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Au-pair light. An update with a request for opinions

(19 Posts)
EvaM Mon 11-Mar-13 14:58:02

Hello again mumsnetters,

a few monts ago I turned to you for help regarding au pair light/ accomodation for help issue. I had a great response so I thought I'd come back to outline how it went and then ask for your help/ opinion again.

So, a few months ago I was in a situation where I waqs running a free lance language tuition business that was doing ok..ish but nor ok enough to pay my rent. I remembered being an au pair and what I liked and hated about it.

Likes: -working with kids
-the ability to help out with emergencies (snowdays/ sick children etc)
- living with friendly people but without the risk of parties on working
days in a lovely and safe neighbourhood I couldn't oterwise afford

Hates: -mainly feeling completely suffocated after 25 to 30 hours of childcare
-one sided flexibility
- the fact that despite the inital agreement I seemed to be running the
whole household after a few weeks.

After a lot of thought I concluded that I had no choice but to go back to au pairing but trying to avoid most of the drawbacks. I thought surely there are some parents out there who could use a flexible live in help but would have a problem to pay a cm/ nanny or nursery fees. Well, if you have a spare room and are interested in a guinely mutally benefical arrangement I'm your woman.

A list of advantages for the family:
- FREE child care
- an extra pair of hands in the household
- an instant babysitter for spontaneus plans or emergencies
- an au pair free of cabin fever
- a more mature person than your classic au pair

I met with a lot of interest but it did take me while to find a perfect match that balanced both the family's and my own interests and requirements. I am currently living with a lovely family in North London. I'm looking after the kids for three days a week for about 10 hours in total. I do more on occasion in which case I receive a payment of £6 hour otherwise I provide my help in exchange for houseroom, bills and basic groceries (milk, bread ...).

I found it very hard to find such an ideal match and I feel part of the problem is the fact that it is a bit of a grey area where the boundaries aren't properly defined. Should I advertise in flats or work wanted? how many hours would be too much/ too little compared to a full time au pair? And te needs are actually more specialised.

As I hinted above I am after your input again mums and au pairs?
- does a part time exchange of childminding/housework for accomodation appeal to you?
-What would you expect from your prospective au pair light/ host? Type of work/ hours.
- Any deal breakers?
- Where would you turn to to find such a placement.

Thank you very much for your help.

The original thread can be viewed here: www.mumsnet.com/Talk/childminders_nannies_au_pairs_etc/a1542987-Advice-wanted-Flatshare-for-childminding

I am not sure I follow you totally....you want accommodation, but only do about 10 hours a week childcare? You are not paid for that?

To be honest, having an extra person living in the house is not what I would ideally choose, but given that we need 25-30 hours cover, it is the only thing that works for us. If I only needed 10 hours, I would be looking at alternatives.

Perhaps I haven't understood correctly?

afussyphase Mon 11-Mar-13 16:17:45

I'd be interested (and am in North London too)! We can't really figure out what to do - what we're doing now isn't really working and we had a friend visit for a while and realised that we do actually have enough space now that the girls are sharing a room. So to answer your questions
-- yes, it appeals to me (but probably not if I only needed 10 hours a week though it would depend how flexible that was - eg dropoff/pickup from across London possible, school pickup every day possible?). I guess I think it would be wonderful if we all got along really well, and could go very wrong if we didn't.
-- deal breakers? Smoking/pets, unreliability (eg if an au pair didn't turn up for school pickup I'd be very stressed!), if I felt the children wouldn't be safe/happy, or if I thought personalities would clash. Surely the last would be a deal-breaker for the au pair too.
-- where would I go for information? MN. to find a placement? word of mouth, if possible. I really don't like websites where you have to pay 25£ or even 50£ (!) just to be able to send messages to people who, just statistically, likely won't be a good match. Seems like a real racket for an information exchange that really ought to be possible for either free or for a few quid! And I'm not devoted enough to setting this up right now to post on gumtree and go through a zillion applications, then risk opening my home to someone.. it's hard!

I will be honest.

5 years ago we were relying on au pairs. We paid £75 per week for an au pair plus who worked 35 hours per week. 2 hours in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, and two half days childcare, approximately. They also got mobiles phones and oyster card with bus pass.

10 hours per week is just 2 hours per day, so literally just help in the morning and dropping off to school, for example.

I would never have a stranger in my home, bed and board, using hot water, electricity, gas, cook in my kitchen and use the washing machine and detergent for their laundry for "just" 10 hours per week childcare. And then having to pay extra for baby sitting! I rather have a lodger who paid me the going rent for a room, than this. It might be a very good deal for you, but not for me. If you charge 6 per hour for your time, then really you are just paying £60 per week for bed, board, utilities, which is very little indeed.

A quick look at spareroom.co.uk tells me that Lodgers in North London are expected to pay from £110 (£500-900 pcm!) per week including bills, but not including any board. Deposits are a few hundred.

