Many new parents of twins and higher-order multiples are consumed with the cost of childcare. Au pairs provide quality care and flexibility at an affordable rate, all while introducing your family to new and exciting cultures. So, what exactly is an au pair, and how can they help simplify your life? We’re chatting with two host moms from Au Pair in America, the nation’s first accredited au pair program, to learn how their program can be a cost-effective childcare solution, especially for families with more than one child.
Au Pairs: Affordable Childcare for Your Twins
Please be advised, this transcription was performed by a company independent of New Mommy Media, LLC. As such, translation was required which may alter the accuracy of the transcription.
MARIA DOZEMAN: Many new parents of twins are consumed by the cost of childcare. Paying for 2 or more kids leaves many parents wondering if they even afford to go back to work, but there is another option that provides quality care and flexibility at an affordable rate, all while introducing your family to new and exciting cultures. I'm Maria Dozeman with Au Pair in America and a former host mom. And today we're talking about how au pairs can be a cost-effective child care option for all parents of twins. This is Twin Talks.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Welcome to Twin Talks, broadcasting from the Birth Education Center of San Diego. Twin Talks is your online, on the go, support group, from expecting and new parents of twins, and I'm your host, Christine Stewart Fitzgerald.
Now we know twin parents are very busy, so you can download the Twin Talks app, available on the Android, iTunes and Windows Marketplace, so you can listen to our shows when you're away from your computer. If you want to have our episodes delivered straight to you, then subscribe to our podcast through iTunes and each episode will automatically download to your mobile device. I'm going to turn this over to Sunny, and talk about our virtual panelist program.
SUNNY GAULT: Yes, so if you guys aren't here in the studio with us, in beautiful San Diego, there are several ways that you can participate in our show. So, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and as we continue today's conversation I'm going to be posting relevant questions that we're talking about here in the studio, it's a great way for you to ask our expert your own questions about au pairs. Be sure to use the hashtag #twintalksvp, VP stands for virtual panelist, and we'll get your questions answered.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Alright then let's get started. I'd like to introduce everyone that we have here in the studio and on the phone. I've got twin girls that are 5 years old, and I do have a singleton and for the first 2 years of my girl's lives, we got au pairs. It's been such a wonderful experience for our family. And I'm going to turn this over to Maria, if you can tell us how you got familiar with au pairs.
MARIA DOZEMAN: Sure, my name is Maria Dozeman, and I'm not a mom of twins, my 2 girls now are 9 and 12, but I participate in the program as a host mom, I just saw from friends how transformative it was and helpful for their lives and became involved in the program at a time I really needed it. It was helpful, it was great.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: It is such a unique experience. Okay, how about Rachel on the phone with us today?
RACHEL JAMES: Hi everyone, my name is Rachel, and I have 5 months old identical twin boys and a 6-year-old singleton. And I have an au pair right now, she is amazing, I love her, she's great with the boys, and it's been a great experience so far.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: And Sunny.
SUNNY GAULT: Yeah I'm Sunny everybody, I have 4 children of my own, and my oldest is about to turn 5, he's a boy, and I have a 3-year-old boy as well, and then I have identical twin girls who are 18 months, and I don't have personal experience using au pairs, it was something that my husband and I talked about and now, especially that my kids are older, I'm like "I think we should get an au pair". So I'm going to be taking notes today as you ladies are talking.
SUNNY GAULT: Before we get started with today's show, we would like to announce a new partnership that we're really excited about, New Mommy Media, creator of Twin Talks, is officially partnering with Multiples of America to produce new episodes of Twin Talks. So Multiples of America is the national network behind the local Twin Clubs around the country.
In fact, there are more than 300 local clubs, representing 20000 individual members, and we'll be partnering together on content. Which means there will be planning of episodes that really matter to parents of multiples. And we're also combining our communities and our reach so that each month thousands and thousands of parents can benefit from our episodes and we could really make a difference.
So, that's the big news. If you haven't joined the local Twin Club yet, we really encourage you to get involved, Google Multiples of America for more information.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Today's topic is Au Pairs, affordable child care for your twins, and we're talking with Maria Dozeman, of Au Pair in America. Au Pair in America is the nation's first recognized au pair program, here in the US, and during the last 30 years, they provided host families with more than 90000 au pairs. And Maria was one of those families who had an au pair in their home. So thanks for joining us, Maria!
