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Can you share your Aupair experiences?

(46 Posts)
aquashiv Fri 20-Apr-12 13:49:05

We are about to look for an aupair for our three children mainly to help around school hours. Can anyone share their experiences good and bad and how long it took to hire an au pair. How did you feel about recruiting someone you didnt actually meet before they arrived?
Many thanks

aquashiv Fri 20-Apr-12 20:54:44


singlevillagemum Sat 21-Apr-12 16:39:52

AP1 hired 1 month before start without meeting, an ok AP but can't really cook, I get on great with her but her relationship with DS can be rocky at times.
Currently recruiting AP2 and started recruitment in Feb for a June start, they have flown themselves over for a trial visit which went brilliantly and DS adores them already, now we just have to cross fingers that AP likes us too!
Much happier with the trial visit idea and wouldn't go back to recruiting without meeting.

aquashiv Sat 21-Apr-12 21:02:00

Thanks for that. Great idea about the trail for both sides I guess. Do you pay for the trial visit or did they? When you say it was rocky did you have to ask her to leave.
Thanks forletting me know am currently inundated with people via a website hard to just pick a face though...

Julia1973 Sun 22-Apr-12 00:58:32

Hi aquashiv

Very mixed experiences- Ironically our complete disaster was with the only aupair we actually met before choosing her! Recruiting can be super quick- I tend to log into aupair world months in advance and chat to various auapairs until I find the one. With AP 1 it went supsuper quick (about 6 weeks) with Ap 2 it also went super quick (but that was a disaster!) I Took a really long time with AP3 after AP2 disaster.

The girls and experience are totally dofferent each time

Ap 1: recruited approx 4 months in advance. Very efficient and organised girl. Was a very safe pair of hands but lacked a bit of warmth. Would go out weekends and evenings and had her own life which suited us.

AP 2: Complete disaster. Was with us for 5 months altogether and I literally cried for 2 whole days after she left because it was like a huge burden had been lifted off me. A horrendous atmosphere in the house towards the end.

AP3: Has been with us for nearly two years now. She's absoloutely brilliant with the kids which is all I really care about. She's messy and emotionally needy and demanding- but my girls are happy so I put up with the other bits.

I learn something new with each au aupair. Have very clear groundrules as then the aupair knows where she stands and you can raise any issues but youve made your expectations clear.

Be prepared for some awkward moments. Nobody likes to hear criticism and young girls away from home can be quite sensitive. If they take your criticism to heart- having an upset and moody aupair in you rhome can feel quite uncomfortable.

However fantastic our current aupair is with he kids, I have to say that I long for a time that I no longer need one. However, compared to the alternatives, it's the best choice. AP 4 is already selected and joinining us in October.

LadyHarrietdeSpook Sun 22-Apr-12 09:46:50

OP it's easier to comment on specific areas re APs. Is there anything in particular you're wondering about re having them around in the house?

RE timings to recruit: it can- depend on the job description and time of year. I find it takes longer via AP World- loads of people who don't read your profile properly and apply anyway, au pairs who just 'disappear' after various email contact. BUt it is doable - last year's AP was from AP World and despite my sayings I wouldn't do it is next years. The first 2 years I recruited super quickly and well from an agency called Abacus.

I struggled to recruit in January one year BUT we also had a slightly non standard job description - if you're looking for August/Sept for a school year, with school aged children there will be loads of candidates on AP World and it will probs be quick.

aquashiv Sun 22-Apr-12 20:13:46

Thats great thanks so much for sharing that Julia1973. I was thinking about being rather laid back in terms of expectations as long as they were excellent with the children but thats just nuts as I am so far from that in a work situ. Given me food for thought.
In terms of speciffics * LadyHarrietdeSpook* we would need extra hours over school holidays and were debating whether aupair and holiday clubs would be the way to go but someone said you can go for Aupair plus where they can work 35 hours? Is this something you have done?

hattifattner Sun 22-Apr-12 20:45:20

we had 4 au pairs - two brilliant, two awful. 3 german, 1 Finn

Our first aupair - a Berliner, was lovely with the kids and the family but hated housework. SHe was, however, intelligent and sociable and had good humour, and so fitted in well. She came from a wealthy family and felt hard done by on the money she was paid (slightly above normal).

