With more dual-working and single parent families in the United States than ever before, parents are finding it difficult to balance life, family and work. For busy families, an important part of this juggling act is finding the right childcare for their children. Families need a trustworthy caregiver that can offer the flexibility a busy family requires. There is one flexible and affordable option available to parents that is gaining popularity all across the country—hosting a live-in au pair.
As a local childcare coordinator for Cultural Care Au Pair, I have the chance to meet many of the au pairs who join our program. These au pairs are adventurous, educated, young people from abroad who choose to leave their life at home for one year (or more) to share their love for children with an American host family. Au pairs are excited to become part of an American family and experience American culture by living in our communities, volunteering and taking classes at local colleges.
Although the au pair program has been around for more than 20 years, many families are unaware that hosting an au pair is a childcare option available to them. The U.S. Department of State regulates all au pair programs in the United States, offering parents the peace of mind that their children are in trusted, qualified care. Au pairs live and study in the United States for one year on a J-1 cultural exchange visa, in exchange for providing 45 hours of childcare per week. Au pairs are between the ages of 18 and 26 years old and speak proficient English. The au pairs I meet bring great enthusiasm into the home and are excited to teach their host children about a new language, culture and music. Host families are able to take advantage of this unique form of childcare and cultural exchange, building relationships with their au pair that last a lifetime.
During their stay in the U.S., au pairs provide live-in childcare and help their host families more easily balance their busy lifestyle. A host family can set their au pair’s working hours according to their hectic schedule, often having the au pair drive the children to and from school or to appointments, as well as supervise the older children during after-school hours and vacation breaks. And a great help to the family, au pairs also assist with light household responsibilities, such as preparing meals, the children’s laundry, and helping the children keep their rooms and play areas neat.
For an active family with children, hosting an international au pair at the cost of $340 per week is one of the most affordable childcare options available. And yet, hosting an au pair is also one of the most rewarding childcare options for families—au pairs create a very caring environment for children and enrich children’s playtimes with international games, stories and activities, while also helping families’ better balance their daily lives and schedules. Hosting an au pair not only provides the flexible and affordable childcare families need, it also creates an international bond that will last a lifetime.