Advice Wanted: Young marriage, young mommy, in Hawaii

by cv harquail on May 11, 2009

I am thinking of hiring an au pair for my baby (I am actually pregnant, but I will need help from Jan 2010). Unfortunately, we cannot afford a local nanny, and I find it hard to trust a high school kid to be with my little one…is having an au pair a good idea?

The deal is that I live in Hawaii and I do not know of any agencies who work with Hawaii. Also, am I able to hire an au pair without an agency? How do I arrange her Visa?Surfer girl of Waikiki on Flickr - Photo Sharing!_1241642801697.jpeg

And finally, we are a very young family. My husband is 28 and I am 23. i am actually still in school….I wonder if having another girl in the house could cause some sort of disturbance in my marriage…since we would be so close in age to the au pair (maybe she would be even older than me!) Whats your experience about it?

Thank you for reading,

aloha! — Laura

Laura– Get ready for a whole lot of emails from au pairs and potential au pairs who read this blog! A year as an au pair in Hawaii sounds great to me, and I bet it will appeal to lots of applicants too. Keep this in mind as you review candidates, since it might heighten their interest and encourage them to "sell themselves" (for better or worse) as just right for your family.

I’ll let the LCCs (agency counselors) weigh in with details about whether their agency covers Hawaii. There are many ways to get an au pair without an agency… and I’m putting up a post right after this one so that we can gather recommendations and cautions about that strategy.

Being young and being a student puts you almost in the same emotional and social place as an au pair– except that you’ll have an infant and a husband!

The biggest challenge for you, it seems, is the idea of having another young woman in your household. It might be very weird to have someone your own age ‘work for you’, and it also may be weird having someone your own age as ‘part of your family’. You could try to reduce this by choosing a younger au pair (18-19) to increase your relative "older-ness", and by being clear with candidates that they’d have to feel comfortable taking direction from someone close to them in age.

Also, there will be challenges just for you. For example, you’ll have to make sure you are clear about how to offer direction to someone close to you in age. And (unlike older host moms like me) you many have to deal with a little bit of envy that you can’t just stay out all night partying, talking with cute guys on the beach, and actually having off duty time when no one needs you to do anything! You might feel more than a little envious of your au pair’s relative freedom? (Note, if/when you do, just pick up your baby and snuggle her/him… you’ll understand why this works, soon enough, you lucky mom-to-be. But I digress…)

With any situation where an au pair is close in age to the host parents or where there is some other dimension of similarity that suggests a quick sense of closeness and sameness, it will require a lot of clarity and up-front negotiation so that you, host dad and au pair keep your roles straight. It’s already hard to manage the ‘works for you’ vs. ‘part of family’ balance when your au pair is younger than you and your partner. In these cases, the age difference helps keep things a little bit separated, so that you and your spouse remain a couple, and so that you don’t get into any weird situations where the relationship with your au pair gets in the way of your relationship as parents and partners. And I’m not thinking of any kind of romantic interference, if you will. I’m thinking more like when you were in 5th grade and had a best friend, and all of a sudden a new girl joined your class and you and your friend had to readjust your friendship. Not sure this is helping… so let’s open it up to those wise host parent readers….

Host parents, what do you think? Dads? Moms?


Anna May 11, 2009 at 7:51 pm

seems that Au Pair in America covers Hawaii

Fl Mom May 11, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Congratulations on your new baby! What an exciting time.

To be quite honest, I’m not sure if I would have been ready for the responsibilities of being a host mom at 23, especially with the new dynamic of adding a newborn to the family. I do think it would be an awkward situation too.

You have to realize that APs often need a parental figure, especially at 18 or 19. As an older and wiser mom, I don’t mind assuming that role. But you would have to carve out an entirely different relationship.

Ann May 11, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Congratulations on your forthcoming baby and your initiative in researching this “alternative” form of childcare from such a desirable location! I’m 40-ish, my husband is 50-ish, and the two APs we’ve had have been 23-25. And I had two years of parenting under my belt before we got our first one. And still I’ve learned a lot with hosting each one. You will be facing a lot of newness at the same time – learning how to be a mother, readjusting your marriage/family life to the “threesome not twosome” concept that your first child will bring, and frankly how to survive X months of sleep deprivation while I presume continuing to manage your studies etc…
So from one point, is it wise to add another person into the mix when all your relationships will be up in the air? Yet, at the same time, it’s such a blur that a pair of loving helping hands in the home might be the best thing that happened to you.