Aupair No 2, from southern Germany, was only here for 8 weeks.....what a long 8 weeks they were! SHe was a vegetarian, and very lazy. Again good with the kids but slovenly. Would dissappear into her room never to be seen again and tasks were done in the longest time - 3 hours to iron 6 shirts. SHe ate us out of house and home, and had no clue - she would make a large bowl (mixing bowl size) of pasta and then leave it out for 2 days until it grew a fir of mould before throwing it out and starting again. Her personal hygiene also left a lot to be desired, and we had to throw away her mattress after she left - i shudder to think what had gone on in her bedroom that her mattress and cover were destroyed. she managed to block our toilet, and a toilet where we went on holiday, I do not know how.

Aupair no 3 was finnish and my favourite. A sweet natured, hard working, delightful young woman who really fitted in with our family and I was so sad when she left. We keep in touch, she still refes to my DD as her little sister.

Aupair No 4 - NIGHTMARE! southern German with a major attitude, barely spoke English and admitted that most of our correspondence was done by her neighbour. She was an only child whose parents were on the verge of a divorce, and she was running away from a bad situation. SHe would have massive rows with her parents on skype, and then shut herself away for the day. She didnt like the kids (and they hated her) and would sulk if asked to do any housework. Had no clue about how to clean anything - did the loo with Fairy liquid (despite being shown otherwise) and then hooked up with another German chap on MSN chat - he was unemployed and would ping her all day and night - she would drop whatever she was doing and go talk to him for a couple of hours. One day she left the iron on in another room, for 2 hours. She decided to go home to meet the boy after 6 weeks. We gave up on aupairs after that.

My advice:

o Speak to them on skype, do not rely on written emails.

o Look around!

o Try and choose a culture similar to your own. The aupairs I have got on with best have been Scandinavian (my Finn plus her lovely swedish friends) and German from a large city. The other two germans were rural southerners, and we had completely different outlooks.

o Choose someone with intellect and educational aspirations and potential similar to your own.

o be very clear what you expect, and when they say they can cook, dont expect masterchef. You will need to show them how to clean, do not expect them to know which products to use in which situation.

o Remember they are teens, away from home, with all the personal dramas associated with teenagers. Boyfriends, fall outs with mates, complaining that they have no money (because bank of mum and dad not on hand to bail them out) gentle with them.

Our lives were enriched by two of ours, and we have many tails to tell about the other two. grin

aquashiv Sun 22-Apr-12 22:00:06

Bloody hell nightmare indeed hattifattner thanks for being so honest. Skpe them of course. That hadnt crossed my mind though....I interview alot and my main reservation was recruiting blind ....

LadyHarrietdeSpook Sun 22-Apr-12 22:30:29

Hatti's advice is spot on. One other thing I would suggest is speaking personally to their referees if they speak enough English. A teacher at the school should be able to speak some English - it's worth talking to them as well, in order to ask about attendance track record.

Our best au pair so far has been from Stuttgart! We will be on our fourth German AP next year...

Totally totally agree about finding someone whose cultural background you feel an affinity with and whose educational/personal aspirations you share. This is so important, as you will spend a lot of time socialising with them over the dinner table. I would have learned a lot about the mindset of our current AP if I'd asked more questions about what her friends were planning on doing after school as well...if they have a boyfriend/partner I also strongly advise you to ask lots of questions around that re homesickness, how often they intend to meet up, what their plans are...!

Our best AP was very clear about what she wanted to get out of the year with us and what she wanted to do next. So, this is an important indicator too...

OUr AP normally does 20 hrs per week, more during the holidays. Ours also don't do any housework apart from cleaning up after the gremlins (trying to coerce them to help!)

If there is anything unusual about your location, the accomodation, the role etc it's best to get this out of the way early on so you can focus on people who are 'really' interested and likely to stick it.

LadyHarrietdeSpook Sun 22-Apr-12 22:34:09

THe other thing I would say re this living as part of a family thing - this year we told the candidates yes it is a part of the family arrnagement but they should see themselves as a 'young aunt' rather than an 'older sister'. You want to convey the impression early on that they are one of the adults in the house - I also need to think of another term than 'host parents' as well.

maples Sun 22-Apr-12 23:16:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

maples Sun 22-Apr-12 23:17:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MrAnchovy Sun 22-Apr-12 23:21:01

Skype is good, but when you think you have found 'the one' nothing replaces flying them over for a weekend IMHO.