MARIA DOZEMAN: Thank you for having me.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: After our interview with Maria, we'll tell you about a special discount Au Pair in America is offering to all the Twin Talks listeners. First of all, I know we said au pair, and people are like "what is that?", "what language is that?", "what is an au pair?", "how does it differ from a living nanny?".
MARIA DOZEMAN: Sure. Au pairs are international visitors between the ages of 18 and 26 years old of age, who chooses to come to the US, to get a better understanding and appreciation of American life, while living with an American family and caring for their young children. By definition though, au pairs means on par or equal to, and as it's a cultural exchange, well she truly is expected to become a family member.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: This is really somebody who you're welcoming into your home, and yes, they are performing a service for your family, but it's a very personal nature.
MARIA DOZEMAN: It is. It is very much so. Trained living nannies just, whether they live in or live out, is just a completely different situation from a cost perspective, from flexibility perspective, as well as the rules of a program for an au pair program are mandated by the department of state, so live-in or live-out nanny wouldn't have those same restrictions.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Like a living nanny, you have to think about, you know, payroll taxes, and all of that sort of stuff, whereas an au pair it's all set up through the state department, you know exactly what you're paying. What are some of the main responsibilities that an au pair would do, and is that any different from a nanny?
MARIA DOZEMAN: Sure, so an au pair is responsible for anything related to the children. So, her duties can include wakening the children, playing with them, carrying for them, bathing them, she can prepare meals for the children, and she can do like housekeeping related to the children. The children's laundry, making their beds, straightening there room, cleaning up the kitchen after they eat, or straightening the playroom once playtime is over, are just some examples. She is also allowed to drive the children to and from outings as necessary, and as directed by the host family. And she can also be expected to stay home with the children when they are absent from school, due to illness, or holidays, or unexpected school closure days.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: And that's a big plus for working parents.
RACHEL JAMES: It really is, we've actually had this come up already, so we had our au pair taking one of our kids to a doctor, it was the second week and I am back to work and so had I not had an au pair I had to be off taking them to the doctor. So it is very helpful.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Yes, we did cloth diapering with my twins, and it does mean you're going to end up doing 2 or 3 mounds of laundry. It was so nice I could be delegating, and here are some specific tasks., that an au pair could do, and she would just budget her time, you know during the day, and you know, get that done, so it was such a relief for having some things where I could say "I don’t have to worry about it". And Rachel, I'm just curious, you know, do you have any specific things that you delegate, or it's just her thing of taking care of the kids?
RACHEL JAMES: Yes, so she does the dishes for the babies, which is bottles primarily, and then she also does their laundry. And it's so helpful because they're kind of messy, so she's able to clean their clothes, and I don't come home to piles of laundry and dirty bottles everywhere. So it's really, really helpful.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Au pairs are, I mean they're providing a service of childcare and helping around the house in that regard, but in addition to childcare I mean, having au pair is really truly a cultural experience, so where do most of the au pairs come from and you know, how do they benefit from the program?
MARIA DOZEMAN: Sure, so we have applicants in our pool from over 60 countries, so, but there are definitely some more popular countries, I think it's mostly what's popular culturally within this countries, so Germany, and Thailand, and Brazil, a lot of South American countries as well, but you'll see a lot of western European countries, Sweden, Spain is very popular as well.
If you really want an American experience, truly an American experience, living with an American family is just invaluable. And I have been told from au pairs that have participated in the program and gone back home, because their English fluency improved so much, spending 1 to 2 years with an American family because it is very different than just taking a formal program. Actually been immersed in the American Language just allows them to have so many opportunities professionally when they return to their home countries. That really is wonderful.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Yes, it's a cultural exchange program, essentially they are exchange students so it's families, I mean we benefit so much from having that cultural exposure and our kids, and I don't know, I mean, Rachel maybe you can tell us where is your current au pair, where is she from.
RACHEL JAMES: Our au pair is from the Czech Republic, and we interviewed a lot of different au pairs when we were looking, and it's kind of hard to find au pairs in an infant, because you need someone that has had some experience, and one thing I did notice is that Western European cannot have the experience because the maturity leave is so much longer there, so I was looking a lot at Thailand, Brazil, and South American countries because they have more experience, but my au pair ended up having a lot of experience with children. And she's awesome.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: In my family, so my mother in law is German, and so my husband speaks some German, but it's very rusty, so we were hoping to kind of, you know, we continue that German, or germanic exposure with our kids, you know, at least from like a language, maybe some food, so both of our au pairs were from Austria. And it was just great, so they spoke German, you know with our girls, and in fact, the second one she took it upon herself and she decided that, you know, for the first half of every day, she would only speak in German.
