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Au pair disaster!!!

(38 Posts)
AliM7482 Sun 21-Aug-11 12:54:39

Hello all
I'm hoping to harness the collective wisdom of Mumsnet as we are in a spot of bother.
We have lovely twins aged 3 and a baby of 9 months. I'm due back to work at the beginning of Sept and we found a brilliant au pair through aupairworld, who was due to arrive at the end of August to help us with the drop-offs and pick-ups every day (kids are with childminder during the day).
Brilliant? So I thought... we have just now heard from her that she's not coming, which leaves us in a total fix. I don't know why she has changed her mind and daresay we will never find out.
Meanwhile I can't delay my return any longer (have already pushed the date back twice for various reasons).
We have got back into the saddle again with Au pair world, have put an ad on Gumtree, registered with an agency, and also put profiles up on other sites like greataupair.
What else can we do? I am starting to feel very desperate about the whole situation. Please give me any ideas you may have!! We have done some interviews already but either the candidates speak NO English whatsoever, or they are just so odd that we can't consider them as realistic prospects.
ps in case it helps, I consider this to be a pretty "typical" au pair role, 25 hours per week plus 2 nights babysitting, daytime and weekends are free, we live in London and are offering £80 per week, own room with bathroom, TV, sofa, desk etc.
Please please help! Should we be looking elsewhere or offering something different?

AKMD Sun 21-Aug-11 13:33:50

What a pain for you! Do you have friends or relatives who could step in for a week or so while you find an alternative solution?

Don't automically write off au pairs who can't speak English - hearing another language spoken by a native is extremely beneficial to babies and small children and could be a real positive. As the au pair will be immersed in English and as the au pair scheme requires the au pair to attend language classes, it won't be too long until they have a working knowledge of English and if you invest in extra lessons for them (which I'm sure a good au pair would be very grateful for) they will pick it up even more quickly. For example, I lived in Italy for a while and it took me about a month, attending a language class every day and living with Italians, to go from nothing to being able to hold a decent conversation. I was fluent enough in three months to get the equivalent of a 1:1 in first exams I sat at the Italian university I was attending.

ChitChattingaway Sun 21-Aug-11 14:03:11

Would your CM be willing to let you run longer days until you get the au pair situation sorted out? Not ideal, but worth an ask as it's only temporary.

harrietthespook Sun 21-Aug-11 14:19:15

Your message is scaring me - ours is due end of next wk.

I would consider an agency on this occasion - it is likely to be quicker than AP World. We are on our third AP -we've had two via Abacus Au Pairs in Brighton. They may have someone suitable on their books - they seem to be able to recruit quickly year round. I paid GBP 260.

harrietthespook Sun 21-Aug-11 14:21:03

And for a baby that young, for what it's worth, I think you are very right to hold out for someone with as good English as you can find. You have twins and a nine month old - you need someone firing from all cylinders immediately.

cookielove Sun 21-Aug-11 14:26:59

I realise that you would prefer an aupair, however even just for a stop gap till you find someone else could you go to your local college and advertise the temp posistion to child care students, they shouldn't go back studying until sept so they may be able to offer some care till you can find someone more suitable.

Also maybe a nanny, someone who has just finished college may be quite suitable for you.

mranchovy Sun 21-Aug-11 14:49:28

Sole charge of a 9m baby, let alone with 3yo twins as well, even for 'only' 25 hours per week is a big ask for an au pair, only a tiny percentage of the candidates I have seen on APW could handle this - it is definately NOT a typical au pair role.

Many people with sufficient maturity and experience to handle this will be looking for a full time nannying role, have you considered going down this route?

