Would you recommend an Au Pair to…

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by cv harquail on February 5, 2009

… Dads with infant twins?

advice for host families dad twins

I often get calls from people who are friends of friends of friends who want to learn more about au pairs as a child care option.

Yesterday, I got an email from f-o-f-o-f who are expecting twins any day now. Beyond hiring a baby nurse for the first several weeks, they haven’t made any firm plans about childcare, and they wanted to learn more about having an au pair.

Skipping over the part that their twins are almost here, and recognizing that you can’t leave infants under 3 months with an au pair anyway—

Would you recommend Au Pair care to a family with twin infants?

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That’s what I thought.

Here’s my take on it:

Caring for an infant is hard work, and caring for twin infants is more than twice as hard as caring for one.
(Baby algebra: 1 baby’s care + 1 baby’s care + coordination challenges = 2x + y.)

While some young women are up to the special challenges of caring for babies (vs. toddlers vs. tweens…), I think that it is a very rare young woman (or young man) who could handle two babies between the ages of 3 mos. and 15 months.

Do you think I’m selling au pairs short here? Or do you agree?

Weigh in, and I’ll gather up your comments to send to these dads-to-be.

(Yes, A, the image of the ‘dude with twins’  is especially for you :-) )


Anna February 5, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Recently I would have answered “no”, but just a few weeks ago I “met” an au pair candidate on one of au pair forums, who is a nurse working in a baby/infant hospital ward, who babysat twins from infancy on the side. She would be capable of handling more than two infants at a time, definitely. She is in the process of interviewing with families but I think she might be still available..
So I picked “yes – knowing they will have to search long and hard…”

pdx_mama February 5, 2009 at 10:39 pm

We have had the pleasure of hosting three great APs and one not-so-great AP. Initially, when we had only 2 kids (now we have 3), we used APs for primary childcare. Indeed, it was our ONLY source of childcare. What worries me these days is that we have hosted enough APs to realize that, in most cases, they are not professional childcare providers. Most (true, not all) have some babysitting experience and that’s about it—at least in the two agencies with which we’ve worked.

So, what works best for us is using the AP as a “parent’s helper” and very, very little as primary childcare. This is not an option that works for everyone and indeed, may not work for us forever b/c having multiple sources of childcare is crazy expensive. BUT, we have had vastly more success and what seems to be less AP burnout (3 boys ages 10 months, 3 and 5) if they are helping side-by-side in managing the chaos, rather than being all alone all day long with the kiddos. —Just our experience.

D February 5, 2009 at 10:51 pm

It all depends on the au pair. :) Not any au pair is alike. As long as the au pair is very experienced with infants, loves them….this should be fine. (barring the children are over 3 mos of course) when I say experienced, like raising a younger sibling or caring for close family members child multiple times & long durations. Matching an au pair to the family is just as important as matching them to the kids….some au pairs LOVE babies! INTERVIEW thoroughly.

We have 3 kids… and our au pair is our primary childcare 8 -5 M-F. And My husband & I work full-time. We’ve had an au pair since my Daughter was 5 mos old. At that time….the kids were 5 mos, 2 1/2, 4 1/2. We’ve not had problems with baby care at all. In fact both au pairs handle my baby perfect! We’ve only had issues with au pairs in regards to driving concerns & vacations. LOL

Deb Schwarz February 5, 2009 at 10:55 pm

I have had 14 au pairs over the last 8 years and I’m also a local coordinator for Cultural Care – and I definitely vote YES! We had TRIPLETS plus an 20 month old when we got our first au pair 8 years ago. She had worked with quads and managed our four littles ones with ease (unlike me!). OK – I know that was the exception – but our other au pairs did a great job, too (I think they all deserve a medal!) There were a few that didn’t cut the mustard, but we moved on from them quickly I got very good at screening au pair applications. After a few months, given our extreme situation and given how much we loved our au pairs, we went with two au pairs at a time to cover more hours. (my husband got grumpy if we were left alone with all four – I can totally relate to the program Jon and Kate plus Eight and when they get grumpy!) And both my husband and I work so we didn’t get “mother’s helpers”. Given my experience, I now help twins and triplets families across the nation to find the right au pair. I do this as my “feel good job” and the last thing I want to do is to cause more stress as I know first hand, how desperately these family need good help. I have placed au pairs in a family with TWO sets of twins…..yup, it is possible, but your local coordinator and matching specialist have to have an eye for the right applications. It never takes me more than a few weeks to find the right one (luckily CC has twice the number of applications of other agencies and have a one-on-one matching system so other families can’t snap up the great twin applications). Feel free to email me and I’ll tell you the list that I use to screen….and how I find the right au pairs for Multiples families. Twins family need an au pair more than anyone!

