Au Pair?

[name_m]Hi[/name_m], Momberries (and current and former au-pairries :sweat_smile:). Sorry I have a problem with long posts, but I’m looking for specific feedback/advice, so, here goes…

I speak [name_u]French[/name_u] and Japanese with my kids (alternating weeks of exclusive immersion). [name_f]My[/name_f] husband rotates [name_f]English[/name_f] and his more-limited Japanese that usually winds up Japanglish. Nevertheless, our soon-to-be 3 year old speaks all three languages at early-talker-native-for-a-three-year-old level and I’m super proud that my crazy experiment of raising my kids with two non-native languages (we are both mono-lingual [name_f]English[/name_f] natives) in an [name_f]English[/name_f] speaking environment is so far working. And let’s just say the 3.5 month old is also at native-for-a-three-and-a-half-month-old level. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Living where we do there is a decent Japanese business-transfer/expat community and we have public Japanese immersion options for school later on. We plan on prioritizing Japanese academics given that learning to read and write are understandably more time-intensive endeavors and believing those skills will be the more elusive for an adult (we have both learned as adults and know how hard it is). We have had our kids in Japanese nursery-rhyme classes and have participated in library read-alouds in Japanese. The one babysitter we have hired is Japanese. We have Japanese friends and have just generally found the finding exposure to Japanese to be much easier.

The francophone community is harder to find. There are a fair number of Wolof-[name_u]French[/name_u] bilingual immigrants here, but the Wolof really dominates and there doesn’t seem to be the same level of resources for children’s classes for multilingual children, etc, that we have found. Other than “speaking practice” tutoring I involve the kids in online, I am the only consistent exposure my kids have to [name_u]French[/name_u] on a regular basis. And I know that’s not ideal for my goals of keeping them interested and invested in learning it longterm.

I’d like to be pregnant with our third and final baby next year and I was thinking about how, barring anything really awful and life-altering (one of us gets super sick or dies or natural disaster or what-have-you), the transitional year from 2 to 3 kids is likely to be the most complicated time for our foreseeable future.

I’m a SAHM and my husband works a really ordinary retail job. We do not make bank, whatsoever. We have specifically chosen this lifestyle (there are plenty of other ways we could be living right now); we chose to prioritize our low stress levels and time as a family over career pursuits during the early years of parenthood. I therefore always thought that a nanny or au pair would be well beyond the realm of possibility for us.

But… if I think about lumping together most of what we spend on postpartum support (PP doulas and mother’s helpers – I say MOST of that budget because I’ll obviously still need some help), the money we were maybe going to use to send our elder to Japanese immersion preschool fall 2021, plus the babysitting we were thinking we would need to spend time working on our relationship, spending time with kids one-on-one every once-in-a-while… the gap between that and a year of an au pair doesn’t sound that huge.

So…

  1. Would you think it would be a good idea to for us to hire an au pair for a year starting during the third trimester of my last pregnancy?
  2. If you’re in the US, do you think that the COVID J-1 visa restrictions will be lifted by then (currently through [name_u]December[/name_u] 31st, 2020)? [name_f]Do[/name_f] you think that is dependent on the election or do you think it will be lifted eventually no matter what?
  3. [name_f]Do[/name_f] you have illuminating experience/advice to share about working with au pairs in general (I was one twice, but not on a year-long program or anything). Were you an au pair?
  4. Would you think it would be particularly hard/weird for an au pair to work with a family with a SAH parent? I would love to have freedom to do errands without three little’uns in tow everytime and to get out on solo walks on a daily basis, but basically I’d be hoping to spend time with each of the kids individually for a bit of time throughout the day while the others were being lovingly cared for, being able to physically rest a fair amount during the third trimester of pregnancy and postpartum while not expecting childcare for the littlest, etc.
  5. [name_u]French[/name_u]-speaking or Japanese? (I’m leaning [name_u]French[/name_u] or Senegalese, but I see arguments for either).
  6. I worry about the quality of many of the US-based au pair agencies. I know that we personally have a really high bar for ethics and would treat a person living with us with respect and human decency and would adhere to the rules set forth both by the agency and by the government in regards to working hours and living conditions and general not-douchery, etc. But still… one hears horrible things and I don’t want to be a part of the problem by cooperating with an agency that is looking the other way away from maltreatment, manipulation, and exploitation. So any advice how to go about actually searching for a decent agency?
  7. Do you have three or more kids and was the transition to 3 really hard and in reading this do you wish you could have hired an au pair?

