Sunday, February 12

Au Pair information

Once I've been asked for the same information close to ten times in usually ends up on this blog where I can update and point towards it.  Because I've had five au pairs (including one that didn't work out) and because I'm emphatic about how my au pairs have saved my sanity, I often get asked about the process, the costs and the best way to go about getting an au pair.  This week I was asked twice.  So...


As anyone who asks know, I dislike all au pair agencies and I wish there were a way to do it without them but due to visa requirements, as far as I know, they're a necessary evil.  I've used (three times) and once.  They have pretty much the same policies.  Au Pair care used to be a bit more expensive, but they both currently post $7600 as the agency fee.  

Au Pair has a matching process, which gives families the ability to look at multiple candidates at a time.  

I prefer Cultural Care mostly because it has one of the largest pool of au pair's of all the agencies I've considered. It used to be that you could only look at one at a time though they've changed that.  They also now have a video clip of most au pairs so you can get a sense of them.  Overall, I much prefer Cultural Care.  I also have a very good LCC (Local Childcare Consultant), Cassandra Robinson, who does a very good job as liason (although we don't usually need a lot of help) and who supports the au pairs in adjusting to their jobs and new homes.  


The base cost works out to be between ~$17000 and ~$18000 a year ($~10K to AP and ~$8K to the agency which is the yearly fee, plus flight supplements).  That works out to about $1,450 per month.  Financially that works out to about the same cost for 45 hours of time (though I usually only use 40 to try and be fair) as a part-time nanny working about 20 hours (at least in the Bay Area where nannies are about $18 per hour).  This number doesn't include incremental food costs, miscellaneous extra costs like an AP cell phone (I use metro pcs for $40 per month) and extra insurance if they're going to drive your car.  But in exchange for this extra cost, you get the added benefit of being able to schedule hours when you need them (not when the nanny is available) and the benefits of the cultural exchange and wonderful lifelong relationship for yourself and your kids.

Au Pair Costs

agency fee
car gas
car insurance
mobile phone


I would say that the numbers above are conservative since some of the figures are negotiable.  For example, if you don't travel (or don't take your au pair with you) you won't have the travel costs.  On the other hand, if you travel more luxuriously than we do, it may be higher.  Also, your insurance costs may be different, depending upon your car, your agent etc... This year, for some reason, my insurance didn’t go up much at all, so the $800 listed is inaccurate.  I’ve also probably estimated on the high side for food; likely the incremental food increase isn’t that big unless you have an au pair who eats raw or other specialty foods and expects you to buy them (definitely best to find out beforehand.)  I would say that $24,420 is a worst-case scenario and the actual number probably is probably closer to $22,000 for the year.


The matching process is the most difficult and time-consuming part of the process.  Because fit is so important I spend a lot of time looking at videos and applications and reading between the lines of potential candidates. Sadly, you have to make cultural (and other) stereotypes as a starting point, which is not always fair but is often helpful. 

Last year I realized that it might be easier to have my au pair's choose me (or at least rule the wrong ones out with less effort on my part) so I created a blog with information and letters from my previous au pairs so I'd have something to point candidates towards.  

I'm happy to give you my interview questions and my AP manual (best emailed).   I have also interviewed potential au pairs for friends, as it's nice to get another perspective.

My APs have saved my life and my sanity!!!  For the right family (and I definitely DO understand that's not everyone is willing to have a “stranger” live with them; other don’t have space etc.) it's a fantastic choice. However, I honestly don't know how anyone homeschools more than two kids without an AP (hats off to you!).  In my case, our six-year age gap and choice to lead very busy lives means that another adult is indispensible.

If you decide to explore the possibility of getting an au pair and think you’d like to go with either Cultural Care of Au Pair care, let me know.  If you're a friend of mine and you're willing to give my name as referring you that would be greatly appreciated (I think they give me a small discount referral fee on my next au pair, although that still remains to be seen.)  

Hope that helps!  If you have questions please ask.

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