Would you choose an “older” Au Pair? (Poll)

by cv harquail on March 25, 2012

Is there an age past which an Au Pair candidate is just “too old” for you to consider?

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We got a note from OlderAP asking:

Would Host Families consider accepting an older au pair?

I am 26 years old. I graduated from university with MSc, extremely good grades, and have childcare experience with children aged 3 days to 6 years. I have lived on my own for five years and spent extended periods abroad in Europe, as well as Africa and the Middle East.

I’m probably a bit more independent and confident in new cultures than an 18 or 19 year old.

But I wonder if host families would think that I am too independent? Would they see my age as an advantage or feel that the relatively small age difference between the HF and AP could impinge on the “spirit” of the program. Maybe think that there is something wrong with the AP that, instead of finding a “good” entry level job she would choose being an AP?

While I have a good education, the job prospects in my country are not very good right now. And, I still want the chance to strengthen my English and broaden my life experience before I start a “career”.

I’d love to know what host families think about an older au pair.

What is the oldest au pair candidate you'd consider?

View Results

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{ 73 comments }

AFHostMom March 25, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Our only age guideline (and maybe it’s unfair) is that we will not choose an au pair under 20–and we prefer 21 and older. I’m curious why people would be turned off by older candidates–we prefer an older AP for the maturity and experience that she might bring. At 34, we’re relatively young host parents, and the smaller age gap would be fine in our home, with the right candidate.

PA AP Mom March 25, 2012 at 6:08 pm

We are partial to APs that are 21-23. I would probably go as high as 25 but no older. Host dad and I are 36.

Anna March 25, 2012 at 6:33 pm

I love older au pairs. I’ve had bad experience with two 19 year olds because of their immaturity. To me, 26 is a big fat plus.

Andrea March 26, 2012 at 4:57 am

I’ve also had 19-year olds who were too immature / wanted to talk to their moms about everything every day. And my 27-year old au pair was fabulous (although did leave us early as she found a permanent job in our country, where she wanted to stay, and we were supportive of that at her age). I think in general there is a cut-off, which is often very individual, beyond which someone is too used to doing things their own way / not being interested in family, and someone who’s past that is likely not going to be a great au pair. My target is around 21-23…but my au pairs have ranged from 18 to 27 (although 27 and 18 were numbers 1 and 2… I’ve had 10, although some were short term).

Emma March 25, 2012 at 7:00 pm

I’ve noticed that there are many ladies applying to be au pairs who are older than usual. Some have noted in their letters that their local economies are bad and that to go back to their home countries and get a good job would require very good English.

I also read last about a German agency that employs au pairs in their 40s and over. The ladies tend to be those whose children have flown the nest and they like being around children.

Link: http://www.scotsman.com/news/au_pair_wanted_and_the_older_the_better_1_1741425

Link: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/germany-reinvents-the-au-pair-by-recruiting-army-of-older-women-2314022.html

HRHM March 25, 2012 at 7:23 pm

I voted other. I’m sure I’m in the minority when I say, the younger the better. I prefer an AP who is interested in being a member of the family and I find that with older, more “independant” APs, they really don’t spend time with us unless they are on the clock. I do also feel like at 25 or 26 a person should be settled on a possible career and moving in that direction. That lack of goal-purposed behavior gives me pause.

I also like the fact that with the under-21 set I can just say “no drinking” period and not have to worry about drunk-driving or them being hung over on Monday morning.

I can directly address immaturity if I need to, but what I’ve found is that young APs that have excellent relationships with their parents tend to be very respectful of our rules and mesh well with our family.

kara April 4, 2012 at 10:18 am

I absolutely agree with this! Having had all ages of au pairs.

Jay May 1, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I agree entirely with this. At 25, you’re pretty much done most of your maturing. It becomes more of a job than integrating with the family. At 18-20, host parents can more easily be parental figures, and the AP will respond better to their authority.

On the other side of things, if you are a host family that merely wants to employ a live in nanny, and not so much add an additional member to the family, then perhaps an older au pair would be ideal. But bear in mind, they won’t be as interested in spending time with the family, and will have their own agenda.

Anna May 1, 2012 at 5:12 pm

We have had two 19 year olds with whom we had to go into rematch because of their immaturity, that in one case made her decisionmaking ability with our young children put them in danger, and in another case she has gone friend- and boy-crazy at the expense of taking care of the kids and doing her job – abandoned completely, repeatedly, during on-clock time.

Both of these young women probably will improve with age, but it made them totally unsuitable for leaving them with our young kids alone, safely.

I don’t even look at under 21 set now. Iso like familial relationship, and I find that older au pairs from South American countries, who are close with their own parents and still live with them, fit this bill.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 25, 2012 at 8:39 pm

DH and I have hosted 7 APs in the past 11 years. Not one AP was older than 23 upon arrival. The youngest, and the best fit for our family, was 19 when she arrived – she was mature and comfortable in her skin. The least successful was 20 when she arrived (but we hosted another 20-year-old who was fantastic). All that to-ing and fro-ing aside, we are looking for skills, a love for family (because if you don’t want to be with your own parents you aren’t going to want to hang with us either), and a demonstrated ability to work with children (thanks to The Camel that usually translates to love, too).

