If you are a working parent, or are considering having children in the near future, you will no doubt have thought “How am I going to balance my career when I have children?”
There seem to be a multitude of options when it comes to childcare, such as long day care and family day care, but when you start investigating the associated costs of childcare, it can be extremely costly.
Nicole Kofkin from Smart Au Pairs Australia believes that international au pairs hold the key to affordable childcare in Australia.
An au pair is a young person from a foreign country who lives with your family in exchange for helping out with looking after the children.
Generally they work from 25 to 35 hours a week in exchange for accommodation, meals and a weekly allowance which is currently recommended to start from $170 per week.
While an au pair is in no way meant to provide full time childcare for very young children (as they are not supposed to be the sole carer of children younger than 12 months), Nicole says they are an excellent option if you have more than one child, or require before or after school care in order to maintain your working hours.
Instead of rushing to and from school and work for what seems like most of your day, an au pair could get the children ready for school, make their lunches and take them to school while you get to work. Then when the school day ends, your au pair can be there when the bell rings and get the children home, whether that’s by walking, using public transport or with use of a family car.
Before and after school care can significantly lengthen the school day for children, and is yet another change of environment for the day.
By hosting an au pair who can take care of school pick up and drop off, you can help to maintain a stable routine and shorter school day for your child.
Nicole recognises that some people think that hosting an au pair to help with childcare is exploitative but this is often just a case of misinformation – au pairs receive free accommodation and all meals while they are hosted by a family and often get extra perks like use of a family car or a contribution towards travel costs and some even get a mobile phone to use.
They are also meant to be treated as one of the family, as that is literally what au pair means – equal to or on par – and they are not meant to be treated like ‘the help’.
Pocket money is also based on the number of hours they agree to work per week, so can be negotiable with the family depending on their needs and the number of hours the au pair wants to work.
A reputable au pair agency can help to guide you on what rate of pocket money would be suitable for the agreed hours. Most au pairs care for school aged children, so after the children have been dropped at school, they usually have the rest of the day at leisure until it’s time to collect the kids in the afternoon.
Working hours are spread across the week as well, and can include some evening babysitting.
Have you ever used an Au Pair? Please share your experiences below in the comments.