AliM7482 Sun 21-Aug-11 15:08:28

Thanks all for the helpful suggestions!
mranchovy, I haven't gone into the details of the job description here as I didn't want to bore everyone and it wasn't that relevant to what I was asking. Don't be so quick to judge! it certainly isn't sole charge for the entire 25 hours. It would be sole charge for the walk to the childminder each day, and the walk on the way back - maybe 15 mins each way? - but I don't think that is unreasonable for an au pair to do. We are also thinking a couple of dinnertimes a week but for the rest of the time (bath, other dinnertimes, bedtime etc) either me or my husband will be here.
FWIW we did think about a full time nanny, but sadly we are not in a position to afford one with the hours we need (and I wonder who is, when you're looking at £800 pw including all the tax etc).

cookielove Sun 21-Aug-11 15:11:46

I figured that a nanny that had been in job for a number of years would not work for so little however a nanny fresh from college might seeing as it is a live in role as well. I know some people are unsure of using carers fresh from college, but they often can be at there best and they have had two years of experience behind them, and of course they would be cheaper.

fraktious Sun 21-Aug-11 16:09:00

If you have room for live in and aren't averse to someone inexperienced you shouldn't be paying £800/week. More like £300tops in gross salary, £500 when you count incidental added costs over having an AP who lives in anyway.

Work out what CM plus AP would cost in salary, deduct employers NI and advertise it as a nanny job with that salary. Take whichever option comes along first.

And yes, you need someone with good English just in case of emergency.

swlondonnanny Sun 21-Aug-11 16:18:24

Hi AliM7482
I might be able to help. Could you contact me at swlondonnanny at
Thank you!

harrietthespook Sun 21-Aug-11 17:30:58

I have looked at live in nannies and have never been able to find one for as little as Frak mentions gross, for the hours I needed (8.30-6.30). But if you are paying in the region of 400-450 pw at the CM for all three plus the AP, the AP plus CM could be a false economy. I would think you could get someone for that. But if you really like the CM and the environment and just need flexibility on pick ups from the AP then go for it.

I assumed you were doing what you mentioned - that the AP was just helping in the am and at the close of the day. We considered an AP for the aged children you have (but only two) who would have had to work from around 3.30 to 6.30 with the baby and another child and said NO. So I agree with Mr A from that standpoint. BUT if you are proposing say an hour and a bit in the evening and help in the morning getting everyone out the door, I think it's fine.

You will probably need to think about when they're sick but this is not a problem for today!

harrietthespook Sun 21-Aug-11 17:40:12

I still wouldn't consider anyone who didn't speak English to a good standard though even for that little time.

Lizcat Sun 21-Aug-11 18:19:43

Don't despair I found my very best Au pair in a similar situation. Au Pair world AP stopped contacting me with three weeks to go to arrival. I found A through Agency she had been just told by the college that she was due to attend in France that her English was not good enough - I find all their english is ropey on arrival, but improves rapidly.
A was the youngest AP I ever had at just 18 and very very naive, but my situation was urgent. After not very long A was more confident and english improved dramatically. She was fab and she visits us and we visit her still years later.

StillSquiffy Sun 21-Aug-11 18:56:48

You should search GAP and APW using the criteria (1) 'available immediately', (2) nationality any you like except British (to sieve out the nannies you won't be able to afford), (3) salary less than $200 and (4) currently living in the UK

That search will get you (among others) all the APs who are in UK and looking to switch families so with immediate availability. some of them will be suss, some of them will be living with rubbish families. You'll have to trust your judgement as to the circs.

notnowImreading Sun 21-Aug-11 19:03:09

Do any of your friends have late teen kids who are off to uni in October and could step in for a month to give you a bit of breathing space? I did a similar job just before university and although I might not have been the most knowledgeable/skilled mother's help ever, I absolutely loved the kids and was nice to them, plus I had my own mum on the phone for questions and tricky moments.

Lily311 Sun 21-Aug-11 20:26:40

Would you consider a male pair? Even temporarily? My brother (aged 22)is looking for a host family, ready to fly ASAP. He was an aupair 2 years ago in wandsworth for 1year, speaks good English and has references. If interested please email me and I forward him your details, he can send you more details. He has driving licence, first aid certificate, crb. My email is

mranchovy Mon 22-Aug-11 00:28:22


... to help us with the drop-offs and pick-ups every day (kids are with childminder during the day).

