Au Pairs and “Twins and a Toddler”

by cv harquail on February 4, 2011

Hello, HostDad in NJ here looking for some advice from the group–

We’ve had an Au Pair since our daughter was 3 months old and have loved it. We are now in our 7th month with our second Au Pair who is an absolute rock star.

Anyway, we are expecting twins (yeah!/OMG now what?) in early July and are looking for some advice from families who have chosen Au Pairs to care for twins infants.

Our current plan is to place our daughter, who will be 27 months when her siblings arrive, in full time day care, while using an au pair for the babies. Since our toddler would be enrolling in school anyway, we figured the day care would make the most sense.

We don’t believe it is fair to anyone (toddler, babies, au pair) to keep them all home. Why should our daughter be always waiting around all day for the babies to eat, sleep, poop, etc, when she just wants to go to the park, or gymboree, etc? We’re hoping to meet the big sister’s needs as well as the needs of the new babies.

We’d love to hear some advice on twin infants and au pairs.

Host Dad in NJ201102041648.jpg

  • What challenges do you think this au pair might face, that go beyond the challenges faced by an au pair with just twins to care for? Even though the big sister will be in school most of the au pair’s on duty time…
  • What can parents do to help an au pair cope with the challenges of caring for two infants at a time?

See also these posts about Au Pairs and Twins:

New Babies and Au Pairs
Itty Bitty Babies: Ups & Downs of Au Pairs for Infants (and new Host Parents)

Would you recommend an Au Pair to…
Dads with infant twins?
New baby, New Challenges for your Au Pair


OB Mom February 4, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Congratulations on the pending additions in your family! How exciting to be having twins! Unfortunately, I can’t really address the specific comment because I don’t have twins. However, I was surprised to see that you will be placing your older toddler in full time day care while still having an AP. All kids have to transition to not being the center of the universe when they have younger siblings, whether they one additional sibling or multiple. I commend that you will be providing a nuturing environment by sending her to school, but its quite possible that she will end up missing her babies and/or the AP at home. Perhaps a half-day preschool will be sufficient to give the AP a bit of a break along with giving your older daughter time for herself.

Again, not being a parent of twins, I fully acknowledge that I don’t really appreciate the added challenges so am happy to be shot down if appropriate.

Good Luck!

azmom February 4, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Hi there! Congrats on the new babies!

Not a mother of twins, but DD was 26 months when my son arrived. We chose to not enroll her in preschool yet because at this age there is little that we feel she’d gain in full time outside care that she wouldn’t here. If you’re worried about the ability for an au pair to take care of 3 little ones, then finding an experience au pair or someone who is from a large family may be a better bet. Like OB mom said, maybe part time preschool would be a better transition for her at first, and then move to full time once she’s older and it is really more like pre-school versus day care, because I’m sure you chose having an AP over day care for reasons in the first place.

Some au pairs really have that experience with multiples (some even with triplets!!) so it may actually be ok for them to have that “older” sibling around (and the 2 yera old can run and grab the wipes and feel like an important helper and a major part of the new babies coming around).

Trinaunz February 5, 2011 at 12:28 am

i am the parent of twins and an older singleton, though the distance between the births was further than yours will be (5 years). i’m a believer in the theory that kids can handle one day of preschool for every one year of life. so, i enrolled my twins one day (about 9 am to 12 noon) after their first birthday, two days at age 2, etc. depending on your kids’ personalities, they may be able to handle napping away from home and, if so, might handle a full day of school/daycare (one of my twins fit that scenario, but not her sister, so i kept them both to half days). my kids are now 9 and 4 and this approach has worked very well for us.

if you were to use this model, your AP would have a break from taking care of 3 kids two days per week, thereby helping to prevent burnout, and your older child is able to form friendships and relationships with teachers that are entirely her own (i felt strongly about that for my son too). would be cheaper too than full-time daycare for a toddler.

JBLV February 5, 2011 at 12:38 am

You will probably all think I’m crazy (and so does my current AP who is amazing), but we have a 27 month old son, and a 12-week old daughter, and we are juggling things so that my infant will have as much individual attention as possible. We are putting my two year old in preschool on Mondays and Wednesdays while the AP cares for the baby, and hiring a nanny for 4 hours a week so that my son can go to soccer with my AP while the nanny cares for the baby. My husband will be home on Tuesdays afternoons and all day Thursdays to help with either the baby or the toddler, and I will be home on Fridays until my 12-week old daughter is 6 months old. My AP will take my son to a toddler gym on Friday mornings.

