Photography by @the.dailylens
One of the hardest things about transitioning back to work after my maternity leave was finding childcare. Every family is different, and Austin in particular has a variety of options. When I was looking into childcare, I found Moms Day Out Programs, Daycare Programs, Nannies, Sitters, Back Up Care and Au Pair Agencies. I was overwhelmed but did my research on costs, location, pros/cons, and what would work best for our family right now.
I've recently learned a lot more about the au pair program in Austin; I actually grew up with a few au pairs overseas and am eager to share this program and childcare option with other families. In full disclosure, we choose to have a nanny then go down the daycare route as we don't really have the space at home to host another family member, like an au pair, but it's definitely an option our family has considered longer term.
I asked Cultural Care Au Pair if I could provide some more details about their program and a testimonial from an Austin family about their experience. My hope is that if you're looking into childcare options, and didn't know about this one, that you have another resource at your fingertips to help manage your transitions back into the workforce --- or just manage having kids as a working momma!
For some background, Cultural Care Au Pair is the largest au pair program in the country, with over 30 years of experience empowering successful exchanges with American host families and au pairs from more than 20 different countries. The program has matched more then 125,000 au pairs with families around the country to provide flexible, reliable childcare and an opportunity for young people from other countries to experience the U.S. as part of an American family. It is carefully regulated by the U.S. Department of State, promotes international understanding and provides cultural exchange for everyone involved.
Some of the broader Austin community of Cultural Care Au Pairs at a learning event
I connected with Aryn White (see her family and au pair, Karen, below). She's 29 with 4 kids between the ages of 5 and 1 (talk about balancing by design, ladies!)....and 2 of them are twins! She and her husband are a former military family. Once their family started growing and they purchased a new business, they did the math of costs for 4 kids at daycare and needed to look into other options. She and her husband also really wanted to raise bilingual children so finding a childcare option that would help her during her husband's travels AND help their children learn Spanish was a top priority. Everywhere she turned, she was referred to Cultural Care Au Pair. She ended up reaching out and submitting an application.
The application process is pretty easy, it takes about 15 minutes to apply. Then a Local Childcare Consultant (LCC), like Michaela, will reach out to do a screening process and take you through the remainder of the application steps. A local childcare consultant (LCC) is a Cultural Care representative that lives within the local community he or she serves. The LCC provides both host families and au pairs with resources and support during their time together on the program, and regularly offers programming and mentorship for au pairs within the community. You will be asked to conduct at least 3 video interviews with any au pair applicants you would like to match with. Your application and annual fees cover his/her visa processing, international airfare, Training School, orientation and much more. The au pair program is a one-year contract but extensions for 6, 9 or 12 months, when agreeable for both the au pair and family, happen often, too! As a host family of an au pair your fees cover up to 45 hours of child care, quarterly au pair local education and monthly networking meetings, a one-week training course on culture, CPR and childcare in NYC upon entering the USA, travel and medical insurance during their stay, and 2 weeks of paid time-off. The cost comes to roughly ~$1600 a month (some of which is paid to their au pair as a weekly stipend) and payment plans are available. You will need a private bedroom for your au pair to live in, too.
Once Aryn and her family were connected with Karen, her current au pair, she said she just knew it was the right fit. They communicated with Karen over Skype, Facetime and email for about 2 months prior to her arrival in the USA. When Karen arrived, the White family made a big welcome sign for her and wore matching t-shirts. They continue to embrace her as a family member, "kind of like a younger niece of nephew," and help to share cultural elements and traditions with each other from both Columbia and the USA.
While childcare in Austin is ridiculously expensive, Aryn estimates that having an au pair for her 4 children comes out to roughly the same monthly cost of putting ONE kid into daycare with more benefits. She said between the cost savings, sharing celebrations, language exchange and having an extra set of hands at all meals and with the kid's laundry (AMEN!), one of the other benefits is that she's made a new friend, parenting partner, and family member. In full disclosure, Aryn mentioned that while she does pay an annual fee to the agency, and weekly childcare payments to Karen, they do also financially plan for some other costs: Karen has her own room that the White's helped pay to decorate, her meals and some extra groceries are covered by the Whites, and on certain occasions they take her shopping for clothes and fun things and even make her favorite foods when she's homesick. Aryn said these extra costs are really up to her au pair and his/her host family. All in all though, Aryn says having an au pair is a game changer for her family - she has up to 45 hours a week of in-home help from someone who has become an extended part of her family, invested in her children and their education and care just as much as she is.
Erin White, her Au Pair, Karen, and their family
Interested in learning more? Michaela Lowery is a Local Childcare Consultant in the greater ATX area. If you are interested to learn more about hosting an au pair, you can register for free here.
Have you considered an au pair before?!