And so my girls, just got immersed in that as well, and some of their first words, I mean, first they had you know, mom and daddy and the English part, but they learned that, like the playground was "spielhotz", that's what they know.
MARIA DOZEMAN: Isn't incredible how fast they absorb the other language. I was fascinated by that. Our au pair was German as well and I would just come home, and they would just be saying hi to me, or just popping up random phrases in German, and they were so excited and proud of themselves that they have taken that on so quickly.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: So how does Au Pair in America go out and find the au pairs, and then also screening and how you do the matching with the families?
MARIA DOZEMAN: So we have a wide network of recruiters who are in the country and in the areas that we recruit and you know, the screening process includes a review of the applicant's childcare experience at first as the initial first step. And then it also includes background checks, including the review and verification of their references, criminal police and medical records, and additional tests including reviewing their iTEP assessment test, to make sure that they have the expected English proficiency, that's just needed to communicate at the basic level.
We don't expect it to be perfect, but of course, and that's part of the screening process as well, if you have little babies, you know, you probably need somebody with a little, and you're both working outside the home full time, you may want to go with the better English speaker versus my kids were school aged. So we could go with somebody who may not be the most proficient English speaker because my kids were great facilitators.
So those are the things to consider when you're looking at an au pair, and what your needs are, and it's easy to screen for English language proficiency because Skype has changed the whole game, from the very beginning obviously. And a lot of the au pairs would have a video introduction as part of their application process as well.
We have a very robust, it's called Expert Matching Software, and of course an app as well, there's an app for everything, and we have an app for the au pair search as well, as a host family applicant you're looking through and say "oh I really want somebody who's over 21, and I need somebody who's a driver for everyday life" and you can just go through, and you need somebody, you know you have a pool in your backyard, and you need somebody who's a swimmer, and you click off all of these and then you may have some country preferences, because your kids grandma is from Germany, and you really want them to be connected to that culture in some way, because they just have nothing in their everyday American life that connects them to grandma's way of life.
So all of those things you can just click off on your online application, and through this expert matching process, you start seeing applicants who really are suited to what you're looking for.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Right, and I think you've mentioned you have an advisor that might kind of guide the family. The family says you know, "I really want a British nanny, you know", they got this in their head.
MARIA DOZEMAN: We have local representatives in all of our communities because that's part of the Department of State regulation that you are as an agency, we're expected to have a local, we call them community council, in the community within 60 miles of your location. And this person manages all the host families and au pairs in this location, so she's your on the ground expert, and then we have a placement who's at our office in Stanford, Connecticut, and that is your support person there as well as an additional manager to go to for support issues. But yes, all of these people with their individual experiences are a network. You could use all of them or none of them, decide to do the whole thing on your own, or either or all as a sounding board as you try to make a decision for your family.
RACHEL JAMES: It's a really easy process. We did the matching online, we used the app, which was very good because my husband could put an au pair, he wanted to put on there, and I filled the ones that I wanted on there, and we kind of looked at both of the selections before the picking. And we went through the profiles, we read everything that was attached, we went through the interviews that they had, and we checked four. And we got the Skype interviews with the four of them.
After the Skype interviews, then we sat down again and talked about who we want to be with our kids, and then we narrowed it down again, and again a Skype interview. And then, it was between two, and we ended up picking our current au pair, which is wonderful, we made a great choice with her.
But it was an easy process, and we were really able to really get to know, I was worried at first because they're overseas, you can't have them in your home to meet them before you check them, but the Skype was really good, it was really helpful especially to find out how well they spoke English.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Yes. Here in San Diego, we have a lot of military families. Military families often have to move, within 2 years short period of time, how can au pairs help these families?
MARIA DOZEMAN: Well military families are a big part of the au pair program because so many military families have just unusual schedules. And one parent who can be absent for long periods of times, so I definitely, that really when I think about how an au pair helps military families participating in programs it's that extra set of arms that another adult who's not there and sometimes the other adult can't be for months at a time, or has an unusual schedule, or are both service members who just need flexible childcare option. And affordable childcare option as well.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: And you know, I was also thinking you know, with military families having this sort of pick up and leave to a different location, you know, one advantage would be the au pair can go with them, so instead of having to look for another nanny, and childcare, and daycare, it's like "okay, we got our childcare with us".