I tend to have high-needs babies. They will scream for 30-40 minutes if they are in the car for that long. By some miracle we were once able to put our infant in the car while she was already asleep, and she woke up half way through the trip to scream. So, putting baby in the car to take toddler to Gymcats is a nightmare. Also, leave her in the swing for more than 4 minutes? Ha! You have a screaming baby on your hands. She needs new stimulation all the time. My son is/was the same way. How do people have six children? It baffles me.

I also feel like my son has been developing so well, that to not give him the attention he wants may be detrimental (I know, I’m being overly protective, I’m sure). But he has begun reading and sounding out simple words… at 27 months. He can write several letters, including an “h” with his left hand and “i” with his right hand to spell “hi.” He knows all his colors, shapes (including octagon and hexagon), numbers, and can count to 100 with prompting. (I blame my husband for all this… I didn’t start to read until first grade. My husband has always been precocious.) DS is also very social, he loves other kids, so preschool will be a plus for him in that regard. Also, he is still babied a bit. He doesn’t fall asleep for naps on his own, and we are just now able to ween him from taking milk from a bottle. We are hoping that he will learn to be more independent at preschool, as well as follow instructions etc.

We will probably put him in preschool full time this Fall when he is about 34 months (which is 8:30am – 3 pm), and still have an AP for our daughter. This will be a very expensive childcare year for us, and we will have to tighten our belts, but we feel that our daughter will thrive with with the individual attention, and the AP will also help us pick up or drop off our son from pre-school when our infant is a little older and more willing to ride in the car.

So, I don’t think the poster is crazy for wanting a little more attention for her twins, or attention for her toddler. I think we all need to consider our individual children’s needs, our individual budgets, etc. If she feels her toddler will do better at preschool than at home with the babies, then definitely do that. Her toddler will still experience being a sister to twin babies when she is at home.

JBLV February 5, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Rather “his toddler” as the poster is a host dad. Sorry. (Newborn sleep deprivation.)

Chev February 5, 2011 at 2:25 am

I was an AP for twin boys from when they were 6 weeks old until just before their second birthday.
I think that if you put your daughter in full time care and have the AP mostly just for the twins it could cause some issues with your daughter when the twins come. She’ll already have an upheaval with two new babies and if she’s put in full time care instead of having an AP that’s she’s been used to having her whole life but there’s an AP for the twins she might feel pretty resentful of the twins which could lead to a slid backwards developmentally that happens with some children when they gain a new sibling. It might seem to her that she’s losing the attention of 3 adults she’s had to herself and not only is she having to share it but she’s being moved away from what she knows.
I think 2-3 half days of preschool/daycare would be great for her at this age and also something that comes from being the ‘grown up’ sister but that if you get a good, mature, organised AP there’s no reason she shouldn’t be able to cope/work really well with 3 kids under 3.
A 2 1/2 old can be a help with getting bottles out of the cupboard, setting up boppies on the floor so your AP can feed both twins at once, grabbing the wipes, getting or replacing pacifiers, grabbing clean onsies out of the drawer, and more little tasks.
For helping your AP with caring for twins, just make sure she finishes at a reasonable time, during the first 3 months maybe help her out with feedings until she gets used to the 3 hour routine, don’t have her do all the laundry. Because speaking of someone who looked after gorgeous boys who were born 6 weeks prem and had reflux until we were well established with solid food, i was doing at least a load of laundry a day, mostly of burp cloths! :D
Don’t stress about finding someone who has had multiples experience, or at least don’t discount someone who hasn’t. I had never looked after multiples before – i had 8 eyars of experience including a lot of infant to toddler experience and had been an AP before – but no twin experience.
As long as she’s willing to learn – i read soooo many twin books once i’d matched :) – and good natured about double the amount of diapers and toilet training she’ll be doing, then as my mum said when i was matched with my HF – There’s only the same amount of exhausted she’ll be at the end of the day whether it’s one baby, two or three kids under three.
Congrats and good luck! :D

formerAupairIreland February 5, 2011 at 8:27 am

I was an Au-Pair to twin babies (6mth+) who had a 2 year old sibling (+ an older one who went to school). The two year old loved to help and be the big brother, but could also get “too helpful”, i.e. trying to lift the twins. He started school at some point, but only a day a week and that worked out quite well. I also had a lot of time with only the two year old (while going to playgroup with him twice a week or going to the park) and he loved that.