All thoughts appreciated! Thanks! :relaxed:

Hi! I’m not a mom (yet!), but I do have some experience with au pairs. [name_f]My[/name_f] mom had three babies under two, was a single parent, and worked full time. For her, an au pair was the least expensive option. She wanted us all to learn [name_u]French[/name_u] so most of our au pairs were from [name_f]France[/name_f], but they were here to practice [name_f]English[/name_f] so the most “[name_u]French[/name_u]“ we got from them was toast, crepes, and Frere [name_m]Jacques[/name_m]. We had au pairs for about a decade until I was two or three, and none of us know [name_u]French[/name_u] at all. I think if you’re thinking about hiring an au pair it should make since for childcare reasons, not language acquisition, and you should be prepared to be a mentor, mom, sister, and friend to the girls who come to stay with you. If your experience is anything like ours, they’ll be a part of your life for a long time; almost two decades later, and our girls still come to visit every few years.

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Completely agree! Currently going thro ugh h the transition of 2-3 kids and ai feel there is such an adjustment with bringing in a tiny human into the mix for the other children emotions and mentally that maybe you should be a little prepared to let the language acquisition take a bit of a backseat priority wise. [name_f]My[/name_f] kids were excited for the newest arrival however hubby and Inhave readily noticed a rise in their emotions and tantrums in the weeks since we brought my newborn home… at their ages their adjusting and not realizing it. Experiencing new emotions and not realizing it. Needing us more and not realizing it. They’re just needing mommy and daddy as they are navigating the new normal.

[name_f]My[/name_f] two oldest are ages two and three and ai also am a SAHM. [name_f]Do[/name_f] I wish I had an ai pair? No… but I will say when not at work my husband is a HUMONGOUS help with the kids. If that weren’t the case I would likely like the mental break of an ai pair. However he is a big help and the kids look forward to his return home at the end of the day and the hubby knows aim then usually ready for a mental break. Since COVID hit hubby has pretty much taken over the errand run. And since our state is doing a great job managing and recovering from COVID in recent months (more so now with the new baby) hubby takes 1 or both older kids with him on errands and they love it! Who knew groceries and trips to the dump could be such fun! Maybe an aupair could help with day trips? Idk.

From the US and in regards to COVID restrictions… I feel the upcoming election will likely effect everything but in which direction who knows! That is hard to tell!

A former boss of mine had au-pairs from Spanish speaking countries regularly, and she belonged to a group of moms who had au-pairs with them at all times. I was honestly shocked by the amount of exploitation they got away with, as the agency they hired from did not protect the young women at all and (from my perspective) took advantage of their youth and their lack of experience living abroad to make them work non-stop.

This co-worker in particular openly admitted to me and others that she only hired Latina girls because she knew they were used to long hours of work and very small wages. She didn’t want her children to learn Spanish or to get immersed in another culture, she really just wanted the benefit of a nanny without having to hire one.

I was horrified and since then I get a little “ugh” on the heart when I hear about someone coming to be an au-pair. I eventually got to read a lot about this industry, and how it’s a pretty tricky world to navigate for the women who sign up abroad to travel to the US.

Of course, I know that this isn’t your intention or the intention of many families who legitimately want to expand their children’s horizons. All things considered, I guess women keep signing up to be au-pairs because their sisters and friends go back home with good memories and love for their international experience. I would however, absolutely agree that there is something shady about how the program is understood and portrayed by US-based agencies. There is a difference between what they say to the family that they will get from the program, and the expectations they build for the potential au-pair when she’s in her home country.

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This is definitely where I’m spending the most time thinking through this decision.

My husband works afternoons to nights so this has been the hardest part of the transition from 1-2 already. I’m on and present from 6:30am through bedtime, and by bedtime I’m my most harried and short with them. [name_f]My[/name_f] husband is a huge help, too. He does all the cooking, most of the cleaning and laundry, and his days off he is 100% present, but the days after dinner time are the hardest throughout the week. I’d love an extra set of hands even now. I can only imagine the transition to 3 being even crazier.

I absolutely agree. Ugh, this story you’ve shared is just exactly what I want to avoid. But is it really good enough to just say, “we’ll be one of the good families” or is it problematic to even engage in this exploitative system even when we aren’t doing the exploiting…

I’ve been thinking it through and researching agencies. It is still on the table for the time being and we are hoping to decide when we conceive whether to move forward.