This story is part of “Parenting in a Pandemic,” WTOP’s continuing coverage of how parents are dealing with childcare, schooling and more through the coronavirus pandemic.
When a Leesburg, Virginia, mother of three, and her husband began hosting an au pair to care for their children, neither imagined facing a pandemic and the challenges it would bring.
Rachel and Bill Peterson connected with Juliana, who would become their au pair, two years ago through Cultural Care Au Pair. The family declined to share Juliana’s last name.
“Basically, it’s like online dating. You get online and you have a profile, the au pairs have a profile and the families search for somebody that they think is going to be compatible … in the date range that you need,” said Peterson.
She is “somebody who just really speaks from the heart and who I felt would really work for our family,” with Peterson adding, “that’s kind of what set her apart from everybody else.”
She is an au pair to the Peterson’s three children: two girls, ages 9 and 7, and their 3-year-old brother.
“I always knew that we were fortunate and we were so lucky to have somebody that really loves my children as her own, because she had really fused with our family,” said Peterson.
At a time when so many families are facing challenges because of the coronavirus pandemic, Peterson said Juliana’s presence makes a meaningful difference.
“When everything happened in the spring, I mean, we really had no interruption, everything just kept going the way it was going,” Peterson said, all thanks to Juliana.
“She stuck everything out, she was locked down with us. She kept my family smiling, my children happy — and she kept them busy.”
Peterson said some friends whose families were without au pairs had a total upheaval, that they “didn’t know what they were doing, how they were going to do it.”
She said some would vent their frustration to her: “I actually had a hard time even trying to commiserate, because I felt that I had survived … and so every time I kind of talk to my kids, my friends about how hard things are, I always say, ‘But please don’t forget, we have Juliana.'”
Juliana is from Jacareí, Brazil.
“She is pending in a status change because after two years, au pairs have to go back. But she has become part of our family and ultimately her success is something we very much want to be a part of,” said Peterson, who said her family is sponsoring Juliana’s education in the U.S.
Peterson said Juliana is now waiting for a F-1 visa, but due to the pandemic, the government has been “extremely slow” to respond.
“So unfortunately, she’s not able to start classes in August,” said Peterson.
The mother of three, who works full time along with her husband, is a “brand new teacher.”
“I’m a career switcher,” said Peterson. “I have switched careers and started graduate school during a pandemic. So if you can kind of grasp that, how one might do that without losing their mind, it’s her.”
She said Juliana is “the reason why I’m able to do all of these things, and it’s unbelievably invaluable.”
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