Instead of enrolling your two year old at school every day, consider getting someone to mind the babies and then let the Au-Pair spend time with the older child so she doesnt feel left out!
Don`t wait to place your daughter in daycare until the twins are born, but rather let her start quite a while before they are born so she doesn`t see a conection between school and her new siblings!(jealousy- why do the babies get to stay with the au-pair while I have to go to school everyday) Plus also it will be hard enough for her getting used to the new babies AND the Au-Pair (unless the old one stays on?)so she probably doesn`t need another new thing in life like school.

I had some experience with twins before I started minded the twinbabies, but the other twins I had minded were all preschoolchildren so that didn`t help that much. I had however minded a lot of babys and toddlers and been an Au-Pair to a babyboy + his older siblings (one was a two-year-old) before. Therefore it was just “one extra baby” to get used to and it worked quite well. So I am sure your Au-Pair would be able to handle the situation if you A) get an experienced Au-Pair (who might even see it as a challenge and B) give the Au-Pair enough time to settle in (and get used to your daughter) and C) find a way to not let the Au-Pair have all the three kids at once all the time(all the three younger kids had their nap at the same time at lunchtime + the babies slept during the morning

Eurogirl February 5, 2011 at 10:57 am

I au paired for twins, twice! One set of twins had an elder sister who was not quite two years older than them. They were all at the toddler stage so I can’t really comment on baby twins, although I know that they had their first au pair (one before me) when the twins were 9 months.

One challenge with elder sister was differentiating her. People we would meet in the streets or on activities would often assume they were triplets and of course, this was hard for her. Elder sister needed her own space, her own one-one attention and wanted to be spoken to “like an adult, not the way you speak to the little ones”. She was a clever, confident, mature little girl, and once I learned to give her a special treat on occasion (example, take her for hot chocolate “just us girls” while the twins took part in a class or activity), she was an angel. Really helpful, really well behaved and really grown up for her age.

Actually the whole experience has made me want to have twins myself! Some day in the future, I mean (have to add that in case partner reads this and panicks!) ;-)

anonmom February 5, 2011 at 1:50 pm

While I don’t have twins, I did have three under the age of 4. The oldest was in daycare full time when her sister was born, and we did not have AP at the time. I did continue her in daycare, as i had to hold her space, but not full days. Then when #3 came along and we had AP, the older two went to daycare/preschool program in the mornings til noon. That worked out nicely for the kids and the AP, as I would then have all three kids nap afterwards, or the oldest would have ‘quiet time.’ I think I sent the younger one only three mornings/week, and the oldest went 5.

Logistically, the AP would then have to ready the twins in the car to pick up the older sibling, but if the school is helpful/understanding, perhaps she would not have to phsyically go in everyday to pick up the older child, rather someone could see her to the door outside- this way in bad weather the AP would not have to bring the kids inside to pick them up.

Good luck to you with the twins, and your older child.

maleaupairmommy February 5, 2011 at 1:56 pm

I started the program because I had three kids under 2 1/2 years and no part time infant care available. When my ap started he had a newly turned 3 year old, an 18 month old, and a 6 month old. All were still in diapers. He was a rock star and our first ap I apperciate him more now. He was our first so it’s amazing how well he did. It wasn’t easy but I would have felt guiltly putting one in daycare full time and leaving the other two at home. Preschool we most defintely started and it was helpful to all involved. The oldest loved it and learned a lot. We got a triple jogging stroller yes they make them. Found it on ebay and got it for 250.00 dollars it was my best deal ever. We spent a lot of time in that thing going places. It’s not easy the first few years were rough and we mad it through. Now they are 7,6, and 5 years old and due to my son’s ADHD/slash who knows what he is emotionally a year behind and the youngest a girl is a year ahead so it really and always felt like we have triplets. Good luck it is not easy but a lot of fun. Enjoy the ride! I have had 5 au apairs only one rematch but it was peronality conflicts and ideals of raising kids not because she couldn’t do the job. One ap stayed with us two years and they were the tough ones too. Good luck

WestMom February 5, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Dear NJ HostDad
Congratulations on your expected arrival! We had our twins when our oldest had just turned 3yrs, and I completely sympathize with your situation.

I think you are 100% right to plan to limit your au pair care’s charge to two children. Even as a parent, those first two years are quite challenging. Expecting a young woman to be responsible for the childcare of three babies at the same time is asking too much in my opinion (also note that according to the program rules, the au pair should not be left alone with the babies under 3m).

Putting your other child in daycare is an excellent alternative, but as other people have mentioned, this will be a tough adjustment for your oldest, and what may sometimes seem to you like ‘more personal attention’, can sometimes be perceived as abandonment (we did put our oldest in an all-day preschool program right bf the twins arrived). We are still struggling with jealousy and ‘it’s not fair’ tantrums even now that my oldest is 9yrs old! If you were to go that route, I would suggest that you parents take the time to bring to and pick up your toddler, so that you can spend more time alone together. Making time for some one-one time also helps. We try to do it every week with each of our three kids.