However, with the OP’s skill set, I’d be wondering, “Why isn’t she trying for another J-1 job in the U.S.?” “Why isn’t she moving on with her career?” Most of the APs we have hosted are taking a year off between high school and university. We understand that we are a gap year while the AP figures out what she values most and how she wishes to live “the rest of her life.”

While I wouldn’t discount an older AP, with that particular education background and history, I’d be adding the quesion, “Wouldn’t life with a HF be too restricting?”

NoVA Host Mom March 25, 2012 at 10:58 pm

When we first began getting APs, we had a newborn and I just could not see someone under the age of 22 surviving (since it is far more than just being a “babysitter” in my mind; this screaming smiling babe is her full time job), so we only looked at older APs – 24 and above. Our second was 26 when she came to us, and was about to turn 29 when she left after extending. She was with us for nearly 2 full years and we love her dearly. But HD and I both began to wonder, most especially towards the end of her second year, if we had done her any favors by extending as we did.

We both worried that, at a time when she should be establishing herself in her career and making her own life back home, she was still working at a job that maybe might be more suited to someone either still in or just finished with her higher schooling. We still worry that maybe the extended delay at her age might have caused a negative result back home long term.

Mostly as a result of those concerns, we now work to find someone still in her 20′s, but no older than 24.

NoVa HostMom March 26, 2012 at 8:08 am

I generally look for between 20 and 23/24. I think this age is flexible, can really benefit from the program and then go home and continue with school, go to school, figure out what and where they want to go….

We just went into rematch with someone very similar to the OP because we felt some her independence and experience outweighed my more general concern.

The problem in the end was she did not really want to take care of kids. This ended up – to us – as just a way for her to be able to continue to travel when she did not have the money to just study abroad and do some other sort of exhange. And she could not find (or didn’t look) for a job at home.

I really went against my gut for the “resume” and it totally backfired. I don’t think i would pick anyone 26 and i would definitely not pick the OP given our recent experience [not to say the OP could not be great and be perfect for some family].

Busy Mom March 26, 2012 at 8:20 am

We’re in the middle of a search now. It’s early in the process and I am excluding all the 26 year olds. I think it’s more difficult for them socially because the bulk of the other APs are a few years younger. I also am biased in feeling that, by 26, they should have figured out what they want to do with their lives and be moving in that direction. However, if I was feeling crunched for time, I’d probably relax this age limitation.

On the other end of the spectrum, we also won’t match with an au pair younger than 21. I want someone who is of legal drinking age because I want to avoid a situation with underage drinking. I’m also looking for a bit of independence and a few years of driving experience. Now that we have teenage daughters, we don’t want someone too close in age to the eldest.

CW March 26, 2012 at 8:38 am

For our family, summer time is the busiest for our Au Pair. It is almost non-stop activities and … everything. When school starts again after summer, there is a significant drop in activity level for our Au Pairs. Although self reliance and independence are Au Pair characteristics highly valued by our family, higher degrees of independence typical of girls who have been on their own or independent for a few years prior to becoming an Au Pair have great difficulty with this sudden lull in activity, and often find themselves extremely bored (to the point where one of our former Au Pairs actually decided to end the program early). Although age is not the only variable in this equation, we have found it to be a major input.

Not Again March 26, 2012 at 9:15 am

We are out of the Au Pair programme right now having had one too many difficult ‘teenagers’. The only way I would take another Au Pair is to have an older person who had been independent for a time and really understands what a job is about.

Emerald City HM March 26, 2012 at 10:08 am

Our decision is less a factor of age, in fact our first match was 26 (she was denied her visa), and more of a factor of experience working full time. We have a 1 year old and we need someone that knows what it is Luke to have to work 40 hours a week. Plus our lives are so busy, she really needs to be able to cook for herself. So we actually tend to stay away from au pairs we have to “parent”.

Should be working March 26, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Our first au pair was 24, which we thought was great for maturity, and we ended up in rematch. Since then we’ve done well with 18-19-yr-olds. Like HRHM, I find that the 18-19 yr olds want to be part of the family, want to do well, and accept our authority better. And no-drinking is GREAT. No blurry lines. Again like HRHM, I ask a LOT of questions about the AP applicants’ relationship to their parents. This has turned out to be a great indicator of how we will get along. I feel like an older AP (at least from western Europe, where we take ours from) would be someone with less personal ambition and I would worry about why they were choosing to be an AP rather than pursue education and career.

ReturnAupair March 26, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Theire are a lot of reason why older Girls choose to be AuPairs.
Iam 25 and iam done studying in july. I will become a pre-school teacher and would love to work in an biligual pre-school. But then, my englisch has to be really good. Also the economy is hard and i need to be bether then other pre-school teachers in some way.

I think since i was 18 when id did it first, i made a lot of mistakes, where stubborn and afraid of communication. Now since iam older, i really see the difference about the work. With 18 i went to the us to have fun and know i really know how i enjoy working with children and how much i can teach them. It would also great to watch at the pre-schools in the USA and see what i can also do in my country.

