Au Please, Your Advice: Is an Au Pair Right For Us?

by cv harquail on April 1, 2014

For all things au pair -related, the first step is to know what kind of care-giving you need.

Clarity in your needs not only helps you narrow down the field of impressive au pair candidates, it also helps you make the necessary trade-offs between “ideal” and “real world terrific”.

jason swihartSomeone who can play the violin? Isn’t afraid of horses? Is comfortable driving farm equipment? We’ve seen all of these requests. But this one?


Dear AuPairMom, my spouse and I are wondering whether an Au Pair might be the right kind of caregiver for our two kids, ages 5 and 7.

Briefly, mom and dad agree on nothing except that we do well having babysitters/ nannies/ doula / tutors/ bodyguards work with our active children. I say ‘active’ because our kids make ADD/ADHD kids look somnolent.

So far, early education PhD’s, hardened professionals and normal-types got left in the dust; young, beautiful, energetic, engaging, intelligent, tree-climbing swimmers worked briefly until they found easier jobs.  Actresses and school teaches have worked the best.  But we need someone who won’t abandon us for a spot on the national tour of The Lion King. 

Currently, I employ NYPD Medal of Valor detectives for week nights and the Captain of Police, Detective Squad and EMS Director for weekends; I have a Navy Seal with me to go to F.A.O. Schwartz with my kids. We have an International Terrorist Commando who takes them for McDonalds and pizza runs. (That FBI guy who plays with the kids in the pool? He’s a friend, not an employee).

Flexibility is a must.  We are having a sleepover on a Battleship this weekend, and we also did one in the Museum of Natural History– that might appeal to an au pair who’s watched a lot of Ben Stiller movies?.

We are ‘Town & Country’, so the Au pair could have a room in a $4.5 million dollar apartment on the 43rd floor in Manhattan (provided we are not evicted this month) and stay in one of the family’s 2 (two) vacation homes, one in the Hamptons, the other in Aspen  (provided that IRS seizure remains delayed).  Anyway, I figure the Au pair would travel with the children: “go where the children go”, whether with mom or dad, either here in NYC or elsewhere.

11919602824_8d6825bdb0_mWe don’t do much driving in the City. An Au Pair will need to learn how to use Uber when the towncar is unavailable.  However, she (or he) should be able to drive a car with a stick shift.  Although I don’t generally allow other people to drive my Lamborghini, for obvious reasons, sometimes it is the last one in the driveway at the Hamptons. If the au pair wants to go to an early SoulCycle class she’d need to move it out of the way.  

She just can’t drive the Range Rover over the lawn to get around it. Bt; dt. No good.

The kids enjoy all the fun of the Big Apple, but they are not what you’d call ‘spoiled’. Pampered, perhaps, but not spoiled.  The boy’s first plane flight was on a private jet (we did not want him scolded for not sitting down) and the girl was born in a suite in the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital (courtesy of our friend-the Chairman/CEO of Morgan Stanley). Certainly, they have experienced luxury. But they are not spoiled.

We hang out with the extended family, with cousins coming and going from both the NYC apartment and the Hamptons home. Grandma tips generously, but she is a bit chatty.  An au pair that spoke Italian, or Yiddish, would make things fun for Grandma.

The children appreciate all types of people (daughter loved having an actress who looked like Princess Jasmine as a sitter — lots of bedazzling and dress-up).  What’s more important is a caregiver who can hold her own in a Karaoke bar– that’s the kind of spirit we’re looking for.

 We are fine with an au pair who likes to use Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter to document her year.  Who wouldn’t want pictures of these beautiful children! We just insist that she refrain from sending photos of our family to or Page 6.  We know Mike Bloomberg, so we don’t want to offend him by helping Rupert sell papers.

This is 1% of 1% of the details, but as you’ve written in other places on your blog, we know that paying attention to the details and warning signs in interviews can help us insure a great fit with an au pair.   So which agency do you recommend that we use?  ~~~ ThatGuyYou UsedToPartyWithInCollege, now a daddy,  HHK

No, this is not an April Fools Joke. Yes, I really did receive this email, and I recommended …. well, what do *you* think I recommended?  


HM Reality Check April 1, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Maybe They should take two, they’re small.

Seattle Mom April 1, 2014 at 3:34 pm

I keep falling for these April Fools’ jokes. When will I learn?

