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are au pairs worth it?

(10 Posts)
quizzical Sat 17-Sep-11 20:04:15

Advice please!
we are thinking of getting an au pair for the first time (have previously had nannies) because we could really do with the flexibility not to mention saving some money!
we have been trying to find one for about 3 weeks now though and i'm finding it really difficult to find someone who gives me any confidence that they are after more than just a fun year abroad.
we would need them to be able to handle 2 little ones (1 and 3) on their own for 2 afternoons a week - is that unreasonable?
anyone out there with good experiences?

ChitChattingWithKids Sat 17-Sep-11 20:30:10

The general rule is that au pairs are only used for children over 3 years old because they are unqualified. You would be looking for a sort of a cross between an au pair and a nanny in terms of having some experience but wanting to have a bit of a holiday as well so happy to do live in for less money than a nanny. BUT, you would likely need to offer more than the standard au pair pay I suspect.

jellybeans208 Sat 17-Sep-11 20:39:04

From the other side having never known anyone employ an au pair but have a fair few friends that have done it abraoad usually they are made to do all cleaning, cooking and childcare and are slightly exploited ime. I even know one that was made to get up on her day off to give teh parents a lie in then she was only allowed the day off after they got up! That was all for 75 quid a week

SybilBeddows Sat 17-Sep-11 20:48:52

the norm is they only look after children over 3.
There are older ones out there who have experience with children and who you would trust with your children. But they are not the norm.

I had a lovely Hungarian au pair who was 26 and had worked with SN children at home; it was clear from her CV that she could handle younger children; my ds (not SN) was 2 at the time and dd was 3. She didn't often have sole charge but she was there for back-up, but occasionally she was on her own with them and we didn't have the slightest concern because by that time we had established that she was kind and sensible.

I would suggest you find an agency that specialises in Eastern European au pairs because IME they are more likely to be older and hence have more childcare experience. I would not have been happy leaving dcs with an 18 year old who had never done anything beyond a bit of babysitting. But if you can find someone, there are people out there who want to be au pairs and are capable of it.

JustAnother Sat 17-Sep-11 22:06:36

Having been an aupair myself many years ago, I still don't understand how any one in their right mind left me (I was 18/19) in charge of any child. I was a distracted teenager, looking to have a good time abroad, sleeping few hours per night and getting up in the morning grumpy and exhausted to look after somebody else's children. Just mad. I didn't have a clue about anything to do with children. I lasted 6 weeks with the first family and 3 months with the second one. Then I got a job in a bar. Much more fun.
Fast forward many many years, I had to hire aupairs myself. When DS was a few months old, I had a 26 yo whose job was picking him up from nursery and bringing him home in the evenings. She was perfectly able to do that, but because she was older, you could see she was annoyed to be living with a family when her friends had jobs in bars and having much more fun.
When DS was 5, I needed someone for 3 months to spend 2 hours in the middle of the day with him, in between morning and afternoon session at preschool. I got a 20 year old aupair, and she was just like me 20 years ago. She had a fantastic social life, but she just wasn't interested in the job, not even for a few hours a day.

In conclusion, I would not hire an aupair to be in sole charge of under 3s at all. I would prefer a CM.

Alliwantisaroomsomewhere Sat 17-Sep-11 22:36:17

A dear friend of mine over a period of a couple of years had 3 au pairs: one was lovely, pobably mid 20s and a doctor in training. She was great with her DS. The next had a serious BO problem to the extent that the entire house ponged and was great with her DS. The third au pair probably had no idea what her DS looked like because she constantly had her nose in her phone or laptop.

I second PP's suggestion for a CM in your case considerng the ages of your kids.

Julesnobrain Sun 18-Sep-11 09:29:28

We have had lots of au pairs currently on no 7 or 8. My advice is either CM for such small children or be very specific re the type of AP you need and then try to recruit to attract that person. Ie we want independent social types who genuinely love kids can be rubbish cleaners but must speak near perfect English. We have found western girls ie Spain, Italy, etc more attune to this than eastern European.
You sound like you need older, possibly already Childcare qualified therefore what can you do to attract such a person...??.. Probably accept a foreign nanny with poor English whose aim will be to work with you, get better English and references and then move onto being a UK nanny... Therefore write those criteria in your ad. You win ie you get what you want at AP wages.. She wins as she gets a safe environment in which she can improve her English

harrietthespook Sun 18-Sep-11 13:08:24

I don't think you're asking for something unreasonable or unachievable. There are girls out there who could cope with that period of time. Personally - we don't consider anyone who's English isn't very good. Our current au pair is struggling a bit relative to our two previous ones and it does it make a big difference (but there are other factors at play too - spends evenings skyping with her boyfriend/fiance who also moved to England and weekends with him too.) I do wonder a bit why they bothered to come over here to spend all their free time togehter. But that's another story. I guess my point is, if the au pair's English isn't great, you'll need someone who is at least motivated to improve it. But I'd just try to go for a good speaker of English at the get-go for children that young. LIke Jules, we also compromise on the cleaning side; ours only help with the girls.

As a nanny employer, you may find it breathtaking how much guidance they CAN need on basic things. It can be hard to anticipate what they don't know. Our current one left the house to take the children to school with no house keys and no mobile phone (God knows what made me ask!) on a day she knew I was going in to work. DH seems to think I'm overreacting to this, but it wouldn't have been him coming home to let her and the girls in (if she could even contact me.) So that probably informs my reaction to it!

kelly2000 Sun 18-Sep-11 18:44:33

I think asking an aupair to look after a one year old (assuming they will have sole care, rather than just nursery pick-up) is unreasonable TBH.
There is a reason they are cheaper than a nanny, they are not chidcare professionals.
As a general rule you should expect an aupair to do 25 hours a week including basic babysitting, and light housework (i.e dusting and hoovering, not cleaning bathrooms, or doing laundry) for room, board, and £80 - £100 a week.
The problem is I think is that a person who is serious about a career in childcare will work as a nanny, anyone who works as an aupair and is prepared to do so for just two afternoon a week is not doing it for their career, but a way to fund a year abroad, or get a room whilst they study etc.

harrietthespook Sun 18-Sep-11 20:36:52

If you are talking about literally two afternoons of say three hrs-ish a go per week it is not unreasonable. It is very possible you'll find a sensible au pair who could manage with some guidance from you in the beginning as to how best to structure the time. How many of us haven't done this as 16 year olds, for God's sake? I did, and when I was considerably younger.

There are real incompetents in the au pair pool who couldn't manage but frankly in my opinion many of these are not people you should hire for children of ANY age - the arbitrary cut off of 3 years is relatively meaningless in that contxt. They would be just as much of a risk, although in a different way, with a 7 yr old.

If it's a backdoor into longer days and many more hours you should reconsider. There will be more stable, better environments for your children.

You'll have to vet quite carefully but they do exist.

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