And for the Girl above, dont worry about your age, i know a lot of girls who are 24-26 and they did not have problems finding a family.
I even thing its bether if theere are older children in the house. Why should a 18 year old care for a 14 year old? And also small ones, i would not trust if i had a child a 18year old girl who just did some babysitting my smal children.

NorCalMom March 26, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Returnaupair, that was our 2nd au pair -a preschool teacher – and she was amazing. I still miss her, and am still trying to find another like her!

Should be working March 26, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Our ‘bad’ au pair was also very experienced teaching preschool. It meant, for us, that she was maybe too professional and concerned about ‘teaching’ our kids and not just spontaneous, fun-loving and enthusiastic. So preschool teacher is great in one way, but not a guarantee on the other.

ReturnAupair March 27, 2012 at 11:23 am

I dont know wich agancy you are using, but iam with APIA and there is this professional Program for Pre-School Teachers, Teachers …

I'm With Ya March 29, 2012 at 6:01 pm

@ReturnAuPair – are you also in the APIA program that uses the LENA system to monitor interactions between the AP and the HKs? I was involved in discussions about that pilot program and would love to pick up someone who’s willing to have their interactions with children measured and analyzed.

ReturnAupair March 30, 2012 at 1:20 pm

@I`m With Ya,

iam with the APIA Program A.P.E.X Proffesional because iam an Pre-School Teacher but i dont know anything about Lena System. Can you send me some information about it?

JBLV April 3, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Professional program for pre-school teachers in APIA?!?! What?!?! Is this the extraordinaire program? I would love a pre-school teacher for my next match. I have the absolute best au pair now, but she is leaving in August to get married. Let me repeat. I would love, love, love a pre-school teacher.

ReturnAuPair April 5, 2012 at 10:26 am

Yes it is the extraordinaire programm. Theire are different kind of application, since every country hase different names for this jobs. On the Website they have some informationen about the names. In Germany we do not say Pre-School teachers, we say Educators, becaus the job is not only with pre-school children, its all from 0-18. And i know a lot of girls who are in this Program.

JJ Host Mom April 5, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Our current au pair from AuPairCare (just regular track) was a preschool teacher in the Ukraine and it shows. She’s wonderful. We just switched to Euraupair and their Par Experience program has some preschool teachers too. So they’re out there…

NorCalMom March 26, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Our 3rd au pair was the first we had younger than 25 – we deliberately sought out 25-26 year olds, as we had young babies and wanted to maturity with an older au pair.

Now in our search for our 4th, and I am longing for more candidates aged 24-26!

Gabi Strautmann July 9, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Hi NorCalMom,

Did you found your “older” Ap??
I´m 25 and apply at AuPair Care Program. If you want, contact me, ok?

Best Regard,
Gabi

Kimm Lucas March 26, 2012 at 3:46 pm

We have had 6 au pairs over the years since our oldest (now 8) was 2. Our youngest was 19 (way too young) and our oldest was 26. We had our oldest one when I was just 30 so there was only a 4 year age difference between us, and that was no problem at all.

Our family requirement is now that they be over 20, have outstanding references, a good range of childcare experience (we have kids ages 3 and 8, and a new one coming in September), a desire to share their culture with an American family, and a desire to be a part of a family.

Different families have different preferences and it’s important to choose someone who is highly qualified for one’s own family circumstances.

Pokermom March 26, 2012 at 4:24 pm

We just got our first au pair, who turned 24 during our match process. Our other candidate was 19 and we went with the older girl, because of many reasons, age included. Having an 18 yr old stepson (who leaves for college in the summer!!!) I was concerned about them being too close in age, plus I don’t want to worry about the drinking issue. I think when it comes time to look again, we’ll be looking in the 21-25 age range. With our family it’s important that we have someone who is mature and able to be assertive and not that 18-20 year olds can’t have that, it’s much harder to find and ascertain even through rigorous interviewing. I would definitely look at the OP’s application.

Should be working March 26, 2012 at 5:21 pm

If we still have au pairs when the kids are teenagers I might be much more inclined to older au pairs. I’d be curious to hear from more people with teenage kids and how that works with au pairs.

Pokermom March 26, 2012 at 7:56 pm

It definitely throws another dimension into the process! It’s been good for her to have someone closer to her age to talk to here at home. HD, SS and AP went to see the Hunger Games this weekend and there have been lots of nerf gun fights at the house with her and all the kids. In the future I’ll probably stay in the older age range since I’ll have a teenager every year until 2029. That’s a scary thought! Obviously I won’t have AP’s until then…. But it’ll be good to have them for the foreseeable future. I did ask SS if he was “hitting” on her, since he and his gf broke up, but he said no. He just likes having someone around his age to talk to. He takes a foreign language at school too and it’s similar to her home language so it’s nice to hear them comparing words and talking. I speak basics of what he’s taking so I can monitor the conversation.

Busy Mom March 26, 2012 at 10:43 pm

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as we’ll need someone to drive until fall 2019 (pokermom has me beat!) when our youngest is a Senior in H.S. While the older two will be driving, it’s not reasonable for them to get both themselves and their sibling to activities…and they’re involved in a lot of activities. An au pair is definitely more expensive, but likely more reliable, than a part-time college kid. And cheaper and more flexible than a part-time nanny. (Don’t think a part-time nanny will pick up at band practice at 9 p.m.) What’s a working mom to do!? Especially when DH and I work 40 and 75 minutes away respectively.

