Problems with au pairs

Regarding the article "Au Pairs: an Alternative Form of Child Care," March 18: The author comments on the disadvantages of live-in child-care providers, but for the most part portrays foreign au pairs as convenient and hassle-free.

Although, as the author says, au pairs are required to work no more than 45 hours a week and do only light housework, this is not standard practice. As an au pair in Germany, I experienced this first-hand. Paid by the week and not by the hour, it's too easy for parents to see an au pair not only as cheap day care, but as full-time nannies and housemaids.

Teenage girls indenture themselves as au pairs, assuming that an exciting new country will transform the job into something other than what it is. Many have no practical experience with children. Often their idea of discipline is different from the parents'. Many also become homesick while abroad. All these elements of the experience should be considered when hiring an au pair as an alternative form of child care. C. McDade Rexburg, Idaho

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please fax letters to (617) 450-2317 or address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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