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Stressing about Au Pair(39 Posts)
To all you veteran host families. I have applied for a job that would only be possible if we had an au pair for our 9 and 11 year olds. This would be a first for us and I am not so sure if my requirements could be met. So this is the story I would be doing 12 hour shift work, so au would have to be up at 6.15 to start school runs (two different schools), she would have to drive. We could only offer a small bedroom and the shared family bathroom, however the overall is not small. Her English would need to be good enough to help my 9 year old DS with homework, and cook reasonably well. Would this be a chance in a million finding someone to rely on for all this. Also would I have more back up and less hassle using an agency rather than au pair World.
Would really appreciate any thoughts.
I think it could also be a bit risky. Traditionally an au-pair used to be hired as a mother's help, not as a sole carer for children possibly not that much younger than herself. France is particular is notorious for bad drivers ( there is a famous French movie made in sixties which I can't recall the name of right now but basically the landscape is littered with crashes). Have you considered asking a mother/father at either of the children's schools whether s/hewould consider help out for the same fee you would pay an au-pair?
If that is your biggest concern, perhaps include a trip out with a driving instructor to assess their ability in a trial weekend? We usually do that after they start but before we take the plunge of putting them on our insurance, but then for us driving is a nice-to-have rather than a necessity so we don't promise they will get to use the car until after they have been assessed (making the excuse that we need to check whether we can afford the insurance). As it happens they have all 'passed' - probably because young people who look after children diligently and confidently apply the same skills to their driving.
On the subject of drivers, we used to need a driver, and picked girls who had at least one year's experience and had driven regularly. All managed pretty well (and one the of useless ones I mentioned above, managed this too, although she drove like a granny and had to be told to speed up a little) despite being French.
You can use a driving school, or you / DH could take her out a few times to familiarise her with your car and local routes. That worked best for us. Now we no longer need a driver, life is simpler and a lot cheaper.
"France is particular is notorious for bad drivers"
Yes, and for smoking foul-smelling cigarettes to mask the odour from their unshaven armpits
MrAnchovy:That too Which is caused by all the garlic...
Can I just add something about driving. It is very likely that unless the ap is here already obviously, s/he has not driven on this side of the road before. So what you need is an experienced and confident driver. In my experience, personal (as I learned to drive initially on the other side) as well as with my previous and current au pair, you need someone who is a confident driver and then pay for couple of lessons so they get used to driving on this side. A confident driver will have no real difficulty with changing sides. We got our current au pair to have two lessons here as soon as she arrived and then I went with her to our daughter's school for a week (with her driving) and she was absolutely fine from the word go. I just kept repeating to her that she must remember that quite a few drivers in London can be aggressive and to drive as slowly as she feels comfortable and ignore any horn honking behind her and do her own thing. And make sure you get someone who is over 24 as then insurance is MUCH cheaper.
Just pondering the idea of an Australian AP, same side of road, good English.
I believe they can come for a couple of years under the youth mobility scheme. Yes would get an instructor for a couple of lessons.
Re French drivers it depends where in France. Marseilles - avoid. Paris intra-muros - avoid. Outre-mer - avoid. Normandy and Brittany exceedingly polite. Possibly too polite but that may be all the British tourists they have to put up with!
But you can't get an Australian over for a trial weekend!!! Although as an idea it is quite good. A lot of Australians already over here as well.
I think a trial weekend would be invaluable. I had a bad experience with an au pair (one and only try, it was relatively short term so not point in getting another one) and I bitterly regretted not having a trial weekend - I knew within 1/2 hour of meeting her that I didn't want her, but felt that I had to give it a try. You can get cheap European air fares for a weekend, and it would be worth it.
Don't completely rule out APs who are already here. Not all of them were sacked or come from exploitative families!! Two of my previous APs were already here but were leaving for other reasons. They both came with glowing references from their past host families, and we had a trial weekend with them too. They went onto becoming one of the best AP's we have had.
I used to use Agencies until I had to dismiss one AP for gross misconduct. I later found out the Agency had placed her with another un-suspecting family. Ultimately an Agency is more interested in collecting a fee from the family and a candidate so i don't think they have either the AP's or your best interests at heart.
I've had a lot of success however using Au Pair World together with a trial weekend. It's important to be as detailed as you can in terms of the AP's duties and hours to prevent misunderstandings.
i would say experience of variable road conditions is more important than driving on the left.
Eg, IMVHO APs from Scandinavia are far better drivers than those from Australia. I have experience of two from each country and have discussed this with all four of them. For the Scandinavians they cite the very intensive driving instruction they undertake (which, for at least the Swedish, includes a compulsory 'experience' of losing control by recreating some kind of skid experience in a controlled environment - I am told this experience puts the fear of god into even the most cocky of teenagers). By contrast, the Australians both cited to me that they struggled to overcome both the intensity of the driving experience (busier, faster moving, too many road signs), and also the different weather conditions.
Although they denied it as a factor, I also suspected that the Aussies came here with too much confidence in their abilities simply because they are allowed to drive at an early age and think it is easy to transition to UK because they drive in same side.
there are lots of amazing (sounding) Spanish APs around at the moment because the ££ situation there is so grim - lots of mid twenties graduates with no work there looking to expand their language skills. Also - i've looked at (but not used) Granny AuPair - women in their 40s and upwards, tend to be lots of Germans, many of whom have bought up their own children already. They are of course fussier about what they're going to get out of it but being central London /Piccadillly line is probably a big bonus for them.
Allaquandry - I think driving is seen by Australians as such a basic skill that it's barely something to take into consideration. Everyone (or almost everyone) drives. In most places you can't get around without driving. Last time I tried to set up internet grocery shopping for my DM I was surprised to find that it STILL wasn't offered by the supermarkets!
Also their roads tend to be a lot wider, I had forgotten how big a difference it was until driving my sister around here and she went quite pale with how close I was getting to the walls alongside the road (and past her window!) - no choice but to as the roads were so narrow.
Very interesting. I had just started to notice all the Spanish AP's with what looks like great credentials. I didn't know that about the Scandinavian test. So have noted that and am going to look at this Granny Aupair. However I fear there will be some responses as to problems with this age group, not that
teens and twenties don't have a few of their own!!
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