One of our APs met another AP whose sole responsibility was to drive a 16 yo around.

Being in NJ complicates things. Can’t drive solo until 17!

CV, I would love a post on this topic…

Taking a Computer Lunch March 27, 2012 at 8:46 am

I agree. While The Camel is a teenager who needs a driver, as a special needs child she demands constant care. When our typically developing child was in 3rd grade he decided the AP was for his sister, formed in part by an AP with inadequate communication skills who took a long time to learn to play with him on his terms. While it is true that the AP mainly cares for his sister, having an AP ready to shoot hoops, play tag with his laser guns, or stick fight in our back garden helps him listen to her. Next year he’ll be heading to a middle school 30 minutes from our home, and we’ll need a driver more than ever.

All along our needs have shifted from infancy to tween, and I imagine the teen years will be even more demanding. He definitely needs someone sporty and up to the physical challenges of a nearly teen. I make it clear in my handbook that when she’s not caring for The Camel, the AP is expected to be dynamic and involved with my son on his terms (although not to the point that she gets injured). Recently he told my current AP that he would wear a dress if she beat him in stick fighting — and he did!

That sense of humor and interaction doesn’t happen with an AP who sits on a couch and lets the kids play.

cv March 28, 2012 at 8:34 am

Tell me more … are you thinking of something like “When what you actually need is a chauffeur … ?

http://aupairmom.com/beyond-the-chauffer-benefits-of-au-pairs-when-your-kids-are-teens/2009/11/03/celiaharquail/

DCMomof3 March 26, 2012 at 9:51 pm

During rematch last year, we had to go with a 26 year old au pair because we were with a small agency who had 1 rematch candidate available in the whole US. She was from a Western European country and really just had no ambition or idea of what to do with her life. While here, she did not take any classes or spend any time with our family and friends who all have interesting careers, or do anything to help her decide what to do. She just lived for her weekends and vacations when she could go out with a bunch of party girls. She ended up being an ok au pair, but left early, which was kind of a mutual decision because she wasn’t happy in the job and I wasn’t thrilled with her. I encouraged her to just go home if she didn’t want to be an au pair and she took me up on the offer. She thought that she should be doing something better with her life since she had a university degree. She seemed to have missed the whole part of her 20s that should have included internships and other resume-building experiences to get that better job. But, that’s her problem.
However, we also had an excellent au pair from South America who was 25 when she arrived and 27 when she left. She was an elementary school teacher in her home country and wanted to get a better job in a bilingual school. She took classes the whole time that she was here and got certified to be an ESL teacher. She now teaches at the Brittish School in her home country.
So, I’ve had both experiences with older au pairs and I think it really just depends on the motivation of the individual to be an au pair, to work with kids, and to better herself in the process.

Seattle Mom March 26, 2012 at 11:43 pm

I think DCMomof3′s experience speaks to my own thoughts on the issue- for me it really depends on the individual’s experience, attitude, and motivation. All things being equal I think an older au pair would be great, but I can also see how there are some specific pitfalls to look out for when considering an older au pair.

We are a new HF, and our AP is 23 and she is perfect. After her year is up I could see going older or younger, but maybe not younger than 20.

Julie March 27, 2012 at 1:01 am

We have had 4 au pairs, all younger than 21. The first was just out of high school in Germany and that didn’t work for us–our 3rd au pair was also 19, but had worked for 3 years and she was definitely mature enough to work day in and day out with young children. The other 2 were 20 and fabulous. I think it is totally dependent on the au pair and if they have had life experiences prior to arrival. I have become an LCC since becoming a host parent and have worked with au pairs ages 18-28. I think you can have a mature, responsible 19 year old (who has worked in the world) and it can be wonderful and you can have a party-AP who stays out all night. It really comes down to how they match your family.

For me, age makes more of a difference when it comes to how they relate to other au pairs. It’s tough to be 18-20 when the group is mostly 21+ and it’s tough to be a lot older when everyone is 21 or 22. I think checking in with your LCC to get the ages of the group can be really helpful.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 27, 2012 at 8:27 am

One thing that I have noticed is that the age range of AP candidates often depends on which area of the world from which they come. European candidates tend to be younger and having a “gap year” between high school and university or high school and career. DH and I have managed to change the minds of 2 of them who refused to consider university when they arrived in the US – one has completed her degree and the other is halfway through.

South American, African, and some Asian candidates tend to be older. Some have some university-level experience. I have hosted 2 Brazilian APs, one from a wealthy family who had a gap year in the middle of her university coursework, the other from a middle class family who had been working two jobs and trying to go to university part-time. Both were older and both worked hard. They knew that mastering English was a key to success. Many of their friends were older and also working hard on their English.

While I might ask myself “Why is an older European candidate not moving on with her life?” I would not ask that question of candidates from other parts of the world, especially those who have to pool money from various family members to afford to come to the United States as an AP.