Viktoria - former au pair from Sweden April 1, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Well, if this isn’t an april fools joke.. Then I would say that, yes this family can have an au pair. I believe that a girl/boy who has a strong work ethics would provide good childcare. And if the family lay down the rules about the photos directly or even maybe ask the au pair to sign a contract, then I don’t see a problem in them having an au pair. If the family finds the right person for their family, then I think an au pair would have a great year working in this family.

I hope my english isn’t that bad and that you understand where I’m going with this.

exapair April 1, 2014 at 8:35 pm

April fools today ;-)

Dallas Mom April 2, 2014 at 7:19 am

Short Answer: NO!!!

Woodlandsmom April 2, 2014 at 7:53 am

Wow, just wow. Bet someone like this really exists somewhere.

NJ HostDad April 2, 2014 at 10:21 am

I thought this family lived in Chicago and was shocked to be turned down by their first and only choice au pair? Did they move, and are they thinking of doing it again?

Seattle Mom April 5, 2014 at 11:36 pm

lol I remember that one…

exapair April 2, 2014 at 10:52 am

I’ve noticed the bottom line of the post just now! :-)

In case it wasn’t a joke…..I have no doubt that this family is fully capable of hosting APs and I’m sure they would be very popular among potential caregivers. They have a good chance of finding an AP, would she match with them for all the right reasons I don’t know.

Would I be willing to match with them? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
1) the message I get from this letter(or should I sat advert) is that under no circumstances should the AP put her plans first ever. For me evenings and weekends off are key, and not having it is a deal breaker.
“(…) stay in one of the family’s 2 (two) vacation homes, one in the Hamptons, the other in Aspen (…). Anyway, I figure the Au pair would travel with the children: “go where the children go”, whether with mom or dad, either here in NYC or elsewhere.
Maybe I got the wrong end of the stick but I read it as if the HF hoped/expected the AP to dump every evening/weekend plans she possibly has and drive to Aspen every other week only because the kids feel like it.
2) location: my top choices would be Alaska or anywhere close to the redwood national park. Sure I would love to match with family elsewhere if they were nice, but this one seems to ask for I would not want to give already.

Should be working April 2, 2014 at 12:07 pm

It’s not CV’s joke but I think it must be a joke on her/us. Or someone trying to be witty and isn’t. Just obnoxious.

If there is a kernel of truth in it, I’d say they need a marriage counselor (“agree on nothing”); financial advisor (foreclosures); parenting coach (limits); and a spanking.

cv harquail April 2, 2014 at 12:47 pm

This was actually a real email that I received, from someone I knew in college, who is apparently leading a very crazy kind of life. … And yes, it does read a lot like that email we got from the family in Chicago that was offering a Mercedes and a separate condo apartment to any au pair who thought that would be exciting. When I got this email (almost a year ago?) I parked it for April Fools, thinking I’d use it as a template for an extreme situation…. but when I looked at it again, it was extreme enough.

Doesn’t your family look really *normal* — and easy to live with — in comparison? Yeah, I thought so. ;-)

German Au-Pair April 2, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Okay, it’s April 2nd so, no April fools? Someone seriously wrote this exact email, including FBI people watching their kids and all?

German Au-Pair April 2, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Also, this email was actually serious by the OP? It just seems soooo weird that it feels like a troll to me.

Seattle Mom April 6, 2014 at 12:07 am

Oy Vei….

Well I can see how this could be real. It will be as hard for them to find the right au pair as other types of childcare providers.. sounds like a high-demand, high-reward type of situation. With different than the usual types of demands and rewards. Reminds me of my cousin. She went through a number of au pairs, lots of rematches.. but then eventually had the same one stay with them for 6 years (first as an au pair, then on a student visa). It was a tough situation but there was a lot of money & a lot of perks.. the kids were not easy but they were definitely loveable. And my cousin is not an easy boss (I know because I worked for her one summer) but she can be generous.

CAcapitolHostMom April 2, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Oh, I sympathize with their dilemma. We had a philosophical conflict with our beautiful child’s preparatory day care academy who wouldn’t allow him to fly his diamond studded remote control chopper indoors and I pulled him out of that primitive institution. I had to have the maid (of all people) cover down on childcare duties. Of course, she was then spread too thin and the chauffeur had to step in and help. As a result, I was late to more than one afternoon date with friends at the MET. It was a ghastly time. I truly hope this family can find a good au pair. I wouldn’t wish my experience without reliable child care on anyone!

Host Mom in the City April 2, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Love this :)

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