Au Pair Extraordinaires: How Different Are They?

by cv harquail on February 13, 2015

The Au Pair Extraordinaire program offers host families the chance to match with an au pair who has additional documented childcare qualifications by paying somewhat more per week.

This option seems particularly attractive to families with infants and toddlers who seem to need a more experienced hand (e.g., a colicky child). The idea here is that someone with more experience will be less flustered by these additional challenges.

extraordinaryI’ve also heard of parents hiring Extraordinaires when the parents are unsure of their own parenting approach or when the two parents differ in their approach and need a tie-breaker. In these situations, the Extraordinaire’s additional experience or education fills in an empty space in the parents’ confidence.

Generally, Extraordinaires have either two years of full-time childcare experience or  some kind of formal education/degree in childcare. (The specific qualifications vary by the Au Pairs’ home country.)

Au Pair Extraordinaires get a weekly stipend of $250 (versus $195.75 for traditional au pairs). Host families are charged an annual program fee that’s about 12% higher than the fee for a traditional au pair.

While there is a formal difference between the experience of a traditional au pair and an Extraordinaire, often the level of childcare experience is less important for achieving a good fit with the family than the personality of the au pair him/herself.

As we’ve said before (and as management science supports), we do well when we hire for attitude, train for skill’.

So, from families that have had experience with Extraordinaires,

Was this type of au pair significantly better for you? Or different? 

 We have 4 kids – ages 8, 6, 4 (twins).  We’re looking to change up our au pair arrangements, and we’re wondering of we should switch from a traditional au par to an Au Pair Extraordinaire?

Since the twins were born, we have mostly had 2 au pairs at the same time.  But now, I am going to go from full-time to part-time and we will only need one au pair. 

(FYI…We never needed more than 45 hours of childcare, but instead preferred 2 sets of hands to care for the 4 kids.  If only 2 kids were home (other 2 in school), then only one au pair worked.)

As we start our next search, I am curious about ‘extraordinaire au pairs’.   We have had great luck thus far with au pairs, but I am worried about finding one person that can handle the demands of caring for 4 young kids. 

My question is – do extraordinaires live up to their name? 


Under what situations is it worth it to spend the additional money and look within a smaller pool of candidates to find an Extraordinaire?

What other concerns or challenges are raised by having an Extraordinare  versus a traditionally wonderful au pair?


See also: Interviewing Au Pairs: How do you screen for Maturity?
5 Ways to Assess an Au Pair’s Driving Skill when Choosing an Au Pair


Painted sign available from SignsOfTheSouth, on Etsy


Anon this time February 13, 2015 at 6:52 pm

We have had six au pairs – three extraordinaires that we’re fantastic, and three regular au pairs that we’re not good fits for our family. So there must be something about us that works better with extraordinaires.

Our extraordinaires needed no training or coachin, got the job right from the beginning, understood how to manage kids and when to flex the rules and when to stick with them, knew what the job entailed, and were mature beyond their years. Our three regular au pairs (one stayed the year, one we rematched, and one who went him after two months) needed tons of coaching, seemed not to understand what being with kids full-time meant, were immature and age-appropriately selfish (but still not what I want in an au pair), and didn’t seem to appreciate all that we do for our au pairs.

So obviously, we think it’s well worth it. It ends up being about $4k more for the year. I love how the candidates are more limited so I don’t have to weed through 400 applications that I wouldn’t look twice at before finding one I would. I love that they get children and know what it means to truly take care of them. I also think they appreciate the extra money – making more than their friends and feeling “special.”

That said, I still have to interview thoroughly. Extraordinaire doesn’t mean they’re good drivers or roommates. It’s not like I can just take any one of them. But we have had such drastic differences with the program, that I personally would never take a regular au pair again. Maybe it’s just the way our family operates since I know there are many happy regular au pair families?

Taking a Computer Lunch February 13, 2015 at 11:04 pm

I tend to agree, although AP #2 was great and AP #11 is great and was/is not an Extraordinnaire.

Extraordinnaires have worked – all of mine either had a voluntary year of service or practical experience. Since I have a child with special needs – I specifically look at AP candidates with more than 2 weeks of practical experience with children who have special needs – and especially those who have sought out that experience and have gone above and beyond.

Most Extraordinnaires have had practical experience with multiple children – and children of varying ages, but I wouldn’t always say they were necessary for typically developing children. It depends on what you want in an AP.

My Extraordinnaires have never needed job coaching. They have understood with one sentence that I was asking them to alter their behavior. And they implicitly went above and beyond. They didn’t sit on the couch texting and waiting for for the next opportunity to arise, they made the opportunity. It was always a pleasure to give them an evening off because they worked so hard without my having to emulate it. Almost all were nominated for the cluster “Au Pair of the Year” award, and 2 have won.

I’ve hosted two fantastic regular APs. I hosted one AP from China, who under any other circumstance would have been an Extraordinnaire, having worked three years in a Kindergarten during her certificate course (she was fantastic with The Camel, but a horrible driver and mediocre at communicating with us, her HP), a young AP who needed constant job coaching and was the reason why we added “Tell me, what chores do you do in your home? Do you clean any rooms? Do you do laundry?…” because she never had.

