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By Doubling (Or Tripling) Cost Of Au Pairs, Biden Administration Threatens To Push Moms Out Of The Workforce

The Biden administration claims to support working families, but this proposal would do the opposite.

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After becoming a mom, I left a traditional 9-to-5 for a job that allowed me to work from home. I didn’t want to leave my children for an office all day — or have my children leave me. For our family, that meant daycare was off the table. I tried hiring local nannies, but they were expensive and lacked the flexibility I needed. So in 2022, I tried something new: I enrolled in the Au Pair Program, run by the State Department, and welcomed into our home a lovely young woman from Brazil. With a baby, a 2-year-old, and a 4-year-old in tow, it was the unique and affordable childcare solution I desperately needed.

But now, the Biden administration is threatening to take that option away with new proposed regulations that would make the program unworkable for thousands of families like mine who depend on it.

And depend on it we do.

Day in the Life

At 5:30 a.m., I wake to my husband leaving for work. From our house in Northern Virginia to Washington, D.C., he has an hour commute. Though my 4- and 2-year-olds will be up soon, I stay in bed for a few more minutes — the baby, after all, didn’t sleep.

By 7 a.m., toddlers are dragging me downstairs. I’m outnumbered three-to-one, and it’s breakfast time. Relief doesn’t come until 8:30 a.m., when my au pair begins work. At 8:45 a.m., she drives my oldest to preschool.

I’m fortunate to work from home but can’t start until 9:40 a.m., when my au pair returns. She takes the younger two while I play catch-up on the 40 minutes I missed.

At 12:45 p.m. I leave to pick up my daughter from school — as a mom, I feel that’s a small but important thing to do.

Around 1:30 p.m., I’m back and need to feed the baby. I answer emails while I nurse. Until my au pair is off at 5:30 p.m., I’m working to the sound of tiny footsteps outside my office — and probably the occasional scream. From there, I’m throwing chicken nuggets in the air fryer while crossing my fingers that my husband makes it home to help with bedtime.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

Under the au pair program’s current structure, families pay an upfront program fee costing around $10,000, which covers things like their au pair’s health care. Families also pay for their au pair’s basic living expenses, which include accommodation, meals, education assistance, transportation, and a roughly $200 weekly stipend meant for discretionary expenses. 

The new proposed model would double or even triple their weekly stipend based on a confusing model that would pay au pairs according to the highest applicable minimum wage between the federal, state, and local rates. 

While increasing their weekly pay, the proposal would reduce an au pair’s maximum workable hours from 45 to 40 each week and limit families’ ability to make last-minute changes to their schedule. (Early doctor’s appointment? Work travel? Good luck.)

The administration admits that should it proceed under these changes, “some host families may not be able to afford an au pair and may be priced out.” Already, this happened in Massachusetts, which saw a 68 percent drop in au pair placements after implementing a similar price hike.

Au pairs are not traditional workers operating under a traditional employee-employer model. They are voluntary participants in a cultural exchange that, up until now, was a win-win for au pairs, families, and American diplomacy.

When childcare becomes unaffordable, it’s working moms who are statistically more likely to drop out of the workforce. The Biden administration claims to support working families, but this proposal would do the opposite.

Even with an amazing au pair, I’m only hanging on by a thread. It’s 10 p.m., and I’m in bed working again. Threatening to gut the au pair program feels like a gut punch for me because I know it’s my final lifeline. In a few hours, I’ll be up feeding the baby again.   


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