MARIA DOZEMAN: I know, we have 180 locations including Hawaii, so we do have a lot of service members participating in the program in Hawaii.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: We're going to take a break and when we get back we're going to talk a little bit about the costs that are associated with au pairs, and how the service can actually save you money. So we'll be right back.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Well welcome back, today we're talking with Maria Dozeman of Au Pair in America, about how having an au pair can be a very affordable and flexible choice for childcare. So, get the money, so what are the costs associated with having an au pair, and how does it break down within Au Pair in America?
MARIA DOZEMAN: We have 3 different types of au pair programs. We have a standard au pair, that cost is 86.45, that's the annual program fee cost as you pay the agency, and in addition to that you pay 195.75 stipend to the au pair every week, so what that works out to be is an average of $365 a week, for 45 hours of childcare, and that's per family, it's not per child.
But there are additional soft costs, that come along with that, you need to keep in mind that you also add private room in board, to that as well, and then automobile insurance, you have to check with your own insurance company to find out what the cost would be to add another driver to your policy, and then if you're not, if you don't need a driver, and your au pair will not be driving, you need to, you are expected as a host family to pay for her public transportation, if you're not allowing her use of the car. And then there is an educational component added to the program, so she's expected to earn 6 credits in her 1-year stay, and there's an expected allowance, that of 500$ towards the 6 credits for her educational component that's part of the program.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: This is like a community college?
MARIA DOZEMAN: Community college or we have a program with UCLA, we partnered with UCLA and there's an online program for $500 for 6 credits.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: And then as far as the cost go, just so families can you know sort of anticipate what they are paying them. The agency fee is sort of paid upfront when you start the whole search and matching process before the au pair arrives.
MARIA DOZEMAN: Before the au pair arrives, there's no cost to apply and just to look. When you match, that's when you're first, when you've decided that you've definitely found the person, that's when you make your first payment of 400$. What I started out saying is that we have 3 different levels.
So we have the standard au pair, and then we have an extraordinaire, so there's a little bit of extra cost for the extraordinaire, and the extraordinaire is a candidate who has a formal degree in early childhood education, and has been working professionally for 2 years, so more experience.
And then EduCare is for those parents who, is a little bit less expensive than the Au Pair Extraordinaire, and it's only 30 hours per week, so that's where the parents ideally were they just know that you're around, they'll never need more than 30 hours of care a week.
So there's a little less cost associated with that. So just to break it down, if you go for the extraordinaire, that's 442 a week, and your EduCare is $293 per week. EduCare is not available everywhere, so it's not available in the San Diego area, but there are other locations in California where that is available.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Okay, that's great to know. The stipends and that is paid directly to the au pair.
MARIA DOZEMAN: Right, consider her pocket money for the week.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Maria, as a host parent, you chose Au Pair America, so why would you recommend other parents to use their service? And how does Au Pair America stand out from the competition?
MARIA DOZEMAN: Oh, well, for Au Pair America, I chose them for their organizational strength, Au Pair America is a division of the American Institute of Foreign Study, the IFSS provided educational and cultural exchange programs for more than 50 years, and as you said earlier, specifically with the au pair program, about 30 years, and I think 95000 au pairs so that makes sense.
So our resources having been in this program with the Department of State for so long, enable reliable visa processing, comprehensive insurance for the au pairs, and discounts for host families interested in any of our programs overall. And additionally, Au Pair America was the first agency granted authority by the Department of State to offer American families this option for childcare.
And our initial model used to this day includes careful screening and a supervision of local community councils remains the standard for our program to this day.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Maria, as a host parent, you chose Au Pair America, so why would you recommend other parents to use their service? And how does Au Pair in America stand out from the competition?
MARIA DOZEMAN: Oh, well, for Au Pair in America, I chose them for their organizational strength, Au Pair in America is a division of the American Institute of Foreign Study, the IFSS provided educational and cultural exchange programs for more than 50 years, and as you said earlier, specifically with the au pair program, about 30 years, and I think 95000 au pairs so that makes sense. So our resources having been in this program with the Department of State for so long, enable reliable visa processing, comprehensive insurance for the au pairs, and discounts for host families interested in any of our programs overall. And additionally, Au Pair in America was the first agency granted authority by the Department of State to offer American families this option for childcare. And our initial model used to this day includes careful screening and a supervision of local community councils remains the standard for our program to this day.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: As a parent, I want to know that, you know, the screening process is thorough, you know, there is background check you know, there is that structure in place that we're getting, inviting someone into our home who has been really checked out, it's not just filling out a form, but they have been interviewed.
