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Better, Smarter, Cheaper - Elizabeth Unexplained
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Better, Smarter, Cheaper
I think I've mentioned in passing here that we're getting an au pair. Certainly my coworkers know. I thought I mention a few things about our choice, just in case any of you are interested.

The idea first came up in 2004, when enugent was looking at childcare options for her daughter and knew we were going to start trying for a baby right after Blackpool. She and her husband didn't have the spare room to do it, but she thought it might be a good option for us. It's nice to have friends who actually give good advice, as opposed to the kind more commonly available. Mindful of a conversation I'd had with another friend in the mid 1990s that revealed that daycare for their baby was the same price as rent on my 1-bedroom apartment, I decided to check it out. I was sure I'd need childcare in a little over a year, so I requested information from various agencies right away. The universe then proceeded to have a good long laugh at my expense.

Once it was finally clear that there would be an actual take-home baby, the au pair option was still the most attractive. If you already have the extra room it's comparable in price to day care and about half the price (and much less hassle) than hiring a private nanny. You get to pick someone from a pool of available candidates to give your child one-on-one attention, and you have an agency (and to some extent the government) doing the background checks and vetting.

As we've gone through the process I've felt better and better about our choice. We've selected a young woman from Thailand to be our au pair. She's 26, the maximum age for the au pair visa program, she has experience with infants, and she also has a master's degree in tourism. This is where being in a first-world country really pays off. By selecting someone from Thailand we can get a well educated young woman who sees being an au pair as a career move, whereas if we'd gone with someone from Europe we'd have had an 18 year old looking for a gap year abroad and who might look on the child care as the chore they need to do in order to travel as opposed to the job they are being hired to do. Of course we have yet to meet her in person, but I've been pretty encouraged by our email exchanges. I certainly feel much better about it than I would about dropping my baby off at a daycare center with a room full of infants.
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From: llennhoff Date: September 5th, 2008 06:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Master's degree in tourism? Now I know what I want to go back to college for.

All I know about au pairs I learned from erotic thrillers, so I won't volunteer any advice.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: September 5th, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Tourism is a major industry in Thailand. It's a major destination for Europeans who want someplace warm and cheap to vacation, so the degree makes a lot of sense there.
enugent From: enugent Date: September 5th, 2008 07:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hey, glad I could help!

Does your au pair speak a Chinese dialect, or just Thai and English? We had Dorothy in Mandarin classes for a while, but I haven't kept the little bit that I know up well enough to help her practice outside of class, and we decided it wasn't really productive. Maybe if we could do it 3 or more times a week. But it would be great to give Margaret the opportunity to hear another language daily from such a young age. (I guess Warren could also speak Chinese to her, but I don't know how comfortable he'd feel with his level of fluency on that.)

Is Warren still working at home? That would be a real advantage with an au pair, since he'd be around to know what's going on in your house during the day, even though he's not in the middle of it. One of the reasons we like having the kids in a daycare center is that there are plenty of adults around, so if someone needs to have a breakdown (or just go pee), there's always someone around who can take over for a bit.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: September 5th, 2008 08:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Alas, Chinese speaking au pairs are very rare. Still, Thai will at least give Margaret some non-western phonemes.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 6th, 2008 08:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

Mandarin Au Pair

I agree that Mandarin speakers are rare, but I work with one of the J-1 visa au pair agencies and we are getting more & more of them. I just saw a great applicant from China yesterday. If you are interested in a Mandarin speaker, a Thai, or someone else from many countried worldwide, please let me know and I could help you out! I'm Emily and you can reach me at emily.davis@lcc.culturalcare.com
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: September 9th, 2008 06:18 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Mandarin Au Pair

Thanks for the info. I can't use it right now as our au pair is due to arrive in two weeks, but I will keep it in mind for next year.
countertorque From: countertorque Date: September 5th, 2008 09:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
We talked about having one of my wife's Chinese cousins come be an au pair. I think it would have made a lot of sense. We decided against it for 2 reasons. I don't like living with strangers full time and I was worried that we wouldn't be able fire her since she's family. We found an in home day care with a small number of kids and that worked out pretty well (except for the 1 trip to the hospital).
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: September 5th, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
We have a downstairs apartment that we no longer rent out because the hassle (especially the breakage) just isn't worth it. That makes the living with a stranger part easier. Plus after several emails back and forth she is becoming less and less like a stranger.
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