It has definitely been helpful having her around especially with three very young kids. Reasons why we decided to try the au pair program:
- Wanted to expose our kids to speaking Mandarin at a young age so they can be bilingual (actually trilingual with the Taiwanese dialect or eventually quadrilingual with Korean)
- Wanted to share our family and culture with someone from a different background (even though we are all Asian, growing up and living in two different countries really does bring out differences)
- Having someone live-in helps us not worry about a babysitter or nanny not being able to get to our house if there is heavy snow (though we had a super mild winter this year!)
- Flexible schedule to accommodate my husband's travel schedule (we've basically moved hours around so that we can get help when we need it the most... sometimes that is on weekends)
- Affordable! (definitely one of the more affordable ways to get child care compared to daycare or nanny agencies etc)
What have we accomplished this year?
- Kids definitely picked up Mandarin. My oldest is pretty fluent. It did take her about 1 week to adjust. My second child understands but responds back in English. We'll see... maybe we will need another year of this... Third kid is not yet speaking so we'll see next year...
- It's been fun sharing our life with our au pair.. I don't get to spend a ton of time with her but it has been really neat to get to know her as a person. Plus, she told me she has been exposed to Christianity in more ways than just through our family... this is something that may not have happened if she never came to the States to live with us
- Less craziness for my mom, myself, and my husband when there is another pair of hand... sometimes it just means my youngest can get a 2 hr nap in his crib at home while I run errands because otherwise he sleeps for 30 min in the carseat...
So we're trying to figure out what to do next year... options include:
- continue the au pair program another year
- go back to local nannies or babysitters
- try a more traditional live-in housekeeper/nanny (older maybe more experienced)
I was just talking to another host family the other day and we both agreed it would be helpful to have some sort of host family forum. We would be able to share ideas and experiences to strive towards improved au pair experience.
Overall our experience has been pretty positive. So we'll see what happens next year...