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Stressing about Au Pair

(39 Posts)
MrsJones100 Wed 07-Nov-12 12:39:08

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.

MrsJones100 Thu 17-Jan-13 15:53:49

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!!

DIYapprentice Wed 16-Jan-13 13:20:04

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.

BobbiFleckmann Wed 16-Jan-13 11:47:08

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 Wed 16-Jan-13 11:39:55

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.

Metrobaby Tue 15-Jan-13 13:32:48

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.

DIYapprentice Mon 14-Jan-13 21:18:39

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.

fraktion Sat 12-Jan-13 00:27:42

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!

MrsJones100 Fri 11-Jan-13 14:54:37

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.

andagain Fri 11-Jan-13 13:39:23

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.

Mimishimi Fri 11-Jan-13 11:44:12

MrAnchovy:That too smile Which is caused by all the garlic...

MrAnchovy Fri 11-Jan-13 11:20:02

"France is particular is notorious for bad drivers"

Yes, and for smoking foul-smelling cigarettes to mask the odour from their unshaven armpits hmm

fedupwithdeployment Fri 11-Jan-13 10:52:18

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.

MrAnchovy Fri 11-Jan-13 10:43:13

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.

Mimishimi Fri 11-Jan-13 09:52:05

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?

MrsJones100 Fri 11-Jan-13 09:35:15

I can not thank you enough for all this advise. Such important points I had not thought of. To have an AP already here does make a few meetings easier but
a big concern is an AP never having driven on our side of road. One already here may have more experience of this. I can see from your advise real pros
and cons on both sides.

MrAnchovy Fri 11-Jan-13 00:30:05

APs already in the country:

1. Lots of them need a job because they were sacked from their last one.

2. The rest of them need a job because their current/last one was exploiting them so the reference you get will be at least as bad as in 1. above. They are in demand because there are relatively few of them around so you will have to at least match the best offer they get and be ready to have them start tomorrow otherwise they will go elsewhere - which they might do anyway if they get an offer nearer their friends/boyfriend/favourite suburban fleshpot/night bus.

Having said that the best AP we have had was already in the country in an exploitative job. We were lucky - she saw our advert and rang us up, within 48 hours she had met us and moved in having been thrown out on the street.

So it is possible, but it doesn't IMHO increase the liklihood of getting a suitable AP against Skype and a trial weekend, and seriously limits the pool of applicants - particularly if you want to have someone lined up for some time in the future rather than straight away, and aren't offering a "standard" package or great accomodation.

Follow Squiffy's advice and see where "already in the country" fits in your list of priorities and restrictions.

MrsJones100 Thu 10-Jan-13 18:05:20

I would love not to need a driver, apart from cost, a bit nervous for them to be driven around by someone not used to our roads. Problem is my 11 year old has to get to the school coach for 7.15am so red bus could be risky and my 9 year old's school does not have a good transport link. Also getting to various other activities. No, graduate not necessary just pretty good English.
Whilst browsing AP world, one family would only take applicants already in the country, as they like to interview at least three times. She is a policewoman.
I know this would greatly reduce responses, but is that such a bad thing weighing up the advantages of AP already being here and so would therefore have experience of living away from home and more than likely have other families here as references?

MGMidget Thu 10-Jan-13 15:31:40

Yes, fair enough fedupwithdeployment! You've obviously used them a lot more than me. I switched to AP world and wouldn't go back. I think whether APs are good or not can be a bit of a lottery whether using AP World or an agency as in both cases a great deal of the selection process depends on the AP answering questions honestly as well as the host trying to give a clear picture of what the job entails. I have learnt it is good to probe a lot on important points as I think APs can give quite a lot of bog standard answers that they know you want to hear. Hence I prefer to do the questioning myself and also to check references myself which somewhat reduces the benefit of using an agency anyway. I also think it is important not to oversell the job and set the au pair up for disappointment - you don't really know how the job is being sold by an agency so again I prefer to be the one communicating the job spec. Also , the choice is so much bigger on AP World if you have an attractive job to offer and if it goes wrong you are not locked into an agency contract with a limited choice of replacements.

MrsJones100, a few things to probe on (if they matter to you) are whether or not they really don't smoke at all (I learnt this the hard way and have since realised there are quite a few smoking au pair candidates who claim to be non smokers), their experience with children and whether they can provide references, domestic experience/skills and food preferences (the standard response is to say they 'eat everything' but not always true) plus what experience they have really had of living away from home (some will claim it or talk it up it because it's what you want to hear). Also, their academic and work history - lots of fudging of dates/experience. It may not matter to you but I think au pairs who have a consistent track record of seeing things through rather than dropping out of courses or jobs may be a better bet.

MrAnchovy Thu 10-Jan-13 15:22:20

11 year old will want to be/should be travelling independently now/soon anyway and AP can accompany 9 YO on public transport.

You don't need a graduate for primary school homework: French and/or Spanish (our 9YO does both) is more useful.

"We have had 8 APs over 5 years, and 3 have been poor"

What on earth are the agency doing? You would get a better hit rate from choosing from AP world at random! Spend the money on flying them over for a trial weekend instead and get that hit rate to 80% (some of them start out fine but fall into bad habits once they settle in - often after finding a boyfriend - so you will never get to 100%).

MrAnchovy Thu 10-Jan-13 15:04:58

Didn't spot the detail - you may have to change your car unless it is a really low insurance group already and only go for au pairs over 21 to get the insurance costs down, and even then you are probably looking at over £1,000 additional cost in London. Get a few quotes to get an idea.

fedupwithdeployment Thu 10-Jan-13 14:42:58

Interesting MGMidget. We have had 8 APs over 5 years, and 3 have been poor, and the agency always sorted things. The others were good with a couple of outstanding APs. I guess it is what you know and what works for you.

MrsJones100 Thu 10-Jan-13 14:33:45

Thanks for that I think I will go the Au Pair world route. I feel the biggest
hurdle in changing my life is this Au Pair stuff. All advice very much appreciated.

MGMidget Thu 10-Jan-13 14:24:22

Fedupwithemployment, I used the same agency as you the first time we had an au pair and wouldn't use them again. I definitely prefer Au Pair world for choice and calibre of candidates and we have had much better results.

MrsJones100, the legwork required initially is more with AP World rather than an agency but once you get your system going you can filter out reasonably easily and be left with a good quality shortlist. With older children I think you have a good chance of attracting a more academic type who may not be so much of a natural with young children but will have good English and the ability to help with homework. I find that we are often faced with a choice of a younger au pair with low level academic qualifications who claims lots of childcare experience with young children or the more mature, more academic au pair with excellent English but virtually no provable experience in childcare. They may be taking a break to improve their English before doing an international business masters for example. They may claim to have done some babysitting but don't have any references. In your case the latter could work out well as you probably don't need someone with lots of childcare experience for this age. However, these types may not want to stay for year - at best you might get them for an academic year of about 9 months. Many would want to stay for six months.

Being in London near a tube line makes the job very attractive for an Au Pair so you should have plenty of choice, although needing a driver will narrow it a lot. Many girls in their twenties with a driving license may have relatively little hands on driving experience as they may not have afforded their own car so I would definitely try to quiz them in detail about how much driving they have done, whether they have had an accidents etc.

MrsJones100 Thu 10-Jan-13 14:16:39

Ah, didn't realise this. I thought it was maybe they had named an au pair looking for work or bad mouthed an agency.

MrAnchovy Thu 10-Jan-13 13:36:20

If its been deleted it was spam. If you want to think about using an agency you probably want to get an unbiased recommendation rather than pick one that is so desperate and/or underhand that they go around spamming forums for business don't you?

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