DCMomof3 March 27, 2012 at 8:47 pm

I think that this is good guidance and certainly has been true for me. As I said above, my worst au pair was a 26 year old European with little ambition or direction and my best was a 25 year old from a family with limited resources in a middle-income country. Coming to the US as an au pair was her best chance for career advancement.
Because I now live in a state with driver’s license reciprocity with Germany, France and S. Korea, those are the countries that I now choose from. Given the relative affluence of those countries and the opportunities presented there, I am sticking with younger candidates who really want to interact with my kids and our family as a whole and who are really motivated to get the most out of their time abroad.

JBLV March 27, 2012 at 8:35 pm

The older the better for us. We don’t host anyone under 21.

Natasha March 30, 2012 at 3:05 am

Well I am 23 and my husband is 32 and we just hired our aupair from Italy to help look after our todler while I wait for the next baby. She is 31 and she is terrific.

NoVA Host Mom March 30, 2012 at 3:40 am

Are you in the US or another country? In the US (I hae no idea about other countries), APs are not permitted to enter the program older than 26. They can age out while already here, but cannot enter already aged out, and certainly not in their 30′s. I’m curious about the age pick an being a HP in another country; how the one impacts the other.

LuvCheetos March 30, 2012 at 8:56 pm

We’re going through the matching process right now and I’d like to match with anyone good, regardless of age, at this point. We’re with APIA. I search the site multiple times a day and select an AP for my queue as soon as I see a good one. I email that day, yet they all seem to be matched. I guess maybe they don’t like us. I toughened up our letter a little bit, but I wouldn’t call it a “dare to match with us” letter. Is anyone else finding the good APIA APs are going quickly?

Dorsi March 30, 2012 at 9:39 pm

We emailed a lot of APs this year — I bet at least 20. I don’t think our letter is particularly harsh, but we don’t offer an attractive situation on the surface. Two small kids, no car, no preschool, irregular hours. (On the other hand, we pay on time, we schedule in advance, we don’t violate the contract, we treat them truly like members of the family–things that most AP candidates don’t know are not a given in many of the more attractive families.)

In the end, I had to change my criteria. I picked someone this year who does not have all day, 5 day week, experience with kids. However, she is a college student who worked several hours a day in childcare after classes and is working out quite well.

Maybe consider a few other countries? Or relaxing something else?

Taking a Computer Lunch March 30, 2012 at 10:20 pm

I recommend having a chat with your current AP, and seeing if she’s willing to act as a reference. If she is, promise to give out her contact information if the candidate replies.

We’re tough customers in that we have a teenager who must be bathed, dressed and fed, wears diapers and gets her period. On the other hand, we don’t have a curfew, offer nearly complete access to a car, and have school-age children, so it’s a rare week our AP works 45 hours.

My advice, if you’re coming up dry, talk with your LCC, she has access to applications before you do in APIA’s queue. So does your rep. in Stamford. We’re 11-year repeat customers, so we put a lot of demands on the Stamford office, but we remind them that we’ve been helping to pay their salaries for a long time! I know I get to see “special needs willing” candidates with experience fairly quickly. Push Stamford to put more candidates that match your profile in your queue and move through them quickly.

My other advice, be patient. There are a lot of women whose applications will be coming through shortly, because they want to arrive during the summer. You’ll find the right candidate, even if she wasn’t your first choice. You need not settle for less.

LuvCheetos March 31, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Well, we actually made an offer to match with someone today. I’m very excited. I really hope she accepts. She is older and from an unusual country, which is why I think she hasn’t matched yet.

Wish me luck!!!!

Pokermom April 5, 2012 at 2:51 am

Did she accept your offer????

LuvCheetos April 5, 2012 at 1:11 pm

She did! We’re actually excited!!!! It has been a long time since we’ve been excited about having an au pair.

Chicago Host Mom March 30, 2012 at 11:15 pm

We’ve had all older au pairs, and it has been a mixed bag. Age is a factor to consider, but we’ve found that the AP’s relationship with her own family and maturity are the most important factors to consider. We have not entertained the idea of having anyone under 21, because we have had infants the entire time, and I cannot get past the idea of leaving an infant with a teenager – I don’t need anything else to compound the working mom guilt. Also we require a college graduate – perhaps unfairly – but the only non-college grad was our only rematch, and I truly think she lacked organization, drive and independence that is (often) gained from attending and graduating from college. So, that usually puts us at a minimum age of 21 or 22. Having said that, we have had five au pairs now:
1. AP #1 taught us: Pick someone at least ten years younger than us. She turned 27 three days after entry. We wanted someone mature and older with our first infant, but we were 32 and this was a really bad idea. We did not mind that she was independent and she did a GREAT job with our infant, but she did not respect our house rules because was used to having her own car/apartment, etc. We were new at the host parents gig and didn’t assert ourselves enough. She was “too old for us” at that point in our life and we were novice host parents — bad combo and long year.
2. AP #2 taught us: The AP’s culture and own family experience is more important than age. She was 23 and AWESOME. Stayed for two years. Became part of our life and family, and we still see her (she is studying on a student visa now). We really enjoyed seeing her develop as a young woman and become independent during some very formative years of her life. So, it was fulfilling for us to help her develop, and also she was young enough that we were in charge. She was from a very traditional family in an eastern culture, so there were no issues with house rules at all, and she enjoyed spending time at home with her own family, so she spent quality time with us as a family (but, importantly, not TOO MUCH time).
3. AP #3 (rematch) taught us: AP experience matters more than age. She was 23 – just like awesome AP#2, but not a college grad. She had been in and out of college, came from a very rural area of south america, and had not traveled much – it was too much of a jump for her cultrually, and she did not have the independence or organizational skills to adapt. I chalk the rematch up to those characteristics and not age.
4. AP #4 reminded us that age does not equal maturity. She was 25 and came to us in rematch. She was very independent, was used to working/having her own money, and she had lived away from home before. We had no problems exerting our house rules, but she was a dingbat and spent her free time trying to get her M.R.S. while in the States. We made the year but not without some new gray hair.
5. AP#5 confirmed the importance of having an educated AP from a solid family background. She turned 26 two weeks after arrival. We were looking for someone younger because of our AP#1 experience, but really liked her in the interview process. She is AWESOME and wanted to be an AP to improve her English skills and gain experience to possibly change careers (to teaching). She came after several years working as a manager in a professional career. She has a great family and she is organized, responsible, creative, helpful and a total joy to be around. Thank God she is staying another year. We were smart to have looked past age and focused on the entire package.

