Au Pair’s the fix for time-poor parents
TIME poor parents who once splashed the cash for part-time child care services or nannies are ditching the outdated and overpriced care options, instead opting for live in, full time support for a fraction of the cost.
The popularity of live-in help has risen enormously over the last decade, as parents with fast-paced lifestyles turn to foreign au pair's to lend an extra set of hands with their children.
The Cultural Au Pair Association of Australia estimates that over 10,000 Australian families last year used a live in au pair to ease the stress associated with full time work and parenting.
One woman who's seen around a 30 per cent increase in the number of au pairs needed in the last 10 years - and a change in those choosing to use them- is Dream Nannies founder Jackie Rylance.
"If I think back to when I first started (the agency) in 2007, many people in Australia hadn't even heard of an au pair or knew what that was," Ms Rylance said.
"Daycare services are very expensive and the hours don't work for a lot of families.
"Australia has a lot of shift workers or (parents who can't) get to pick ups in time. An au pair (provides) options, and the flexibility and affordability means the demand is so high."
For Liz and Michael Graham from Brisbane, the decision to share an au pair part-time with single dad Adam Minutello - an emergency care pilot - was simple.
"When it's our week if I'm away for a couple of days or Michael's away, it's just really handy to have someone to help out with the kids," Mrs Graham said.
"Even someone to do the ad hoc pick ups and drop offs was going to cost in excess of a few hundred bucks a week anyway, and daycare is at least $100, sometimes up to $150 for a kid, so we made the decision to have an au pair.
"It's much cheaper to do an au pair if you can, as long as you have the right house set up, as in space, it's great."
Mrs Graham said there were two 'musts' for her children's carer.
The first- good English, and the second - more crucially - good driving.
"The kids spend a lot of time in the car (with the au pair), so you want to trust that they're being safe and looking after them as if (the kids) are their own."
She said the worries of allowing a stranger to live in her house and mind her children were eased through a thorough vetting process, something Ms Rylance strongly recommends.
"It's very important that families go through an agency so they can be guided on what's expected of the family and the au pair," Ms Rylance said.