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Continued: Child-care alternatives: the au pair

  • Article by: PAMELA KNUDSON , Grand Forks (North Dakota) Herald
  • Last update: January 10, 2014 - 10:37 AM

The agency provides health insurance coverage for the au pair, who must pass a physical exam to qualify to work.

The Edwardses paid $8,000 upfront to EurAupair and they pay Bargfeldt $195 per week plus free room and board.

The au pair meets once a month with a community counselor, and a 24/7 hot line is staffed by a person who speaks the au pair’s language in the event that problems arise.

Once she qualifies for a North Dakota driver’s license, Bargfeldt will be given use of the family car.

The cost of hiring an au pair is not less expensive than a baby sitter, said Sarah Edwards. But having two children attend a day care in Fargo, where they used to live, would cost nearly as much as what they’re spending on their au pair, she said.

“An au pair can care for up to four kids,” Edwards said. “If you have three children, you would save money, definitely, by hiring an au pair.”

She estimates the family spends $20,000 per year when all the expenses — salary, room and board — are taken into account.

Family rules need to be set

It’s important for families to establish and communicate the rules of the house to an au pair, Edwards said.

“We don’t drink, for example, so no alcohol can be brought into the house,” she said. “We want them to ask first if friends can come in.”

The Edwardses don’t set a curfew for their au pair, although some employers do, she said. “But we do ask that if she is going to go out at night, that she come home in time to get at least 6 hours of sleep in order to not be irritable with the children the next day.”

Anyone considering hiring an au pair “should think about how the family functions,” Edwards said. “It’s a huge adjustment [for the au pair]: there’s culture shock, they’re homesick. You need to provide emotional support.

“You want them to be happy, and I think that’s reflected in the quality of the child care.”

After a few weeks in the United States, Bargfeldt has felt some homesickness, she said, especially “in silent moments in my room or when the kids are napping. It’s kind of hard.”

Her family and boyfriend in Germany were “very supportive” of her decision to work in the United States. They keep connected via Skype and e-mails.

  • related content

  • Robert and Sarah Edwards of Cummings, N.D., play with their daughter, Ella, while au pair Melanie Bargfeldt, right, plays with their son, William.

  • Bargfeldt says being an au pair “is an opportunity to see another part of the world.” Her employers wanted to hire someone who speaks German to expose their children to the language.

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