prep etc…pretty much helping out the current au pair with everything. We will have family nights, go to the cinema, or out for a drink/meal etc.

The final week they totally take over. The current au pair has the week to pack, say goodbye to her friends, do a bit with the children and just get used to the idea of leaving. When they do leave it’s always emotional for everyone.

By the fourth week – I find the new au pair is very ready for the old one to go, and for them to put their own stamp in things. But in this time, the new and old au pair have made a new friendship and become part of the bigger group.  This method has worked AMAZINGLY for us. I am not looking forward to not having this option on this transition, but we will go with it and do the best we can.

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

Oh yes – we have one big family group. As a group we talk every day. We share problems, or funny stories, recipes and cooking tips. We play online games… together we try to meet up as much as we can. I am so happy that we all get along and that each of them have found new friendships through us.

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

This has only been a positive experience for us. I cannot imagine my life without them. I have alluded to how much I love each one. I love them all for their own personalities, and what they bring to our relationship. As a group I love how we all gell and come together for Megan and Emily.  I love the au pair community, but it’s not all a bed of roses. It’s hard at times, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Having an au pair is a game changer in terms of family life, it gives you back quality time as a family…just never forget that they are part of that family.

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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 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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One Day at a Time: A Reflection on Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic

One Day at a Time: A Reflection on Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Hi Maddie here! Anyone who grew up in an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) family knows the phrase “One Day at a Time”. This is my go to phrase when life gets tough. Coronavirus makes life tough. Each day we wake up and do what we need to do to get to tomorrow.

I want to take this opportunity to slow down and reflect on life. I’m sure that years from now I will look back and fondly remember the time spent with family. But for now, here is a day in my life.

Good Morning

This morning I woke up before the alarm which is usually the case. I have a lot on my mind and I like to spend my quiet time on Facebook. It is comforting to know that I’m not the only one struggling to find time away from my children. Today I feel blessed to have children and a house full of life when so many live alone.

By 7:30 the alarm is going off, the dog is demanding attention, and my 2 year old barges in begging for “Nom Noms”. Time to start the day. Today I feel blessed to be in bed at 7:30 instead of getting off the shuttle and walking to the office.

Youn girl home schooling with au pairWe are doing everything possible to maintain our routines. I am showered, dressed, and in my office working by 8:00. My husband and I are both working from home. Today I feel blessed to be among the privileged few who are able to work from home and maintain a full time income.

I work in tech and I have been working from home since March 3rd. This was about a week before they requested that we work from home if possible. My kids were sick that week, they caught it from my husband who was sick the week before. Then I caught it. Was it a mild case of Coronavirus? We have no idea. They weren’t testing in my area at that time so I likely will never know. Today I feel blessed that we are all healthy again.

My husband makes the kids and himself breakfast until our au pair starts at 8:30. Then he disappears to the master bedroom where his makeshift office is set up on a folding table. Today I feel blessed to have a wonderful au pair living with us to care for our children.

Staying on Track

There are pluses and minuses to working at home. On one hand I love to see my kids more. I can hear them playing, and laughing, and learning. Unfortunately, they always seem to need my attention while I am on a video call. Today I feel blessed that my 2 year old needed me while I was in a meeting with a dad holding an infant while his wife chased their toddler out of the room.

Toddler playing with Amazon Fire Kids tabletLet’s be honest, even with the help of our au pair this is hard. Hats off to those who are juggling working at home between homeschooling and entertaining your kids. My first grader is working her way through a giant pile of worksheets. The pile keeps growing as her teachers send file after file. We do what we can to work through some of it, but some days are impossible. Today I feel blessed for Amazon Fire tablets and an extra 30 minutes of sanity.

Balancing Life

I live outside Seattle, Washington. We are only a few miles from the Life Care Center which was the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. Life here is oddly quiet. There is no traffic. Grocery stores are open but it is like shopping during the Superbowl. The few who venture out are preoccupied and wandering around like they don’t know who they are any more. Today I feel blessed that the stores are restocked, for the most part, after the mad rush for supplies two weeks ago.

By about 4:00 I need to get away from my desk for a while. My au pair is still on duty so I get in a quick workout from YouTube. I also have an opportunity to talk to a friend and my mother-in-law on a video call. My in-laws miss seeing their grandkids and my kids cried when we had to cancel their weekly grandparent day. I have tried to explain but they don’t understand why we can’t see grandma and grandpa in person. Today I feel blessed that my in-laws have been staying home and have remained healthy so far.

By 5:30 my husband wraps up his work. We head out for a walk around the park with the kids and our dog. Our neighborhood park is open except for the basketball court and the playground. The kids were devastated when the city closed the playground last week. They seem to be ok with it today. Many of our neighbors are out walking with their families, too. We take our time and talk across the street so we can maintain 6 feet of distance between us. Today I feel blessed to get to know my neighbors, we are usually too busy for anything more than a casual wave.

After a quick dinner I get the kids to bed while my husband does the dishes. After the kids are asleep my husband gets in a quick workout while I work more or write a blog like tonight. Other nights we just fold laundry and pick up the house on the way to bed. Today I feel blessed that the normal things in life are still getting done in the midst of the world turned upside down.

How are you holding up?

How are you doing during these difficult times? Are you taking life one day at a time like me? Are you working at home or have you been forced into unemployment? Are your kids doing ok with schools canceled?

Leave a comment below or if you’re an au pair 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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One Day at a Time: A Reflection on Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic

One Day at a Time: A Reflection on Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic
One Day at a Time: A Reflection on Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Should I Pay for That? A Guide to Au Pair Expenses

Should I Pay for That? A Guide to Au Pair Expenses

Hi, Maddie here. When I first became an au pair host mom I really struggled with the obligation to cover expenses for my au pair. The agency fees seemed astronomical, but there was nothing I could do about it. The direct expenses, on the other hand, I could control to some degree.

At first I turned to Google. This is one of the few times Google let me down. All I could find were vague guidelines on the au pair agency sites and general references to “room and board.”

Over time, I found that my au pair actually helped me keep the worst of my household expenses in check. Having a third adult to share in meal planning, preparation, and clean up helps us to eat at home. Also, my au pair has time during the day to run to the store and she largely sticks to the shopping list. My worries about the small expenses eased once these other larger expenses were under control.

Who pays for what can get a little complicated. I have put together the following lists as a guide to who is typically responsible for a given expense. In general, expenses fall into three categories:

  1. Education requirements, room, and board, which are the responsibility of the host family.
  2. Expenses incurred in the care of the children, which are the responsibility of the host family.
  3. Personal expenses, which are the responsibility of the au pair.

Below is a list of all the expenses, and also a discussion on how I’ve kept things straight.

If you have an expense in question, reach out to other host families in the My Au Pair and Me Facebook Community. You can also contact your local au pair counselor for advice.

What expenses should the host family cover for an au pair?

Au pair host families should pay for education expenses, room and board, and any expenses incurred in the care of the children.

Education requirements

  • $500 towards education expenses (tuition, fees, books, etc.).
  • Local transportation to and from classes.

Room and Board

  • Rent/mortgage and any associated housing costs (HOA dues, wear and tear, etc.).
  • Car purchase/payments, maintenance, and insurance (if the family owns the vehicle).
  • Utilities (power, water, internet, tv/Netflix, etc.).
  • Home phone or a basic cell phone with a cell phone plan.
  • Furnishings for the au pair’s room (furniture, mirror, bedding, hangers, etc.).
  • Basics for the au pair’s bathroom (towels, mats, toothbrush holder, etc.).
  • Meals at home.
  • Snacks and beverages kept in the kitchen.
  • Household products (light bulbs, toilet paper, hand soap, tissues, laundry soap, cleaning supplies, etc.)

