Our new au pair: Natalia
With the arrival of the third child came yet another child care arrangement: We hired an au pair. We wanted to find someone who spoke Polish and didn’t manage to find a local Polish nanny before I chanced upon the Cultural Care Au Pair website. There we found Natalia, who has turned out to be a great addition to our family. She’s sweet and loving with Sonoma. She can manage all three kids. She’s excited to be in the U.S. and in California especially. And both she and we have enjoyed her presence on various family trips.
The overall kid care arrangement is somewhat complicated. Moby started kindergarten in August. Seth takes him to school in the morning on a tandem bicycle. After school Moby gets on a school bus and Natalia walks him home from the bus stop. Arlo is in day care and usually opts to play alone at home for half an hour and have Natalia walk him to day care than to have me walk him over without the play time. Sonoma stays home with Natalia, where “stays home” includes all the walking Natalia does to get the boys where they need to go.
The au pair program has restrictions and rules unlike just hiring a local nanny. The Department of State sets a wage, maximum hours per week, maximum hours per day, amount of annual paid vacation, etc. The visa is a student visa, so Natalia is also required to take classes and earn a certain number of credits during her year here. We provide housing and food. Natalia is living upstairs, where Seth’s mom Cherry used to live when she took care of Moby, though the upstairs has been renovated since.
Natalia works Monday through Friday. Weekends are hers. We’ve invited her to join us on some weekend outings and she’s accepted. We’ve taken her to the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco; the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey; Bear Valley, where she’s hoping to learn to ski this winter; Lake Conesus in upstate New York (from where she ducked out for a couple days to see New York City); and Belgium.
In October I had a business trip to Belgium. I had the option of either taking Sonoma and Natalia, or going alone and pumping a lot of milk and then convincing airport security agents to let me bring it all home. I told Natalia that she didn’t have to go and gave her the option of working her regular hours in California while I traveled or of joining me in Belgium. She enthusiastically opted for Belgium. I had a much better trip than if I’d had to pump every three hours for five days; Seth had a much better week than if he’d been left in charge of three kids for bedtime and mornings; and Natalia got to see Belgium and her brother. Win, win, win!