And for the record, while most of my Extraordinnaires had done an Ausbilding as an Educator (with extensive experience with children who have special needs), I have also hosted Extraordinnaires from Brazil, Austria and Sweden.

If you are changing your schedule, then think about what you want in an AP. It may be easier to find what you want in an Extraordinnaire, because they tend to be a little older (although we had a fantastic one who was 19 when she arrived). I have always wanted a non-smoker with driving experience and direct experience with children who have special needs. Prepare to be aggressive in matching – Extraordinnaires are few and far between and tend to match fast! (That being said, out of the 11 APs I have hosted 7 have been Extraordinnaires – and that’s with my ‘Dare to match with me’ initial email that turns 80% of potential candidates off – which is fine with me because I want someone prepared to work with The Camel, not in spite of her.)

Workingmom February 14, 2015 at 11:06 am

We had German professional au pairs from PROaupair, and the vocational Training they have is great as it involves hands on training and so they know what they can and can’t do. For us it was Lifechanging to have a professional au pair with prior training and experience as a pre-school teacher for our two boys, age 1 and 3 who could handle them from the beginning.

SKNY February 13, 2015 at 8:32 pm

Mind sharing where were your 3 extraordinaires from?

AnxiousNewHM February 13, 2015 at 9:10 pm

I am very new to this process, so please excuse my lack of knowledge in most things AP-related. :-) Can you get an extraordinaire from every AP company? I’m currently signed up with one company and I can’t seem to find an option for extraordinaires. I currently have 2 children, but we’re planning on having a 3rd while the AP is with us, and I am having trouble finding girls that seem mature enough and with enough experience to make me feel comfortable with a newborn (and 2 other kids). Of course I’ve only really been search for 2 weeks, so maybe I just need more time. Thoughts?

alsoanon February 13, 2015 at 11:10 pm

Interestingly, this year we switched to APIA because I felt like I could no longer deal with the crap shoot and the incessant “raising” of my AP any more. When I started looking, I only looked at Extraordinaires, since that was the whole reason I was switching. After talking to the matching coordinator, she mentioned to me that I should look in both pools because there were many APs in the regular pool that actually met Extraordinaire criteria but didn’t apply that way for various reasons (mainly the in country agency discouraged it and they were afraid that families wouldn’t pick them because they were more expensive).

And that is where I found my amazing AP who I can finally say fulfills my expectations of what an AP should be AND MORE. She actually meets criteria (masters degree in teaching discipline) but was in the regular pool. She is so smart, funny, good with the kids, responsible, totally gets that it’s a job but is a wonderful part of our family. For the first time we are offering extension, and she is accepting (YAY!) I dread the idea of her ever leaving but when she does (and I know she must some day) she has changed the way I look for an AP. I won’t ever look for an AP who isn’t Extraordinaire or at least meets the criteria. I know I got super lucky but eliminating the chaff really helps reduce the risk.

AlwaysHopeful HM February 14, 2015 at 1:05 am

It really depends on what you’re looking for in an au pair. I’ve had one extraordinaire and two regular au pairs. The first (extraordinaire) au pair was hands down the best au pair for ME. She was smart, organized, hard working, and disciplined. She had been a teacher, and he was able to help my son understand difficult (kindergarten) concepts he struggled with in school. However, the second (regular) au pair was hands down the best for my son, and the best fit for our family. He was enthusiastic, creative, warm and affirming. Even though we ended up in rematch at the end, I would easily select him above the others. My son is a little older, though, so the chararistics of an extraordinaire may be less important for our family than for others.

Dorsi February 14, 2015 at 3:11 am

We have had 2 extraordinaires (out of 7 APs). We matched with the first because we had just come off of a year with a bad AP — she didn’t seem to really like children, and we should have rematched early on. We wanted someone who would engage our children and who would hit the ground running. We got exactly that (from Brazil). She had been a preschool teacher and really knew what she was doing. She was a bit of a party girl, but never was late to work, never complained and was much more of a professional than we had previously experienced.

We then decided we wanted to switch to a Spanish-speaking APs. There are almost no extraordinaires from Latin America – I am not sure why. We had two regular APs who were both very good and loving, but not quite the same level of seriousness about educating the children (more snuggles on the couch, less creative projects.)

After one AP had been hard to bring up to speed with our three young children, we decided to go the extraordinaire route again. We matched with a European AP — so excited, a European driver!! I did very little screening on experience with children and motivation — didn’t feel like I needed to as she had just completed a 2 year vocational degree related to child care. She was our first (and only) rematch. She clearly did not like to work, did not like children (at least not ours), did not want to participate in our family or learning the language or culture. She was happy to return home after a few weeks with us — did not even try to find a new family, even though she could have easily rematched. My guess is that she had completed her education in a field viewed as easy and leading to good employment opportunities, and had no passion for childcare. Once she did it for 45 hours a week without a supervisor, she found she did not enjoy it. Interestingly, she did try to do a major project with my children, that was completely age-inappropriate – she really had no clue what to expect of a 3 and 5 year old.