Chicago Host Mom March 30, 2012 at 11:15 pm

I wrote way too much!

Au Pair in Italy March 31, 2012 at 5:14 pm

I found this topic interesting because I am an ‘older’ Au Pair. At the age of 26, I quit my primary job (an office job where I was a manager) and surprised everyone by moving abroad.

After following the path that everyone told me was the ‘mature’ option for so long, I decided that I would be better off following my heart! I decided to pursue my passion for writing and travelling. It had always been my dream to live and work in Italy and I have always loved children so Au Pairing seemed like the ideal option.

I’ll admit that things did not turn out the way that I would have liked them to with respect to my host family but when it comes to my personal experience and the way that it has enriched my life, things have gone perfectly. I have used this year to begin the career that I have always wanted, instead of the career that many considered to be so amazing.

I think that the people who assume that older Au Pairs have no direction in life are being very narrow minded. Not everyone’s idea of success involves being stuck behind a desk and never leaving the town where you grew up. Some older Au Pairs may even be professional nannies who are simply looking for an experience abroad! (My family employs a wonderful 24 year old nanny to help out with my younger siblings and she is planning to Au Pair in the future.)

That being said, I do think that the relationship with an older Au Pair is much different than it is with an Au Pair who is 19.

For starters, I am an adult and expected to be treated like one. I am professional and dependable; I do not drink and I do not party. Many of the mothers at the school have commented on how much better I am at my job than some of the younger Au Pairs and a few have even asked me if I would be willing to Au Pair for them when my contract expires. I take my job seriously and approach it with the same dedication that helped me to become a manager at such a young age.

At the same time, I expect to be treated as an employee and not taken advantage of. I am well aware of my rights. I am very independent and prefer to spend my weekends and holidays alone or with friends (although this is largely due to the fact that my host family is dysfunctional with two constantly tantruming children!lol!).

One of the biggest challenges for me has been adjusting to living in someone else’s home as I left my own home at the age of 18! I dislike that there is no escape and the children sometimes make me feel like a caged animal; clawing and ramming themselves into my door when I am off duty.

I also dislike not being able to have my friends around for a simple cup of tea or dinner (something that I enjoyed when I lived on my own.)

Overall I have no regrets and would actually recommend an older Au Pair to families who are serious about hiring a committed employee as opposed to someone young who doesn’t know when they are being taken advantage of.

Seattle Mom April 24, 2012 at 12:43 pm

I completely agree with this- older au pairs does not necessarily equal “lacking direction,” and actually, there is nothing wrong with a little exploration and career experimentation in your mid-twenties! Or hey, ever, as long as you are free from family responsibilities. I’m in my late 30s (gasp!) and if I didn’t have kids + husband I would be ready to go do something overseas for a year or two.. I did Peace Corps when I was 22, which has similarities with being an au pair. I can see doing that again someday.

Edie April 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I think at times the younger the au pair is, the easier it is for some families to take advantage of and exploit. I’m 26 and was 25 at the time I au paired. I have an education, worked in politics, had some pretty impressive internships, and was a journalist for small magazine for a bit…then got the notion that I wanted to travel. I had some money saved up, but not enough to sustain me for the length of time desired. A friend of mine told me about how she always wanted to au pair and said she had girlfriends who did it and had a great time. I also love kids, and have two nieces and a nephew, so Au pairing seemed like a great idea. I’m a very hands-on aunt. But, as soon as I got there it was a different story. I ended up staying in this tiny village in Ireland with a couple that were high earning corporate lawyers in Dublin. The father was Irish and the mother was German. The kids were extremely misbehaved. I have never seen anything like it. I now think they had serious developmental issues from their parents always being gone. The parents made up for it of course by spoiling their kids. I’m glad I was older when I au paired. I’m not sure I would have had the strength to deal with what was in store for me had I not. I grew up in a very normal corservative-ish household, where we weren’t allowed to say bad words until maybe high school when our parents became more lax. But, these kids were totally allowed to say whatever they wanted. I expressed many times that I didn’t like that the children were using foul language towards me. The family basically told me to get used to it. Having studied about exploitation in detail, I definitely know it when I see it. Au pair’s aren’t nanny’s first and foremost. Au pair’s are supposed to be equals. They are not housekeepers and certainly not personal chefs. But, that was what my host family was trying to force me to do. And the hours were ridiculous. We’re talking 12-14 hours a day. But, on occasion I would have to work up to 18 hours a day if the couple had engagements, which they often did. I tried talking to them, it didn’t work. They were so unfazed by the whole au pair thing. They’d had so many. According to the neighbor all the past au pairs left in tears. So, I too left. I’m sad to think that they are probably exploiting other poor young foreign au pairs out there. Also, it’s probably a good thing to get out as soon as your HM starts talking about the genetic superiority of her kids….creepy.