Child care expenses

Child care expenses are a special category. These expenses are the obligation of the host family only if they are for the care of the children. In the corporate world these expenses are analogous to business expenses.

  • First attempt at the drivers tests and the drivers licenses fees. (If you require your au pair to drive.)
  • Transportation costs when working or with the family (gas, tolls, parking, bus, Uber, etc.).
  • Supplies for the children.
  • Activities when working or with the family.
  • Meals out when working or with the family.
  • Vacation expenses (if you require your au pair to work at any point during the trip – airfare, hotel, meals, etc.)
  • Any fees related to the children – even if you felt the au pair was responsible (children lose the library books, etc.)

What expenses should the au pair pay for?

Of course you can always offer to help your au pair with a personal expense or two. Some families cover expenses like a gym membership or bath products as an added bonus for their au pair. But you are by no means obligated to cover them.

  • Program fees billed to the au pair.
  • Personal expenses (clothes, bath products, cosmetics, etc.).
  • Personal activities (gym, concerts, sports, etc.).
  • Meals out when not with the family.
  • Transportation costs when not with the family (gas, tolls, parking, bus, Uber, etc.).
  • Fees, fines, and tickets (parking and traffic violations, late fees, bank fees, etc.).
  • Alcohol, energy drinks, fancy beverages.
  • Snacks and beverages kept in the au pair’s room.
  • Food for the au pair’s friends.
  • Personal vacations.
  • Cell phone extras (apps, overage charges, roaming charges, international calls, etc).
  • Damage to the car and home beyond normal wear and tear (up to the agency limit).
  • Expenses over the $500 provided for education (tuition, fees, books, etc.).
  • Medical and dental costs (they have their own insurance).
  • Income tax.
  • Excess baggage fees and/or shipping costs to bring their belongings home.
  • Postage.

How do you keep the money straight?

It is important to set expectations about expenses and keep the money straight with your au pair. Managing expenses poorly can quickly drive a wedge between you and your au pair. I do everything I can to make expenses easy to manage and transparent to my au pair.

Set expectations for expenses

The best time to discuss expectations for expenses is before your au pair arrives. By addressing it early your au pair can better plan for her year with your family. It also prevents conflicts and hurt feelings over money. We created this expense responsibility guide for you to share with your au pair.

Responsible party pays for the expense when incurred

The best way to keep expenses straight is to have the responsible party pay for the expense at the point of sale. If you are with your au pair they can pay for their own personal expenses at the register. That way there is no debt to settle between you and your au pair.

Inevitably, your au pair will need to spend money while in the care of your children. This may be for art supplies for your kids, picking up a few groceries for the family, or taking the kids to the museum. It is unfair to expect your au pair to front these costs on your behalf.

Instead, provide your au pair with a mechanism to keep the family expenses separate. I issue a low limit credit card to my au pairs which we closely track. Abbie gives her au pairs a pre-paid card which she can load with funds as needed. Another option is to give your au pair the necessary petty cash ahead of time. You can ask her to bring you the change and receipts.

Whichever mechanism you choose for your family, keep an eye on the spending of your au pair. If your au pair spends money that you don’t expect, address it right away.

Work out a plan for shared expenses ahead of time

Some expenses, like gas for the car or cell phone charges, aren’t easy to divide. For these expenses, it is best to work out the details and expectations with your au pair ahead of time.

Over the years, we have managed paying for gas for the car in two different ways. Sometimes it has been easiest for us to pay for every other tank of gas for our au pairs car. Other times it has been easier for our au pair to fill the tank on our card at the end of her work week. Then fill the tank again with her card at the beginning of her work week.

Cell phones are an essential expense in modern life and are another shared expense you will need to address ahead of time. Because your au pair needs to call you in case of an emergency, you need to provide a cell phone and pay for a basic plan. Do you require your au pair to drive? If so, you will also need to pay for some amount of data for GPS navigation if it is not available in the au pair’s vehicle. You may also want your au pair to be able to take pictures and send them to you at work.

Cell phones can be expensive. The cost of the phone, the accessories, and the usage plan really add up. But there are a few ways to keep these costs straight and in check. See our blog 3 Tips for Controlling Au Pair Cell Phone Expenses for the details.


Au Pair Timecards Free PDF

Always pay your au pair the entire weekly stipend

The US Department of State requires host families to provide their au pair with a weekly stipend of at least $195.75. You need to pay your au pair their full stipend every week regardless of whether they owe you for money. If you pay the weekly stipend to your au pair in cash, we recommend the use of a payment log.

Download the Free Au Pair Time Sheet PDF to keep track of your au pair’s hours worked. Also, document when and how much your au pair was paid. Also, see our downloads page for a list of all the My Au Pair and Me documents.

Pay day may be a good opportunity to reconcile personal expenses with your au pair. The repayment of expenses needs to be a separate transaction from the payment of the stipend. In other words, make the full payment first (and record it), then have her/him pay you back. Do NOT pay a reduced paycheck.

How much should I expect to spend on an au pair?

The short answer is “it depends.” The cost of expenses for an au pair can vary widely. The cost of goods and services in your area and how generous you choose to be drive the majority of the differences.

We break down the host family costs in our blog How much does an au pair cost.

Did we miss something?

Are we missing something off our lists? Share your experience with au pair expenses in the comments below.

Have a question about who should cover a particular expense? 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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Guide To Au Pair Expenses
Guide To Au Pair Expenses
Guide To Au Pair Expenses
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

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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Reward Your Au Pair Without Giving a Raise

Reward Your Au Pair Without Giving a Raise

Hi, Abbie here! My husband is a teacher (and teachers never get paid what they’re worth). After a lay off two years ago, I alternated between unemployment and contract jobs. Now I have an amazing job I love, but we have some debt we need to pay down. We can’t afford to give our au pair a raise like Maddie and her husband. However, there are things I can do to reward my au pair and show her how much I appreciate everything she does for us.

Note: This article is about raising your au pair’s compensation above and beyond the minimum requirements. It goes without saying that you need to follow the program rules about how many hours your au pair works. You also need to provide basics like room, living expenses, and anything required for caring for your children like phone and transportation.

The power of thank you

One of the easiest things to do that doesn’t cost anything is saying thank you. Say it often and with specific examples.

It’s fun to have the kids write our au pairs thank you notes and reminding them to tell her thank you. I also tell them how lucky they are because of something she did for them.

Sometimes I’ll randomly text my au pair a thank you. Maybe it will be for getting to the bottom of the kids laundry pile. Or for how nice the children’s room looks because I know my boys forgot to make their beds (again). Yes, it’s her job but I still appreciate her work.

Think like a startup employer

Our au pairs are part of our family, but there is still a bit of an employer-employee relationship. As such, some of the things I learned from my time as a contractor gave me ideas for how I can reward my au pair without a raise.

At one of my contract jobs, the pay was lower than I would have liked. On the up side they were all about the free snacks in the break room and quarterly team-building events. Another previous employer was very liberal with thank you notes including movie tickets.

Searching the internet gives some good ideas, too. Like this article about 121 creative ways to reward employees.

Reward your au pair with a bonus instead of a raise

The bad (good?) part of a raise is that it’s permanent. Once you increase wages, they’re there for the rest of the year (and possibly the extension year).

