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I would like to dispel the myths and misconceptions about hiring nannies vs. au pairs. While I am obviously biased towards nannies, I have compiled information from the industry leaders’ websites to give you an accurate portrayal of the costs and benefits of each. I recognize that while we only place domestic nannies, this choice may not be perfect for everyone. So what’s the difference between a nanny and an au pair?
There are many different ways to define the job description of a nanny; for the purposes of this article, we are going to go with my basic definition. Our nannies are typically American Citizens who are working as live-in or live-out caregivers in the homes of families. Nannies perform childcare duties, simple housekeeping duties (pick up, laundry, dishes, vacuuming, making beds, etc.), household management duties (grocery shopping, small errands, etc.) and often transport children to and from activities. Au Pairs are typically foreign nationals who legally obtain a visa to live and work as a domestic care provider in the United States for one year and always live with the hiring family. The duties and expectations of an au pair are exactly the same as that of a nanny; the title essentially differentiates a domestic nanny from a foreign nanny. For more information on what duties you can expect your nanny to perform, please visit our "What Does a Nanny Do?" article.
So if the job descriptions are the same, how are nannies and au pairs different? I will break this down for you in four specific areas:
Nanny vs. AuPair; The Costs & Benefits
- Background/DMV & Reference Checks
- Communication/Cultural Differences
- Commitment/Length of Stay
There is a huge misconception that nannies are more expensive than au pairs and many families chose an au pair simply because of the perceived financial benefits. I too once thought nannies were more expensive than au pairs until I started to break down the costs and look into the actual fees associated with hiring a foreign caregiver. In fact, our nannies are actually less expensive than hiring an au pair. An average weekly cost of having a foreign au pair is $370 - $400. This includes the agency fees but does not include nanny travel, which can be in the thousands when hiring a nanny from overseas. After factoring in the average travel costs you’re looking at spending around $450/week for a beginner au pair.
Our nannies start around $400/week. If you take our agency services fee averaged out over the year and the typical travel cost of around $250, you’re looking at about $450 a week for everything! No hidden fees and no additional costs at all. In fact, if you’re looking for your au pair to stay longer than a year it can be an additional $6000-$8000 and there is no option of keeping them past two years. At Your Child's Nanny, your nanny can stay with you for as long as you both chose with no additional fees ever. You only pay us once and your nanny salary of around $400/week is your only ongoing expense. We also have a proprietary formula for helping families determine an appropriate salary based on your criteria, needs and expectations. We can almost always find a nanny for the budget conscious family as well.
Another factor to be aware of is that au pairs have restrictions on the number of hours they work each week. Your au pair can actually be removed from your home if you fail to fall within these guidelines (usually 40 hours per week). Nannies are “free agents” and can work as many hours as agreed to in the Work Agreement created for you by Your Child's Nanny. Au pairs may also require an education stipend and may be required to attend classes paid for by your family while in the US.
BACKGROUND CHECKS/REFERENCE CHECKS/DRIVING:
The background and reference checks are a high priority for the families that hire our nannies. It is, of course, important to make sure your nanny comes to you with the highest credentials and recommendations. Background checks for foreign au pairs are only as good as the record systems of the country reporting them. Each au pair is asked to provide her own background check from the country in which she resides. At Your Child's Nanny, we perform an in-house background check on every nanny, propagated from her SSN, eliminating the possibility of missing out on the smaller jurisdictions. We are pretty familiar with how our judicial system works, it is presumptuous to assume that the country you are hiring a nanny from has the same reporting systems for criminal activity, sex offenses and civil issues.
Our placement coordinators are trained to speak with each reference at length and to notice hesitations and pick up on nuances in order to obtain the most accurate and honest references on every single nanny. One of the reasons we have chosen to only work with American nannies is because of the importance of this step. It is virtually impossible to obtain references from overseas due to language and time zone barriers. As a matter of fact, none of the top three au pair agencies list references as a requirement to be placed in the home of an American family. Actual verbal and written references are one of the first things we complete on our nannies because we know that caregivers with excellent references continue to be excellent nannies. You as a hiring family will have access to all information obtained on any candidate you are considering hiring.
Most of the families we speak with need some transportation provided by their nannies for the children. While it’s obvious that motor vehicle laws are different internationally, the impact of hiring an au pair without much driving experience in her own country (let alone ours) can be catastrophic. Small disparities such as unfamiliar road signs, different traffic laws and new speed restrictions make a huge impact when misunderstood by someone unfamiliar with driving in the United States. We obtain a full driving report from each nanny’s home state with a detailed description of her driving history for every family. Nannies who work with us must have good driving records and a fair amount of experience driving domestically.
The number one reason for a failed placement is lack of communication. While there are definite advantages of hiring a foreign au pair with respect to language, it can also be a giant barrier. Wanting your children to learn a foreign language is a great reason for wanting to hire an au pair. Unfortunately, many times your great intentions of an international experience can turn to frustration and regret when it becomes difficult to communicate basic ideas and philosophies. While all au pairs will speak English, the differences between the textbook English and real life application can definitely be a challenge in your home.
Cultural differences are one of the biggest advantages of hiring an au pair. What a great way for your child and family to have some exposure to another culture and a new set of experiences. While I know that being exposed to a culture outside of our own is a great experience, having formerly employed an au pair myself, I can tell you that some of these cultural differences can be very difficult to navigate when to comes to the care and discipline of your children. Ideals that are culturally acceptable in another country may be unheard of in the US and vice versa. Make sure when hiring an au pair that you discuss things such as leaving children home alone, stranger danger, etc.
COMMITMENT/LENGTH OF STAY:
It’s important to determine your children’s potential caregivers motivation before making a hiring decision. When we interview nannies, we are very in tune to what is motivating the candidate to apply with us. Are they looking to get out of their current environment? Save money? Is this something that they want to do simply because they have a passion for caring for children? A caregiver who is motivated for the wrong reasons regardless of their point of origin is a failed placement in waiting. Au pairs who are motivated only by the lure of coming to the United States often leave families feeling that the care of the children is secondary to exploration.
Both nannies and au pairs typically commit to a year. While signing a year contract is a good way to get a commitment from your caregiver, it does not ensure they will stay with you the entire year. Replacing an au pair from overseas can be a long and difficult process, leaving your family without childcare in the interim. Our generous replacement policy ensures a quick, free and easy replacement should one be needed. Another consideration is that extending an au pairs visa is very expensive should you decide you’d like them to stay with you an additional year. As mentioned earlier in the “cost” section, it can be very expensive to have your au pair stay with you and even if permitted to obtain a longer visa, it’s only for an additional 12 months. A nanny from Your Child's Nanny can stay with you indefinitely at no additional cost.
It is important for each family to determine their exact needs when hiring a caregiver for their children. There are fabulous girls both foreign and domestic that can make excellent live-in care providers. Minimize your risk by asking the right questions from the agency you chose to work with. Any agency you decide to work with should be able to answer the tough questions and make you feel at ease.
Contact one of our placement coordinators to hire your nanny today!
TOP 100 Moms in Business Competition
We are proud be winners of the 2014 Top 100 Moms in Business. We came in #19 out of over 300 business entries. We are a business run by moms and our focus is servicing moms and families with the best live-in nannies nationwide.