Must have missed that bit blush

Strix Mon 22-Aug-11 11:27:18

"Au pairs" come in all shapes and sizes. Some are 17 and have only ever had sole charge experience of the family dog. Other have had "babysitting" experience, which up on further investigation is actually akin to a full-time live-out nanny. You can find both of these extremes on Au Pair World. You have to sift through, and ask a lot of questions, but it is possible.

I am in the process of hiring my second "au pair" from Au Pair World (I find the Great Au Pair website to be far superior - from a techie website point of view - to Au Pair World, but far more suitable candidates in abundance on Au Pair World), both of whom are somewhere between a traditional au pair (which no longer exists, and neither does the requirement for you to buy them an English class) and an entry level nanny.

My children are 8 months, 8 yrs, and 6yrs. We have a childminder who looks after the baby during school hours, term time only, Tuesday through Friday. The "au pair" has the baby all day on Monday. We hire in September so that she can do the "au pair" role through the year and then transition to a full time live-in nanny for the summer (with appropriate pay increase).

When we embarked on this au pair / childminder scenario last March I wasn't entirely sure it was going to work. But, with the advantage of not paying outrageous nanny taxes, we gave it a go. And it has actually worked out brilliantly. I love our childminder and really like that DS2 gets to spend time in her busy house with lots of kids who interact with him. And our "au pair" has been great too.

So, I wouldn't get too hung up on the "au pair" versus "nanny" debate. I would seek out the person with the appropriate experience with which you are comfortable. And then worry about what to insert into the contract under "job title".

WorkingItOutAsIGo Mon 22-Aug-11 11:39:20

I recruited my first au pair earlier this year and searched Mumsnet and found people regularly praised Just Au Pairs, so I used them and found them brilliant. They found me a lovely girl for the summer and I await my Sept girl next week and they were fab with her too, and she seems brilliant. FWIW both girls are German and speak fantastic English.

Strix Mon 22-Aug-11 12:11:54

Oh yes, in my experience (which admittedly is limited) Germans have really good English. Better than most English nannies I have met.

me2011 Mon 22-Aug-11 14:51:37

Hallo there,I have a good au-pair,she came to work for us about 6 weeks ago and i just find aut that i will be made redundant from September.She is very good with my 5 year old son and my 3 year old girl,sole charge,she feed them,take them out,entertaine them with games,readingbooks.If you say she will not be on sole charge with all 3 then she will be a good fit for you.Please let me know if you are interested,maybe we can meet,to chat.I really want a good family for her as she is special,honest,clean.Were about in london are you?Thank you.

AliM7482 Mon 22-Aug-11 15:06:48

Thanks all.
No worries mranchovy smile
Yes did I mention that the "brilliant" au pair who cancelled on us was German and spoke excellent English?!
We are at the point where we can't afford to rule out anything! But FWIW we did consider a nanny for all 3 and were put off by (1) the cost (though appreciate it would be less if it is a live in position - but still a lot when you factor in tax) and (2) the fact that it would I think have been a very demanding role, given the ages of the children, and might mean there was less inclination/opportunity to take them out and about and do lots of fun things as they do now. Whereas the childminder has a lovely set-up, works with another CM and therefore easier to manage the different nap times etc of the different children.
Ho hum. I shall update you on our progress, and many thanks once again for the ideas.

kelly2000 Wed 24-Aug-11 20:43:35

I think that looking after toddler twins, and a baby is a lot of work for an au-pair role, as it is quite intense. An au-pair is only meant to be a light role. What about a nanny?

Littlefish Wed 24-Aug-11 20:51:54

Kelly - have you read the whole thread? The op has repeated a couple of times that the au pair is only in sole charge for a out 15 minutes, twice a day.

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