Choosing the right child care option can be a daunting task. Options abound from daycare to live-in caretakers, and with them come varying price points, flexibility and personality fits. But one option that often passes families by when they’re thinking about child care is au pairs, which are child caregivers from other countries who live with local families (host families) and provide 45 hours of flexible childcare per week in exchange for room and board and a weekly stipend.
Au pairs come from around the world, and offer a unique cultural exchange with their host families. They also offer an affordable alternative to the daunting expense of child care (Massachusetts has one of the highest in the nation), weighing in at $360 per week plus room and board, regardless of the number of children they’re caring for. Au pairs are a government-regulated program, and caregivers are between 18 and 26 years old, proficient in English and receive 32 hours of childcare training through an agency like Cultural Care. (If they’re caring for infants under 2 years old, that requirement bumps up to 200 hours.)
As the Local Childcare Coordinator for Cultural Care Au Pair, I work with host families around the Cape to help them select the best au pair and then keep in touch with them throughout the year or more that the au pair lives with the family, answering questions and ensuring the transition is smooth. As such, I’ve learned a lot about how to decide whether au pair care is the right choice for your family. If you’re considering child care options and are curious about au pairs, here are some things to consider:
- Flexibility & Time Requirements: Au pairs are live-in caregivers, eliminating commute and drop-off times that come with daycare. They can provide 45 hours of care in any one week, with no day to exceed 10 hours, and those hours are flexible and can vary week-to-week.
- Living Space: Au pairs certainly don’t need their own wing (a common misconception!) but they will need their own bedroom. Au pairs are more than a caregiver; in many cases, they become part of the family and spend some of their off-hours with the family.
- Cultural Exchange: One of the unique benefits of au pairs is a one-of-a-kind cultural exchange. Au pairs can come from anywhere in the world, and are in the US to experience American life and culture. With that, they often share their cultural traditions with their host families. Many will even help informally teach family members their native language (though all au pairs are proficient in English).
- Budget: Live-in care sounds expensive, but thanks to the mutually beneficial exchange of being a host family to an au pair, this particular situation is especially affordable. No matter how many kids the au pair is looking after, the total weekly cost, including agency fees, is $360 plus the cost of room and board for the au pair.
Moira Bundschuh is the Local Childcare Coordinator for Cultural Care Au Pair on Cape Cod. She grew up on Cape Cod and returned to Hyannis to raise her two daughters. She can be reached at email@example.com.