MARIA DOZEMAN: Exactly, and that you have thorough support not only within your community but also such extensive support, in the home office. With your local person, and then your extensive support, you really have 24/7 support, not only with your local community support but also we have 24/7 support available through our Connecticut offices as well.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: What kind of training duty au pairs receive before they come here? So you know, when they are matched with the family, and then they are coming over and I think there's some type of training that you offer?
MARIA DOZEMAN: There is. So part of the beginning of her time in the US, the au pair is taking online training, as well as in person US-based orientation for 4 days, or over 4 days. So our orientation program is very comprehensive and led by professional instructors who have been working with au pairs for over 25 years, and the in-person training is composed of 3 major components: the comprehensive adaptation training, as well as child development training, and child safety training through the American Red Cross.
So while they are not CPR certified, we do have a scholarship program where they come into the community where they can attend, at no cost to them, attend and become CPR certified. But they do spend a day with the American Red Cross on child safety training. And then we also offer an optional triple a driver's safety course as well.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: You know if I could make that recommendation, get your au pair, your state driver's license, and be extra trained, I mean that's just fantastic that Au Pair America offers that just extra level, just to prepare them for those differences.
MARIA DOZEMAN: So you have a little segment for a couple hours long where they show au pairs the baby equipment, right, because it's so different in our country what we use, so they just show them the different pieces they could see in the American family when they get there, from the car seat, how to work the car seat, and how to safely strap in the child, just different sorts of you know, baby equipment.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Oh yes, now I want to go to Rachel, you know, what were some of the different factors, you know, when you chose Au Pair America, you know, what were some of the things that made you decide hey this is really a great program to go with?
RACHEL JAMES: Well, first of all, we looked at a couple of different agencies, and I had some friends that used Au Pair America, that's why we ended up choosing them. And they were very quick at getting back to us, so we put in our information, and we signed up, and then we ended up getting the search that was really quick, contacted by the councils that we're very quick, so I was very pleased with them.
And one of the reasons we also choose Au Pair America was that we needed the 45 hours a week. So some families do not need it, but we really needed it, because of our work schedule, so it was very helpful to have someone to live with us, and you know, getting yourself out of the door in the morning is hard enough, so having twins and a 6 years old is really nice to have someone that's in the home, and you don't have to get everyone ready in the morning.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Well thanks so much everyone for joining us today. Au Pair in America is offering a special discount for all Twin Talks listeners. You can save $300 when you apply by June 2015. Plus, there's never an application fee. Visit www.aupairinamerica.com/podcasttoday and get started.
MARIA DOZEMAN: And remember, I just wanted to point out that there is no cost just to go in and do the application, you don’t really have to pay anything until you find your au pair, which is great, because you can just look around and see if the candidates look like they might be a good fit, without making any financial payment.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: This conversation continues for members of the Twin Talks club. After the show, Maria and Rachel will share some memorable stories from when they hosted au pairs in their home. For more information about the Twin Talks club visit our website, www.newmommymedia.com .
SUNNY GAULT: Hey Twin Talks! We have a question from one of our listeners, this actually comes from Kelly Maureen and she writes to us on facebook and she says “I am 30 weeks pregnant with twin boys, is it natural for my stomach to tighten up really tight and sometimes it even hurts. Is that natural?”
DR. SCHWENDEMANN: This is Dr. Schwendemann, in response to the question from Kelly Maureen, Kelly thanks for your question. The answer is, unfortunately, no, it is not. If you are feeling tightening of your stomach where it is extremely painful those can usually be preterm contractions. Mom’s who carry more than one baby are at increased risk for preterm contractions and preterm labor. I would recommend that you contact your doctor’s office and they may very well how you are going to be evaluated for the Non-stress Test to look for urinal contractions. They may even end up recommending more testing depending on how frequently you are having this tightening and contractions. Please call your doctor’s office to know more information.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: That wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to Twin Talks.
Don’t forget to check our sister shows:
• Preggie Pals for expecting parents
• The Boob Group for moms who breastfeed their babies
• Parent Savers, your parenting resource on the go.
This is Twin Talks, parenting times two or times two, times two. However many you have.
This has been a New Mommy Media production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. Though the information in these areas are related to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, Medical or advisor care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified healthcare provider.
SUNNY GAULT: New Mommy Media is expanding our line up of shows for new and expecting parents. If you have an idea for a new series or if you’re a business or organization interested in joining our network of shows through a co-branded podcast, visit www.NewMommyMedia.com
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