A bonus is a nice one-time way of giving monetary compensation when you are not sure you can commit to raise. Try timing your au pair’s bonus after you receive your bonus payout. Depending on how much you receive, you can carve off some as a bonus for your au pair.

If you give your au pair money as a gift for birthday or holidays instead of a bonus, then it’s not wages and she doesn’t have to include it in taxes.

The other nice thing about a bonus is that it feels more substantial when you give the entire amount at one time.

Reward your au pair with extra time off

Au Pair I in PeruAlthough teachers don’t get paid what they deserve, they do get summers and extra time off. Since my husband is home, our au pair’s life gets super-easy.

All our au pairs have had very liberal vacations to jaunt around the country. Our second au pair, from Europe, got to take an amazing trip to Peru and see Macchu Picchu.

All of our au pairs have taken advantage of three-day weekends to take short road trips in our area.

We’re also super-mindful to make sure our au pair has plenty of time to hang out with her friends (or boyfriend). It shows we care about them, and we recognize how much they care about us.

Reward your au pair by paying for something extra

The bad part for au pairs about both a bonus and a raise is that they will have to pay taxes on the extra income. If your au pair is not the planning-ahead type, that extra income might add stress come taxes April.

Instead of paying your au pair directly, consider paying for something instead. As an example, we don’t ask our au pair to pay for gas when she uses the car in her personal time unless it becomes excessive. (It helps we have a Prius and she’s pretty reasonable about not putting too many miles on the car.)

Is her favorite band coming to town? Consider picking up two tickets (and make sure she is off duty that night and the next morning).

Sometimes I see things that I know my au pair “needs” so I make sure she has them. For example, Costco had these things that slip on over your shoes to give you extra traction when walking on ice. Without making a big deal, I put them on the desk in her room and let her know they were hers if she wanted.

Our first au pair had a certain brand of tea she liked from back home in Japan. Even though the rest of us didn’t drink it, we always made sure to include it in the family grocery list. Keeping her supplied in tea made her happy, and wasn’t that much extra in the grand scheme of things.

Six credits usually cost more than the $500 we’re required to pay. Some families pay for all six credits without making the au pair pay the extra difference. I’ve also heard of families paying for the au pair’s extension fee, or at least part of it.

Reward your au pair without costing you money

Rewarding your au pair doesn’t even have to be money that comes out of pocket. My credit card earns airline miles that I can’t use yet. (Taking a family of six on an airplane is a lot of miles!) When my au pair decided to take a weekend course out of state, I used my airline miles. That’s money she saves and doesn’t “cost” me anything.

Another example would be to look through your kitchen drawer for unused gift cards. I still had some of those movie gift cards from my previous employer so I treated my au pair and her boyfriend.

Find a great buy one get one free deal? Gift the second item to your au pair if it is something she would appreciate.

What makes you feel appreciated?

Think about your own job. How do you like to be recognized at work? What are some things your company does to reward employees other than giving a raise? Leave a comment below with your experience, we’d love to hear them.

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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Reward Your Au Pair Without Giving a Raise
Reward Your Au Pair Without Giving a Raise
Reward Your Au Pair Without Giving a Raise
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

  • 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

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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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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4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 4 – Make the Most of Your Time

4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 4 – Make the Most of Your Time

Hi, Maddie here. I used to laugh at the term work-life balance. As a young professional my idea of work-life balance was to work, then figure out how to fit the rest of my life around it. Then, in my late twenties I decided to add graduate school to my more than full time job. At this point I thought I had work-life balance all figured out. I could dial into my classes wherever I happen to be in the world, I worked on homework whenever I could fit it in, and I could do cardio while reading. No problem!

Then entered my first management position and a year later we decided to start a family. At this point I had finished graduate school and I wasn’t traveling much. It seemed like as good a time as any for our first child. I was so unprepared to actually manage my work-life balance!

In this 4 part blog series I will detail the techniques I now use to reclaim my life when things get out of control. It is an ongoing battle, but one I happily fight to stay sane and fulfilled. Check out step one Say “NO”, step 2 Engage Your Village and step 3 Make a Plan and Stick to It.

*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.

Make the most of your time

Time has become a form of currency in my life. With the addition of children to my already busy life, I have had to pinch and save time like pennies to make ends meet. In the same way that I hate to waste money, I also hate to waste time. I use automation to streamline tasks like email and creating lists. I multi-task to fill the time I would otherwise waste by myself. Most importantly, if I devote time to someone, then I try to be present. Put down my phone, tune out the other distractions in my life, and make the most out of our time together.

How do you make the most of your time at work?

When I first started my career as an engineer I was timid and had a hard time connecting with others in my office. I was 22 years old and one of a handful of women in a sea of men with 25 or more years of engineering experience. My manager pulled me aside one day and gave me career altering advice – never eat alone. Eating with others in the office provides more than a break. This is a prime opportunity for team building and networking. I make the most of my time at lunch and coffee breaks. The personal connections gained in this otherwise solitary time helps me to solve problems, get to the source of issues, and advance in my career.

I also make the most of my time at work by only checking outlook a few times per day. I use a simplified one touch approach like “Inbox Zero”, starting with a series of rules to filter and sort my incoming email. First, I unsubscribe from all the emails I can. Then rules move email notifications that I can’t turn off but don’t care about into folders.

Next, I have a series of rules to sort my emails into categories: Status, Project 1, Project 2, Project 3, and Uncategorized. This allows me to quickly scan and delete the emails in the status category. Anything that catches my eye I move to uncategorized or the related project. Then, I sort by meeting notices to accept or decline. I go back to my calendar later when I am ready to make a plan. The next sort is by subject line. That way I can see what email chains are trending, delete the extra versions, and respond if necessary.

By this point I am usually down to around 30 emails in my inbox. Now I go through the emails one by one. If I can quickly solve or answer the email I take care of it right away. If it will take longer to solve then I flag it for action and categorize it into the appropriate project. This allows me to keep my train of thought and action on one project at a time.

How do you make the most of your time at home?

I try to make the most of my time even on my way to and from home. On the way to work I listen to podcasts or listen to news radio. On my way home I make phone calls. Usually I call my husband. One or two days a week I call my blogging partner, Abbie. I also try to call my mom and dad, but I should make an effort to talk to them more.

At home I use technology to save me time and energy. We have an Echo Show in our kitchen which is the hub for all our home automation. The Echo Show links to my Nest cameras so I can watch my kids play when I am cooking, cleaning, and going through the mail. I use Alexa voice control to adjust the temperature, manage my shopping list and calendar, control music and the TV, and answer anything I would Google on my phone.

Be present

Being present is the easiest and most important change you can make to reclaim your life. After saying “no” to non-value added activities, engaging your village for support, and making a plan for the activities you want to attend you should make the most of your time by tuning out the distractions. Simply put down your phone and live in the moment.

My husband and I put our phones down from the time we get home until the kids go to bed. We get so little time with the family we try to make the time we have count. We keep each other accountable and admittedly things come up, but we try!

When I’m at work I focus on the meeting I’m in instead of checking my email or messaging someone who is not in the room. If you have somewhere more important to be then reschedule or delegate so you can handle the hot issue.

How do you reclaim your life?

This brings an end to the 4 Steps to Relcaim Your Life series. Have you started to reclaim your life? Commit to taking one small action towards bringing your life back into balance today.

Leave a comment for us below or join our group of au pair host parents in the My Au Pair and Me Facebook Community. We would love to hear from you!

