You’re both working full-time, and Grandma’s
moved to Florida. It’s time to consider full-time
help. Many city families opt for a nanny or au pair
to help out with the day-to-day care of their little
ones. Below, we’ve highlighted the differences
between the two; choosing which route to take is up
• Au pairs are generally foreign-born women
between the ages of 18 and 26, who are authorized
to care for American children by the U.S. Bureau of
Educational and Cultural Affairs. Qualified participants
must acquire a J1 visa, and if they plan to care for
a child under 2, they must have at least 200 hours of
experience with children. Au pairs are required to provide
up to 10 hours of service daily, not exceeding 45 hours
in one week.
Though they are paid workers, au pairs expect to be
treated as extended family members, hence the name (French
for “as an equal”). Families must sign a
written agreement obliging them to include the au pair
in dinners, trips, and gatherings.
Hiring an au pair is significantly less expensive than
employing a full-time nanny. Families are required to
pay $5,000 to $6,000 up front, which covers placement
and program fees as well as airfare. Additionally, the
family pays a weekly stipend of at least $140, and must
contribute up to $500 in educational expenses should
the au pair choose to enroll in a college-level course.
But even with hidden costs for shelter, transportation,
food, and occasional family trips, parents would save
choosing an au pair—especially if they have more
than two children.
Au pairs are only allowed to work for twelve months.
Chances are, your toddler would grow attached and have
a tough time adjusting to a new caregiver. Unlike nannies,
au pairs are not permitted to do any household work,
including laundry service or cooking, that is not directly
related to the child.
• Professional nannies, who tend to be women
between 18 and 50, usually hold a degree in early-childhood
development, and are often members of unions and organizations
like the International Nanny Association. They work
on a live-in or day-to-day basis, between 40 and 70
hours per week.
Expect to pay agencies like My Child’s Best
Friend and Elite Nannies a placement fee of between
12 and 15 percent of the nanny’s first-year salary
(which averages between $350 and $600 per week, or $12
to $18 per hour). There are also meals, shelter, and
transportation costs to consider.
Most nannies will commit to at least two years, and
work about twelve hours daily (often starting with a
child’s drop-off at school and ending at tuck-in
time). Unlike au pairs, nannies are able to spend as
much time as needed with a child, and can incorporate
domestic-care duties, like picking up the dry-cleaning
or washing clothes, into their services.