TiredDad May 2, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Older au pairs make sense to me, as they conceivably know more of what they want. If nobody else touched on it, 26 is the cutoff age for the State Department. Our first au pair was 26, had a degree in child development and was working on a masters. Our second and third were younger, and had to be told what to do and seemed kind of clueless at first. Add the language and cultural barriers at the start of any au pair’s tour, and you have a whole lot of frustration to go around.

Secondtimearound May 6, 2012 at 3:44 pm

We had an 18 year old the first time – I wil not have that again. I wanted to have a young au pair, as I was only 30 myself and felt a little insecure of having an au pair with a lot of life-experience. I also wanted to have someone who was energetic and eager to see the world. I was NOT prepared! I had forgotten how young 18 year-olds are. And how they know everything the best. And the emotions! I was so not ready for a teenager – I am so happy I have a few years to mature myself and prepare before my own children become teenagers… And then to leave my beautiful babies to this irresponsible teenager. I was so scared in the beginning, but she was very good with the kids. Not so good with lots of other things, though.
This time I chose an older au pair. Our first pick was 29 (30 is the age limit here). She let us down, and ended up with a girl who is 24. I didn’t choose them because of their age, I didn’t take it into consideration. I wanted someone who had a previous au pair experience, and of course, few teenagers have that. I had other criterias than age, but I will never again search for a teenager, OR let someone down because they are too old.

Old(er)AuPair June 7, 2012 at 10:09 pm

I believe age shouldn’t be considered to chose an au pair. I have been an AuPair before and I am applying again because I think there is still a lot of America that I don’t know.
I have several families interested in me and most of them say that it is either because of my age and experience or because of my english skills.
I was already fluent when I was 21 and AuPair for the first time, but now I work full time in a bilingual preschool in my country and my age has brought me maturity, but not only that.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 8, 2012 at 7:12 am

I would say that it’s fine to come back. What has struck me, in seeing many returning AP applications, is that the majority don’t use their first American HF as a reference. If any AP doesn’t use their first HF as a reference, I don’t bother looking any further at the application.

Aupair again June 13, 2012 at 6:34 am

It’s a little disheartening to read that some host parents may feel that an older aupair “lacks ambition”.
I spent 2 years in America with one host family and had such a great experience I decided to aupair in Europe for 1 year. Now I am back in my home country and still being within the age limits to do the return program I am strongly considering it. It’s not that I lack ambition at all! In my opinion this is the time to go out and explore the world, do everything you can while you’re decisions will only affect you. I know friends who studied right after high school and they hate what they are doing now, but that’s not to say this is the case for everyone. I think it’s just a personal choice and I don’t think age should be such a big deciding factor when picking an aupair.
I understand that some host families may be concerned with an older aupair not wanting to do things with the family, again I think this is personal choice. One of my main things I consider when choosing a host family is how included I am in the families life.
I would gladly join the host family whether it be watching television in the evenings or going for a family bbq.

So I personally think it’s about communicating with the aupair about both your needs and what you want to get out of the experience! I think you have to be on the same page. :)

newhostmom August 31, 2012 at 11:39 am

I’m curious if anyone has had success with an 18 or 19yo au pair? We are starting to look for our au pair #2 (first was 20 when she arrived) and have seen a couple of 18yos that look promising. Kids are 3 and 5 and we only need our au pair to do morning drop-off, afternoon pick-up and some evenings. Is 18 always too young?

Mom Of 2 Cool Kids August 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I wouldn’t say 18 is always too young. For me I would be nervous about an 18 year old with small kids for long periods of time since it is likely more work than they realize. But since your au pair will not have these long days regularly it is quite possible to find someone who is up for it. I’ve not had au pairs that young, but have heard of successful stories in our cluster with 18-19 year olds with very young children.

The thing I would consider heavily in your situation is their driving skills since that will be a big part of the au pair’s job. At 18 they just have not had a lot of time to develop hands on driving skills so I would focus on that during the matching process. You know your area and the challenges she will or will not face. Like will she have a hard time learning her way around in addition to getting comfortable behind the wheel with kids in the car? Or is your area easy to get around and schools close by?

Newhostmom August 31, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Thanks for this response. The driving is a good point. The older child just needs to be walked to school and the younger goes to a school about a mile away, so walking or driving depending on the time and weather. But still, I want to be comfortable with her driving if they will be in the car at all!

