Granny au pairs are older women who can offer not just childcare, but also a rich cultural experience for your children.
Are you looking to save money on your childcare fees and do you have a spare room? If so, the Granny Aupair agency may be what you need.
Just like their younger counterparts, Granny Aupairs move in with families and help out with childcare in exchange for bed and board and the chance to explore new countries.
Yet Granny Aupairs tend to be, by dint of their life experience, more responsible, more independent and more able to handle any situation that arises than traditional au pairs. In addition to teaching the families they stay with their language, grannies also pass on some of their culture and customs, for instance, many like baking food from their country with the children.
“It’s very much a relationship business which is good for both the grannies and the families. Lots of the grannies have yet to have their own grandchildren and it helps to prepare them,” says spokesperson Grania Groezinger. “A lot of the families don’t have grandparents and the au pairs give their children contact with an older person.”
The Granny Aupair agency was set up in 2010 and since then it has had several thousand ‘grannies’ on its books who have worked in over 50 countries, mainly English-speaking ones.
The grannies do not have to be actual grandmothers, but they do have to have an interest in caring for young people, travelling and meeting new people. In addition to childcare, granny au pairs are also placed as companions for elderly people. There is no age limit, but they have to say if they feel physically and mentally capable of doing a placement on their form and if they mention medical issues on their profile, these are followed up.
The Hamburg-based agency markets through social media and other networks, such as international schools. Most of the grannies are from Austria, Germany and Switzerland, but it has also had women signing up from as far afield as New Zealand.
There are around 100 grannies on the agency’s books at any one time. The grannies pay a membership fee to post their detailed profiles online and families pay the same to access profiles – the fee is around 65 euros a month for a three-month membership and there are also six and 12-month memberships.
Families can then search the database for a granny and arrange Skype calls, etc, to find out whether they are a good match. The agency encourages families and au pairs to talk through expectations beforehand and offers regular workshops for potential grannies so they can talk through the issues that might arise on a placement.
It is up to the families to screen the grannies. Grania says the agency has not had any major problems over the years. The main challenges have been sandwich generation issues – for instance, some grannies have had to return home to look after elderly parents – and a lack of chemistry between family and granny.
“We tell families to talk intensively about any issues that might arise to ensure that there are no misunderstandings,” says Grania. She emphasises that grannies are not cheap nannies or household helps, for instance. “They should be treated like a member of the family,” she says.
Brexit and Covid have had a big impact on the agency’s work in the last few years. During the first months of Covid the agency focused on matching up families and au pairs in preparation for the easing of travel restrictions, which were different in every country. It was also able to organise au pairs within Germany. The US is one of its most popular destinations so when it re-opened for travel that had a big impact. Meanwhile, China has dried up as a destination due to the country’s stricter and longer-lasting restrictions.
Brexit has had a bigger and more lasting impact. England used to be a popular destination for nannies, but since Brexit was implemented travel between the UK and Europe has been more difficult. One of the problems is that, due to a lack of agreement on visas for older au pairs in the Brexit agreement [despite support from the EU], grannies can either only stay in the UK for up to six months on a tourist visa and cannot do paid work, or can stay three months on a visitor’s pass. “In the EU you can stay for as long as you want and people can just hop on a plane if a family needs them,” says Grania.
The Granny Aupair agency has been pressing for a change on visas for au pairs, but that is likely to take time as, for the UK, it is likely to depend on a bilateral agreement with each individual country that a nanny comes from.
The idea for granny au pairs, a term first coined by the founder of Granny Aupair, Michaela Hansen, has been spreading since 2010. Before Covid there were other granny au pair agencies in Europe, but many of these have not survived. However, some of the bigger au pair sites are now offering granny au pairs as an option. “It’s an idea that has caught on,” says Grania.