Would You Choose a Former Nanny as an Au Pair?

by cv harquail on March 31, 2015

Here’s a rare kind of email– a topic we have never discussed before.  I keep thinking there are none of these left, and then >boom< one of them lands in my inbox.

I‘m currently working as a nanny. I would really really love to come and do an au pair year in America. I love reading your blog and hearing the employers side and point of view and was wondering if you could help me tap into the sage advice of the experienced host moms.

patron-marypoppins-566A bit of background about me: I’m from (an English-speaking country) originally and I’ve just turned 25. I have a psychology degree, and have been nannying since I finished my degree in 2011. I’ve nannied in London and in the the Middle East.   I did a season as a summer camp counselor in the midwest and loved living in the USA.

I’d love to come and do another year. I am conscious of the fact that I only have until I turn 27 to do so and I’m also aware that with my current choice of careers an au pair visa really is the only way into the States for me.     

In this respect I really would be using the programe because I want to come to America for a year (I don’t need to improve my English or anything like that). I know that families don’t like it when an au pair just wants to come and live in America for a year so that makes me worried. With my passports I can go pretty much anywhere in the world to work and America is one of the places I want to go to and can’t without the au pair program.

In terms of ‘being part of the family’ (a huge aspect of the program and something I see discussed here a lot) I’m looking for a balance. I don’t want to be in a families pocket all the time but I’m not looking to race out the door the minute I’m off either – I am happy to chat over dinner most nights of the week or head to the local pool/park for a picnic.

In some ways I would be an easy candidate because many of the worries that host families have about candidates I’ve already worked through/ wouldn’t be an issue for example: I live in already (have been a live in nanny since 2012), have lived away from home, 45 hours will be less than I currently work and I am a nanny so I know what its like to spend all day with a baby (or a baby and a toddler).

I currently look after a 4 month old baby (so would qualify for the extraordinaire program?) and would be looking to start the program in September when my current position finishes.

So I guess my question is would I be able to have a successful year? Would a family be interested in hosting me?  Or am I setting myself up for disappointment?

Sorry, now I’ve written it out there seems like a whole bunch of information some of which may not be super relevant but you will know better than I.

Thanks so much

Parents, I will sell her email address to the highest bidder. (Who says there’s no way to monetize this blog!)


Image of Modern Mary Poppins, by Michael Sanders from PatronOf Dreams blog.


TexasHM March 31, 2015 at 6:43 pm

Lol CV! I don’t think host parents dislike it when APs just want to come to the US for a year it’s more when the APs have no idea what they want to do with their life and their friend is coming here so they think they should too! :). We have had au pairs come for many reasons and we fully realize that being able to work and travel in the United States is the major draw of the program. Also she clearly shows an interest in children and tons of full-time experience soI would be much less worried about taking this candidate. As far as the balance with the family that’s really easy you just have to be clear upfront about your expectations and your desired relationship and be honest. In this case she’s got awesome qualifications and speaks English so she could likely have her pick of families, I would encourage her to screen hard and not settle!

Multitasking Host Mom March 31, 2015 at 8:39 pm

OP, don’t sell yourself short! You have child care experience that most parents with a young child would love to see in an application. You sound mature and thoughtful. The only ones who would be setting themselves up for disappointment would be the families you have to turn down since you can only pick one! I wonder why you are worried about being a good canidate for the AP program? Am I missing something? You sound great to me.

Now to address your specific concerns.
You mention you only want to come to the U.S. because you want to live here. Honey, that is why all of my APs have come to the U.S. After all they could go anywhere in the world (including other English speaking countries) and they pick America. (Often it is because they have seen too many Hollywood movies, but that is another topic….) So I wouldn’t see this as being an issue. I only worry about this if when interviewing the AP I get the feeling like they are using the AP program as a way to get here and then want to remain illegally. I am sure that is not the case with you, right.
You also mention you want balance in regards to you time with the host family. Just be honest about what you want and I am sure you will find a family that is also looking for that kind of relationship. For example, we eat dinner with our AP which we enjoy hanging out and catching up on the day. Then they are often out the door to either work out or go out with friends.
As for the extraordinaire program, you would most likely qualify, but would need to confirm that. There are only a few agencies that offer that designation….and thus have the AP earn a stipend above the standard amount. I guess you are use to the higher salary and want to continue making something close to it? One other thing, don’t hesitate too much longer getting your application in with an agency. I would think it would take a little bit of time to get everything completed with an agency, and most families looking for a September arrival will be matching by the beginning of the summer. Good luck!

German Au-Pair April 1, 2015 at 6:55 am

Isn’t the issue with only wanting to come to America that many girls don’t even like working with children and just use the program to live in America? Since you clearly already have interest in working with children -and experience- why would that be an issue?

Taking a Computer Lunch April 1, 2015 at 7:05 am

A candidate with your experience will probably have her pick of families. However, you may be starting your application too late if you want a September arrival, but if you hop on it and gather the necessary materials, you might be able to arrive then. HF are now starting to interview for September arrivals – most will match well before the 6 week pre-arrival deadline (except perhaps for first-time host families with newborns).

APIA has the Extraordinnaire category (other agencies may have a two-tiered system, but I’ve only used APIA in my 15 years of hosting) – for men and women with two years of childcare experience gained through practical experience or employment (not babysitting). Infant Qualified (and other similiar terms used by other agencies) are for women with documented experience working with infants (not just babysitting).

As for the one-year maximum – you’ve described nearly 80% of au pairs from Europe – it’s the others who want to stay as long as possible, in my experience.

DarthaStewart April 1, 2015 at 7:33 am

I’m guessing you’ll have families fighting over you with your qualifications.