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4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 3 – Make a Plan and Stick to It

4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 3 – Make a Plan and Stick to It

Hi, Maddie here. I used to laugh at the term work-life balance. As a young professional my idea of work-life balance was to work, then figure out how to fit the rest of my life around it. Then, in my late twenties I decided to add graduate school to my more than full time job. At this point I thought I had work-life balance all figured out. I could dial into my classes wherever I happen to be in the world, I worked on homework whenever I could fit it in, and I could do cardio while reading. No problem!

Then entered my first management position and a year later we decided to start a family. At this point I had finished graduate school and I wasn’t traveling much. It seemed like as good a time as any for our first child. I was so unprepared to actually manage my work-life balance!

In this 4 part blog series I will detail the techniques I now use to reclaim my life when things get out of control. It is an ongoing battle, but one I happily fight to stay sane and fulfilled. Check out step one Say “NO” and step 2 Engage Your Village.

*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.

Make a Plan and Stick to It

When it was just me and my husband planning was easy. I made the plans and he went along for the ride. Everything changed when we started a family. All of a sudden I needed to know the whereabouts of my daughter and her many caregivers to complete a plan as simple as getting to work on time. And as a new mom with a chaotic and oppressive work schedule I had to learn to make a plan and stick to it. Bottom line: if it is important to you, then add it to your schedule.

How do you make a plan and stick to it at work?

Unless you are one of the lucky few with an administrative assistant, then you will need to find time to manage your own calendar. I have always managed my own calendar at work. I start and end each day with a review of my meetings for the next few days. It helps me to plan and prioritize.

This is the process I use to maintain my work calendar:

  1. Are there any conflicts? I start by declining the meetings I don’t plan to attend. Then I reschedule the meetings that can move. If I still have a conflict I will check the agendas to see if I can attend part of one meeting and then go to the other. If you are in a bind remember to engage your village.
  2. Check each meeting notice for attendees, conference room location, dial in information (if needed), and an agenda. I make sure I include this information in the meetings I schedule. If someone else owns the meeting I will ask them to send me any missing information. I will also let them know if I think someone important is missing from the invitation. If everyone is in the room you can have the conversations once instead of wasting time repeating it for folks who are missing.
  3. Make meetings a short as possible. Say “no” to hour long meetings covering a 15 minute topic. Even better if you can answer a question over your messaging platform and avoid the meeting altogether. It is a waste of everyone’s time to sit though unnecessary chatter.
  4. Add travel time before and after meetings if you need time to transition. That way you can make sure you get there and back on time.
  5. Add recurring meeting notices to you own calendar to help you remember weekly and monthly deadlines. I also use recurring meeting notices so that I remember to leave work on time.
  6. Develop a color coding system for your calendar. That way you can tell at a glance if your next meeting is important or not.
  7. Schedule breaks into your calendar. My calendar fills up fast so I schedule breaks to make sure I have time to eat, take a breather, and catch up.

Now that your calendar is under control, you have to be disciplined in following it. It is rude and career limiting to not show up to meetings. This is doubly true for meetings you schedule. Then at the end of the day, you have to learn to put it all down and head home. The work will be there in the morning.

How do you make a plan and stick to it at home?

At home I depend on my Google Family Calendar. All the important caregivers for my children have access: me, my husband, my parents, my in laws, and my au pair. The best Google Family Calendar feature is access from any device: iPhone, Android, tablets, and laptop web access.

We all have access to add and remove events, but for the most part, it is my job to manage the family calendar. I do most of the family calendar management on my smartphone after everyone is in bed. I use recurring meeting notices as much as possible. For deviations to the schedule I will edit a single event. I include everything important in my family calendar:

  1. School calendar, including half days and holidays
  2. Caregiver schedule for my kids
  3. Everyone’s activities and classes
  4. One-off appointments (including who needs to attend)
  5. Special events and holidays
  6. Everyone’s travel plans

What Is An Au Pair

Having everything in one place helps to prevent last minute child care emergencies. Everyone knows long in advance when I am depending on them. It also helps me to prevent over planning and to say “no”. I try to schedule only two events per day on the weekends. This allows us time to spend time together as a family and get everything ready for the upcoming week.

The family calendar also helps me delegate and better engage my village. My mother in law schedules fun events for my kids during her time with them. My husband knows to not schedule vet appointments at the same time he is dropping my daughter off at school. And best of all, my au pair knows which nights we will be home late. She helps me with dinner prep and bathing the kids before I get home. If you have kids and a spare room consider hosting an au pair. There is no way for me to get everything done without my amazing au pair!

How do you reclaim your life?

How do you manage your plans? Leave a comment for us below or join our group of au pair host parents in the My Au Pair and Me Facebook Community. We would love to hear from you! 

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4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 2 – Engage Your Village

4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 2 – Engage Your Village

Hi, Maddie here. I used to laugh at the term work-life balance. As a young professional my idea of work-life balance was to work, then figure out how to fit the rest of my life around it. Then, in my late twenties I decided to add graduate school to my more than full time job. At this point I thought I had work-life balance all figured out. I could dial into my classes wherever I happen to be in the world, I worked on homework whenever I could fit it in, and I could do cardio while reading. No problem!

Then entered my first management position and a year later we decided to start a family. At this point I had finished graduate school and I wasn’t traveling much. It seemed like as good a time as any for our first child. I was so unprepared to actually manage my work-life balance!

In this 4 part blog series I will detail the techniques I now use to reclaim my life when things get out of control. It is an ongoing battle, but one I happily fight to stay sane and fulfilled. Check out part one of this blog series in Say “NO”.

*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.

Create a village to improve your work life balance

You can’t have it all if you plan to do it all by yourself. There are simply not enough hours in the day. Look around at the people in your life. Chances are they are looking for help as well. By coming together to create a village you can gain economies of scale and save everyone time and energy.

How do I engage my work village?

One way to engage your professional village is networking. Have a hard problem to solve? Start asking around. I very rarely find a problem that someone in my network hasn’t already solved. I refuse to spend time reinventing the wheel. More likely than not, my colleagues are happy to share their process and tools. They are also honored by the spread of their hard work.

As I progressed up the career ladder, I learned to effectively delegate. Transitioning from a strong independent contributor to a manager was eye opening. Faced with tight deadlines, I had the choice to work ridiculous hours or effectively delegate and trust my team to deliver. By setting a clear vision and empowering my team we were able to deliver without burning out in the process. Need help? I recommend reaching out to your mentor. Mine gave me a copy of the book Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders By L. David Marquet. Marquet highlights the impact of a leader’s actions on their team in this quick read. He helped me to reflect on my behavior and offered techniques to help me become a better leader.

How do I engage my personal village?

Start to build your village at home by asking for help. I’m not talking about a one off request like ”honey, will you please take out the garbage.” I am talking about completely handing over a task from planning to completion. When I started traveling two or more weeks a month I asked my husband to take care of paying occasional bills. This worked fine for a while, then we missed a homeowners insurance payment. Oops. Our bank notified us of the oversight several months later. They had taken out a homeowners insurance policy for us at a significantly higher rate. My husband figured out how to fix the insurance mess while I was in Europe. We also decided that it was time for him to take over all the bills. He takes care of everything, now. Including our budgeting and working with our financial advisor.

Another way to engage your village is to offer help to your neighbors or close friends. I offer to take on tasks when they are convenient for me and my friends offer the same in return. We have a friend join us for dinner every Tuesday night. She appreciates the hot meal and the excuse to leave work on time one night a week. In return, she picks up a few things at the grocery store for me and helps to get my kids to bed when my husband is traveling. We also both get the added bonus of seeing each other and venting about life.

