Inspired by Jaclyn Perovich
This beautiful photo caught my eye on Instagram recently, and the caption was, well, captivating.
Posted by "aupairworks", it described a goodbye to an au pair. And a thank you for taking care of her sons and "loving them like little brothers". Wanting to hear more about this story, I contacted Jaclyn Perovich, the mom of the little boys shown in the picture. She is an au pair consultant so had lots to share. She talked about her positive experiences as an au pair and with au pairs. The thing that especially caught my attention was when she said she'd told her au pair, "Thank you for letting me enjoy my children again!" He'd enabled her to focus more on her children when she's with them, instead of needing to worry about the more mundane things involved with caring for them. Attending Library Story Time with her younger son and going out on a lunch "date" with her older son are activities recently added to her calendar. We talked for a bit, and here's some of what I learned about au pairs.
Au pairs focus on your children when you're not with them so you can focus on your children when you are with them. In addition to keeping your children safe and engaged with life, they clean up their messes too. This means that they do things like feed your kids (and clean up afterward), pick up their rooms and play areas and/or help the kids do it, and keep the kids' bathroom tidy. (They don't regularly make your dinner or do your laundry or clean up after you, but they do give you more time to do those things.)
Jaclyn told me that the value an au pair can provide is different than many traditional daycare offerings. An au pair can give your kids dinner before you get home from work so that the time you spend after walking in the door is focused on your happy kids instead of rushing around trying to get them dinner. This resonated with me because our daycare provider gave our kids dinner right before we picked them up each day. It was so nice to pick up happy and content kids after a busy day at the office. And the kids were always happy to enjoy another (very small) dinner with us once we'd had time to change our clothes, hear all about their day, and leisurely prepare our own meal.
Au pairs work when you need them; their schedules are very flexible. So if you get stuck in traffic or need to spend a few extra minutes in a meeting, you can remain fully focused on your job knowing that the au pair is watching the kids. Or, in a worst case scenario, like one Jaclyn described, if you need to rush one child to the emergency room in the middle of the night (in this case it was a high fever), you don't need to scramble to find someone to stay with your other kids. They enable you to focus your energy where it's needed. They can even introduce your children to a second language if that appeals to you.
But, you should be warned, there will be tears. Saying good bye to an au pair is never easy. Even when they come back years later for a visit. As Jaclyn told her au pair after one good bye, "Just because you left this house doesn't mean you're leaving this home."