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?
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?