How do I grow my personal village?

Are you finding that your village is too busy or too small? I have two solutions: make friends with your neighbors and outsource where possible.

There are many ways to get to know your neighbors. I joined my local Buy Nothing group on Facebook. Buy Nothing allowed me to reduce my clutter and gave me the opportunity to meet new people. Now that I have children, I make an effort to talk to the other parents at the bus stop and school functions. I have also made friends by going to my local gym at the same time every week.

What Is An Au Pair

You can also grow your village by outsourcing. Of course, this assumes you have some extra income to devote to freeing up your schedule. I started by hiring someone to clean my house once a month. Eventually, we added a second monthly cleaning. Next, I hired someone to take care of my yard maintenance. Instead of cleaning and mowing, I now spend my weekends on adventures with my husband and kids.

If you have kids (and a bedroom to spare) I highly recommend hosting an au pair. My au pair watches my kids up to 45 hours a week and we pay less per month than daycare for my two children. I come home to clean children with packed lunches and picked up toys. My au pair takes care of the kids laundry, manages their activity schedules, and starts dinner for the family. New to au pairs? Check out our blog What is an au pair?

How do you reclaim your life?

Have you created a village to help bring your life back into balance? Leave a comment for us below or join our group of au pair host parents in the My Au Pair and Me Facebook Community. We would love to hear from you!

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4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 1 – Say “No”

4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 1 – Say “No”

Hi, Maddie here. I used to laugh at the term work-life balance. As a young professional my idea of work-life balance was to work, then figure out how to fit the rest of my life around it. Then, in my late twenties I decided to add graduate school to my more than full time job. At this point I thought I had work-life balance all figured out. I could dial into my classes wherever I happen to be in the world, I worked on homework whenever I could fit it in, and I could do cardio while reading. No problem!

Then entered my first management position and a year later we decided to start a family. At this point I had finished graduate school and I wasn’t traveling much. It seemed like as good a time as any for our first child. I was so unprepared to actually manage my work-life balance!

In this 4 part blog series I will detail the techniques I now use to reclaim my life when things get out of control. It is an ongoing battle, but one I happily fight to stay sane and fulfilled.

*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.

Say “No” to Reclaim your life

It sounds so simple, just say “no” to the added stressors and everything will fall into place. We all know this can not be farther from the truth.

There are things in your life that bring you more joy than others. The first step in reclaiming your life is to cut (or at least reduce) the things in your life that take more time than they are worth.

How do I say “no” at work?

At work I am fiercely protective of my work statement. I will not take on more scope unless the work that’s already assigned to me is well under control. Last fall my manager asked me to step in on a high profile project. I gladly accepted. Then we had the difficult conversation of what to do with my existing work statement. We agreed that some of my work would be handed off to my peers and some would no longer be supported. I retained a small piece that no one else could take on. Most importantly, I documented the conversation and emailed it to my boss. Later, when one of my peers dropped the ball, I had a written record of the decision to transfer that work off my plate.

I find that the best way to say “no” is to communicate early and often. I constantly prioritize to ensure that I complete the important things first. And sometimes there are things that don’t get done. I am transparent about my decisions and communicate my priorities so there are no surprises. Then, at the end of the day I go home.

If you find that your job will not allow you to make priority decisions, then it might be time to move on.

How do I say “no” at home?

At home I strive for balance in my priorities between self care, my husband, and my children. It has taken me years to reduce everything that doesn’t fall into one of these three categories.

I stared by eliminating time sucking activities which did not add value to my life. Dropping cable TV had the added bonus of saving us $200 per month. Grocery delivery and Amazon Prime replaced my weekend schlog from store to store. I also stopped attending big social events and hosting elaborate parties. My social obligations had become more stressful than enjoyable.

After dropping the obvious non-value added activities, I still felt like I needed more time for my priorities. This is when I had to start making hard decisions.

Next, I sat down with my husband. Together we listed all our commitments and time consuming activities. We ordered them into two priority buckets: Required and everything else.


What Is An Au Pair

Honestly, there wasn’t much in my “everything else” bucket. This was the year I decided to give up my greenhouse. I replaced my solitary, time consuming garden with trips to the farmers market with my family. My husband decided it was time to give up his obligations to the community band. He replaced his weekly rehearsal with trips to the playground, allowing me to get to the gym one extra night a week.

Next we started setting limits on the tasks in the required bucket. We realized that we were spending 2 hours a day making and cleaning up from meals. We decided to simplify our food choices and found ways to use less dishes. My au pair was really helpful in this transition. By simplifying our food preparation, she was able to help more. Don’t have an au pair? Check out our blog about au pairs.


Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing motivated me to simplify the objects throughout my home. I simplified my morning routine by simplifying my wardrobe. Also, with less clutter I have fewer things to waste time putting away.

Eventually, we decided it was time to move. It didn’t make sense for us both to commute over an hour to work in the same direction. The time we saved by not commuting was worth more to us than the added cost of living (and the loss of space).

Prioritizing your life is humbling. It will require you to make decisions that are right for you and your family that are not popular with others in your life. This might mean declining invitations from your friends or extended family. It might mean that you eat off paper plates for a while. When you look back at your life, you will remember the time you spent playing with your kids, not the fact that the laundry didn’t get folded.

How do you reclaim your life?

Have you made hard choices to bring your life back into balance? Leave a comment for us below or join our group of au pair 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 ( 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. 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 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.

How much does an au pair cost?

How much does an au pair cost?

Abbie here. When I first found out about au pairs, I thought that it would be really expensive. After all, the whole reason I had put my three pre-school boys in daycare in the first place was because I had a friend who was a nanny, and I knew how much she charged. But how much do au pairs really cost?

In this article, we’ll start with the general overall cost per year and month (the exact amount will depend on your agency, where you live, etc.), and then go into detail of all these sub-costs:

  • Agency fees
  • Au pair wages (stipend)
  • Additional fees such as education
  • Cost of doing business (insurance, phone plan, etc.)

This article contains affiliate links. If you use choose Cultural Care (Abbie) or Eur Au Pair (Maddie) as your agency and use the referral links, they will receive an agency credit at no cost to you. Please read our disclaimer page for details.


The short answer is “it depends.” The cost of an au pair can vary widely. This variance is based on factors such as the agency and program you choose and the cost of goods and services in your area. It also varies depending on how generous you choose to be.

On Average...

…an au pair will cost about $19,000 per year, which breaks down to about $1,580 per month, or $360 per week (yearly cost divided by 52 weeks).

I budget about $1700-$1900 per month (including a car payment for a third car) and other random expenses.


The break down of our sample agency costs are later in this post.

Depending on which part of the country you live in, how many children you have, and what ages they are, this may or may not make financial sense for your family. We are a firm believer in doing what makes sense for you.

Abbie says: When my boys were in daycare, the cost for all three boys AFTER the family discount was over $2,800 per month. That was more than our house mortgage payment! And that wasn’t even infant rates.

Now that my boys are older, before and after school care would run about $1,500 per month. BUT I wouldn’t have someone at home who helps me get the kids up, dressed, fed, to school, into bath, and into bed. Not to mention the added help with their laundry and bedroom, and another driver to take them to activities. The extra $200 or so per month is so worth it for my general sanity (well, what’s left of it anyway).


There are 15 au pair agencies licensed by the department of state. We have a free PDF download listing all the contact information and a small summary of each of them.

bbAu Pair agency fees run the range from just under $7,000 to about $9,000.

