Summer Au Pair Programs: Anyone tried them?

by cv harquail on April 5, 2009

Summer Au Pair Programs are kind of a new thing … or at least they are new to me. The agency we’ve used hasn’t offered that program, and I’ve only recently become aware that there are several agencies in the US now doing this officially. And, not to forget, there are many au pairs and families who make these mikebeard flickr.jpg arrangements informally.

I can certainly see the appeal of a "summer only" situation, espcially for families who have before and after-school childcare covered during the school year but who need full-time help during summer vacation. I imagine too that some families would be interested so that they could ‘test drive’ the experience of having an au pair.

But I don’t know how families balance the training needs of an au pair with the short time that a summer au pair is with you. I’ve never felt completely comfortable that my au pairs know what to do until after about 6-8 weeks with them, and spending the energy to help them learn everything from how to use the washer to what string cheese is only seems to pan out if I can count on having her for another 9 months or so.

  • Has anyone ever had a "summer only" au pair?
  • Would you recommend this as a way to ‘test drive’ having an au pair?
  • Have you got any advice for parents who are interested in trying this?
  • Or, do you have questions to ask parents with experience?

Do tell….

{ 8 comments }

sunnyvah April 6, 2009 at 4:18 am

Unfortunately its late and I really need to got o bed, but I´ ll be gone without internet for a week so I need to throw my 2cent in here now:
My au pair- experience was a little bit rough and caused by illness I had to go back home after 6 month. As I still had quite some time till university started, i decided to go away for another 3 month in Europe. Let me tell you, this wasn´ t an easy decision as I was kind of branded with the bad experience, but I liked (and like) the idea of going abroad, living in another culture and love spending time with kids…. So I went for 3 month to Ireland and it was the best decision I made. I had the same thoughts as you had (such a short time, how should that work with the kids and me getting into routine…) I think it is a different situation. We all knew it was for 3 month and were prepared for the short length of time. I can´ t really say HOW it worked but it just did. I was quick in the routine of the family and we all got used to each other very quickly. Maybe it was helpful, that i was an au pair before- on the other hand I was the first (the try-out-au pair ;) ) for the family. Maybe we just “clicked”…. Anyway, it was a great experience and the best 3 month I had :D

Justbn April 6, 2009 at 9:27 am

I’m kindna experiencing a summer Au Pair except it’s not me, my 22yr old daughter going to Spain for 3 months during the summer. She’s excited & hopeful and learning through information here. All the experience located in one place is great. One nagging concern is how do you really know the family is who they say they are?

Anonymous April 6, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Another version of this would be to match with a 2nd yr (ext) au pair for 6 months or so and have that time cover the summer. There are some 2nd yr au pairs listed on our agency’s website that are available to start in June and can extend for 6 months. Just a thought. The fee is pro-rated.

Calif Mom April 6, 2009 at 11:33 pm

From an AP’s perspective, this could be a real bummer. My LCC says that August is the Month of Rematch because there is no love left after 45+ hour work weeks spent with bored, snarly kids to haul around. And I’m sure it’s being marketed to the girls as a way to see the States (there’s that Grand Canyon thing again!).

As a host mom, Something about it makes me uneasy. A few concerns: 1) language would not have time to really get smooth and 2) I would have to let a lot of things slide. My hunch is it would be the Summer of Junk Food as a Tool to Placate and Bribe Children into Doing What They’re Told. Kids would be happy with that, but maybe not the best precedent! I’m also thinking there would be a lot of illicit TV watching going on, with the AP and kids in cahoots. 3) My fear is that it would take an awful lot of hands-on management but, as CVH points out, without the payoff of having someone trained up and in coasting mode for the next 9 months. and 4) I think it would be easy for host families to be taken advantage of, especially if you are letting them use your car for 3 months — all the world’s a party in the summer…. Maybe if you just need someone to drive older kids (pre-teens on up) around town and kind of pal around with them at the pool, it would be fine. But you would absolutely be on the hook to bring them with you on your summer trip — from what I have seen, travel is a big part of why many APs want to come to the States.

