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