I think the least practical of the scenarios would be to expect the au pair to care for the twins all day, and be responsible for pick up and drop off of your toddler. This could be challenging on so many levels: Packing everyone in the car (and getting everyone out on the other side, stroller and all), interrupting nap schedules, possibly living through separation issues at preschool, etc.

The reality is that this will be an exciting and sometimes challenging time for your family. Follow your instinct and do what you think is the best, and readjust as needed. Think of everyone’s wellbeing within the family. It might be hard for your toddler for a little while, but most live through having younger siblings and survive to talk about it…

SotaGal February 6, 2011 at 12:49 am

Congratulations on the upcoming arrival of your twins! Our son was 4.5 when our twins were born and at the time of their arrival he was in a preschool program 3 days/week from 9-12 with the option of staying until 2. He stayed there for about 2 months after the twins were born and then we made the change to FT preschool/daycare so that he could get more play time, outside time and attention. I think that a FT program for your singleton is a great idea so long as you can still carve out time for her as well. I would often tag team with our AP when the twins were babies – letting her drop off or pick up oldest, play with him while I made dinner or in some way trade off and it was a sanity saver for both of us.

With our son, we often explained that he was going to school to have more fun than staying home with the babies. There was lots of time and there still is where he is waiting for his sisters to do something. AP or not – it can be boring for them and I have so many twin mom friends that struggle with behavior changes in older sibs once multiples arrive. You never know what life with multiples will bring – mine needed lots of attention and I often had one grown up for each baby because of their “issues” and a 3rd for our oldest while others take the “have babies will travel” mentality and can conquer any public place with all 3 kids in tow. Our brood wasn’t manageable for one adult in a public place until the twins were nearly 3.

I think open communication at her level with your oldest as well as still giving her as much attention or one on one time as you can will make the adjustment easier for her. It also helps to have her involved in “helping” with the babies as much as possible. Ours wasn’t interested in getting diapers, bottles or anything but he would happily sing to them or “read” them a book. He continues to do this at 9 years old (they’re 4), but he tells us often that he wishes he were still an only child and that he doesn’t want to be a big brother.

HostMominVa February 6, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I have twins but no singleton. I think the ideal situation, if you can find it, is half day preschool that includes lunch. Then the preschooler comes home to nap. The AP mostly has the twins all day and only three in the pm. If you don’t tend to get home until evening, spend the extra daycare dollars saved on a mothers helper for the cranky hours from 5:00-7:00 when you will most want an extra set of hands.

Host Dad in NJ February 6, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Thanks everyone for your thoughts. Our feeling right now is that our toddlers day would be nothing more than sitting around the house all day, perhaps being lucky enough to take a walk when it is nice enough and all 3 can be outside. No more art class, music, swimming, gymboree, library reading, etc. We do worry about her feling displaced and jealous however. The idea of starting daycare/ preschool before the twins arrive is one that makes sense, and we may consider the half day/lunch option.

I will likely be able to reduce to a 4 day workweek, so perhaps only 4 day daycare, or even three is possible if my wife can do the same.

I am surprised to hear from the few of you who have had just an au pair care for an older toddler and newborn twins. Those must be some special au pairs!

JJ host mom February 6, 2011 at 10:57 pm

As a parent of twins (although no older siblings) I think you’re wise to find a preschool option for your older child. I think she’ll be much happier in a situation with planned activities and children her age. The first two years of twins are all-consuming, and even if she were home, she wouldn’t be likely to get a lot of attention.

I personally found it really important to keep my twins on a coordinated schedule. Otherwise I would have been feeding them constantly. I needed them to be napping at the same time to give myself a chance to eat, go to the bathroom (yes, you have that little free time) and wash bottles and do laundry. You may not have “scheduled” your singleton but you might want to consider doing so with twins.

TwinsHostMommy February 7, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I have boy/girl twins. We didn’t get our first au pair until our children were 13 months though. I worked one day a week and my mother watched our twins that one day I worked for the first 13 months. I think twins and a toddler is doable as long as your twins are on a schedule. Everyone said how hard it was with twins, but we pretty much also followed the advice to stick to a schedule and it worked out. Also, a lot of the tiredness comes from handling feedings in the middle of the night which your au pair will not do, so its not like she is having the full twin experience. Get them on a schedule the three months prior to the au pair watching them. When one wakes up for a feeding, the other one is fed right after that, then they are changed and placed in a chair or back to bed. I personally found that I still had time left over to get things done around the house. It was not until they were older, able and wanting to crawl around that I probably would have found it a bit much to have another toddler to look after. I look back at the time when they were under 9 months old as the easy days.

