Diaries of a Working Mom Chapter 13: Traveling with an Au Pair

by

SF-Saturday_Web

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged on the “working mom” topic (see here for the previous chapters), but last week was such a fun “working mom” week, I thought I’d share.

First, let me explain the “au pair”. I’ve blogged before on our nannies, but I haven’t mentioned that last summer we added an au pair to our household. The au pair program is a US exchange program where families host a young adult (typically female) from another country and she takes care of the kids for up to 45 hours a week. The match and relationship are managed through an au pair agency. They help match families with au pairs, get her to the country and trained, and then make sure the au pair and the families follow all the rules related to hours, living conditions, and educational requirements. It is a pretty cool setup in the right circumstance and we thought with where we were it made a lot of sense for a year or two. For us, it is a little less expensive than a nanny and associated taxes, but not by much when you factor in the agency fees, au pair stipend, living costs, extra car, extra insurance, cell phone, etc. The main reason we decided to do it is the flexibility. Our kids are in school 5 days a week, but only for a few hours, so we usually want help for a couple hours in the morning, most of the afternoon and then an evening or two. Depending on my travel, we may need some additional help. This works great with the 45 hours offered by the au pair program.

We were a little hesitant to bring a stranger into our house after hearing some horror stories – au pairs who were disinterested in kids, wrecked the cars a lot, or were generally unreliable. That said, I had friends who had such great situations they were devastated when the year was over and they had to match again. We were nervous but started the process. Lucky for us, Sarah fell right in our lap over lunch with one of my friends. I hadn’t seen my friend in six months and found out she had an au pair she loved who wanted to extend for a second year, but my friend didn’t need an au pair anymore. We had to jump through some hoops to get her extended in time, but we did it and we consider ourselves very lucky.

It hasn’t been without bumps. We’ve learned a lot about how to live with someone else in our house. We’ve gotten better at communicating expectations, as has she. But generally, it has been easy sailing, especially compared to some of the stories I’ve heard. The only major bump was a couple months ago when she broke her foot in our house and needed foot surgery, which meant she needed to be on her back and not working for six weeks. I was surprised to find that unless you send an au pair home and rematch with a new au pair, you are responsible for taking care of and paying your au pair her stipend, even if she can’t work. We again got really lucky with a referral of an au pair whose family ended her contract early and was in the states and available for a couple more months. We quickly moved the boys together to make room. It was a nutty few weeks, but all things considered, it worked out really well for all parties involved. That said, I did learn how much more responsibility an au pair can be than a nanny.

Here’s the cool thing though. In addition to all the flexibility related to hours while you are in town, there’s no reason you can’t have an au pair travel with you. Sarah has been on trips with us half a dozen times – mostly up to the mountains for long weekends, but also to visit friends out of state. Last week, I took Sarah and both kids on a “work trip”. I needed to go to San Francisco for some meetings and conveniently one of my very best friends lives right outside of San Francisco with two little boys just a little older than mine. She hosted all of us, Sarah took care of the boys while I was off at meetings, and we all had a blast together hanging out in the evenings and over the weekend. Next month, I’m going early to my parents house for the holidays, bringing Sarah and the kids, and working from there for a week. They’ll get more time with their grandparents, I’ll get a change of scenery, and I’m even going to have some meetings while I’m there. It is great for my husband too as it allows him a few days of time to catch up on things at work and around the house. When we come back, he’s giddy to spend time with them. It is awesome all around.

My partner Erika and I talk a lot about “designing your life” in a way that really integrates work and family priorities more fluidly. Being able to do work travel with the family is one of the things I’ve most enjoyed about our company and my kids. It isn’t always feasible to take the family, but sometimes it is and the au pair program is a great way to make it happen!

 

READ MORE

Shifting Perspectives: 3 Learnings From a 3-Day Training

Shifting Perspectives: 3 Learnings From a 3-Day Training

About a week ago, I completed the second live (virtual) training in the process of becoming a Certified Professional Coach through iPEC. Once again, my mind was blown! It reinforced for me that virtual workshops can, and do, work, and, in a lot of ways, I prefer them...

read more
Finding My Work-Life Balance

Finding My Work-Life Balance

In my previous post, I told the story of how I got back into consulting after becoming a mom. All of the diverse experiences I had during that journey have helped me to find my work-life balance by… Defining Boundaries “Go home,” my first boss said 12 years back —...

read more
How I Got Back to Work After Being a Full-Time Mom

How I Got Back to Work After Being a Full-Time Mom

I Landed My Dream Job Throwback to 2014, I had completed my MBA, landed my dream job as a consultant, and was hoping that my new consulting career would exponentially ramp up my career growth for the next 5 years. This would position me to take on critical decision...

read more
Self-Awareness is Key to Belonging

Self-Awareness is Key to Belonging

In August of this year, as part of our annual company meeting, our team at Thought Ensemble participated in the foundational session of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training led by Dr. Nika White, IOM, CDE (she/her/hers). One of the most meaningful moments...

read more
Finding Your Organization’s Magic Pixie Dust

Finding Your Organization’s Magic Pixie Dust

It is often said that organizational culture is like a fog — it is all around us; it impacts our ability to see, to move quickly, and to deliver; but we cannot quite put our finger on it. Indeed, some organizations see their culture as a byproduct of operations,...

read more
We’ve Refreshed Our Brand!

We’ve Refreshed Our Brand!

Why have we refreshed our brand, you ask? Well, as we have grown and matured as an organization, we felt that our previous brand elements no longer represented us as well as they could. You see, we founded Thought Ensemble back in 2008 to help companies better compete...

read more
Thought Ensemble’s Purpose — Inspired in 2020

Thought Ensemble’s Purpose — Inspired in 2020

I recently wrote about how company purpose is being tested and inspired by all the events of 2020. This topic is very real for us at Thought Ensemble. We’ve been thinking a lot about what really matters as we’ve navigated the...

read more
How 2020 Is Testing and Inspiring Corporate Purpose

How 2020 Is Testing and Inspiring Corporate Purpose

In August 2019, the Business Roundtable rewrote their statement of corporate purpose. I followed this with significant interest being that I have never forgotten the debates about corporate purpose in business school almost two decades ago. We were taught that the...

read more
Why Purpose-Driven Organizations May Struggle With Change

Why Purpose-Driven Organizations May Struggle With Change

I love working with companies who really want to make a difference, beyond just making money for their shareholders. I mean, making money is fun and all, but it is even more rewarding to join in on a just cause. Plus, as this HBR article explains, companies who have...

read more