Most agencies require an application or registration fee (though that often gets discounted or waved) and possibly your initial interview with your local area coordinator before you can begin looking for au pairs. Generally, the fees are spread out. For example, you might have to pay an initial deposit once you match with an au pair, then another deposit, and then the final balance once she arrives.

Are Their Special Fees Should I Look For?

Absolutely! The US Department of State requires au pair sponsors agencies to be transparent about fees and other potential costs. However, they do not limit the types or amounts.

In addition to the agency fee, you are responsible for $500 towards the completion of the educational component of the au pair program (more about that later).

You should also look for additional transportation fees, visa or “SEVIS” (US Homeland Security student database system) fees, background check fees, application or registration fees, etc.

Agency Discounts

The application fee can be often waived. You can look for online codes, ask for a referral from a current family, get a code from an area director, or belong to a discount category.

The good news is that most agencies also have lots of other discounts they offer families:

  • New family
  • Military family
  • Military veteran family
  • Repeat family
  • Early match discount (for repeat families)
  • Switching family
  • Multiples (twins, triplets, or more)

We’ve put in the time and research to create a spreadsheet comparing all the costs and fees of all the agencies. You can download our spreadsheet for free! Once you choose an agency, visit their website to see if they’re running any seasonal specials or discounts.

Agency Affiliate Credit

Many agencies offer a credit anywhere from $250 to $500 or even $1,000 if you recommend them to other host families.

For example, if you were to sign up for Cultural Care through Abbie’s affiliate link (read Abbie’s story) or sign up for Eur Au Pair using Maddie Clark as your referral (read Maddie’s story), then Abbie or Maddie would receive a credit on their agency fees at no cost to you.

What Do Agency Fees Pay For?

The agency fees may seem spendy, but they cover a lot of things:

  • Coordinate the J-type visa for the au pair between multiple governments.
  • Interview the au pair, run a background check, and verify her experience.
  • Interview and background check you as the host family to make sure you’ll provide a safe place for the au pair to live. (After all, au pairs are someone else’s grown child.)
  • Provide training such as first aid, CPR, etc. for the au pair before she arrives at your home. For most agencies, this is one week of training at a center but can be online.
  • Pay a local and regional area coordinators, who are your first line of help if you or your au pair have any questions or issues, and coordinates monthly check-ins.
  • Visa assistance
  • “SEVIS” (US Homeland Security student database system) fees. This is variable between agencies
  • Medical, travel, accidental death, and personal liability insurance for your au pair
  • Airfare from the au pairs home airport to training and return airfare from your home airport to your au pairs home airport
  • Provide transportation from the training center to your house. This is variable between agencies
  • All the other infrastructure that goes into helping you and the au pair make a match, facilitating paperwork, building and maintaining the database of au pairs, etc.

Friendly RematchVery few parts of the fees are refundable once you’ve made a match, so make sure you match carefully. Check out our blog Let’s Talk About Rematch for the financial details of Maddie’s rematch.

Infant Specialization

If you have a child 3 months to 2 years old, your au pair must be infant specialized. To have an infant specialization, au pairs need to have 200 hours watching infants and some agencies require them to spend one more day in training than the other au pairs. The good news is that even though you have a higher agency fee, the infant specialization does not affect the weekly stipend.

Payment Plans

Since it’s pretty hard for most people to just come up with all the fees up front, most of the agencies offer payment plans over 4-6 months. Even though the payment plan will add another $200-$400 onto your total agency fee, it does make the payments more easy to manage.

Abbie’s Payments with Au Pair Care

I have three children, a singleton and twins, that were in preschool and are now in elementary school. Here is a sample payment for agency fees for a new au pair coming in from out of country:

$50               Application fee (lots of ways to waive this)
-$50              Application fee waived as a twin mom
$1,000          Deposit fee
-$200            Multiples Discount (in subsequent years, I got a -$500 repeat family and -$250 early match fee but not the multiples discount)
$2,870          Down payment
$35               SEVIS Fee
$475             Airfare from Academy in NY to Seattle (This depends on where you live)
$1,170          1st Installment
$1,170          2nd Installment
$1,170          3rd Installment
$1,170          4th Installment
$8,860          Total

Here are my payments extending our au pair for a second year…so much less expensive!.

$367             DOS extension fee
$2,290          Down payment
$1,050          1st Extension installment
$1,050          2nd Extension installment
$1,050          3rd Extension installment
$1,050          4th Extension installment
$6,857        Total

Maddie’s Payments with Eur Au Pair

I have two children. The second one was born during the time of my third au pair. Here are a sample set of my payments for an au pair from out of country.

$350       Application fee
-$350      Application fee discount
$7,845    Program fee
$500       Domestic flight fee
-$600     Repeat host family discount
$7,720  Total

Our au pair extended for 6 months and then we had a new au pair from out of country.

$367        SEVIS fee
-$367      SEVIS fee discount
$3,475    Extension fee – 6 months
$8,325   Program fee
-$600     Repeat family discount
$500       Flight fee
$60          Payment handling fee (for paying in five installments instead of a lump sum)
$11,760          Total (18 months, which works out to $7,840 for the first 12 months)


What makes au pairs so reasonable in out-of-pocket costs is that most of their compensation is in room and board, and the money you pay them is considered a stipend.

They shouldn’t have to pay for any regular meals or utilities, though of course they’ll buy their own snacks, go out with friends, and buy some clothes in the first few months they arrive. (No one that I know can fit a full year’s closet into a suitcase or two.)

The Standard Au Pair Stipend

The standard au pair minimum stipend is determined by the US Department of State in accordance to the Fair Labor Standards Act as interpreted and implemented by the U.S. Department of Labor. As of January 1, 2019 the au pair weekly stipend is a minimum of $195.75 per week. You can choose to pay them more, but since they are not allowed to work overtime, and you’re not allowed to pay them less even if they don’t work a full 45 hours, it can’t be tied to hourly work.  We both pay our au pairs $200 per week because it makes the math easier (especially the first few weeks paying cash before their bank accounts are set up).

It’s important to pay your au pair weekly as stipulated by contract, not bi-monthly or monthly.

$200 per week x 51 weeks = $10,200 yearly*

*Note: You only pay an au pair for 51 weeks because the first week they are in training.

One of the things you’ll do when your au pair first arrives is sit down and work out a mechanism and good day of the week to transfer pay.

Abbie says: I pay my au pair $200 per week in cash until I can just transfer money electronically to her bank account, and my au pairs have usually chosen Friday as their day of choice to be paid.

Maddie says: I pay my au pair $200 per week on a rotating schedule. On week one, my au pair gets paid the Friday after the work is complete. On week two, my au pair gets paid early on the Friday before the work is completed. This allows for direct deposit right into my au pair’s bank account.

Pro Au Pair Stipend

While all agencies have standard au pairs, some agencies have various names for pro au pairs: premier au pair, au pair par experience, au pair extraordinaire, au pair pro, au pair plus, etc. These au pairs often have daycare or teaching experience, or some other extra training that sets them apart. The minimum stipend for a pro au pair ranges from $215 to $250

per week depending on the agency.

Educare Stipend

Massachusetts Legal Decision Pin 3

For families with older children, you can have an au pair that only works a maximum of 30 hours per week. Educare au pairs are also required to take 12 credits (as oppose

d to the regular 6 credits) to complete the education component of the program and host families pay $1,000 towards their education (as opposed to the regular $500). The Educare minimum stipend is $146.81 per week.