We went back to a certain country and personality type that has worked well for us in the past. We had to match out of country, but got a really great AP.

(For those of you that talk of major agencies having deep rematch pools — when we rematched, there were 24 APs in the pool, 8 who were IQ. Of those 8, 4 were unwilling to leave their metro area. Of the 4 that remained, one was in a second rematch, one wanted a regular schedule – which we can’t offer, one did not want to provide infant care. The only eligible candidate, supposedly in rematch for bad driving, turned us down.)

UKAu Pair February 14, 2015 at 9:57 am

I’m English who au paired in Europe, so I can’t comment on the Extraordinaire aspect of the program, but I worked for a family of five children (12, 9, 6, 4 and 18 months) and I would say that you’d be better off with someone with extensive experience who really loves young children and is able to engage with them. I have a lot of childcare experience, I have professional qualifications and I’d just finished three months au pairing in a different country and I still struggled. Small children are demanding, and you don’t want to end up with an au pair who doesn’t care. You also need someone who can balance the competing needs of children of different ages- will she need to stop the twins running off with kitchen knives/falling downstairs while the 8 year old wants to spend time with her making cakes?

I wouldn’t rule out non-extraordinaires, but I would think very carefully about anyone I matched with as well.

CapitolHostMom February 14, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Three great Au pairs in, haven’t officially had an extraordinary Au pair yet but I can’t imagine my regular Au pairs being any better than they have been. Plus, I’ve found that the most potential issues are administrative or age related, not childcare experience or capability related. And just because an Au pair has had tons of experience doesn’t mean she’ll be a great fit personality wise with your family or mesh with your house rules.

Peachtree Mom February 14, 2015 at 12:17 pm

After 4 years and 5 aupairs the whole matching process still baffles me. Out of the 5 aupairs in our lives only one was an extraordinaire. Our first aupair was (I guess ordinary but not really) was fabulous. She stayed two years with us. Our second only stayed 4 weeks and returned to Europe, her replacement was from out of country and an extraordinaire. We wanted to try the extraordinaire because of the comments from this blog. She taught k-garten, had a teaching certificate from like a tech or 2 year program and was very proud that she was an extraordinaire. She was great with our daughter who was in k-garten but really not much better than our first aupair. She stayed a year with us. Her replacement was a regular aupair and seemed great but was a nasty disaster. She returned to Europe after 6 weeks. At this time the agency asked us to look at a few rematch aupairs. We matched with a girl who we NEVER would have considered going down the traditional matching trail. 1. She was in rematch. 2. She was only 19yo when our cutoff is 21yo. But after all the comments on this great blog about not prejudging rematch aupairs, we interviewed her and flew her down 4 days later. She is FABULOUS. In my short life as a HM, I found no difference between the extraordinaire and the ordinaire but then the two I thought were perfect matches barely lasted a month and the one I NEVER would have looked at turned out to be FABULOUS. I can’t pick the Powerball numbers either. For our next go around we will look at both and just with the best match and hope for the best.

QuirkyMom February 14, 2015 at 2:37 pm

We are only on our second full-year au pair, but with our first au pair, I looked for an extraordinaire as 1) we were new to the program, and had just moved, so I wanted someone very experienced; and 2) we have three kids, then ranging from K to 6th grade, so I wanted someone experienced with juggling kids.

The AP we hired certainly had a lot of professional childcare experience, but in hindsight we should have discounted that experience in relation to the needs of our family. It is a very different thing to work at a nursery/childcare with a class of babies/little kids (and a co-teacher usually) than a set of kids who are much more independent, have different ages and different needs, and are old enough to have minds of their own. Dealing with babies and toddlers — even preschool-aged children in a structured classroom situation where there are set schedules and all the children do the same things at the same time — is a very different kettle of fish than dealing with the chaos of a home environment where the job is to manage three different kids at three different maturity levels doing multiple activities. Turns out our extraordinaire was simply not good at coping with that level of chaos. Part of that was her personality — I think in hindsight she has significant anxiety issues — and part of it was that her training had not equipped her well for our family’s needs.

This may have been individual to her, but our 1st AP also took extraordinary pride in her extraordinaire status (i.e. other APs in our cluster were “only” regular APs and not extraordinaires). I think her pride in her title made it more difficult for her to realize that she in fact had a lot to learn about how to manage preteens and different-aged kids (especially siblings) and she would throw up her hands in frustration and quit rather than consider whether her strategies and approaches needed to change.

In contrast, our current AP — as well as a temporary AP we had for 2 months while our 1st AP had to go home for health reasons — have had much better abilities in managing the chaos and dealing with the logistics. Both have been in gap years between high school and college, and have been flexible, willing to try different approaches, energetic, enthusiastic, and not vested in the idea that something must be wrong with the kids rather than with their approach should one strategy not work.