Jan January 9, 2010 at 4:34 am

Hi Deb,

My God baby’s mom has just had twins in October and my God baby was a year old in August. Needless to say it is very busy in their home right now. Do you think an au pair would be right for this young family? Could you offer suggestions on finding the right match?


'sota gal January 9, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Wow, I wish I would have read your post sooner. We have 3 yo twins plus a 7 yo and have had an au pair since right after our twins turned 1. It has been a struggle to find au pairs that can handle multiple, as you well know, and we have struggled over the last year with finding the right match at times. It also seems as though our “matching experts” aren’t always able to assist in finding quality candidates. After talking to many of them I have learned that most do not have children themselves and I think you have a completely different perspective on applications once you have your own. At one point their best advice was to find a girl who had worked in a day care because they had experience with multiple children…lets just say that didn’t work out as she had NEVER taken care of a child in their home and had no idea how to manage her day, even with my rigid routine for the twins.

cynthia February 5, 2009 at 11:13 pm

I have 9 month old twins that my au pair has been watching since they were 4 months old. She is my primary source of childcare. Initially I worked about half the hours and gave her many breaks. The more comfortable I became the more she has watched them. The usually has them about 30 + hours a week and only a few times about 40 hours a week.

Here’s my thought, these are my first kids, I never cared for twins before, nor had I ever babysat infants before. Quite frankly, my au pair had more experience with babies than I did. With any au pair, you’re not paying for a licensed childcare professional, you’re paying for a “babysitter”. Sure, there are more things I’d like her to do with them but I am cognizant that she is busy and not a licensed daycare provider. It’s a sacrifice I have made in order to have care available in my home.
The most important thing is that I trust her with my kids. I know she loves them, and what she is lacking in experience, she makes up in the way she treats my kids, which is what I personally feel is very important.

MomLulu February 7, 2009 at 3:51 am

Absolutely YES! I have several families with infant twins and their au pairs worked out great! And finding the right match doesn’t have to take months (the part of finding, it does take 6 – 10 weeks for the au pairs arrive to the family). It also depends what other requirements (other than childcare experience) families have. Just finding the right agency and a good team (lcc and placement managers) and in 2 – 3 months the au pair is in the home.

Angie February 7, 2009 at 7:00 am

Yes! Pray a lot and screen well! :) My twins are almost 8 months old and our decision to get an au pair was made after the twins were born. I am a stay-at-home mom and my husband travels a lot for work, so my job is to provide for the little ones 24/7. With 4 under 4, it is pretty much impossible for me to get it all done when he is away. Having an au pair has been a great way to get it all done, keep everyone happy and maintain my sanity by still having some “me” time.
I do believe that sometimes it is trial and error though. Screening several candidates and thinking you’ve found just the right one may not be the case once you see them in action. It takes a special person to “want” to be with your children all day long, manage multiples when they need to be fed, bathed, etc. while actually enjoying their job and still wanting to be a part of your family when the work day is done. I’m grateful we have finally found someone who understands the day to day chaos and still wants to spend time with us outside of her working hours! :)

