Raising children is a tough job, especially if you’re an expat living abroad without the help of extended family. But if you hire an au pair, you can reclaim some of your time and provide an enriching experience for the whole family.
Everyone knows that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. What about those families who aren’t part of a village? Who lack a strong social support network of relatives who live close by and willing to graciously babysit on a regular basis? What is an expat family to do? Many expat families opt to hire an au pair. An au pair, a French term meaning ‘at par or equal to’, is a young foreign worker who provides live-in child care as part of a cultural exchange program. As glamorous as hiring an au pair sounds, our primary motivation is actually down-to-earth: we really need help.
Having an au pair is not for every expat family. Not only does it require an extra bedroom (a rare commodity in some countries), it also means having to open your home and heart to a stranger from another culture for an entire year. When you hire an au pair, you are inviting someone to be a member of your own family. Here are the top reasons why hiring an au pair is a great idea for your family.
An extra pair of hands at home
It’s incredibly convenient to have an extra caregiver living right under your roof. Parents of babies, toddlers, and young children know intimately well that life is always full of adventure. For many first-time parents, simply getting out of the house becomes a 40-minute escapade. Having an au pair at home helps with the everyday realities of parenthood.
For pregnant mums, especially those in the later stages of pregnancy or those suffering from morning sickness, having someone play with your toddler can make a world of a difference. When you hire an au pair, your child stays in the comfort of your own home, which can be especially useful during unfavorable weather conditions.
Childcare on a schedule you set
In comparison to traditional childcare such as a crèche (daycare), when you have an au pair, you can design a schedule that works best for you and your family. Keeping in mind that an au pair can only work 30 hours a week and no more than 8 hours a day, this lends to a lot greater flexibility to accommodate your family’s schedule. There is no added stress of picking up your child on time.
Assistance with household duties
If you hire an au pair who can help with light household chores, it definitely reels in the daily chaos. An au pair can, within reason, do tasks such as daily vacuuming, cleaning up the kitchen, managing the dishes, preparing simple meals, small grocery shopping, and laundry. Keep in mind, though, that an au pair is not a substitute for maid.
Opportunity for cultural exchange
Having someone from another culture come into your home can broaden your family’s horizons. It’s a great chance to also share your own values and perspective. It could also be a great opportunity for your children to learn a language that they otherwise wouldn’t be learning at home or at school.
The financial costs of an au pair are considerably less than other traditional forms of childcare such as a crèche, a nanny, or a babysitter. In addition to providing room and board, an au pair receives a small salary as well; these costs vary per country. Other costs to keep in mind include au pair agency fees, language courses, or personal development classes.
Personalized attention and care
It’s hard to argue that the best care a child can receive is in the loving watch of their parents. That being said, having an au pair who can give your child her undivided attention can be quite beneficial.
Time to nurture yourself and your marriage
While your child is your utmost priority, it’s also really important to take care of yourselves and your marriage, too. Raising a child often involves forgoing activities you may have taken for granted before; that includes things like going to the gym, going out on dates, or meeting up regularly with friends. There’s no shame in reclaiming a bit of personal time for you and your partner.
In the long run, hiring an au pair is probably the best investment you can make for your over-all well being as an expat parent.