Our 1st AP extended with us and then pulled the plug less than a month into her extension term, necessitating a huge scramble for a replacement AP. I read hundreds and hundreds of dossiers on APIA’s website. One thing that struck me is how made up and fake a lot of the experience that so-called extraordinaires had listed to vault themselves into the extraordinaire category. I looked very carefully at both pools of applicants from our preferred countries with the requisite driving and swimming skills and at that time no extraordinaires actually seemed extraordinary to the point that they’d be worth the extra money.

Although it might be different if we still had babies or toddlers, I can say that based on my (admittedly limited) experience, given that my kids are now elementary and middle school aged, I will not be limiting my search to extraordinaires in future.

JJ Host Mom February 14, 2015 at 4:55 pm

We’ve had 3 regular au pairs. One was great and two were quick rematches. We had one regular au pair who would have qualified as an extraordinaire and she was good with the kids . We then switched to APIA and got an extraordinaire who had taught in a kindergarten classroom and had a degree in education. She was good in that she needed next to no training and then she was off and running. It was worth having an extraordinaire for that reason.

I’d agree with previous posters that you still need to carefully screen for family fit and for what their reasons are for doing childcare. Even with all that experience I don’t think she really like kids, based on some comments she made. She also was inflexible and didn’t accept feedback.

Conclusion: I think that extraordinaires are worthwhile in certain situations but it doesn’t alleviate the necessity of screening carefully.

TexasHM February 14, 2015 at 5:43 pm

We have never had an extraordinaire, but I can’t imagine a better AP than our french ER nurse that recently returned home. She was hard working, asked for feedback, intuitive, proactive, loving but strict and was a fantastic match for us as HPs. Our kids thrived, we (HPs) felt like we had a best friend living with us that happened to take care of the kids when we were out and she had no real childcare experience – just babysitting hours. A close HM friend of mine got an extraordinaire because of some posts on here and unfortunately, that AP not only didn’t work out, she flamed out in glorious fashion so I guess that’s my problem with the concept – just because someone has been a teacher or worked in a daycare for many hours doesn’t guarantee me that they are a good fit for our household or even that they love kids or that they can manage children outside an organized daycare scenario. In fact none of our three great APs have had “real” childcare experience but all three loved kids and did a great job by us. If someone could guarantee me a rockstar by getting an extraordinaire I would pay the money in a heartbeat but I haven’t seen that be the case. I’ve seen two extraordinaires in our area, one flamed out legendarily and the other also didn’t work out – both went home. I can totally see how certain scenarios could really benefit from having an extraordinaire with a particular type of experience but we haven’t needed it and have had great traditional APs so I can’t justify it in my mind. Plus, childcare is one (although very important) aspect of the dynamic. We also need a strong driver. And a sense of humor. :) And common sense! Having 5k daycare hours doesn’t buy me any of that.
Now there’s an interesting thought – I would pay more for a candidate that had proven driving ability any day! Get on it agencies! :)

WarmStateMomma February 14, 2015 at 7:05 pm

“I would pay more for a candidate that had proven driving ability any day!”

Yes, I would pay a lot more for someone who I knew could drive well. That’s worth so much more to us than child care experience. We are trying to cram lots of outings to the zoo and such in now before the current AP leaves because we know there will be a period of time before her successor can safely drive anywhere fun….and we bought a bike trailer so they can at least get to the neighborhood playgrounds and pools right away.

Workingmom February 14, 2015 at 7:12 pm

Go with a German Professional au pair who has been driving for a couple of years on the German autobahn – driving in the US is not an issue for a German.
The driving training is very extensive in Germany to get the license plus experience with driving everyday it will be an easy adjustment, if you live in an area where there is snow, choose someone from the south or east of Germany ;-)

TexasHM February 14, 2015 at 9:18 pm

Yeah German APs don’t like us! I’ve been looking for one (started program thinking we would get a German) 5 rounds now and haven’t had it pan out. They seem to not like that we have a car curfew or my probing interview style. :). They seem to prefer a more professional relationship. I found an awesome potential match this last round (she was super warm/smiley/happy) but her arrival window was too late for us. :(. Maybe next round!

Workingmom February 14, 2015 at 9:26 pm

Germans are not all the same ;-) I am german and I go by the personality test as pre-screening tool, PROaupair offers it free also to parents. Don’t hire anyone anymore without that extra insight. It helps extremly if you know what personally works for your family and communication style.

TexasHM February 15, 2015 at 12:27 am

They better have free personality tests. The extraordinaires they have are $26,416 a year!! CCAP had many really experienced profiles our last round and they provide the DiSC profiles to families “for free”. ;).

Like I said I saw two out of two extraordinaires flame out so I’m not convinced it’s worth it or needed for us and certainly not paying another $8-9k a year for the title!!

I was told by APIA to look in both pools because they had regular APs that could have leveled up but didn’t for many reasons and that by itself gave me pause in considering it.

NJmama February 15, 2015 at 8:48 pm

Our best drivers were 19-year-old Germans… And our worst driver was a 19 yr old German. It’s such a crapshoot!

