When Amy and Greg Pond learned they were expecting twins, they, like all first time parents, were simultaneously flooded with all the dreams, responsibilities, and to-dos of becoming parents. What they didn’t realize is that one of their biggest needs and biggest dreams would become intertwined.
The Ponds were living in Boston at the time, where, much like Colorado, daycare options were limited. Because of the harsh New England winters, Amy started exploring in-home childcare options. She was immediately drawn to the idea of hosting an au pair.
“I myself had studied abroad. Greg is really interested in global education and we both love to travel,” Amy says. “We knew we’d be doing less traveling with two babies, so hosting someone from another country would be like bringing a part of the world into our home.” Amy and Greg were surprised and pleased to discover that an au pair was actually one of the most affordable childcare options available.
A One-Year Exchange
Au pairs are young adults from other countries who live with an American family for one year, serving the dual purposes of providing childcare for the family and a cultural/language-learning exchange for both parties.
There are a number of agencies that screen and oversee au pair candidates. Agencies vary slightly in hosting requirements, but first and foremost, families must be able to provide a private bedroom for their au pair guest. Depending on the ages of the children and level of childcare needed, au pairs have the option of participating in classes and other social activities when not caring for children. Unlike a nanny, household chores are not part of an au pair’s duties, but the cost is much lower and the convenience of having someone in your home allows for last-minute errands and appointments, or regular date nights.
The Ponds welcomed their first au pair, Aleja, from Colombia when their daughters Sadie and Mia were four months old. They specifically wanted a Spanish-speaking au pair because Amy’s mother is Puerto Rican.
“I know that early exposure to languages is so important and I wanted it to be Spanish,” shares Amy. They felt almost like they had three new daughters instead of two, as Aleja became part of their family. Amy’s mother even became Aleja’s American grandmother, visiting once a week to hold the babies and speak Spanish with Aleja.
Their circle widened even more when Aleja’s own parents and sister came for a visit and the Ponds showed them around Boston. The only real challenge was saying goodbye at the end of the year.
A Global Family
Sadie and Mia are now eight years old and the family has stayed in touch with Aleja. Each of the Pond’s subsequent au pairs has become part of a growing circle of friends. “Thanks to Facebook!” laughs Amy.
The Ponds relocated from Boston to Denver but have continued to host au pairs. They have hosted six from Colombia, one from Venezuela, one from Sweden, and currently, one from Denmark. Their Colombian au pairs used to frequently ask the family, “When are you going to come to Colombia?” The Ponds’ joking response was, “When Aleja gets married, we’ll come.” Last year, Aleja’s engagement was announced on Facebook and the group immediately started messaging the family, urging them to come. When the official invitation arrived, the Ponds knew this was an opportunity they didn’t want to miss.
“Three of the au pairs met us at the airport,” reports Amy, “and it really hit me that we do have a global family!” It was Sadie and Mia’s first trip abroad, and Amy and Greg were thrilled to see them so brave in a foreign culture, using their limited Spanish and immediately expressing a desire to learn more and to visit again. The girls proved to be flexible, adaptable, and open to new experiences. The Ponds largely credit this to the au pair program.
The Ponds also noted how the au pairs are flourishing professionally, due at least in part to their time in the United States and their English fluency. The family’s trip further cemented their lifelong relationships with these young women.
“We will stay in touch forever!” says Amy. “They are part of a team that has parented our girls. Each one is part of our family.” Amy’s father, as well as their current au pair, is Danish, allowing them to learn about yet another culture and continue to create a family that spans the globe.
While participants rave about their experiences, hosting an au pair is still an option that many people haven’t considered. Either they just aren’t familiar with the program, or they may believe erroneously that it’s expensive, or requires a second language. Amy is quick to counter those misconceptions. Having started her career as an educator, she has become so passionate about the au pair experience that she now works for Cultural Care Au Pair as the vice president of sales and customer relations.
“I would just encourage people to explore the option. It’s one of the best decisions our family has made,” says Amy. “We wanted to be intentional about raising our girls as global citizens. That’s been our dream. Each of our au pairs has helped to make that come true.”