In today’s world, finding child care that is safe, convenient, and affordable is difficult. When I started considering the move from our small town in New Mexico to the Washington, D.C. area, I was especially surprised at the price it costs to put children in daycare. I previously had my children at an in-home daycare that cost about an eighth of the price of only my son’s care in D.C.
Being a single mother, I knew that I was going to have to get creative if I was going to be able to make the move. I searched craigslist for an affordable option for weeks. Nearly giving up on our relocation, about to call my new supervisor and turn down the position of a lifetime, I stumbled across an ad for an au pair company. I had heard the term before, but didn’t really know what it meant. I mostly thought it was a snooty name for an overpriced nanny. But, the ad quoted a price that was actually doable, and much cheaper than a “nanny.” I figured it was too good to be true and waited for the catch. But, when I called the company it seemed that the cost came out pretty spot-on.
I researched au pairs and au pair companies and found one that seemed it may work. The interview process did seem that it was going to be difficult because au pairs generally come from other countries and it isn’t like I could just pop on down to Mexico to meet my prospective candidate. However, I was extremely lucky — my top candidate happened to be in Las Vegas, NV at the same time I was going to be visiting my mom for Christmas. This also meant that I was going to be able to have my mom with me at the interview, which put her mind at ease as well.
So, one warm winter afternoon in Vegas, my family and I set out to meet our prospective house-mate and childcare provider at a Starbucks. We all sat down at a table with drinks to begin the interview. It became apparent to me right away that she was going to be a good match for us. Her English was not the best, but part of her reason for coming to the United States for the program was to become fluent in English so that she could return to Mexico to get her Master’s Degree. Education is very important to me, and this was a large influence in my decision.
We ultimately ended up choosing Magy, and she moved in with us the day after we arrived in Washington, D.C. Despite my many worries at the beginning of the program, I am increasingly thankful to have her in our family for a year. She is teaching my children (and me!) Spanish, and they are helping her with English. We share our different cultures, and often can have a laugh at the differences. I think it is incredibly important for my children to experience other cultures and this is a way for them to do it comfortably, and without fear. As an added bonus, Magy and I have become friends and really enjoy doing things together.
I have had questions from a lot of parents about whether or not I feel safe leaving the kids with Magy. The honest answer is, if I didn’t feel safe, I wouldn’t leave them. It is really important for a parent to feel comfortable with where their children stay when they are away. If there is even a slight discomfort, whether it is warranted or not, it is better to be safe than sorry. It is also important to note that if you don’t like to have outsiders in your space, this likely isn’t the solution for you. Whoever is brought into your home as an au pair is, like it or not, part of the household for a year or more and you have to make the most of it.
So, if au pairs are an option for you or your family, I would definitely encourage you to look into them. I have linked a couple of au pair sites that work directly with the United States Department of State. These are just some of many so do your research and find the one that is right for you. I don’t think that you will be disappointed if you decide having an au pair is right for your family.