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Au pair advice, please.(16 Posts)
I am sorry but this will be long! I will try and give a lot of info in the hope that I can benefit from everyone's experience.
I am a single mum to three children aged 3, 5 and 8. I am currently in teacher training and about to start looking for a job for September. My children all attend a local primary school (youngest is in nursery there but will go into reception in September) and they are in breakfast and afterschool clubs at the cost of approx £650 a month (from September, it's a bit more at the moment, cost is evened out over 12 months if you see what I mean). Breakfast club opens at 8am - which seriously limits my job hunting area as really I could do to be in school by 8:15 but certainly no later than 8:30am). I would prefer to rely on school for childcare and will be trying to find work close to home but obviously, this may not happen. My back up plan is an au pair. I am qualifiying in MFL and am fluent in Spanish and have passable French, and can converse basically in Italian and Portuguese. I have contacts at my nearest high school where there are foreign language assistants every year so could put an au pair in contact with other young foreigners in the area immediately. However, I doubt very much that there is a huge au pair network locally (not looked into it, however, I might be wrong). We are close to public transport and I would be willing to pay for a bus pass to cover the local area on top of wages. There is a college within 20 minutes walk - but I have not found out if they do English for au pairs on that particular campus (it's on the 'to-do' list!).
School is one mile (exactly from home). I would need the au pair to deliver the children to school between 8:45 and 8:55am and then she would be 'free' till 3:15 pm. I cannot provide a car - we live by the seaside so can be very wet and windy! I would expect to leave home around 7:30am every day and be home around 5 - 5:30pm every day so she would be responsible for having the children dressed and in school on time every day. She would not need to do a pick up on a Wednesday evening or a drop-off on a Thursday morning as my ex has the children then and does that (so effectively she would be free from Wednesday 9am - Thursday 3:15pm every school week). I would not ask for any routine weekend working (might ask for the occassional one-off, or babysitting) and my mum will help me generally during the week in the evenings. All I would ask for for babysitting would be for the au pair to cover parent's evenings or late meetings (approx 3 -4 a term) which would mean having the children from 3:15pm till they go to bed. She would get a week off in October, February and May and two weeks at Xmas and Easter (school holidays) - I would not ask for any childcare support during school holidays but would pay my usual amount. I might, however, have the occasional issue with 'Inset days' - so up to 5 days a year she would have to have the children all day for a full day.
I would expect some 'light household duties' to be done: I am thinking in the region of dusting, running a hoover round once a week, picking up basics such as milk and bread (Sainsbury's is a 4 minute walk away), and providing the children with tea (simple stuff like beans on toast, reheating food that has already been prepared, managing to turn the slow cooker off, that kind of thing), having the children's washing up done, supervising their homework and helping with reading prior to me getting home (as a general rule).
My children are generally well behaved although one is dyspraxic and dyslexic and has some difficult behaviour to go with it (loud, over-sensitive, can cry very easily, quick tempered). The youngest child has a speech delay which may prove problematic for someone from abroad in terms of understanding, I guess.
I could give up my room to the au pair - it is the largest room in the house in an attic conversion with a bathroom and it's big enough for a small settee as well as a double bed and usual bedroom furniture. There is a television arieal up there and I would get her her own (small) TV. This would afford her some privacy. I wouldn't necessarily have an issue with boyfriends staying over but would obviously need to establish week-day boundaries on that score. I consider myself pretty easy going with my only 'bad point' being that I can't stand lateness. I am not particularly tidy and can live with a layer of dust so no exacting housework standards! Alternatively, she can have a double bedroom with sink on the same 'floor' as the children. Our home is a slightly larger than average semi in an OK area. Nothing grand. Could be worse.
We live in the North West so I am thinking around £75 a week plus a bus pass plus a phone and, say, £10 a week top on it.
Can anyone comment on whether or not they consider what I am asking to be reasonable? If it's too much, what can I do to tone it down a bit? Is the 'wage' reasonable?
Where have you found your au-pairs? is it worth paying an agency or can I do it myself? can anyone recommend any websites? Are there any countries I can't 'recruit' from? Anyone got any good experiences with particulary nationalities? What happens if they walk out?!
I think your needs would suit many aupairs perfectly, especially if the nearby college does English lessons during the day.
If I were you, I would start by creating an account in Greataupair or Aupairworld. It is too early to start looking now for next September, but you never know. Some girls might be looking already. Would you consider an aupair boy?
as for your other questions, if they walk out, you are stuffed, of course. It happened to me once, but managed to find another one pretty quickly. She was not ideal, but I was desperate.
I have found German girls to be very good as they don't tend to be bothered by lack of public transport or bad weather. You give them a bicycle and the world is their oyster.
yes, an au pair boy isn't beyond the realms of reason! not sure what my ex would say, though!
Yeah, the walking out thing is a worry, particularly as my mum is getting on now and I really couldn't force her into helping me out for more than a few days.
