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How does it work with an au pair?

(17 Posts)
lalalalyra Mon 08-Aug-16 21:48:02

I'm going to be looking for some help with the kids and my friend has suggested an au pair might be the right kind of help.

Basic outline is that we discovered this week that our 12 week old DD is probably going to need an operation. She's going to need multiple trips ot the hospital over the next few months. It falls at massively the wrong time as DH is about to go away for a long stint with work. He normally works 4 on 4 off (or similar), but is about to do 12 on 3 off 12 on. It's a horrible cycle, but will give us enough of a cushion financially that he will be able to change jobs to one where he is home all the time. Taking this post is something we've agonised over. It's the third time he's been offered it and we've decided that the short term pain will be offer massive long term gain. He hates being away all the time and he just wants to come home from work at night to his kids.

We have 6 kids between us - 17, 2x13, 8, 3 and the baby. We have a cleaner once a week and MIL is very hands on and helpful, but it very much looks like my lovely FIL is in the early stages of dementia so we wouldn't want to ask her for a commitment to help. We've worked out that even if we have to up our childcare quite a chunk a month for 6 months it's still work DH taking the post, but a nanny seems OTT when DD gets free hours at nursery (and her nursery is a very reasonably priced one for the lunch period - she'll be doing 3 x 5 hour days).

What I'll need is basically someone to do the school run and nursery run. Look after the 3yo when I'm at the hospital with the baby - She will have nursery 3 days a week and will be with my sister-in-law one day a week so it’s not guaranteed that I’ll need someone to mind her, but I’d like a secure back up. Mind the 8yo and 3yo after school for an hour or so if I’m travelling back from hospital. Maybe make the occasional meal for the kids (the bigger 3 take a turn of cooking 1 night a week each so there’s only 2 days that I cook at the moment anyway), hanging a load of washing up and look at the calendar in the morning and remind the kids about swim practise/Brownies/PE/etc.

We can offer a room with en-suite and door to the garden (so if they didn’t want to come through the house they could come down the side. I’d insure them on the car. We already budget food, snacks and drinks as if DH was here full time so one extra person onto the food bill wouldn’t be massive. There’s a lot of au pairs in our area and English classes at the college (which is only a 10 minute walk away). My SIL is flexible on what day of the week she has DD3 so it’ll be fine if classes fall on whatever day. I won’t need any evening babysitting as my brother-in-law is usually found raiding my fridge after work and is happy to babysit anytime.

It’s just really a bit of back up during the day – does this sound like an au pair type situation? How much does an au pair cost overall? I've seen all the 'pocket money' costs, but are there costs that I've not thought of?

Artandco Mon 08-Aug-16 21:54:54

This sounds ok. Au pairs do 20-25 hrs per week maximum for around £120 plus accomadation etc.
So morning and afternoons 5 day a week would need to be not too long if you wanted them a full day Friday. But 8-9am, and 3-5pm would be 15hr, so would leave you max 10hrs elsewhere. So should work.

Mon-thurs 8-9am, plus 3-5pm =12hrs
Friday 8-5pm= 9hrs

= 21hrs. She also need to be free from about 2.30 onward presumably to get to the school and nursery so that's a few hours over the week also

cexuwaleozbu Mon 08-Aug-16 21:56:27

It's on the high-ish side for hours but not too bad.

Would you be able to juggle things to be able to guarantee she'll always be free from childcare requirements at the times of her English classes?
Could you also afford to pay for the English classes?
A lot of families will also include a bus pass.

lalalalyra Mon 08-Aug-16 22:08:38

The hours would be slightly less than that because I won't need the help every day every week. So I'll be able to do one or two school runs myself as well so I wouldn't take the piss with the hours. My sister in law is basically available to help any day so we could work that round with the English classes. She'd do it every day if needed, but I think it would be very easy for that to get strained very quickly! I'm thinking if they did have to do a whole day because of an appointment then I'd make sure they didn't have to do the next days school run or whatever. Not a chopping and changing all the time, but schools runs then hospital babysitting with a reduction in next school hours (if that makes sense).

I've no idea of the cost of the English classes. My friend's au pair pays for her own classes - although the reason I'm asking here is I'm not totally sure about the way she treats her ap so I'll look into the cost. If that is part of the deal then it's part of the deal!

There's not really a good bus service here. There are trains, but most people drive and we're within walking distance to the college, schools, library, shopping centre, sports centre and parks. Would a parking purse or some such thing work? Like a travel kitty?

Is no evening babysitting a good thing? Friend seems to think they are going to expect babysitting, but I won't need it. It seems petty to ask for babysitting just because.

BlackAmericanoNoSugar Mon 08-Aug-16 22:12:56

Your poor little DD, I hope she's better soon.

I think it sounds fine. I always go for older au pairs because the car insurance on under 25s here is painful, but that's about as far as extra costs go. I also keep the car filled with fuel and our au pair can use it if it's available, he doesn't tend to do much mileage though so it doesn't cost much extra.

Is your 17 yr old male or female? Have you considered having a same sex au pair as your eldest child? They might be more likely to be friends that way, and you would (hopefully) avoid any awkward romance.

BlackAmericanoNoSugar Mon 08-Aug-16 22:14:18

If you don't need babysitting in the evenings then it could be an opportunity for your au pair to earn a bit extra by offering baby sitting for other people.