NoVA Twin Mom February 16, 2015 at 8:12 am

I think three of our six a pairs ( and three of four that worked out) either would have qualified as extraordinaire or were within months of doing so. The fourth one that worked out was an extension from another family. So I agree with Texas HM – check both pools because you might find someone just as qualified in the “regular” pool.

SeattleHD February 14, 2015 at 6:38 pm

Isn’t the extraordinaire program just APIA? I’ve never seen it mentioned with other agencies, and certainly not through CCAP that we have used so far.

Workingmom February 14, 2015 at 7:03 pm

Look for Professional au pair at PROaupair – they specialize in recruiting candidates with degrees in pediatric nursing, pre-school teaching, occupational or physical therapy or special education. It’s a great alternative to traditional au pairs or domestic nannies as it combines the best out of both worlds.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 14, 2015 at 10:53 pm

My first AP had worked as a pediatric intensive care nurse in her native country. She loved children and was excellent at juggling care of The Camel, who although she was 2 didn’t even function at the six month level, and child #2 was wasn’t 6 months old when she arrived. Her training made their care much easier for her than it was for me. Her one flaw, when she arrived, was that she was used to amusing very handicapped (immobile) children, and didn’t know how to let them play for themselves. She was bright and a quick study, although for the entire time she stayed with us, she did tend to do too much for both children.

Just because an AP has professional work experience doesn’t mean she’s going to do everything the way you would want. Teachers don’t have a lot of experience with children at home, for example. They might be great with older children, but may not have had a lot of practice changing diapers or preparing breakfast. They may be used to hearing someone tell them what to do, and it may take them a while to “own” the job of being an AP.

When I am interviewing, I have learned to listen to that connecting spark – returning to a site of a practical experience because she fell in love with a child there, listening to her talk about the children with love. DH and I selected our two weakest APs at a time when we were not finding a lot of candidates to interview and were feeling panicky. One, a regular AP, pushed to match with us not for her love of children but the fact that we didn’t live far from her favorite garage band. The other had mastered the art of keeping children alive – the way a nurse would. She was skilled at what she did, but she was a rigid, cold fish, and DH and I called “Debbie Downer” behind her back.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 14, 2015 at 10:55 pm

I should add that both of these women were regular APs. “Debbie Downer” had done a certificate program, but was months shy of the requisite two years of experience to be an extraordinnaire.

Multitasking Host Mom February 14, 2015 at 10:59 pm

Go au pair also offers au pairs at different experience levels. There were three different classifications of APs based on child care experience last time we matched with them. Similar to the APIA designations but they call it something different than extraordinaires.

Peachtree Mom February 15, 2015 at 10:39 am

Euraupair also offers extraordinaires. Interexhange does not. Both have great candidates in the pools they offer. Neither agency offers the DISC everyone keeps referring to. Maybe I can find that online and take it myself.

Emerald City HM February 16, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Interexchange has started doing DISC profiles for any candidate that applied in 2015.

Peachtree Mom February 16, 2015 at 2:47 pm

Wow, that is great. We got our aupair from Interexchange in 2014. Do they offer it to host parents as well? I am hoping our present aupair extends but if not that is GREAT information.

Emerald City HM February 16, 2015 at 2:56 pm

I wasn’t offered any sort of DISC profile, so we probably have to do that ourselves if we want one.

I started looking at au pairs in January and noticed it on some of the profiles so I emailed and asked.

It also appears APC has started using them too since we found our current au pair.

TexasHM February 16, 2015 at 7:06 pm

Interesting! I really wish they would have had them last year I honestly think it would have saved us a burnout match. :(

SKNY February 16, 2015 at 9:35 am

I Guess my thing with the extraordinaire is that for the cost of $450 a week I feel I can easily get a live in nanny who will do cleaning and no-child related chores

Taking a Computer Lunch February 16, 2015 at 10:30 am

I think that depends on where you live. In my community, you can’t even get a live-out nanny for the cost of an Extraordinnaire AP. Assuming 45 hours of work each week, an EAP costs less than $10 an hour and a regular AP comes in at $8.10 (including program fees, but not care insurance and groceries since I assume those would be a static cost for any AP). I can’t even get a teenage babysitter for that price (not that I would want one for the The Camel!) At my 35-hour-a-week use, an EAP still costs less than $13 an hour – which is more than I would pay a teenager, but still less than I would have to pay an adult in my community.

I know a regular AP’s stipend is set at federal minimum wage minus room & board for 45 hours of work each week. The U.S. Dept. of Labor sets this.

Sandykassia February 16, 2015 at 10:49 am

I agree it depends where you live. Although live in nanny makes less than a live out one.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 16, 2015 at 2:06 pm

Perhaps, but once you’ve factored in food and household use, it probably ends up being the same.

Most nannies in my area also require employers to pay 100% of the social security and taxes.

TexasHM February 16, 2015 at 10:59 am

That’s an issue for us as well. Especially during the school year we could hire a live out nanny for less than an EAP. Not during the summer obviously but many part time nannies can go full time in the summer and not having to pay out vacation and holidays would still make a nanny much less overall than an EAP and that’s not even factoring in car insurance or room and board savings. As much as we love the cultural exchange once it becomes more than a live out nanny there’s no way we can rationally go that route.

