Since 2000, San Jose residents Sheila Barry and her husband, Scott, have employed au pairs from all over the world to help with raising their children so they could work. Today, Barry’s children are 19 and 12.
“My kids have a lot of interest in other cultures,” said Barry, who received her au pairs through Cultural Care Au Pair. “They have a lot of tolerance, understanding and patience.
“Your child has to be at least three months old when you work with an au pair,” Barry continued. “My son was three months old when our first au pair came. She came from Poland and was like a second mom to him. Typically, each of these au pairs stayed at our house for about a year. Sometimes, they were here for two years, which is the maximum amount of time an au pair could stay in the program.”
Barry described the au pairs she has worked with as “great people” who have exposed her family to new languages, food and holidays as well as new ways of thinking.
“We’d adjust our diets each year by where our au pair is from,” Barry said. “It might be a change in starches, from rice to potatoes.”
Barry has worked with younger au pairs, who are around 18. Aware that these au pairs probably haven’t lived away from home much, Barry has made the effort to make them feel like a part of her family.
“All our au pairs have wanted to go to Hollywood,” Barry said. “So we’ve taken our au pairs to Hollywood, Universal Studios and Disneyland. With our au pairs, we have also visited National Parks, which is a common request.”
Barry explained why she has preferred au pairs in her home instead of live-in nannies.
“In our area, the guidelines for the au pair program is set by the U.S. State Department,” Barry said. “It’s the same throughout the U.S. For a family in the Bay Area, it’s an affordable form of childcare as long as you can provide the au pair a room. For me, the flexibility was important- having someone who could travel with me and be available in the evenings and some weekends.”
Other countries that the Barry family’s au pairs have come from include Korea, Germany, Panama, Sweden, Turkey and Italy. The Barry family still keeps in touch with some of them.
“An au pair we had from Panama just came to visit us last week,” Barry said. “When my son was studying Spanish in middle school, I sent him to Panama for a month to stay with her.”
While Barry’s son is now away at college, an au pair still takes care of her daughter.
“One of the main jobs of my current au pair is to drive my daughter to Santa Clara for the Aquamaids work outs at the International Swim Center and the Warburton Pool,” Barry said.
According to Jane Bisson, Public Relations and Communications Manager for Cultural Care Au Pair, it is a private sector program that is a designated sponsor of the U.S. Department of State’s J-1 Exchange Visitor au pair program. Learn more at www.culturalcare.com.