StillSquiffy Mon 23-Apr-12 09:04:58

Decide what you want, and be very explicit about your needs and very honest about your situation. That way you reduce the legwork in hiring. don't waver. If you don't want a 19 year old then don't take a 19 year old.

That said, it's good to list out your essential criteria and your 'nice to have's'. when you add them together you will realise that you and 10,000 others will end up all chasing the same person. To avoid that, decide how many of the nice to haves you can live without and use a scorecard.

EG We normally insist on graduates, drivers, aged 23+, who come from homes where both parents work (we learnt that one quick), who have lived away from home at least once, who can demonstrate more childcare than occasional babysitting, who are 'outdoorsy' and who speak reasonable English. The compromise is that the English knowledge is sometimes laid aside if someone ticks every other box. Ditto the graduate bit. And we only hire chaps now, which helps immensely. We have some 'favourite' nationalities, and some we avoid, and most of this is driven by countries which culturally have reputation for good/bad driving, and countries which have cultural reputation for being child-centric/child-avoiders.

We always skype them, by the way.

Experiences? Where do I start?
No 1 Girl, Turkish. lasted 1 month. Had to go when BSM instructor came back ashen-faced and told me to never let my children in a car with her at the wheel.
No 2 Girl, Swedish. Loved her (even though she put my brand new mini cooper in a field). Lasted 18 months. Still in touch 8 years later and she visit often
No 3 Girl, finnish. My very own domesticated dementer. Lasted around 3 months. She sent me a letter of apology afterwards saying she didn't know what came over her and she was v sorry for being a miserable old boot.
No 4 Guy, Spanish. Terrible English that got worse as time wore on. Nice guy, always cheerful and enjoyed playing with the kids. Stayed 12 months
No 5 Guy, Swedish. Fab fab fab. Stayed 18 months. still comes to see us often and now works as an air steward on Emirates (being gorgeous, and straight, he finds this a career with benefits wink). The mum's at DCs school still refer to the 'diet coke' moment when he took my daughter swimming in front of them all grin
No 6 Guy, Greek. Represented country in swimming once. stayed 12 months and we are visiting him soon. His fiancee also comes to visit us. Terrible junk food habit that we had to keep hidden form the kids but lovely nature (a child himself at heart)
No 7 Guy, English. Lasted 6 months. Nice but no social awareness. Shocked a few parents at DC's school by imposing himself on their convos (eg telling them what he though of their kids' names, and what their nicknames were likely to be). Had to keep him locked in garden shed thereafter, but he kept escaping. Bizarrely he still keeps in touch, too.
No 8, Guy, South African. Nice nature but kept picking his nose when preparing kids' food, so we fired him (disclaimer: he was hopeless in other ways too: eg my DD (5) convinced him that he needed to spoonfeed her, so he did. For 3 days)
No 9. Spanish, current one. Terrible English but otherwise we have hit the jackpot. Lovely lovely grown-up man. Has shared flats with people before and mum and dad both had big careers. Both of these (and heaps of childcare experience) have made huge impact. He's clean, polite, clears up without being asked, likes to take dog out on days off, endless energy. <swoon>

LadyHarrietdeSpook Mon 23-Apr-12 09:38:23

love squiffy's stories. and yes - it may be a coincidence but our previous two APs prior to this one had two working parents. So, I agree it's a good indicator of how prepared the AP may be to get on with the business of helping things go smoothly in your house.

metrobaby Tue 24-Apr-12 14:03:37

My experiences

AP1 – Spanish – 24 years. Hired by accident/circumstance as a family we knew no longer needed her (Mum was made redundant and became a SAHM just as I found a new job). AP1 was an absolutely lovely girl with friendly bubbly personality. Stayed with us for 7 months, and made us realise that having an AP would be a viable childcare solution for our needs

AP2 – Hungarian – 22 years. Hired via Au-Pair World. Stayed 11 months. AP2 was awful, awful, awful. She was essentially a nice enough girl, but very lazy, didn’t really like children but wanted a way into the UK to settle later. I learnt many things the hard way through her.

AP3 – German – 19 years. Hired via an Agency. AP3 was fabulous and stayed with us for 11 months. She had a very quiet personality, but was highly organised, self assured, and great with the children. She came to visit us again recently which was lovely

AP4 – German 19 years. Hired via an Agency. She came over for a trial weekend and was so awful and disinterested we never actually recruited her in the end. (I did post about this experience on this board last year). I’m really glad we took the decision as I found out later she decided against being an AP in the end.