WarmStateMomma February 17, 2015 at 8:38 am

I don’t know what we will do when my kids are school age, but day care is a more likely option than a nanny. I prefer a young, energetic, involved caregiver for young children than the sedate, older nannies my friends employ or that we see at the playground. If cost is not a factor, I’ll take the inexperienced au pair over the over-experienced nanny any day.

TexasHM February 17, 2015 at 10:14 am

Warmstatemomma I used to think the same thing (au pairs were our solution until the kids hit school age) but now that we are almost there I am realizing that is when the AP program really rocks. Being able to do the split shift to get help getting them out the door and on the bus in the morning (or shocker – have time myself for a quick workout before work!), AP having extra time to get kids laundry done and pick up if needed, the AP being able to take daytime classes (many more options), exercise if she wants and run her errands during the day and then AP getting kids off the bus, prepared and to after school activities, fed or home for dinner and then a date night every week? = AWESOME. In fact I am already dreading the summer because then we are right back into the Mon-Fri 8am to 5pm schedule but I keep telling myself it’s just a couple months…. ;)

NJ Mama February 17, 2015 at 10:30 am

I’ll echo TexasHM. We didn’t need an au pair UNTIL our kids were in school. Partly that is because we had different jobs so my hubby did drop off and I did pickup and daycare was a good solution for us then. After the financial crisis we were forced to find work much farther away from home (I’m 1 1/2-2 hours north, he’s 75 minutes west). It’s nearly impossible to find someone reliable to work that early morning shift. I have had many friends who have had nannies and continued to pay them 550-650/week, even when their kids were in school and the hours were cut in half, just because it’s so hard (not impossible, but extremely difficult) to find people willing to do the split shift — and especially the morning shift. When we were in our unlucky stretch, I was paying up to $20 an hour for 1 1/2-2 hours of morning help, just to ensure that the person would show up every day. (And yes I realize I live in one of the more expensive areas of the US. But I don’t know anyone who doesn’t pay a premium for that)

As the kids get older and more active, having that younger caregiver becomes even more important, IMO. People who thought I was nuts to get an au pair definitely changed their tune when they saw the way the APs played with the kids at the playground, in the yard and at playdates at home. And having the safety net of someone home in case one of the kids gets sick or some other emergency crops up is also just the best.

All that said, after years on the AP roller coaster, I’m now at the point where our AP is soooooo awesome that I’m really dreading finding her replacement. You’d think it would be the opposite, that finding a great AP would make me more optimistic after we had so many hard times. I’m also trying to figure out at what age our kids will be when we don’t need an AP anymore. I think we’re a little ways off — I think the kids have to be able to get themselves out the door in the morning. But the time will come sooner rather than later I think

Should be working February 17, 2015 at 2:43 pm

We are in the midst of a bit of family crisis (thanks to you all for the kind words on other threads) and yet I’m still stewing about whether to look at APs or just go to a nanny/driver for our preteen and teenage kids. The split shift and the flexibility are bringing me back to the AP option over and over, although DH is saying he really likes not having an AP around, he just wants to be with the kids. But as I wrote elsewhere, he will be gone for most of 4 months next year, so this might not be the year to switch from flexible/AP to set hours/nanny/driver.

I guess the HMs who have switched from APs to drivers/nannies owing to older kids aren’t on here anymore, but I would be curious to hear how that works. It must be a relief to not deal with the nanny/driver’s needs at all, just to have them work, get paid and leave. But then there is the downside of having no extra help in irregular situations–whether a case of lice that needs trips to a lice salon during the day; or a sick kid; or kids who need to be different places at different times on a weekend; or weird school days off on which kids have various plans and projects that require transportation.

TexasHM February 19, 2015 at 10:00 am

What if you tried a nanny for the short term and see how that works out and if you miss having an AP or even just want one while he is deployed you hit the rematch pool and find a rockstar with a partial year remaining? They would likely be super grateful and you and HD both get what you want when you want it?

Should be working February 19, 2015 at 11:32 am

Finding a nanny isn’t that easy either, for just the 3-7 after school shift with a lot of driving. And all those days off school, and sick kids, and early dismissal…I talk myself in and out of this one.

Multitasking Host Mom February 19, 2015 at 12:44 pm

When my kids were in a preschool that was about 5 hours a day and did not have after care, we hired college students to cover the afternoon/ evening hours. One benefit was they wanted part time hours since they were talking classes in the morning. The down side was since they were taking classes they had no flexibility on hours beyond what they had already agreed to. We have not gone a week, for the past month, that did not have a delay in school starting due to cold/snow. I am so thankful we have an AP. The flexibility keeps me in the program even though my kids are all almost middle school age. (I got my AP a small gift yesterday just to say thank you for not once complaining about the last minute change in schedule due to snow.)

JJ Host Mom February 19, 2015 at 2:37 pm

I’m sorry to read about your daughter Should be Working. She has a great support system in you and your family so she has all the tools she needs to get through this.

