In the Netherlands, having an au pair is not very common. Every year, 1,200 au pairs come to the Netherlands as a cultural exchange. We’ve interviewed a host family in the Netherlands who hosted an au pair to ask them all about their experience. Read it below!
What’s it like to host an au pair?
Sanne: “If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question, I would probably have enough money to pay my au pair! Seriously. Parents often have a lot of questions. They generally think that having a live-in nanny will be, well, a little weird, like you have no privacy whatsoever. I was also afraid of losing my own space and privacy. But I can honestly tell you: it’s the best choice we’ve made in years! We should have thought of this way sooner.
The idea to host an au pair came from my husband. He had to go back to work full-time for his new job. I was pretty skeptical, but after talking to some other parents who already had an au pair, we decided to give it a try. We had a spare room, so that wasn’t a problem. But how would our kids react?”
What about your kids?
Sanne: “Our children really like the au pair: they have a lot more stability and someone around who knows them well and gives them the attention they need, ask how their day was and also makes sure that they do their homework. We also love it for the convenience… and let’s face it, I’m much a more relaxed and a nicer mom, since our au pair Ella is part of the family. We don’t have to juggle getting the kids dressed and ready for school, making bread AND go grocery shopping. If one of the little ones is sick, the au pair just stays at home and I don’t suddenly have to cancel all my meetings, which is great.”
What does the au pair do when she’s not with the kids?
What does the au pair do every night? Is she on the couch with you?
Sanne: “Yes and no. We like it when Ella is around. It gives us a chance to get to know her better and for her to have fun with the kids without reminding them to clean up their rooms. But most nights we don’t see her much. She has language lessons, plans with friends, or goes to her room to Netflix or Skype. On a weeknight, she finishes her shift, we have dinner together, and then she goes upstairs while we finish our homework, do some chores, or watch TV.
Ella might come down to do her laundry or get a snack, but for the most part she’s doing her own thing. On the weekends, things are a bit more unstructured, so we let her know our plans and tell her she can join us in whatever she wants.”
How much does an au pair cost?
“An au pair was the cheapest childcare option for us actually! With 2 children, of which 1 has just started school, we pay an average of 1,800 euros per month. That is really a substantial amount. An au pair costs 500 euros per month. That’s a big difference! If you consider that the au pair helps with laundry for 30 hours a week, cooks every evening, picks up the children and takes them to friends… It gives so much peace of mind. Even if it were twice as expensive, I would still do it.”
Don’t you feel self-conscious or uncomfortable in your own home?
“Not really. For the first few days it felt like we had a guest in the house, and we were a bit self-conscious, but we decided that we should just be ourselves to feel at home and really get to know our au pair. That also means our quirks, quarrels etc., no matter how uncomfortable it is! We ask Ella to do the same and just be family. It took some getting used to, but we were rewarded with an easy and authentic relationship.”
Don’t you just end up with an extra kid to take care of?
“Unless that kid takes care of himself and everyone else, cuts vegetables for dinner, folds the laundry and plays English games with my kids… no! The truth is, she is a member of the family. So if she runs into a problem with her language class or needs help booking a flight for a trip, we’ll help her. That’s what family does. But from day to day, she is nothing but a huge help!
Raising a family, having a career and managing a household isn’t easy. An au pair can really give you some extra time – to spend together with your partner, hit the gym or just relax.”
Au pair Ella about her host family
Ella: “I’ve been very lucky with my host family! It is a very warm, welcoming environment: I felt at home from day one. I come from Colombia, and before I started studying I wanted to go to the Netherlands for a year to get to know a new culture, see a bit of the world, and learn a lot. Of course, it took some getting used to when I just arrived at Schiphol, but we had seen each other in advance and Sanne and Tim were just as warm in real life as during the video call.
Of course, every family is different and has its own weird things. Nanny Nina had prepared me with regard to expectation management. It’s not just vacation and freedom. I get shelter and food, so I really participate in the family. After the first week, we had already found a new rhythm, in which I knew exactly what everyone expected (we discussed that well before I came to the Netherlands).
At the weekend I meet other au pairs from the area, there are also 2 other Colombians, but it’s always nice to speak your own language again. Really great experience so far! I’m looking into studying in Amsterdam instead of Bogota, because I don’t want to leave yet!