If you need a long-term child care service, as opposed to someone to look after your children for just a night or two, you might find yourself having to choose between an au pair and a nanny. The decision demands careful consideration; while both will be able to take care of your children, there are plenty of reasons to pick a nanny over an au pair.
What's the Difference Between a Nanny and an Au Pair?
Firstly, you should understand the difference between a nanny and an au pair. Many people believe that an au pair lives in the home and a nanny simply visits when you need her; however, this is an oversimplification.
An au pair is usually a younger person from overseas who provides childcare in exchange for room and board. A nanny is usually, although not always, older, and child care is their long-term profession rather than something they just do for a year or two. You can find live-in nannies, but nannies will typically reside in their own home.
Why Should You Pick a Nanny Over an Au Pair?
Au pairs can be great, especially if you like the idea of exposing your children to people from different cultures. However, there are several drawbacks that come with inviting one into your home.
Firstly, there's often no real option for a trial period. You can do all the research you want, but it can be hard to know if a certain au pair is a good fit for you and your family until they actually arrive. Since au pairs normally sign on with families for long periods, and since they require your support while in the country, it's often hard to let them go after a few days if things don't work out. In contrast, nannys will be relatively local, so you can have a quick trial period to ensure a good fit. This can even work when you want a live-in nanny.
Secondly, au pairs can be quite reliant on your family. This isn't always a problem, especially if you like to include other people in your trips and recreation time, but it can get a little much. A nanny will usually have their own friends in their area, so, while they will be available when you need them, they will still feel relatively independent.
However, there are problems beyond these. Because au pairs are foreign, there may be a very slight language barrier. An au pair will be able to communicate with you, but it can become aggravating when they aren't actually fluent in English. Additionally, they may be unfamiliar with the Australian rules of the road; even if they possess a foreign driving license, they may be unable to ferry your children around.
With a nanny, these problems won't exist. They will either be an Australian native or have lived in the country long enough for their place of birth and mother tongue to have become irrelevant. Additionally, nannies will be actual professionals, and will probably have received more training than an au pair. This isn't always important, but it's something you should consider if your children have any behavioural or physical problems that could warrant the attention of a more experienced and well-trained child care provider.