As I imagine may be the case for you, when I first heard the term au pair it was in books and movies. I had very preconceived notions when I learned that my husband’s childhood friend and his family of four would be visiting us in Orlando, Florida with their German au pair. Living deep in the Midwest and working at modest government jobs, both the mom and dad were such down-to-earth and family-centered people. I was confused, because I would have never expected them to have an au pair. At the time, I knew nothing about the actual au pair program, nor that such a program regulated by the Department of State even existed.
I learned so much from that host family and their wonderfully sweet and talented au pair, not only from what they told me about the program, but also from the unspoken interactions between the parents and children, the parents and the au pair, and the au pair and children. I quickly witnessed the beauty of the spirit of the program in those exchanges, as they operated as a family unit which happened to have an extremely efficient 3:2 adult to child ratio. Did the parents whisk off to shop, brunch, and beach, leaving the au pair to tirelessly raise their kids for them? Not at all! Did the parents have uninterrupted time to spend with my husband and me in healthy adult conversation after dinner or to relax at the pool during nap time? Absolutely.
Fast forward past that family’s two additional visits to our home with new au pairs and another child to the day after my husband and I learned we would be starting our own family. We had since moved to Washington, D.C., both of us working and living in the heart of the city. He began our childcare search immediately, even before my first prenatal doctor’s appointment, as we always had heard about the complexities of finding quality childcare in and around D.C. He knew to contact a local childcare consultant (LCC) to get information on the au pair program. He also began getting our baby #1 on as many daycare waiting lists as he could find.
We began visiting daycare centers before and after work and during our lunch breaks. There were so many to review, with numerous program focuses and scopes, in variable, but always high prices, all over the city to consider. Meanwhile, we had also completed a quick online registration with the help of the LCC, and we began searching for au pairs online through the agency website. Enter our first au pair.
My husband had scoured many profiles, and he narrowed the already highly- and well-screened candidates down using an efficient method (future blog post you won’t want to miss!). Many had videos they had created to appeal to the prospective host families and to provide a window into what they had to offer. One video stood out and is forever engrained in my mind and on my heart. This young woman from a small village in Austria was clearly such a smart, funny, compassionate, talented, and creative person that it seemed too good to be true. I was so skeptical and nervous about making a decision so soon, especially since we weren’t going with what seemed to be the conventional route of daycare.
I am not the type of person to make quick decisions and am often indecisive to a fault, yet the most important decision I had to make – to whom I would entrust the life of my newborn baby- seemed so sure. We found our au pair in February and she came to live with us in December. I’m sure I will have many more posts about her, the one I call “My Brain”. For now, I will simply say that it was so the right choice and the bond that each of us in the family and our au pair have now, five years later, is so special, and though she is now far away, it is a bond forever.
Monday, 14 August 2017 5:40 AM