Should be working August 31, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Our 18-19 yr olds worked out better than the one older au pair we had. They were more ‘fun’, more used to following rules in a household, and not any more or less mature than the 24-yr-old.

Driving experience is an issue, but not all older au pairs are good drivers. I have learned that numerical age is not really a criterion for us.

Dorsi September 1, 2012 at 3:43 am

I don’t think they are too young, but I do think it is very hard to socialize in the US when you are under-21 (unless you attend college or just graduated high school and have a built-in set of friends of the same age.)

For us, we have decided to only go with 21 and up. This is not so hard — the countries we look at tend to have older APs (South America). I think the youngers come from Europe more often. We have had less luck with Europeans — they have treated this much more than a gap year, rather than an important step in their lives.

On the other hand, the older AP this year has found The Older Boyfriend, of which we are not fond of (mostly for the ways it complicates our lives). This would not have happened had she been a bit younger.

Alex September 16, 2012 at 2:12 am

What about returning Au Pairs?

I get curious sometimes about this, (even though I got into Law School this year)
When I became an Au Pair I didn’t have much figured out, I was 21 and eager to travel, I always loved kids and had experience with them since I was 15, so I saw it as a great way to exploit my ability to care for children while making one of my dreams come true (travel throughout to the US and Europe)
I had 2 glorious years, with the same family, and came back home.

Sometimes I wonder, though, would you hire a returning, successful Au Pair?

I came back home last year, sometimes I think about going back one last time before reaching the age limit the US puts for APs.
I noticed HFs who don’t want older APs feel we should have our life set already, but (in my case) being from South America, things work differently here. I still live with my mom and siblings, I’m 24 and pretty independent but can’t afford living on my own (having a roommate is not very common here)

Some of my greatest friends are actually American, you know how things work today for us with social networks such as Twitter/Tumblr (I hate FB) My love for children grows even more as I get older, and I think I’m more aware of things I couldn’t quite get when I was AP’ring my first time (even though I had the greatest relationship with my HF)

I’m being very honest here, living two years as an AP, getting paid every week money you don’t have to use for rent or groceries helps you a lot. Some might say it’s little money, I’d say it’s just enough. I backpacked Europe after my two years AP’ring WITH that money I saved, so this makes me think: I could do it one last time, hopefully find a great family (just like yourselves, I’m a big HF screener myself) provide them with the best childcare I know I can offer, and after that maybe visit other places I haven’t yet, before coming home to settle down, or maybe using that money to out down as the first payment for a house in my country.
I would love to have my own kids one day, my family, so I wonder, and I ask for your HF input, are returning APs a big no? does it count how successful their previous experiences had been? In my case, not even joking, I had 15k hours of childcare experience BEFORE becoming an AP. I know I’d love to keep traveling, but is it even worth it? Will I, at 25 next year, be considered too old?

Thank you for taking the time to read!

Taking a Computer Lunch September 17, 2012 at 8:13 am

I think I’ve said this before. I consider all applications. However, if a returning AP does not use her first HF as a reference, then I don’t consider her application at all. It makes me suspicious that things weren’t quite as rosy as the AP candidate says.

Alex September 17, 2012 at 11:34 am

Oh, no, of course using it should be a must. They even want me to go back with them but since I left they had twins (plus the 3 kids I used to care for) and my former HM is now a Stay at home mom, even though we had and still have a great relationship, I’m not comfortable with stay at home moms, it adds stress to the kids because they don’t know who’s in charge (but that’s just my opinion)

Anna September 20, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Hi Alex, you sound great. I personally look for older au pairs, and prior au pair experience (as long as the former host family’s reference is good) is a plus in my opinion.
If you plan to come again around June next year I would love to talk to you.

MommyMia September 23, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Alex,
I too would consider you because you’re older and experienced – those are big plusses for our family! We’ll be needing someone late May/early June next year! (BTW, two girls; during the school year (mid-August through mid-June) your mornings are free!)

Alex September 25, 2012 at 1:11 am

Well, I went with APC the first time and I was really happy with that agency, don’t know what agency you work with, but maybe we could email. I’ll be available by June (since I’ll be finishing some classes I’m taking atm)

Alex September 25, 2012 at 1:19 am

I meant to say Hello, but I think I did something wrong and self-cropped my comment!

Alex September 25, 2012 at 1:17 am

Hi Anna, thank you :)
I can assure you my first (and only) HF reference is great, today we keep in touch and think of each other as family;
Now, like I mentioned in another comment: I worked for APC, don’t know which agency you are though, but we could definitely email.
June/July was what I was thinking of, since I’ll be done with some classes I’m taking right now.

jessieaupair September 22, 2012 at 10:11 pm

hi im jessie im online in aupaircare! and i admit I was a little nervous because i thought that my age (26) could be hard to find a host family.. but i find this blog and feel so relax irght now because i saw the comments that the great host familys that they appreciate the age and madure person of the olders aupairs =D …and like another comment im pre-school teacher and when we decide become aupair it this because in my person opinion that is because we love to be with children and its not a job for us its a way of life and when we will return to own country we will has a great experience to improve us

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