A little over a year ago I didn’t even really know what the word “Au Pair” meant. And the idea of having a stranger live in our home would have been a non-starter. But then a unique opportunity presented itself to our family. My husband was offered a new job within his company AND decided to pursue his Executive MBA degree from Wharton. Both in San Francisco. Both thousands of miles away from all our friends, family and any form of support system we had come to know with two small children. He could have turned down the job and just commuted back and forth to California for school every other weekend. But where’s the fun in that?! ;-) Deciding to move west was an incredibly difficult decision, knowing he would be a mostly absentee dad and husband for two (very LONG) years.
After being introduced to the concept by a mom friend in Houston, we further researched exactly what having an Au Pair meant. There are many common misconceptions about being a host family:
- Au Pairs are not live in childcare for only high income families.
- Having an Au Pair does not mean you have child care 24/7 around the clock.
- Au Pairs are thoroughly screened and regulated by a licensed agency.
- Au Pairs are trained and have previous childcare experience.
- There is a very involved interview process when decided on an Au Pair.
- Hosting an Au Pair is a cultural exchange program.
- Most Au Pairs join the program and come to the USA to better their English.
Once we understood each of those in more detail, we realized it would be a great solution for our big move. After giving me a rough visual of what life would be like, my husband left the final decision up to me. What the hell… life is either a boring adventure, or nothing at all. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Insert all the cliche quotes possible here. We took a huge leap of faith and headed west to look for a new place to call home.
I was shocked to find out how common having an Au Pair is here in California. When we got settled, and went thru both the application and interview process, we finally welcomed our new Au Pair from Colombia! She was just as nervous as us, but we immediately had such a great connection. She’s fun, respectful, loving, stands her ground with our spirited three year old AND is spontaneously adventurous, just like us! Taking a year off from school, her goal was to improve her English and experience as much of the United States as possible.
I asked many questions when getting to know her from afar. One was if she liked the beach, the mountains, the desert, or wildflowers best. When she answered “wildflowers,” I knew she was going to fit right in great. I took the photo above at our favorite spot in Half Moon Bay and framed it above her bed. I also put many framed photos of her friends an family around her room. And because she shares a bathroom with the girls, I had to have beautiful photos of them together in this stunning rose garden near our home, to frame there. This was her first time to be far away from her family, so wanted her to feel at home, in her new home with us. The good news is, she loves beautiful photos just as much as I do!
If I am to be honest, she’s more of a side kick or stand in co-parent for me.
For our family, having an Au Pair does not mean someone else is raising our girls. It means we have added another beautiful young lady to adventurous girl gang over here. Though dad temporarily isn’t, I am very much still a part of the picture. Having her keeps me sane and allows me to pursue my passions. Though I mostly work from home, I always knew I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home-mom. Raising toddlers is not easy. I have NO IDEA how single moms or dads do it alone, so MAD PROPS to you guys on that. Our girls have consistent care, another strong female to look up to and are both learning Spanish. Because of her, we have all learned SO much about the Colombian culture. She is incredibly understanding of our continued chaos and it’s priceless to have her around when my husband travels for work often.
Being a part of this program has been such a great experience for our family, so far. If you have any questions or are looking into the possibility of hosting an Au Pair, please feel free to reach out!