We recently switched to not having an au pair. At the same time I decided not to work full-time, so I’m doing the afternoon dropoffs and sick days myself, and we have a couple of babysitters covering datenights. So I’m not sure it’s a fair comparison. I must say it’s so much simpler without an au pair. Granted we’ve had our share of problems, so YMMV. But the whole family is happier and more at peace when it’s just us.

I agree that while you may be able to find a local student to cover the afternoon and evening shift, the one-offs (sick days, snow days, lice days, holidays, whatever) may add up to more than you realize so you might sit down with a calendar and just mentally go through how the last month or so would have gone without an au pair, and without any backup, and see if it’s feasible. I also like the idea of hiring an au pair in rematch just to cover the time your husband is deployed. Maybe you could get a male au pair at that point like you were thinking and just try it out.

Should be working February 19, 2015 at 3:45 pm

You guys/gals are the best, I really so appreciate hearing your kind wishes. I wish I could thank you with lunch.

Treating anorexia is hellish. I guess TaCL may have the best comparison because the so-called “Maudsley approach” we are following requires a parent to be available and active, and take over all decisions, in re-feeding the patient–3 meals and 3 snacks per day. But all of this happens with a LOT of conflict, including water thrown in my face and dishes thrown, not to mention verbal unpleasantness. And twice-weekly trips to the doctor for weighing and now starting dietitian and therapist appts.

But our AP just told me that our daughter sometimes hangs out with her a little, accepted a hug, and is sort of friendly to her, although they haven’t been at all close this year. So maybe it is a benefit to have someone around that my daughter does not hate right now. We are absolutely not allowing the AP to have anything to do with DD’s re-feeding, both because it’s all above her pay grade and because we want to keep one person untainted by the drama for DD’s sake.

We have a great-seeming boy AP we are looking at. Previous au pair spoke to him and thought he’d be great. Will keep you all posted on this. One thing against the nanny is that we would in our area be more likely to end up with a Latina lady as an afternoon nanny/driver who might not speak a lot of English and might not be much of a comrade for my younger son even if she might be a lovely person and an experienced housekeeper type. That would be a plus, but especially if all this horrible stuff with DD drags on, it’s nice to think my younger son might have a special pal in a new boy AP. He definitely feels the lack of attention he is getting compared to DD. Oy.

TexasHM February 19, 2015 at 6:07 pm

SBW my heart goes out to you and your family. I had a close friend struggle with this in college and was shocked at how difficult the journey was, not to mention the emotional exhaustion and frustration. Keeping you in my prayers for sure. We are currently using a nanny (albeit she is our first AP from 4+ years ago that extended and married an American so little different than typical nanny scenario) due to a disastrous burnout match. The most surprising thing for us in making the switch was how much we missed having an AP in the house. May sound crazy but true. My kids LOVE AP1 but within 3 days they were asking when we were getting another AP! That end of the house seems deserted now and kids want to learn about a new country/culture and are missing that. I find myself telling hostesses the wrong headcount when we go out to eat and turning to point out photo opportys to a nonexistent AP so we do miss the program right now even though our nanny is INCREDIBLE.
Yes, less drama, she drives her own car, etc but we’ve had close relationships with our APs and now feel like we are missing someone which is part of the reason we are trying again in April. Although I will say after that we have already discussed only hosting rematch APs. There are awesome candidates that get sent home every week in rematch so as our kids get older and we have more flexibility we are going to look to try and salvage the program for those that we can. Best of luck to you and take care of yourself too!!

Returning HM February 19, 2015 at 6:29 pm

SBW – we went 1.5 years without an AP (Jan 2010-Aug 2012 – hence my “returning” moniker since I found this site when we were first considering coming back into the program). Like you, we had had enough of APs and loved having our house to ourselves. The last AP experience had been pretty traumatic for all of us, so we were thrilled to be done with hosting.

The first winter went fine – we had an afternoon/evening babysitter from a local university who could work most of the hours we needed, and we hired a second student from the same university to do back-up as needed. The mornings were hard, and we had to pay someone $25 for half an hour of driving our son to school, but it was fine, and we all breathed easier having our house AP-free.

The second school year was much harder. Our daughter had two week-long illnesses during the year, which required DH and me to both take a lot of time off. This year our afternoon babysitter was phenomenal, but she wasn’t available on certain days at all, so if I had a conference or something on a day I didn’t usually go in to work (I’m an academic so I go in only 3 days and work from home on the other days), it was really tough. That year was also snowmaggedon in DC, and the children’s schools shut down I think 10 or 11 days that year, plus the delayed openings killed us. Add to that that our $25 for half an hour morning driver was REALLY unreliable, texting me at the last minute to say she wasn’t coming, and my mother-in-law, who had encouraged us to leave the AP program the year before, now stepped in to encourage us to rethink our plan and go back to having an AP. And she was right.