German - it has been said to me more than once that German is a good idea. I know no German whatsoever...although I guess I could learn! I possibly have a contact to exploit on that front as well. Worth an ask.
Is the money OK?
when I was interviewing, I always favoured the girls who seemed to have a strong family network back home. In a way, I was trying to ensure that they were coming here for the experience, and not necessarily to make money. I think it makes a big difference, as some of my friends who employed aupair who were a bit older/ ready for proper jobs found the girls got quite frustrated after a while. Let's be honest, you don't really get rich as an aupair.
I also kept away from the ones who had long-term boyfriends, as I didn't want them coming here and then getting homesick within a week.
I never did this, but other families here have mentioned something, which I think is a very good idea. They select a couple of candidates after several interviews, and then they fly one or two of them over for a weekend as a trial. Do you live near an airport where lowcost companies operate?
the money is ok, and you don't need to speak their language at all. Most of them speak near perfect English.
another thing: when you create your account in aupairword or greataupair, do make sure you specify "Europeans only" or something like that. It will save you from having the delete the profiles of hundreds of girls from other countries who are not allowed to work here.
interesting...not overly close to an airport with low cost but not too far either. Might be worth the investment, particularly if I could get someone on a longer basis this way. Hmmm....you've got me thinking!
would upping the money, even just a little bit, ensure a bigger selection of potential candidates? is it a 'pay peanuts, get monkeys' kind of game?
If you are not in the South East, £75 sound ok. I wouldn't bother to start with. Be aware that by the time you've budgeted for their extra food, heating and general costs, your household bills do go up.
Your job sounds perfect. Exactly what a friend's sister (French, 20yo) was describing as her ideal AP job to me the other day in fact!
Yes to recruiting yourself and flying them for a trial weekend. EU only but be careful with Romanian and Bulgarian nationals as the inset days could be problematic.
The holiday allowance is over the 5.6 week legal minimum so that might be quite attractive.
If they walk out then you bite the bullet and pay through the nose for temp childcare. It's really important to recruit thoroughly. You know what you need them to do which is a great start. Be very open and honest with them at every stage. Don't get into an 'I can make this work' mindset because it invariably won't.
There are lots if threads with good advice on here so have a nose around and if you have any other questions just ask.
if your friend's sister is serious, send me a personal message and we can talk...!
I was thinking French ('cos I could do to improve my French!) as a first priority then equally Spanish/Portuguese/Italian/German. I also know a couple of people locally you would be interested in a French person to do lessons with their children which would potentially increase income for the au pair as well as give them a bit more experience to add to their CV. I wasn't planning on going any further than this but am interested in why Inset could be a problem for the Romanian or Bulgarians? Is it the fact they would be asked to do a whole day? I had hoped this wouldn't be a problem as I'm being pretty undemanding (I think) otherwise.
I have looked up esol courses at local college - not the local one, unfortunately, but still within 20 minutes on the bus so could be worse.
1. You can't generalise about nationality, age, sex or anything else
2. You don't need to speak a word of their mother tongue
3. There are lots of countries you can't recruit from so stick to the EU, excluding Romania and Bulgaria (they come on special visa which among other restrictions prevents them working more than 25 hours a week, hence an inset day using almost half this is not good)
4. £75 sounds absolutely right for this job, you won't improve the quality of applicants by going higher
5. You are giving a lot of holiday. What are they going to do with all that time off - they aren't going to have enough money to go away six times a year and they won't want to hang around the house with a single mum and her kids. I think they might actually be happier with a bit LESS holiday! So if they start in the middle of August (couple of weeks settling in before term starts), a couple of weeks at Christmas and the same at Easter will be plenty before the summer.
6. Think very carefully how you are going to manage the beginning of the Autumn term - new year or even new school for kids, new job for you, new au pair...
7. Successful au pairs tend to either want to spend their career working with kids (about to take/have taken degree level teaching qualification or A-level childcare qualificaitons) or come from a family background where they have spent a lot of time caring for siblings or members of a close extended family. There are a LOT of school leavers and new graduates who want to be au pairs in the UK simply because they have no other employment option: you need to sift these out.
thanks Mr Anchovy - the holiday is just a reflection of the time I will be off school myself and won't then strictly 'need' an au pair to help out at that time. My ex usually, but not always, has extended time with the children in the holidays so an au pair really is redundant during that time. I am sure I could find something for them to do - perhaps a more relaxed time with an extended weekend off, rather than the whole week?
I disagree with point 7 from MrAnchovy. Many aupairs don't have or want a career in childcare. They just need to improve their English for their chosen career, whether it is in law, medicine or childcare. I, for example, was one of those many years ago and I had very little childcare experience. Out of the aupairs I've had in my house, one was a qualified English teacher in her country, one was about to start an art degree and the other worked in a family hotel business.
You just have to interview carefully and see who would suit you better.
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