The Massachusetts Au Pair Stipened

If you live in the state of Massachusetts than your au pair is considered a domestic worker. This means that you have to follow the federal au pair laws and the local laws. See our blog about the Massachusetts Legal Decision for more details.


The education costs are a little weird as it’s not really an agency fee.  It is required by the federal government through the agency, and usually paid on behalf of the au pair.

The $500 goes towards tuition and books for your au pair’s required 6 credits of education.

Some au pair agencies have programs where the au pair can earn all 6 credits in one long four-day weekend retreat. Our au pair did two 3-credit community classes, one in fall quarter and one in spring quarter.

We paid the full tuition and books for the first class, which was about $290, then the remainder of the $500 for the second class ($210). Our au pair paid the rest of all the costs for the second class.

Another required fee is the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fee. This expense is separate from the visa fee, and goes towards the program office and automated system that keeps track of people on a number of different types of visas.


If you require the au pair to have something to watch your children, you need to provide it!

Here is the summary of Abbie’s increased expenses:

$2,880 per year       Car payment for new-to-us car ($240/mo)

$1,200 per year       Car insurance increase (for the added car and driver)

$200 once                Cell phone

$240 per year          Cell phone plan ($20/mo to add her to our plan)

$4,520                      Total


Abbie here: Because we live in the suburbs without the best public transportation, we needed a third vehicle. My husband has his truck, I had my van, so we got a used Prius. I use the Prius to commute to work while the au pair drives the van so she can take the kids to school, pick them up, and take them to activities. Then on the evenings and weekends, the au pair and I switch: she drives the small car and I drive the kid-carrier.

And then because she drives my kids to and from school and activities, I also put her on our auto insurance as our “nanny.” The insurance company said that was pretty common.

You also need to consider the cost of gas for your au pair when she is working. Because of the fuel savings we gained by purchasing the Prius this was not a consideration in our budget. Another note here is that our au pair covers the cost of the gas she uses when she is on her own time.

Cell Phone

Because your au pair needs to call you or 911 in case of an emergency, you need to provide her a cell phone and added her to your plan. Do you require your au pair to drive? If so, you will also need to pay for some amount of data for GPS navigation if it is not available in the au pair’s vehicle. You may also want your au pair to be able to take pictures and send them to you at work.

Control Au Pair Cell Phone Expenses

Cell phones can be expensive. The cost of the phone, the accessories, and the usage plan really add up. But there are a few ways to keep these costs in check. Our blog, 3 Tips for Controlling Au Pair Cell Phone Expenses, covers the details on cell phone costs for your au pair. Above everything, good communication is key! You need to talk to your au pair about cell phones before they arrive.

When my first au pair arrived, I took the opportunity to get myself a new phone and reset my old phone to factory settings for the au pair. You can also get a decent phone on,, or other sites for $150 to $200. If she breaks or loses it, she should replace it. When our first au pair left, she gave back the phone for the second au pair. We have unlimited data, so I just paid the extra $20/month for an extra line.

Food and Utilities

We both agree, the increase to our electricity, water, gas, food, etc. has been minimal. In fact, our food budget has decreased because we’re eating out less and taking lunches to work instead of buying.


There are two different types of vacations you need to consider: the au pair’s 2 weeks of paid vacation time (her time away from you) and a family vacation where the au pair may or may not be on the clock.

Au pairs are entitled to a minimum of two weeks of paid vacation during their program year. Typically the family chooses the timing of one week and the au pair chooses the timing of the other week so long as it works for the host family. Also, this vacation time does not have to be taken a week at a time, your au pair can choose to break the time up if desired.

For family vacations, if you choose to bring your au pair along and she will be on duty at some point on the trip (dinner out while she watches the kids in the hotel pool!) you will need to provide room, board, and transportation.


Combining all the fees together, this is how we get our estimate at the beginning of the article of $1,580 per month of just au pair expenses, and our budget of $1,700 – $1,900 per month.

$6,800 – $8,800          Initial agency fees

$500             Education fees

$10,200        Au pair salary

$800 – $4,520 Extras and incidentals (phone, auto insurance, car payment)

$18,300 – $24,020 Total

$1,578 per month averaged out on a second year au pair without counting a car payment

$1,984 per month averaged out, INCLUDING a car payment.

How does this compare to the cost of your current child care situation? If you have one child, it may or may not be worth it. (Remember, if you have an infant you’ll have to add to the budget.)

If you have two children, the cost may be similar but it might be worth it to have an extra driver and more flexible schedule.

If you have three children (multiples make that happen real fast!), then this is probably a great cost savings and sanity saver.

What works best for you? If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to leave a comment below or jump on over to our My Au Pair and Me Facebook Community. We’d love to chat.

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What is an au pair?

What is an au pair?

Abbie here. What is an au pair? Au pairs are like the best-kept childcare secret! I heard about au pairs from my friend Maddie. Maddie heard about au pairs from a friend of her Mother in Law’s at a party.

And even when Maddie got her au pair two years before me, I kept wondering how she could afford it. It seemed like something super fancy and out of my league. Then I looked into it and I found out it was so much less expensive than daycare for our three boys. It took me a while to get used to the idea (and to finally clean out the spare room in our house). Now my husband and I wish we had used au pairs as our childcare sooner.

Who is an Au Pair?

Au pairs are responsible young adults between the ages of 18 and 26 years old. Most are women, so we’ll generally use “she” to refer to au pairs, but some are men. I’ve heard the guys referred to as “bro-pairs” and are often hired for extra sports coaching or special needs.

Most au pairs speak English as a second language pretty well (they have to pass a test at their agency). Some au pairs come from English-speaking countries like Australia or Great Britain. However, I love the foreign exchange concept and ask the au pairs to help my kids learn at least some basic words in their language like counting and colors.

How Does Au Pair Childcare Work?

When I’m out and about, the quick answer I give is that an au pair is kind-of like a foreign exchange student nanny. But it’s much more than that. Their role is as a family member, a cross between a big sister (or brother) and a teacher.

Quick Definition of Au Pair

“Au pair” is a French word pronounced “oh pair” and literally translated means “on par” or “equal to.” Au pairs are considered family members, not servants.

Au Pair Family Life

The au pair comes and lives with you to provided childcare. In exchange, you provide room, board, and a weekly stipend (and a few other expenses). Au pairs eat meals with the family (yes, you have to feed them). They also might buy their own snacks and treats for themselves. Your Au pair must have their own private bedroom, but can share a bathroom. They aren’t allowed to live out, or to have second jobs.

She is a member of the family, so she can help with doing dishes after dinner if you cook. If she cooks dinner for the children, it’s generally not that big of a deal for her to cook enough for everyone. Mostly she needs not to be treated like a household servant.

The au pair cares for, plays with, and provides educational activities for your child or children. She can also help with general household tasks associated with their care. For example, she can do the children’s laundry and help keep their bedroom and playroom picked up. She is not responsible for your laundry or making your bed. She’s also not responsible for vacuuming the whole house, weeding the garden, walking the dog, cleaning the kitty litter box, etc. That doesn’t mean she might not choose to walk the dog when she goes out with the kids, but it’s not her responsibility.

The best thing is to have good communication up front and during your year together to set clear expectations and boundaries.

Au Pair Work Hours

Au pairs work up to 10 hours per day and 45 hours per week. This can even include weekends as long as they have one and a half consecutive days off per week. They must have one full weekend off per month (Friday evening through Sunday evening). Au pairs also get two weeks of paid vacation per year.

