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A Q&A with a Cultural Care Au Pair Chicago Host Family

By Lindsay Pinchuk

Interview by Marcie Wolbeck, Local Development Director, Cultural Care Au Pair
We had the opportunity to chat with with Tami and Brett Conway, a host family living in Chicago with their three children. The Conway family opened up and shared their experiences as a host family through Cultural Care Au Pair. In part two of the post, their au pair Nandy Barajas will share her thoughts on their time together.

IMG_1382-2What types of childcare did you use before hosting an au pair?
Tami: Having an au pair was a new experience for me. I owned three businesses and had 2 small children.  I had 5 total hours of help every week.  We had evening babysitters, but during the week my husband and I took turns taking the kids to school, picking up and the days my 2 year-old didn’t have school we would bring her to our childcare room at our fitness studio, where she would stay there for sometimes 3 hours at a time.  I tried doing it all, losing my mind most of the time but thought I could be a full-time mom, a full-time career women and a wife until I was pregnant with my third child.
What are the advantages to hosting an au pair?
Tami: Learning another culture and having another family member is the best advantage and something that is priceless when it comes to your children’s life experience!  Plus, our weeks are never the same and the flexibility of the program fits our family’s needs.  We have some nights we have to work or have events and weekend nights we go out on dates.  I can take my youngest to work with me and have help from 12-8 pm if I need it or days I need help in the mornings/afternoons I can have an au pair work from 7-5 pm. Another advantage is the cost of an au pair.  We looked into having a nanny and it was twice the price of an au pair.  We paid around $8,000 up front and spend $200 a week on 45 hours!  Similar to a nanny, our au pair does the kids’ laundry, makes lunches, gets dinner ready, take the kids to activities, etc.
What were your concerns about hosting an au pair?
Tami:  I am very set in my ways and I was nervous about having another person in my house.  I didn’t want another child or someone else that I had to look after, but someone who would make my life easier.  I wanted to be myself and not have to entertain since my job entails me being “on” everyday, all day.
What has the experience been like for your family?
Tami: Our first year was an adjustment for all of us.  We all had to get used to having someone in our house, the kids had to adapt to another adult who was in charge.  Eventually everyone got adjusted and got along great.  Then we met our second au pair and life just changed!  She became part of our family quickly and completely connected to everyone in our family, our friends and neighbors.  When she is “off” and her hours are completed she is having dinner with us, watching movies with our family, etc.  We asked her to be our son’s Godmother as she has brought a sense of religion into our home.  We love the experience and will continue the program next year.
What is it like to have live-in childcare?
Tami:  It makes life easier, that is for sure.  She is always there so if there are any emergencies I can call on her to help.  She has her own room and own living space downstairs so we are not always together, but find our own space when we need it.  She is a part of our family so the kids will call for her on the weekends, when she is “off,” not understanding that she isn’t working but if home she is always willing to play!
How do you schedule the 45 hours each week?
Tami:  Every Sunday evening I look at our schedule for the week (work schedule, nights out and kids schedule), talk to my husband about anything that is not in the calendar and put together a spreadsheet that calculates the 45 hour au pair week.  It helps me and my family stay organized and with three kids helps each person to know where we have to be when!
What advice would you give to a family who is interested in hosting an au pair?
Tami:  The program is for you to bring someone into your home, not just for work but as a member of your family.  Don’t get an au pair because it’s cheaper than a nanny. Do it to bring a new experience into your lives.  Make them feel comfortable, introduce them to the city, block off time when they arrive to help them adapt and give them love.
Brett: Our au pair’s relationship with our kids has evolved since her arrival 10 months ago.  At the time of our au pair’s arrival, our kids ages were 11 months, 4 years and 7 years old, ages which often make any significant change in a home challenging.  Since that time, our au pair has become one of our children’s best friends, role models, confidants, disciplinarians, hide and go seek teammates, teachers and big sisters.  In short, one of the people they most admire in the world!  Because of the love, caring and respect our au pair provides our children, the love and admiration our children show in return makes me proud of how we are raising our family, together!
Cultural Care Au Pair is the leading provider of intercultural childcare in the United States. Since 1989, Cultural Care Au Pair has placed more than 100,000 au pairs in welcoming American homes. A U.S. Department of State regulated program, Cultural Care Au Pair is headquartered in Cambridge, MA, with their own extensive network of recruitment, screening and orientation offices worldwide and more than 600 local coordinators across the U.S. For more information, visit  http://culturalcare.com/bcb or call773-896-5040. Please note that Bump Club VIPS receive an additional discount. Please log in to the VIP page for further details.

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