Ann February 7, 2009 at 8:53 am

My vote is yes. I don’t have twins, I have only one child (4 year old daughter), but have been using au pairs as my child’s sole and primary source of full-time care since she was 2 and am completely satisfied. I don’t have much more childraising experience than my au pairs and I don’t expect them to be professional nannies. We live and learn together. I ensure the AP’s success by being very involved – we work out a weekly schedule of activities, curriculum “themes” and goals, and possible playdates together. I ask her to call me at work at lunch to check in – and we have a weekly house meeting with my husband. We view it as we three are equal in parenting my daughter and we need to synchronize what we three are doing with her in terms of discipline and expectations. On the days that the AP and my daughter are together for a full day I also have usually scheduled one class or activity that the AP must take my daughter to – this gets them both outside the house and gives them both social exposure. And we live in an area where it’s easy to drop in to the library for story hour, walk to a park with a playground, etc. So I set the general childraising structure and goals and then she has freedom to be creative and independent with the details within that structure. Each au pair has her strengths and weaknesses and I just adjust and try to get her to give it the best she personally can.

sunnyvah February 7, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Aren´t there some programs which are especially for au pairs who are nurses/ kindergarten teacher and stuff like that? They would be perfect I think.
And a girl I met at university ( I study one of these subjects where a lot of former au pairs/ backpackers are :) ) was an au pair for infant twins and 2 older boys. She´s from a family with 5 (or 6) children and she is one of the older ones, so she is “used” to babys.

Lina March 9, 2009 at 10:16 pm

It´s such a hard question. I want to go as an au pair myself and I´ve been thinking about this quite a lot. I work with children between the ages 1-5 and I “know” these ages. But still, I would need my hostfamily to know that I´m not a mom; Because I haven´t got that experience, I think it´s quite hard to take care of children under the age of 6 months. There are so many signs you have to recognize and understand; As far as I´ve seen these signs get more legible the older the children get. And at the age of about 6 months I think it´s easier to understand the “baby-signs”.
So I wouldn´t like to care for a child younger than six months. I want to know that I understand and can give him/her what he/she needs.
So, if you are interviewing a responsible and mature au pair; she knows her limitations. =)

That´s my thoughts around the subject! =)

Annabelly November 10, 2009 at 9:03 pm

I just read this and I didn’t know Au Pair can NOT take care of babies before 3 months! What happend is the babies (twins) born when I am in my 7 Months? Sometimes I take care of the twins by myself and of the other two kids (4 & 6 years old) AT THE SAME TIME!! And sometimes the twins cry, the kids fight and I want to cry too!! :'(

Anony November 10, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Au pairs can take care of babies less than 3 months old, as long as they are not the only adult in the home. I went back to work when my babe was 2 mos for evening shifts. My AP took care of the baby from 4pm-2am for a while, and my husband had flexible enough scheduling that he could be there the entire time.

Anabelly — are you with an American agency? I get the impression that you may not be in the States. In the U.S. this is fairly highly regulated and your agency should have told you about this.

Annabelly November 11, 2009 at 12:53 am

Yes, I am with an American Agency and I work in DC.
I usually not “alone” at home, but if the mom is taking a nap for a few hours, then (I think) I am taking care of the kids by myself! I might be wrong (?!)

AnnaAuPair November 11, 2009 at 7:10 am

As far as I understand it and as my LCC has pointed it out several times: if the AuPair is the one primarily taking care at that moment, meaning the parents or grandparents are not available immediately (which is the fact if they are asleep), then the AuPair is not allowed to take care of an infant under the age of 3 month!
So, I would say that your HM can’t just leave you alone w/ the baby and go to sleep. A possibility would be that she goes to sleep while the baby is asleep too, but as soon as the baby is awake she has to be present (or at least close) and not somewhere in the house sleeping.

Anony November 11, 2009 at 8:12 am

Actually, the Department of State guidelines say that another parent (or responsible adult) needs to be in the home. That is it. Some agencies even advocate using Au Pairs to assist with nighttime care of newborns. There is no “primarily caring for the infant” and “readily available” in the state deparment regulations. Honestly, I am just as readily available if I am sleeping than if I am in the back yard gardening, in the kitchen cooking or anything else.

NewAP Mom November 11, 2009 at 2:20 pm

Yep, that’s absolutely fine. Although twins is already a lot, and if you’re overwhelmed, Annabelly, you should probably discuss this with your host mom.

NewAP Mom November 11, 2009 at 2:21 pm

And trust me – new moms of twins DEFINITELY need the sleep.

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