Assuming you can find an agency/LCC (or get an AP another way – check out for pre-matching options), if you want to go the AP route, you could enhance your chance of success a couple of possible ways. First, since an AP can’t take care of a child younger than 3 months, you could hire a local teenager (check to see who’s completed Red Cross babysitting courses) to be a “mother’s helper” (to watch the baby while you are in the house) for the 3 months until the AP starts – that will give you some practice in “supervisory skills” and seeing what is important to you. Perhaps while you are pregnant you yourself could do some babysitting yourself as a test run to see what issues arise from the other side. Second, some agencies offer an “AP Extraordinaire” category – I think you pay a little extra but you get someone like a German girl with early childhood training. In that case it might even be OK to have an AP older than you. Frankly, even if she is older than you, she will still “act younger” because so much else (country, family, language) will be new to her. I would be careful about English skills, however, if there is an emergency with your infant you would want her to be able to communicate over the telephone with medical personnel. If you will have an AP for 1 year (from 3 months to 15 months of your toddlers age) then that you’ll start to have to worry about choking hazards at the crawling/starting to walk stage that that will cover.

At the same time, while you won’t carry the “authority” of age or experience, if you set it up right it could be a “partnership / helping hands / learning about childcare together” that might be just as fine. (Since infant care requires the basics – feeding/sleeping/diapers etc.) We have tried to do this in our family by having a weekly “house meeting” where my husband, I and the AP discuss joint approaches to my daughter’s developmental issues. Is there a parents network nearby where you and the au pair can attend some parenting workshops together? And I think if you bring her along on the frequent babycare visits to the pediatrician, she will have greater interest and feel personal responsibility for your child’s well-being and safety. And if your living situation allows the AP to get around using public transportation for personal reasons (or biking in Hawaii??) and won’t require the AP to drive a car (as mine doesn’t), that can reduce a large source of worry and risk, especially for an infant. Following all the rest of the suggestions on this board about communication etc will be a good help.

cynthia May 12, 2009 at 8:10 am

My two cents are that my hubby and I are a younger couple with our first kids. What I have found to be an issue is the whole integration into the family thing. I feel like since we are younger and have only been married a couple of years ourselves, we really like to do things together (with our family) and really do not incorporate our au pair as much as we should. I feel like if we were older, had older kids, or had been married longer, we would be more inclined to include her in family events. Just remember you’re expected to make her a part of the family and that would mean having an extra girl with you at dinner, going places with your newborn and hubby, and having this other person there. Your au pair may get mistaken for your husbands wife or the babies mother if you’re close in age (happens to us all the time – and it does get old). Had I had known what I know now, I am not sure that I’d have chosen to get an au pair again. I think for our family, it has just not been the right “fit” for us because of our lifestyle and ages. Quite frankly, I do think you’d find some challenges to having someone in the home so close in age and it may make it difficult for the au pair to see you as an authoritative figure as well….hope that helps.

Franzi May 12, 2009 at 8:18 am

there are APs on hawaii and many girls would love to go there. that’s why i think you need to be very carefull during the screening process.

PLUS make it clear, that this is an island and just like living in alaska, getting to the main land will be expensive as it requires a plane ride. while hawaii seems like a constant vacation to many, it’s still separated from all the highlights many other APs will see and so. so your AP needs to be certain she can do this. maybe a girl who likes to surf or being outdoors would be the best fit as she can actually continue her hobby while being there.

regarding age difference, i only heard positive stories from APs whose host family was almost their age (3-7 years difference in age). but like CV said, you need to be very clear up front that you are not looking for a friend to take care of your child but for an AP who understands what she is supposed to do – age should not be a factor here, but it will be considering that you are a young family.

best of luck!

Momof boys May 12, 2009 at 9:34 am

I would recommend also talking with the councelor who handles your area. You can call Au Pair in America and get their name and number. See how many au pairs are in the cluster and asl her questions too.