If you are already with a lovely family, why do you need to advertise for another free home in exchange for 10 hours work?

minderjinx Mon 11-Mar-13 18:15:10

I wouldn't want anyone looking after my children who felt "completely suffocated" after only 25-30 hours of childcare. You don't really sound suited to the job you are offering to do (albeit briefly).

Zavi Mon 11-Mar-13 20:17:06

Completely agree with pure.

I would add as well that families are usually only prepared to sacrifice their privacy (and having someone else in your hous eis a big sacrifice) because they need a lot of childcare, and they want flexible care on occasions.

The deal you're proposing is very one-sided.

I can imagine it appealing to a single mum who perhaps wants the security of having someone living in the house with them cos they're too nervous to live alone.

Also, your idea of "basic groceries" and someobody else's may be quite different. That term is too vague and too open to interpretation. For offering only 10 hrs childcare a week I think you should be buying all of your own food.

After all you are making one hell of a saving on rent and utilities!

EvaM Mon 11-Mar-13 21:25:37

Maybe a little bit of background.

I should have probably mentioned that I'm not looking for myself. I have found a great family and am very happy to stay there.

The reason I have posted again is that while looking for the place that a lot of people were looking for casual help in exchange for accomodation or accommodation for casual help.Therer are however no definitions of what this kind of deal would involve from both sides, no universally accepted search term and no website dedicated to matching interested partners. I'm entertaining a the thought to launch a website to bring together intersted parties.

I have given my arrangement here as an example but understand that circumstances are very different in some cases so I am hoping to hear a bit more about people's expetations (sorry if I was unclear on that).

I agree that I was very lucky with my current placement. I was initially prepared to pay a subsidised rent but with slightly less childcare.

Ok "completely suffocated" was a bad choice of words. I think I went through what a lot of au pairs where going through. They are young people who want to have a gap year and very often find themselves running the whole household and looking after the kids as opposed to being someone who'd help with childcare and chores and for very little pay. When I was full time au pairing a fellow au pair snapped, left the family while everyone was at work and school and went back home and I could understand her as I was in a similar situation. The family had downplayed the work I was expected to do and added on a little more of this and that each time.

This kind of deal would actually be what au pairs were expected to be. Someone from another country, 'here' to experience the culture who would help out. I think it is only really Britain where someone would refer to au pairing as a job anyway :D.

afussyphase Tue 12-Mar-13 10:33:01

If you launch a website, please don't make it one where you have to pay a 6-month subscription or 25£ or whatever just to exchange email addresses with people. I think sitters.co.uk has a working model -- subscription costs are low, and don't kick in until you get a sitter so you are protected against paying for nothing; there is a booking fee each time. For their money, they actually check references, CRB, and interview people! They don't just give email addresses out. This is a service worth paying for. All these childcare.co.uk, emergency childcare, nanny share, blah blah blah drive me crazy for this.

And yes - I think getting a contract with hours, costs, what exactly is included, what can be expected - in place would be good, and your prospective website could help with that too. You could also have some accountability. Au pairs and families could give feedback about each other for others to see. And you could offer babysitting links too, as some of your prospective au pairs might be interested in occasional babysitting and your families too. That way, the accountability stuff would be more valuable because everyone wants to find au pairs / families with whom others have had good experiences, and people need babysitters more often than they find a new au pair. That would add value to your site.

fraktion Tue 12-Mar-13 11:29:12

I don't think there is enough demand for a site. Incidentally what you're doing is technically a job unless you don't have set duties or hours. Au pairs only exist in one very specific form in the UK these days, unlike other countries which have an au pair a heme. If you don't know basic employment law like that you really shouldn't be looking to set up matching site.

Online recruitment is a minefield. If you offer checking services you must have insurance. Really you need to be meeting people in person to check them. Sitters have a network of people but they only take cursory glance at paperwork. Other sites like childcare.co.uk or nannyjob.co.uk make you pay (one significantly more than the other) and don't pretend to check but the sheer amount of space you need for storing profiles etc means you really do need to charge.

Farewelltoarms Tue 12-Mar-13 13:22:24

I had something a bit like what you're offering. I wanted live-out for about 10 hours a week, but the girl wanted live-in so I bumped it up to 15 hours plus two babysits, and paid her £90 a week (she was English speaking plus had loads of nannying experience so in effect I was paying her like an au pair but for way less hours.
It was a bit of a disaster tbh. I think she felt I was getting an amazing deal because I was paying her less than the minimum wage if you included the babysits. And I felt like I was sacrificing our family's privacy with little in return. She almost never did more than one babysit and if she ever did she made a huge fuss about it (she had a bar job that she neglected to mention). There was never any other flexibility despite the fact that I was always going to pay for any additional hours that I did request. She had very expensive taste in food and was on a protein rich diet, plus she expected shampoo etc as part of the package.
I realised I'd much use that £90 (and in fact the probably £30 she cost us in food) to just pay someone lovely £10 an hour for the hours I needed. Which is what I now do and I give thanks almost daily.
Sorry I'm sure you're much nicer than she was. It was a bad relationship in that we both thought that we were being exploited in some way.