ProPair April 1, 2015 at 10:47 am


IamAuPairMama April 1, 2015 at 7:55 am

Can u send me her email address? Lol! I’m interested!

NJ Mama April 1, 2015 at 10:02 am

I think it’s great that you’ve thought through the kind of family you’re looking for! When I interview I talk to an au pair a lot about her expectations of being part of the family or not. I think everyone’s expectation and definition of that is different.Does the au pair want to be completely on her own? Or does she want to interact with the family a bit? Does she want to be a like a big sister or aunt to my kids? Or does she just want this to be a job?

This balance goes both ways. When I say I want an au pair who wants to be “part of the family,” it certainly doesn’t mean that I want her to spend every minute with us. What it means to me is that the au pair is excited to see the kids and excited to talk about her day or her weekend with us — someone who takes the time out to just say, “How was your day?” when I get home from work. Not someone who practically runs me over when I walk through the door so she can leave. And I also want an au pair who is excited to talk to me about how her day or weekend was. The au pair is living with my family – I want to have some sort of relationship with her.

And while I prefer an au pair who doesn’t leave the second she’s off duty, I also want the au pair to go out, make friends and have a good year here. I’ve found the best balance has come from au pairs who start out spending Sunday dinner with us for the first few weeks, and then pretty much have plans for every weekend after–not because I don’t want to see them, but because I know that she’s making the most of her time here. Where it can get difficult is when the au pair just sort of disappears, whether she’s in the house or not, when she’s off duty.

Now here’s the thing — I know there are families that prefer au pairs who sort of disappear when they’re off duty. So I’ll tell au pair candidates that, so they can think about what it is that they want.

Separate but somewhat related, especially for older au pairs, is that I’ll tell them that I am a big one for rules. And I explain the kinds of rules that I have. Then I will tell them that every family is different – some don’t have curfews or car curfews. But we do and here’s why. And I tell the au pair that she should think about that also. Is she OK with house rules? Or would she prefer a different kind of family?

So again, I think what you wrote shows to me that you are very realistic about what your expectations are. In addition, it also sounds like you have wonderful childcare experience. I for one am more wary of the person who wants to be an au pair to travel in the US who doesn’t have a whole lot of childcare experience or realistic expectations about what the job part of the program is about.

I think a family would be lucky to have you. And I’m kinda sad that I’ve already found my next au pair. Good luck!

Mimi April 1, 2015 at 10:52 am

I think you would be an ideal candidate for a wide variety of families and should definitely seek out the opportunity. You should have your pick of families or locations and should think ahead of time what kind of expectations you have for your experience in the US, like NJMama said. You might also try to anticipate some of the questions that prospective HFs might ask about your plans once you age out of the program. Some may be uncomfortable if they get the impression that you will try to emigrate via the program. As TACL mentioned, you might be a little behind with a September arrival, but some agencies are now allowing HFs to screen candidates with their applications in progress (CCAP is one).

Good luck and let us know how it works out.

ProPair April 1, 2015 at 10:56 am

I think you should start searching! Being an au pair is awesome. Give yourself lots of time to find the family that fits your description. My only advice would be: go into the experience with a clean slate. I’ve au paired for two families and both are wonderful. For people with previous live-in experience, I think the best practice is to try not to compare families/locations etc., because each experience is going to be unique. I also think this would be the only reservation a family might have about someone with lots of experience (just like an employer might have reservations about hiring someone who has worked for another company for 15 straight years because they may have unbreakable habits), so be flexible.

Good luck, and enjoy the US!

WarmStateMomma April 1, 2015 at 12:22 pm

OP – I would make clear in your AP application materials what you’re looking for in a host family and community. I personally wouldn’t respond to your application because you’re clearly going to have your pick of families and I would assume you aren’t interested in any location other than NYC/DC/California after living in London and the Middle East. I would also assume you are only going to match with a family that can offer more luxurious digs/perks than my family can offer. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if what you’re looking for is not typical, you may want to state that up front so that you don’t prevent a good potential match from contacting you.

You probably also want to choose an agency that allows you to talk to multiple host families at once.

I would also be concerned that your established/ingrained child care practices are different from mine and that you would be less likely to adopt mine than someone with no real experience. You may want to address this in some way in your materials to ensure that you and your future host family are on the same page.

marisa2123 April 1, 2015 at 2:04 pm

APIA also offers a prematch option as well. So if she finds a family before signing up with an agency that is an option and she may be able to get her by her desired arrival date. I believe there are also discount to applied for HF if that is used.

nannytoaupair? April 5, 2015 at 12:06 am

I am the OP/letter writer.

No I don’t want to stay illegally! America is the long haul stop over for flying from my home country to Europe so I have no desire to piss off immigration! As I age out of the programme I will be looking for my next country. :)

I love this blog and spend a fair amount of time on it as I love how levelheaded everyone is. I think I assumed that I wouldn’t be a great candidate because everyone mentions girls who ‘want to be part of the family’ then disappear which I know isn’t what I am looking for. I think its really interesting that it was mentioned that I might be less malleable in terms of slotted into a families current childcare practices [I would also be concerned that your established/ingrained child care practices are different from mine and that you would be less likely to adopt mine than someone with no real experience].

I’m not really sure how to address this as there are most definitely things I’m less open to doing having seen how they don’t work/impact the children. For example I don’t believe in smacking, am not a fan of yelling, have an issue with some of the current popular baby routine guides (not that I don’t believe a baby should be in a routine I just disagree with some of the guides). To be honest I’m hoping that when I go looking for a family their parenting ideals/methods match up fairly closely to mine.

I don’t think I’ve bought too closely about exactly where I want to be. I think I would probably give more weight to a family that travels frequently than to one in NYC or Cali

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