It is important to note that your au pairs hours do not have to be continuous. For example, you can schedule your au pair to work 2 hours in the morning to help your kids get ready for school. Then later that day she can work 8 hours when your children return home from school.

Another consideration is the educational requirement of the program. During the year they’ll need to earn 6 credits of classes. This is usually through a local community college or through a weekend away program. A 3-credit class at my local college is two days a week and she arranges to take them during her non-work hours.

Au Pairs and Infant Care

Au pairs can be responsible for caring for infants 3 months or older. Keep in mind that au pairs can help with infants younger than 3 months, they just can’t be fully responsible for them. In homes with children under two years of age au pairs are required to have at least 200 hours of documented infant care experience.


The main difference between nannies and au pairs are

  • Location
  • Employment
  • Price

Nanny vs Au Pair Location

Nannies are usually local (no visa required). You can meet them in person to interview them, watch how they interact with the children, etc. Although some nannies are live-in, most have their own homes and their own lives. For A nanny, you might get personal recommendations from someone you know or can contact. Au pair profiles have references of families and schools they’ve worked for in the past, but you won’t be able to contact them.

Nanny vs Au Pair Employment

Another difference is how long the nanny stays with you. With a nanny, you can have a trial period (which can be nice) or a nanny can stay with you for years (which is also nice). A nanny can also leave you at any time (which can leave you in a lurch). The au pair contract is for 12 months, and you can extend another 6, 9, or 12 months. And even when the au pair leaves, many families still keep in touch and visit each other after the contract has ended.

Nannies, being local, have their own lives and houses, and might be harder to find if you require evening or weekend hours. Au pairs also make friends with other au pairs and have activities outside of the family. But since they live with you it’s often easier to have a flexible schedule.

If something goes wrong with an au pair you can go into rematch, but that’s less likely to happen than a nanny flaking out on you. Rematches also happen less often because you and your au pair each have a monthly check-in with your local area coordinator. This coordinator helps to identify and solve problems when they’re small. There’s also a financial consideration to stick it out for a few more months until the contract is done.

Nanny vs Au Pair Price

The salary for au pairs is fixed regardless of if you have one child or four children. Some nannies have a flat price, but some nannies also have different rates for different numbers and ages of children. (Though nowhere near the per-child increase you’d see in daycare.)

According to an International Nanny Association (INA) salary survey in 2017, the average national hourly rate is $19.16/hour, which is more than $760 per week for 40 hours. Because a nanny is your employee, you also must pay taxes.

Au pairs live with the family and their room and board makes up a portion of their “pay”. The minimum au pair stipend is just under $200 per week for up to 45 hours of child care. If you add in all the agency and education fees, the cost is about $360 per week. If you add in extra costs such as phone bill and auto insurance, the cost come out to about $425 per week. The au pair is responsible for her own taxes, and the agency provides the au pair her own medical insurance.

We have all of the costs broken down in our post, How much does an au pair cost?


In the United States, there are 15 agencies licensed by the Department of State to coordinate the au pair exchange. They arrive on a J-type visa, which is different than either a work visa or a student visa, even though they do a bit of both. You must go through one of the licensed agencies in order to coordinate the visa.

Once you’ve picked some agencies, check to find out if you live within one hour’s drive of a local area coordinator or LAC. (LACs are sometimes called local counselor or LC, local childcare coordinator or LCC, etc.). If you live close to a city, you might be able to choose from a number of agencies. If you live in a more rural area, you might have only one agency to choose from.

Once you’ve chosen your agency and been interviewed by the local coordinator, then you can look through the list of au pairs on your agency’s website and start interviewing au pairs. Plan on approximately two months between signing up and your au pair arriving. Things can move slower or faster depending on your situation.

Sometimes families find their own au pair through word of mouth, au pair Facebook groups, etc. Some agencies will offer a discount for pre-matched au pairs. Most families just choose from the agency’s pre-approved list of au pairs.

Au pairs and host families sign a contract for 12 months, but they can extend for an additional 6, 9, or 12 months for a total of up to two years. You can also bring the same au pair back if she’s been out of the United States for two years and is still under 26 years old.

The Agency’s Responsibility

There are only 15 agencies licensed by the United States Department of State to grant au pairs J-1 type visas lasting 12 to 24 months.

You pay the agency a yearly fee of about $7,000 to $8,000. This fee goes towards research and background checks for au pairs, research and backgrounds check for you as the host family. The agency takes care of the paperwork between governments and provide training and orientation for new au pairs. They also pay the local coordinators to check in on and coordinate events for au pairs in a geographic area.

You also pay for the au pair to travel from the orientation week (usually in New York) to your house. (New York to Seattle is about $500). Eventually during the year you’ll pay up to $500 for her education. Au pairs are required to take a total of 6 credit hours over the year. (See How Much Does an Au Pair Cost?)


To be a host family, you have to meet a few qualifications:

  • The host parents or legal guardians (couples or single parents) have children at home from 3 months to 15 years old.
  • Either host parents/guardians or children must be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
  • Parents/guardians must be fluent in English (and most au pairs want to live in English-speaking homes to improve their language skills).
  • Live within a one-hour drive of your agency’s local care coordinator.
  • Accept the au pair as a full member of the family and an exchange program participant. She should be included in family meals, outings, and activities.


How Much Does an Au Pair Cost?

You pay your au pair about $200 per week (just over $10,000 yearly) for childcare. She can work up to 10 hours per day, up to 45 hours per week. Her shift can including evenings and weekends, though she must have at least one weekend off per month. She’s allowed 10 days (two work weeks) of paid vacation. During the year, she needs to take 6 credits of classes and you pay the first $500 towards her tuition. (See How Much Does an Au Pair Cost?)

As the host family, you provide her (or him) with a private bedroom (not shared), food, and anything required to help her watch your children.

Au pairs usually come with an international driver’s license. However, she will likely be required by your car insurance company to get a state driver’s license. If you want her to drive children to and from events you’ll need to provide her with a car and add her to your car insurance policy. You’ll also need to provide a basic phone and phone plan so she or he can contact you or 911 in case of emergency. (See How Much Does an Au Pair Cost?)


Au pairs can be a very cost-effective child care option, especially for families with more than one child.

Au pairs:

  • Are young women and men age 18-26 that provide live-in childcare for children ages 3 months to 17 years. The au pair must be infant-certified for children 3 months to 2 years old.
  • Can work up to 10 hours per day, with a maximum of 45 hours per week.
  • Can work evenings and weekends, but must have at least one full weekend off per month (Friday night to Sunday night) and one and a half consecutive days off per week.
  • Get a total of 2 weeks of paid vacation per year at times mutually agreed upon by the au pair and host family.
  • Provide childcare and can do light housework that pertains to the children.
  • Stay with the host family for 12 months, and can extend for an additional 6, 9, or 12 months.
  • Must earn 6 education credits throughout the year (either community education classes, or a weekend program).

Host families:

  • Provide the au pair with a private bedroom, meals, and a weekly stipend (usually around $200/week).
  • Include the au pair whenever possible in family meals, holidays, outings, vacations, and other family events.
  • Match with au pairs through one of 15 agencies licensed by the United States Department of State, who arrive on a J-1 visa.
  • Provide the au pair with $500 towards the education requirement.
  • Provide the au pair with tools necessary for watching their child(ren) (phone, transportation, etc.)
  • Must be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents fluent in spoken English.

If you’re thinking about getting an au pair, please join our friendly My Au Pair and Me Community on Facebook. We’re a group of parents supporting each other, whether we have au pairs, or are looking to host an au pair.

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