Farewelltoarms Tue 12-Mar-13 13:24:18

BTW this was in zone 1 London with en-suite bathroom, plus phone, own TV, wifi, borrowing my computer and printer etc, etc.
Grrr clearly I'm still trying to justify myself!

EvaM Tue 12-Mar-13 14:32:55

Thanks a lot for your feedback so far.

Farewell: your story does really sound very one sided and I really hope that I am much nicer.

I am, as I said, really lucky with 'my family' I am actually doing less than I signed up to: I originally agreed to do the morning school run but 'dad's' lectures start late on a regular basis so on most mornings I get a lie in, am hardly ever asked to babysit at night, we agreed to sare 'basic' groceries but now all food is open for everyone (I buy food for sharing, too though).

Subjectively I'd like to say I'm equally accommodating. Rescheduled a session with a student when kids had snowday and I keep telling them to go out occasionally.

Originally I felt an extra pay for extra hours was neccessary because I have had experience with families who thought that they bought my body and soul for 80 quid a week. But now I'm doing more on some weeks, less on other weeks and it works out slightly to my advantage.

The website idea is really due to the experience altough there is some demand for it, there are no definitions of what kind of hours to expect. I want the website to be initially free or as cheap as possible because it is really aimed at people who are looking at very affordable childcare. It will give families and 'au pair lights' an opportunity to list expectations and deal breakers and defines boundaries. (Can you tell that I'm actually very excited about this? ;) ). Please keep the feedback coming - positive and negative

EvaM Tue 12-Mar-13 14:36:11

Fraktion: I'm aware of the flaws smile I'm calling it au pair light for the lack of a better word.

Currently a lot of the idea is 'ideal world scenario' admittedly but I'm working on making it real world :P

fraktion Tue 12-Mar-13 23:08:07

The second part of my message was more to afussyphase explaining why these places charge. Childcare.co.uk has a huge marketing budget too...

I still don't think there's enough demand and you can't really define it. There is something called a Demi-pair which is I suppose what this is, but the hours are of necessity going to be a bit flexi. If one hypothesised that the pocket money/way part of an au pair agreement covered a nominal 15 hours work (so £5/hour at £75/week) then 10 hours for board and lodging sounds right.

OutragedFromLeeds Tue 12-Mar-13 23:20:16

Maybe you should broaden it out a bit so it becomes 'skills for rooms' or something. It could be a place where people trade their skills for reduced/free lodging. Instead of just being childcare, people could offer cleaning/housekeeping/gardening/music tuition/language tutiton/academic tuition/housesitting/dog walking/cooking etc in return for a reduction/no rent on a room.

Roseformeplease Tue 12-Mar-13 23:27:31

You can find this sort of thing on Helpex, I think. Never used it but know someone who does a lot. You trade your skills / time for bed and board.

afussyphase Wed 13-Mar-13 20:43:49

Hm, interesting, fraktion, about the charges. I guess I'm a bit petty on this in some sense - it seems everything wants 10-15£/month these days - and profiles and all are just text, so shouldn't take many many GB to store, really. And I don't mind "being the product" in some sense (seeing ads for example).

It just seems that the aggressive advertising and online promotion mean that sites like childcare.co.uk, which don't really do much other than store people's information and locations, swamps the searches and preclude any attempts to exchange emails without fronting 25£ to them! Or more in some cases. Traitor that I am, I actually find that the dreaded NM does a good job of this and MN would do better if more people used the MN local sites. After all -- I don't need to search for childcare across the UK. I only ever need contact information for people within a mile or two! And it seems crazy to pay 25£ for it. So, a digression. Yes, OP, you would need to check on all the relevant employment law and it seems insurance wouldn't be a bad idea...

lukymum Wed 13-Mar-13 22:03:56

Dear EvaM, I think if you make a website which takes care of both aupairs and families, you would be providing a very good service. My friend would like an aupair, but has heard so many horror stories, she's afraid to. I'm thinking of getting one, but worried that if I spell everything out. My expectations, what I offer, etc. I'm worried I would put an aupair off, as it could appear too intense.

Goodluck with your project, if you go ahead with it. You won't know if there's a need until you go out there and try. Where no one thought there was a need, you can create your own niche, if you do it well enough. So just go for it, but obviously do all the necessary check, etc.

redplasticspoon Tue 19-Mar-13 11:52:42

I did this in a way. The agreement was 10 hours tutoring for free accommodation. It didn't work out: I think due to the difficulty of living in with your employer. They expected me to be around all evening to supervise their child, plus do the tutoring, which meant I had no free time, and was doing many more hours in effect, probably more than 20. I also found it uncomfortable living with them, so I gave notice after a few months. I understand that from their point of view they were giving up their privacy by having someone staying in their home, so wanted a lot in return, but it was too much for me.

This could work but I think the boundaries need to be clearly set before moving in.

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