Why the flexible support of an au pair is particularly important now
Having childcare support based in your own home can make all the difference.
If there's one basic lesson to be learned from our recent (and continuing) worldwide experience with the coronavirus, it might be this:
Expect the unexpected. And when the possibility is there – select the most flexible option.
When the virus came we saw the structures and arrangements of our everyday lives go through profound changes from one day to the next. With almost no notice, schools and kindergartens and daycare centers were forced to close. Many people had to start to work at home (and these were often the more fortunate ones). Others lost their jobs. There has been a great deal of confusion and disruption.
At the same time, we all came to recognise that certain aspects of everyday life – and particularly of family life – cannot simply be put on hold. The kids in a family don't stop needing attention and care, even if school is closed and even if the parents hardly have a moment to spare with their home office responsibilities. Life goes on.
In this situation: The more resources you have to improvise with, the more people you have on your team, the better your chances of finding good solutions.
The key feature of the au pair model is the integration of the au pair into the host family. The au pair lives in your home and is treated as a family member during the au pair stay. This automatically produces a level of flexibility that is not found in any other childcare solution. From week to week au pairs can respond flexibly to the changing needs of the family situation – which can be incredibly helpful if school and daycare scheduling is suddenly revised.
Flexibility does not for a moment mean working without limits or exploiting a young person from another country. The whole idea in each au pair stay is to establish a mutually beneficial relationship. Families are seeking help with childcare, au pairs are seeking international experience. The family home serves as the base for letting both of these goals be met in the context of a win-win exchange.
Au pairs get a low-cost home away from home in an international setting with a built-in system of support and cultural learning. Families get in-home childcare (typically for approximately 30 hours per week) that they adjust to fit their own particular situation.
Families with an au pair on their team are well-prepared to handle sudden changes in their everyday situations. This can be as small and simple as knowing that the au pair is at home and can be there for a child who comes home from school earlier than expected. Or in the emergency of the pandemic and the lockdowns that accompanied it, it meant that many au pairs were right on hand and ready to help out – simply, flexibly, directly – in the unprecedented situation that we all experienced.
We don't know exactly what will happen in the coming months. Everyone is hoping for the best. But it certainly is possible that school and daycare schedules will not be as regular as in the past. Putting an au pair on your family team will give you the best possible conditions to handle upcoming challenges successfully. And it will also provide a young person eager to prepare for better times ahead with a safe and constructive and educational way to spend time abroad and learn about the world.
That's the win-win exchange of au pairing. More relevant right now than ever!