Across Arlington, numerous families live with au pairs. What many don’t know is how au pairs have built a community of their own in Arlington.
An au pair is an young adult between the ages of 18-26 who moves to America from another country as part of a cultural exchange. They are matched with a host family, and the au pair lives with them and provides up to 45 hours a week of childcare.
“Having an au pair is definitely a kind of a lifestyle choice, and it’s not for everyone,” said Jennifer Bhartiya, who works part-time as the area’s Local Childcare Consultant (LCC) for Cultural Care Au Pair, where she pairs interested families with matching au pairs.
Currently, Bhartiya represents around 15 families with au pairs, and is constantly fielding requests from new families.
“I work with several [women] from Colombia, some from Germany, two from Argentina and one from Thailand,” said Bhartiya. “And we have some guys as well, who we like to call ‘bropairs.'”
The dynamic between an au pair and the host family is more intimate than a nanny or a babysitter, because it relies on a deeper level of trust, Bhartiya said. In addition to living with the family, au pairs are often authorized to pick children up from school, take them to the doctor, and have access to family credit cards.
It can be hard to adjust to America after growing up abroad, Bhartiya says, which is why she makes an effort to organize events that bring au pairs together and give back to the community.
Recently, a group of Arlington au pairs spent the day across the Potomac at DC Central Kitchen, where they prepared meals given to homeless shelters.
“We had such a good experience, and there’s such an interest from au pairs in Arlington for volunteer opportunities,” said Bhartiya.
A group of au pairs plan on volunteering during the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday, October 27, and another local LCC is working to organize a book drive for charity.
“Through events such as community picnics, baseball games, and even fire safety meetings at the Cherrydale fire station, we’re hoping to provide these au pairs with cultural experiences,” said Bhartiya.