NYHost April 7, 2009 at 3:34 pm

I have looked into Summer Au Pair program briefly, and did not seem like a very cost effective program to me. For the price I can get my two kids into summer camp and not have to deal with training new AP and/or having another person in the house who may not be a good match (and there is no time to rematch).

Also, I noted that summer AP programs are actually much longer then the summer vacation. The programs are 3-4 months, where as school summer break is only 2 months. So, it is not clear to me how that would be balanced as well. What will AP be doing when kids are still/again in school and you don’t need her?

I also looked into Educare program. That is something that may work for us in about 2 years, as those AP’s only work 30 hours per week. However, when the time comes, I will need to reassess that program. I wasn’t sure that it is cost effective either, when I read about it.

Jillian April 7, 2009 at 10:46 pm

My family had a summer au pair and it worked out fairly well. For the most part my kids were going to summer camps so the au pair tasks involved a lot of driving around. The real issue that we had involved the au pair’s activity level. While she was happy to take the kids to the park and the pool, she didn’t want to get involved in their play. She would sit on the bench or the side of the pool and just watch the kids.

I’d say summer au pairs are worth it but make sure that if you want your kids to have someone to run around with, make sure you say that in the interviews.

Christine Connally April 15, 2009 at 3:28 am

Great topic. I am a Community Counselor with Au Pair in America. I get people asking about Summer Au Pairs from time to time. We don’t offer a Summer Program, for a number of reasons. I posted on my blog about this topic recently.

Here are the main drawbacks as I see it.

#1 Cost Compared to Standard Au Pairs
Agencies that offer summer only au pairs have an average weekly cost of $365-$390 per week. That is $30-$55 more than our standard au pairs. Over the course of the summer, that is $480-$770 more.

#2 Building a Relationship
When an au pair arrives, you spend time getting to know her, showing her how you do things in your family, getting her settled in and helping her registering for classes. It makes more sense to invest that time and energy into someone who will be with you for 12 months or even 24 months (with the extension program option.)

#3 Missing out on the Convenience/Value of a Year Round Au Pair
Most families who use an au pair for summer childcare, use another form of childcare during the rest of the school year, such as before and after school care. With before and after school care instead of an au pair, you may spend the same or more (depending on the number of kids) and you don’t have the flexible scheduling, care for your children on sick days and school holidays, care in your own home, someone who can drive your children to extracurricular activities and help with childcare related housekeeping and childrens laundry or the enrichment of language and culture.

That’s why I think that families who are considering summer only au pairs may want to look into the full year program.

Anna May 12, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Hi, I have read all the responses here and have a few things to say towards the families’ expectations and worries about summer au-pairs. I myself did this job 4 times before, and it wasn’t always 3-4 months, it ranged from 6 to 10 weeks.
As I see, families worry with establishing friendship between them and the au-pair, teaching her all the things, improving her language etc… well I can tell you this: becoming friends with the family took me not more than 2-3 days! If you are a good match (for which obviously you have to watch out especially with summer au-pair), it doesn’t take long. Teaching things to the au-pair? Well, I would never be a summer au-pair if I didn’t have A LOT OF experience in everything that I am supposed to do in the family, from childcare to housekeeping, ironing and cooking. Ask your prospective au-pair if she has this experience already. And regarding language, a summer au-pair should already have good language skills! If she doesn’t have them, just don’t hire her. She should also be very independent, I always was in terms of getting to know the place, I didn’t expect the family to guide me everywhere, just went exploring by myself.
I had to change my family once (see? I didn’t check out whether we are a good match :)) and went to another family, where I could spend only one month. This was the best family ever. We became friends in a few minutes with the little girl and in one day with the parents. I got sole charge of her for half an hour just after I met the mother and the girl (I’d known the father already for a week) and this was the best thing they could do!! (but, yeah, they were quite brave by doing this :-)).
So, my recommendation is, don’t worry but be twice considerate when choosing a summer au-pair.

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