AP5 – Czech – 19 years. Hired via an Agency. Interviewed well, references fantastic and was initially quite good. However then she then lapsed, became slow and lazy, disinterested in the children and more interested in ‘recruiting’ potential UK resident boyfriends. Eventually I had to sack her for gross misconduct. It was not a great situation, and put me off hiring from Agencies as the Agency subsequently placed her with another unsuspecting family.

AP6 – Polish – 24 years – Hired via Au-Pair World. She is truly wonderful, great with the children, hard working and is a delight to have around the home. She has restored my faith in Au-Pairs after our awful experience with AP5. Sadly she is leaving us in August, so I am now actively recruiting AP7 on Au-Pair World.

From my experience, my advice, in addition the very experienced Mumsnetters above, are:-

•BE EXPLICIT about what you want your AP to do and how many hours/days you want them to work. This way there is less room for misunderstandings/different expectations to arise
•Draw up a contract and make sure they are comfortable with it. There are many many threads on here to advise what areas to include
•Write up some house rules (what goes as OK for them to do back home, might not in yours!)
•No matter how you recruit, hiring au-pairs can be a lottery. Learn from your mistakes. Every experience will be different as every person you hire will be different.
•You’ll generally know a good AP and whether they will fit in pretty much immediately – definitely within a week.
•If an AP doesn’t work out, cut your losses and re-hire. I really wish I had done this with AP2 and AP5 within 2 weeks, instead of struggling, advising, and hoping she’d get better. I find this particularly hard to do
•Listen to your dc and what they think of the AP. If they are un-happy, or if they say anything that gives you cause to [], re-hire
•Realise that with the right Au-Pair they can truly become a loved member of the family, make your home life run smoothly and create a pleasant atmosphere. Otherwise, they can be draining – and as Squiffy describes, a house Dementor!
•Beware that some Au-pairs will be trying to escape bad situations at home. I now actively recruit au-pairs who have strong, solid relationships with their parents.
•I would recommend a trial weekend. This works well on both sides as an ice-breaker. It also helps decide whether or not there is a good fit

pertbootywish Fri 04-May-12 00:04:57

I used Au-Pair World for our au pairs and have had good and bad experiences;

AP1 - Swedish, recruited at Easter time for a summer start (stayed 1 year) DD and I loved her, she was quite quiet to begin with but decent person and similar background (educated, driven, lovely parents etc), fair English which became excellent by the time she went home and loved to play with DD crafts, dolls, anything....she came to visit over this Easter and we had a great time (if only I could persuade her to ditch her engineering degree ;-) )

AP2 - Swedish, same as before recruited at Easter for summer start. Nightmare, she hated DD and DD hated her, I'd get home from work and she'd rush up to me to say DD did this DD did that and then I'd have DD saying no I didn't AP was shouting etc etc (like two teenagers, DD was 5yrs). She decided to leave after one week and was gone by end of second week. She's now AP'ing a dog! In retrospect I should have gone with my gut instinct which was erring on the not sure when we Skyped, problem was we really liked another girl who decided on another family at the last minute leaving us little choice and she looked good on paper, I guess we equated being Swedish with being lovely - big mistake.

AP3 - Italian, lurching from one disaster to the next. In childcare desperation I went for AP who could start immediately, we Skyped and she had worked for an English family before who I spoke to on the phone and they were positive about her. However big issue was that she smoked (we specified non-smoker) and flatly denied she did so (her stench and that of her room along with the growing pile of ciggarette buts outside my front door told me otherwise!), she also believed childcare was sitting on the computer while DD was in the same house, after what seemed like an eternity of trying to negotiate with her (which in reality was only 6 weeks) I asked her to leave (which she did along with some of my belongings :-O ). Thorough deep clean of AP room later slight smell still lingers (smoke, rotting food and BO!). Additionally AP's 2 and 3 only showered when prompted to do so!

AP4 - German, started two months after AP3 (had to employ emergency grandma care to cover), thank goodness someone normal at last, good english, mainly pleasant if a little moody at times, we all got along relatively well, has just returned home after 6 months.

AP5 - Canadian, is here for 3 months as recruited AP6 (German) first but she cannot start until end of July. been here almost a week and DD is getting on really well with her, so am I, good at playing with DD (which is most important to us) comes from good family background, only negative so far is inability to cook and by that I mean she only has to get DD a snack after school not cook our main meal but she has no idea how to even boil and egg, but I can live with that.

