Are au pairs and nannies the same?

No. Au pairs are foreign nationals who visit the United States and live with an American family for up to a year. They are between the ages of 18-26. In exchange for room, board, and a weekly stipend, they help with childcare.

While an au pair may work up to 40 hours a week, depending on the terms you set, an au pair is different from an employee. The term “au pair” means “on par” or equal, and the idea is that your au pair becomes a member of your family for a year, participating in a cultural exchange experience. Families must sign a written agreement obliging them to include the au pair in dinners, trips, and gatherings. Another major difference between an au pair and a nanny is that au pairs may or may not have experience caring for children, while nannies are childcare professionals.

There are also fees that run between $5,000-$7,000 that must be paid in addition to a $500 educational stipend and weekly ‘pocket money’ expense of approximately $175.00 per week. Of course their is also airplane flight costs to and from their native country and room and board.

Au pairs are only allowed to work for twelve months. Chances are, your toddler would grow attached and have a tough time adjusting to a new caregiver. Unlike nannies, au pairs are not permitted to do any household work, including laundry service or cooking, that is not directly related to the child.

Most nannies will commit to at least two years, and work about twelve hours daily (often starting with a child’s drop-off at school and ending at tuck-in time). Unlike au pairs, nannies are able to spend as much time as needed with a child, and can incorporate domestic-care duties, like picking up the dry-cleaning or washing clothes, into their services.

Which caregiver is right for your family, a nanny or au pair? It depends. If you want a caregiver that will be a consistent influence in the lives of your children year after year, then you will probably prefer a nanny. If you want a caregiver who can orient your children to foreign cultures and perspectives that are different from your own, then you may prefer an au pair. For some parents who want to avoid raising ethnocentric children, the costs and governmental hurdles associated with hiring an au pair can be daunting: many will seek instead to hire a nanny who may be foreign born and raised but currently living in the employer-family’s country.