I’m not sure whether you need morning help with your children. If we hadn’t needed morning help, we might have been able to keep going without an AP. Likewise, if our children had been able to get themselves to school in the case of a delayed opening without someone having to drive all over our county to get them to their private schools, it also might have worked. But in our case, it was just too hard, too costly, and too unreliable.

I am sure there are ways to make this work. My sister, for example, pays her nanny to work 35 hours/week, even though they only use 25 hours usually, so on the weeks when they need more, they expect the nanny to pick up the slack and she does – so that is one way to go. Others I know have been lucky to find a longterm part-time person who is available the hours they need day in, day out, but we were looking for a college-aged or slightly older person, and we found that for those we were considering, if they wanted 40 hours, they didn’t want 20, and if they wanted 20, they didn’t want or couldn’t do 40, so our varied needs, depending on snowdays and illnesses, etc really made us unsuitable for them for more than the short-term.

We have found hosting much easier now that we have male APs (we are about to match with our fourth), and I know this is one route you are considering, so I’ll just say you may find it the change you need without leaving the AP program all together.

In any case, I wish you the best of luck in figuring this all out and of course all strength to you as you support your daughter through this difficult time.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 19, 2015 at 10:01 pm

SBW – you don’t envy me and I don’t envy you. Yes, the Camel requires total care – we feed her (she can hold a spork (fork/spoon) and feed herself – if it’s something she really likes, but she also has OCD which includes some hair-pulling complications – so food often ends up in her hair. We used to bathe her after breakfast, but now that she’s a teenager, she needs that bath to wake her up in the morning).

Let me express my sympathies by saying mental health care in America just sucks. You’re better off splintering your leg than having a mental illness.

That being said – I think it’s great you’re protecting the AP from “being the bad guy.” In my handbook, I state that I’m the bad guy and the AP is the good guy. That being said, when child #2 was 10 (AP #5), he decided that the AP was for The Camel and he didn’t need her. He hasn’t reached out to many APs since, and they haven’t made much of an effort either. (AP #6 & 7 really did and he wanted to see both off to the airport).

If you decide that an AP is not for you, then find a way to spend quality time with your son. I can vouch for how important it is for the “healthy child” to have 1:1 time with a parent. In fact, since child #2 was small we either booked an AP to take him to the movies/hang out with him while we cared for The Camel, or we booked her to care for The Camel, while we did something special with him.

When you have a child with special needs it’s a stressful juggling act, so the more support you have, the better off you are. I’ve learned over the years that “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” Ask of your friends to help you get through tough times. You’ll learn who your real friends are.

Oh, and going through behavioral therapy is really tough on parents, too, so when you’re not overseeing your daughter’s meals – book the AP to hang out with her so you and your husband can take a break together and discover why you married in the first place. I can’t stress how much this is important.

Good luck.

Fireflyprincess February 16, 2015 at 1:53 pm

I think it totally depends on your needs. If you have newborns or multiples, I want a Pro AuPair. If I could choose an overseas nurse, that sweetens the deal. My 1st Au Pair wasn’t a professional, so I had to train her a lot. Now, I know better, having multiples requires all hands on deck. The other factor I now consider is their willingness to teach my girls a foreign language. So, now I use ProAupairs with teaching experience. Granted, no AP may be perfect, but having the extra experience has been key. I still pay less than a nanny. No one in my area would work for less than 35k.

Anon this time too February 16, 2015 at 11:36 pm

At least three of my regular au pairs would have qualified as extraordinaires (two preschool teachers, one school psychologist).
Only one of these three was in the category of one of the best ones. The second one was average, the third one was the worst au pair that lasted a year with us. Some of her childcare was really way below the standard, consistently and despite constant direct instruction; she compensated with some stellar interpersonal skills, but honestly I couldn’t wait for her to leave.

The other two that were hands down the best, were not childcare professionals at all (one was in marketing, one was a travel professional)
My current au pair has only been with us for a month but so far it looks like she is also one of the best au pairs I’ve ever had – and she is a vet. No adjustment period at all, can handle all my kids, and this all despite her pretty bad english.
I am not an “easy” family either; I have four kids, one of them a baby.

BearCo HM February 18, 2015 at 4:23 pm

We are on our second AP and this year we really wanted an extraordinaire after a less-than-stellar year with AP#1. But we really struggled to find one – they all got snapped up so quickly ! One we loved ended up matching with another family before we could skype with her (we’d been emailing for a week), and she later told me she’d matched with them in under 48 hours from first being contacted by them. Our start time was an “off-peak” time of year, so that probably didn’t help.
In the end, we matched with a “regular” AP, but one who had taught in a school for a few years and who wants to be a teacher for her profession, so who probably could have been an extraordinaire if she wanted to be.
She has been fantastic – energetic, loves children, fun, a pleasure to be around – and so far we are having a great year !
I think I will still look for extraordinaires in the future, because logic tells me they will require less training and be more likely to have a true love for children (although of course this isn’t guaranteed), but I do think you can strike gold in the regular pool as well.

Tired&Happy April 7, 2015 at 9:52 pm

Can you please share where one finds these extraordinaires? Apart from proaupair and aupairamerica? Thanks.

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