Karoleann Tue 09-Aug-16 10:03:54

I think that sounds absolutely fine.

Au pairs take longer to "bed-in" than professional childcarers, so just make sure she starts a few weeks before you actually need her.

If you want a driver you need to make sure that you get someone over 22, who has been driving for 4 years, or insurance is either astronomical or impossible to get.

I hope the operation goes well.

Artandco Tue 09-Aug-16 13:34:39

I would say you can say an evening babysit included, but in reality it's more like once every 2-3 months. You and Dh could go for a meal or cinema or something.

I think paying a bit more and getting someone with vague experience like siblings or small nephews they have looked after at least can be useful.

BlackAmericanoNoSugar Tue 09-Aug-16 13:42:55

I remembered another cost, before I let an new au pair drive my DC around I always pay for a driving lesson in my car, usually for 2 hours. I tell the driving instructor the areas where the au pair will be needing to drive so they can start to find their way around, and it gives the au pair a chance to get used to driving on the other side of the road (roundabouts tend to be particularly difficult, and there are a lot around here). At the end the instructor gives me a debrief and either says that the au pair is safe or that he/she needs to have more time to build up confidence.

If you're cool and calm then you could do this yourself, but I'm a terrible passenger and hate being driven so I can't.

OhIfIMust Tue 09-Aug-16 13:52:08

Sounds fine to me. Outside London we only pay our au pair £90 per week for around 20 hours looking after 1 child. We also give her a pay as you go mobile phone to use which we cover the cost of, as well as having the car available for her to use if needed and sorting English lessons. We pay for basic lessons - if she wants to take a specific qualification she pays those fees. Hope that helps and good luck with the hospital.

lalalalyra Tue 09-Aug-16 17:21:09

Thanks everyone.

I spoke to my friend's au pair this morning (and her au pair friend) and she said that most of the au pairs she knows get £90 a week, use of the car or a train pass and the English classes seems a real mix of who pays.

I'm actually meeting with someone on Friday whose family are having to give up their au pair and are gutted about it. She's very highly thought of, and I've actually met her at my DS's birthday party. The friend also knows someone whos placement is coming to an end because her family are moving so is going to pass on numbers in case this one on Friday doesn't work out.

I'm planning on offering £100 a week, use of the car, gym/sports centre membership (I forgot we could do it through DH's work and it's only £5 a month), mobile phone with unlimited minutes and texts (I already have it thanks to DD - long story) and English lessons for 25 hours a week. 2.30-5.30pm Mon-Fri and then 8-9am Mon-Fri. The other 5 hours will fill one day so that it's a long day until 5pm, but will only be used when DD has the hospital. The other girls felt that an au pair would prefer that set up, planning to be working 25 hours, but some weeks it will be a good bit less because I'll do the school run or not need a long day. They both do 25 hours and said it seems to be common locally.

They seemed to think it'd be quite a popular placement as I do want someone who can fit in with the family. My friend's au pair isn't allowed to eat with the family - which really threw me as I thought that was kind of the point? Anyway, hopefully it might work itself out

The driving lesson thing is a great idea. My BIL taught me to drive so I'll ask him to do that. Thank you!

Also I thought about getting a male AP because of DS, but I think DS is considerably more sensible than his 13yo full of blimming hormone sisters so female may work out better! I think I'll just go with gut feeling on who'll fit into the family better on the day at interview.

Thanks for all the help. No doubt I'll be back at some point with more questions as I think of them!

cexuwaleozbu Tue 09-Aug-16 20:17:33

You are right about it being odd for the au pair not to eat with the family. The au pair is supposed to be treated as an equal within the family - pulling their weight and sharing the workload but not a servant.

Karoleann Tue 09-Aug-16 22:31:26

cexu - our au pair only eats family meals with us - so once a week on a Sunday. DH gets back too late in the week to all eat together, she would need to hang around after her finish time, for over an hour and a half to eat with us.

Our our au pair has a separate flat (and a car) so certainly not a servant and she has her own shopping card which she uses to purchase her own food for the flat. All host family/au pair relationships are not the same.

Where we live in - in commuter land - its certainly not unusual.

OhIfIMust Wed 10-Aug-16 07:15:48

Yes, agree with KarolAnn - we've had some who choose to eat (late) with us, and some who prefer to do their own shopping and cooking (we cover the cost). Those who have come to stay with us have appreciated the flexibility.

lalalalyra Wed 10-Aug-16 11:57:29

It was more the 'not allowed' that got me. I know for a fact that family sit down to eat together every evening.

Thanks again everyone.

cexuwaleozbu Wed 10-Aug-16 14:08:18

That's what I was getting at with the "allowed" - the idea that the au pair might be required to keep out of the way so that the family can eat together without the interloper present.

harshbuttrue1980 Thu 11-Aug-16 13:25:19

If they "aren't allowed" to eat with the family, that seems like legally shaky ground. An au pair is not seen as an employee (and therefore doesn't require minimum wage) because they are treated as part of the family, and share in the activities of the family. If someone isn't allowed to be part of the family, then they should be paid minimum wage minus the accommodation offset.
The maximum they are allowed to take off for accommodation is £37.45, no matter how luxurious the accommodation is www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-accommodation/rates
An au pair is a family member, not a servant. If people want a servant, they have to pay minimum wage. OhifImust - your situation is totally different if your aupairs have been given the choice to eat with the family and have chosen not to.

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