FS AuPair February 8, 2011 at 1:13 am

Congrats! I took care of 2 kids (4&6) and then the twins came along, so I took care of them from day 3, yes at first I “wasn’t alone”, I was with the babies, mom sleeping. (at night I was also awake, two crying babies at 3am make a lot of noise, so I had problems to sleep as well) But, take care of twins is not the same to take care of just one baby. And during the time 4 kids were all together it was just crazy. The twins need different care, one might be sleeping, the other one might be awake, and there is NOT time free, at least I needed to do laundry and clean bedrooms, and I needed to do it during the babies were sleeping, but by the end of the day I was just so tired. I agree with that the older kids wants to help to much at one point and that might give you more stress. The days kids were in school all day, I was actually happy that when babies were sleeping I actually had time to move to others chores and I had no one behaind me asking me to play with, or asking me for food, or for help with something. I need to say that I love my 4 hostkids, and I really miss them specially the twins, but the first months, I wanted to change family, because it was a lot of job. I do feel sorry because the older kids where always asking me why we can not longer go to the park as we used to do, and I always try to change the topic or tell them that we might go other day. With a stay-at-home mom, I think I should be able to do more “fun” stuff with the others as we used to do, and not just “keep me” for the twins, but at the same time been in charge of the kids, I did try to play but once one of the babies was awake, game over, and no body likes that even an 4 y.o. kid!! So I do think she should be in school all day, but give time to the AP and the HK to spent time together!

Amanda February 15, 2011 at 6:10 pm

I was an au pair for a family with twins and a two year old little girl. I arrived when the babies were two weeks old and was there until just after they had turned one. The mother didn’t work full time so I’m sure it would be more exhausting to have all three kids everyday all day long. I never really had a problem caring for all of them though. The 2 year old was always so proud when she could help. She would always carry the bottles from the kitchen to the living room when it was time for them to eat. She was a great little helper and loved getting her little brothers to laugh at her. They were her biggest fans! She also got plenty of individual attention especially at the beginning when the babies would be napping. It was always nice to have a break too when I only had two of the kids at home. Just don’t expect her to get any housework done with all three kids there, but otherwise I would so it’s totally doable to have newborn twins and a toddler at home.

Nanny/Babysitter February 17, 2011 at 10:25 am

I am currently a nanny/babysitter (live out), and I look after 6 week old twins and their 2.5 year old sister. I have been looking after the children since the toddler was only 5 months old, so I’ve been part of the babies lives since day one literally.

Although I am not a full-time carer, I looked after the three children by myself for 10 days whilst the parents went interstate for a family emergency 2 weeks ago (I volunteered as I couldn’t imagine taking 3 very young children on a plane, and keeping them occupied while dealing with their emergency!)

I had the twins and the toddler by myself 24/7; did it work? Absolutely! Was it hard? Absolutely – BUT it would be hard for any 19 year old to step into 24/7 care with ANY child, let alone 3 under 3.

How I worked it was; whenever the babies were awake and not in need of milk or nappy (diaper) changes (not too often!), we’d head to the park if the weather permitted. If it didn’t, babies would have floor time, and I’d play with the toddler. When the babies needed attention – think two of them screaming, and not being comforted by anything – Dora the Explorer would take over until it was under control. Some of you may be unhappy about the toddler watching t.v, but I am one person with two arms, and cannot juggle two screaming babies, two bottles, and a toddler who wants to play “horsey!”

If you find the right AP, you won’t need daycare. I loved every minute of looking after all 3 kids, and miss them so much now that the parents are back. I would never have thought about sending the toddler to daycare – because she is a bit older, we have a special bond, and I would hate for her to be jealous of me paying more attention to the twins than her. Be careful not to build resentment.

Just my two cents :-)

MarylandMom February 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm

One thing I would suggest you think about is that if you will be looking for a new au pair for after the twins are born, keep in mind that it is a very different job than the job of watching just your daughter. We had much more difficulty in keeping a good au pair when we had two small children than when we just had one. It is not a job for someone who isn’t fully dedicated to it. You need to be very upfront in the interview process about what is expected; even if your older daughter is in a preschool program, there will be days when the program is closed, or she is sick, or for whatever reason she is at home. The au pair must be comfortable managing 3 young children at least some of the time, and hopefully will be someone who loves working with young children.

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