Ballpark Estimate: $170 and $700 a week
If you are a working parent, you probably understand all too well how important it is to have high quality and extremely reliable childcare. While some families turn to traditional daycare centers to meet this need, many others today recognize the benefits of hiring a nanny or au pair to come in and care for the children right into their own home setting.
Modern Day Mary Poppins
Remember Mary Poppins? She was the perfect nanny who did it all. Wouldn’t it be great if you could find someone like her to help share the stress of raising children and working at the same time? While of course you can’t hire her exact clone, you may find someone wonderful and nurturing to come and help make life easier for you and care for your children, even without any magic involved. Nannies, many of whom are trained in early childhood education, are professional daycare providers who can help raise your children while you are attending to other responsibilities. But unlike someone who is just a babysitter, a nanny takes an active role in nurturing your children and teaching them manners and social skills as needed.
Some nannies live right in your home, while others live out and just come in during the hours you need them. In either case, they can usually drive your children to school, bring them to activities and sporting events, make their meals, do laundry and errands and help you with a range of responsibilities related to raising healthy and strong children. The best nannies are those that fit well with your family style and can bring an added level of support, structure and caring to the mix to help your children thrive. Just keep in mind that when you hire a nanny, you are hiring an employee to work for you. Therefore, some families make arrangements accordingly to offer job benefits to their nannies, such as paid vacations, bonuses and health care.
Sponsoring an Au Pair
If the idea of hiring a nanny is greatly appealing, but you aren’t sure whether you can afford full-time at-home childcare, you might want to consider looking into sponsoring an au pair. Au pairs are child-care providers (usually young women) from other countries who receive permission to live and work in the United States for a year. Participating families pay the au pair a weekly stipend and also provide them room and board for the 12 months they are here. In return, they can request that the au pair perform up to 10 hours of daily childcare.
Since au pairs leave their own homes and families to come and be part of yours for this extended time, as part of the arrangement they are usually included in any special activities and events that occur in your house during their stay. This provides an important opportunity for them to bond with your children and over time, allows them to provide an extremely caring and personal level of care. This close relationship can have a lasting impact on your children and on you, too. In addition, hosting an au pair also provides a valuable cultural experience for all of you, since the person will likely can share stories and traditions from her homeland. Most au pair placement services take the time to find the best match for your family and your needs. One challenge, though, is to make sure that whomever you get can communicate well with your children and is flexible enough to adapt to your family’s specific ways.
Benefits of In-Home Care
Whether you like the idea of hiring a professional nanny or prefer to sponsor a live-in au pair, the benefits of bringing the professional into your home to provide personalized childcare are clear. For instance, you can reduce stress in the morning by counting on someone else to get the children ready for school and feed them breakfast so you can focus just on getting yourself out the door. In-home care also comes in handy when your children are sick, so you don’t have to take time off from work. Further, if you have a large family, it may be more efficient and more cost-effective to have one person come in to care for them all, rather than paying for each one separately at a daycare center. And finally, when you have a nanny or an au pair, you are paying to have them focus solely on your children, unlike in a daycare setting, where the providers have to respond to multiple children competing for their attention. All of these advantages, and a host of others, make sense for many families who want exceptional care.
Better Safe Than Sorry
If you find a nanny or an au pair you like, make sure to get some references and check them out to be sure they are a good fit for your children. Like any one you would bring into your home, you want to make sure you know who they are and what kind of experience and background they bring. After all, you are entrusting this person with the care of your children, so you want the very best and most reliable person you can get for the position.
What You Can Expect to Spend
The cost to hire a nanny varies depending on in what part of the country you live, how many hours of care you need, whether you are also providing living quarters and what kind of experience the person brings to the job. That being said, there are some general estimates that can help you know what to expect.
An experienced nanny can cost between $350 and $700 a week, plus employer’s tax, social security tax and health insurance.
If you decide to sponsor an au pair instead, the costs include a weekly stipend, as well as all of the placement and travel expenses.
An au pair can cost about $140 a week, plus $5,000 to $6,000 in expenses.
No matter which option appeals more to you and your situation, the peace of mind you will receive in having either type of highly-qualified professional to care for your children in your own nurturing home setting will more than make up for the financial investment.