I guess our main learning has been that even though I sent comprehensive questionnaires and email exchanges, Skyped and asked for references for all the above there's still no telling how you're going to get on with an individual when they're part of your family. With the previous experiences I'm now much more inclined to trust my instinct/feelings on a person rather than purely what's on paper.

Good luck!

PollyParanoia Fri 04-May-12 10:53:34

I'm wondering whether an au pair is such an economic solution anyway, let alone all the emotional aggro. I've just terminated an arrangement with an absolutely lovely Spanish girl who unfortunately spoke such bad English and had such levels of immaturity that I didn't feel safe leaving my children with her. I was paying her £90, plus phone plus food (at least an extra £30 a week) etc for about 15-20 hours work. In other words, by the time I added in all the costs (plus paying for her laptop to be fixed etc), I was probably paying her around £8 an hour. Plus I had all the burden of having someone living in the house and it did feel like having an extra child (I had to do all her admin, online check-in of flights, book her English classes etc). I'm beginning to wonder whether I wouldn't be better off finding some bright spark to do two or three after schools a week and then some extra in the holidays and have the house back to ourselves.
Reading all these positive and negative experiences isn't helping.
Is it worth it?

Fraktal Fri 04-May-12 11:29:52

Prolly I think it totally depends what you want. If you have an au pair you need to be prepared to buy into the cultural exchange/family environment. It's very hard, although it is possible, to find someone who is happy with a 'service agreement' and isn't looking to be parented a bit!

LadyHarrietdeSpook Fri 04-May-12 12:04:24

We're giving it another year. After that I may go down the route of trying to recruit another after school only nanny just for ourselves.

I don't think I have the energy to commit to the arrangement straight through to the early part of secondary school...and I'm not even sure that the it's fair on the APs to do this. How enthusiastic can you really be about the 'cultural exchange' part after like ten APs? It's hard not to see how the family might get a bit jaded whereas for the AP it's their big gap year and something they've been looking forward to for a while (living with a family, having the 'cultural exchange.') I think it's fairest to keep doing having APs only has long as you continue to have some enthusiasm for that part of the deal.

I would be curious to hear from other eople on this though - ones who hav had them for years.

In my limited experience, the APs who were the least happy with their families/ most lonely were in families that were on their 10+ AP. But it may be a total coincidence.

PollyParanoia Fri 04-May-12 12:12:31

Oh my god the idea of having 10 au pairs fill my heart with dread! I live in central London, near a lot of universities, and I do wonder whether there isn't a whole wealth of potential people who'd like to do the work and who I wouldn't have to mother. Without sounding like a total cow, I find this whole cultural exchange/family member thing really off-putting. I think in days of yore having someone from a different culture would have been really valuable for children, but there's are 50 languages spoken in my kids' school so I'm not sure how much more exposure they really need. I did like the smattering of Spanish they picked up, but it wasn't much more than they could learn in school.
Hmmm really have to think about it. I'm also surrounded by school girls eager to babysit so that's not such an AP benefit either.

PollyParanoia Fri 04-May-12 12:13:24

PS very in awe of those who don't mind parenting extra person. My reserves of patience and tolerance seem pretty used up by my own children!

LadyHarrietdeSpook Fri 04-May-12 12:39:14

Well, I have to say I've had my fair share of issues with individuals who were supposedly professional nannies as well...our current one is excellent, most professional of the lot. THe others had strengths and weaknesses, much like the APs we've had. There are no gaurantees either way.

The trouble I would see with a student potentially is that I don't know if their commitment would be much higher than an AP - you'd have to 'suck it and see' so to speak. Could you offer flexibility when they had loads of exams coming up?

fedupwithdeployment Fri 04-May-12 13:10:45

After 8 APs, some excellent, and a couple rubbish, my major piece of advice is go with your gut feeling. And if you make a bad choice, cut losses early - if the first couple of weeks are dire, it is not likely to improve!

We always had long conversations (usually the girls have been French, and I can speak French if their language isn't great), but skype is better. One of the APs was massive, and simply didn't have the energy to run around after 2 small boys. She also ate shed loads of food, and I lost it with her after I found she'd eaten all 12 salmon steaks in the freezer.

Dss are currently 5 and 7, and I think we'll be having APs for a few years to come, although I take the points above about families getting a bit jaded.

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