Anna May 12, 2009 at 11:26 am

About the age difference – when our first au pair arrived, I was 32 and she was 26, so we were close in age. But I was already established in my career, and felt like and adult, was married for 5 years… It hasn’t been a problem for me. In fact I like having a mature adult au pair as opposed to a teenage au pair, I like to relate to her more like a sister and a peer than a daughter. My oldest kid is 5, I am not ready for teenage daughters, LOL. About inclusion in family events – when your kids are so young, it is all about the baby, there are not many fun outings (fun for a young foreign person) that you can do with a baby in tow. Our au pairs preferred to spend their days off with friends, and I support, understand and encourage that. My days off are spent grocery shopping, house cleaning and a rare park outing with my kids.

Jillian May 12, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Hi Laura,
I would strongly suggest that you use an agency. Though it will be more expensive you’ll have the added value of knowing that your au pair has the proper training to take care of infants, has met visa and medical requirements, and you’ll have local support should any difficulties arise. (Not trying to scare you, what would happen if your au pair bails after a month?) Your concern about being so close in age is definitely valid, and something that your agency should be able to discuss with you. Just my advice, but I would not suggest finding an au pair yourself.

Hope that’s helpful!

Calif Mom May 13, 2009 at 9:26 am

Lots of things to consider here. My husband and I learned a lot about being parents from our first nanny, whose kids were older than ours. (We had not expected to be parents, ever!) She was a young woman, though — just started her own family earlier than we did, so she was about my age — and she and I were more like sisters than her being a grandmotherly type of nanny. So I think that age factor could be okay.
The other factor for you, of course, is cost, and you should not feel bad about that. If you are still in school, you need to finish! (I’m very proud of you for taking all this on.) Your new family does NOT need the added stress of spending more than you can really afford on childcare. That won’t work in the long run.

I think that you could find an au pair with a lot of infant experience who would be one of those au pairs who doesn’t really want to hang out overly much with you on the weekends. I think it could work out fine, but please take heed as you are interviewing!

Another option would be an au pair in her extension year. Many of them specify wanting placement in Hawai’i or California, and they would be less likely to want to hang out and bond with you and your hub. You would have to be clear in your expectations, though (as with all things about au pairing and your career! this is the key to good relationships in general). To me, it sounds like you already have a lot of big ‘projects’ up in the air — school, first time mom, new life with hubby — and I would definitely feel more comfortable with using an agency, having that support network. Because as you can tell if you read around this blog, things sometimes do go wrong and when that happens, you really do need intervention, validation and support from the agency. For pete’s sake, I want that for my own peace of mind, and I’m way past being a new mom!
Keep ‘thinking out loud’ here, it’s a great way to explore the tributaries that will feed into your decision… And good for you for thinking about it far in advance. Sounds to me like you have a good head on your shoulders and will make a good decision for you, your hubby and your new baby. Best Wishes!

Darthastewart May 14, 2009 at 1:26 pm

I was 25 when I got my first au-pair. I didn’t find the age thing to be an issue, so much as the individuals involved. I.e.. Making sure I got the right au-pair. Since you live in Hawaii, you’re going to have to sort through lots of applications wanting to come there. (And you only have 1 kid, another big bonus)
I encourage you to be picky in your choosing, and set the expectation that you are the employer up front.

Noellie May 18, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Hello Laura,

My name is Noellie Girard, I am French and it’s very starnge but I just come back from a 2 weeks holiday in Hawaii and I totally felt in love with the people, the place and the way of life there. I just came back into the UK (I live in England) and I was actually looking at Au pairing option as I love kids.
I would like to tell you more about me, I was planning on trying to find a host family from January 2010 for a 12 month contract. Would you be able to give me your email address so that I can tell you about me, my experience with babies (I come from a big family), send you my picture.
I am really looking forward to hearing from you.
Kind regards

Melanie May 25, 2009 at 4:56 pm

I live in Hawaii and have an Au pair. Au pair in America handles Hawaii. I would go through an agency. Feel free to contact me with any questions you have for Au pairs in Hawaii.

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