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Would having an au pair work?

(7 Posts)
redplasticspoon Fri 22-Feb-13 20:38:54

I was thinking of getting an au pair when we move into a new flat, but just wanted to canvas some opinions on whether it could actually work.

We will be living in a rather small 3 bed flat, and would only be able to offer an au pair a small bedroom, and a shared bathroom. Would this be ok? Dd will be just under 3 when we will be planning to start this arrangement, and we were planning to send her to nursery from around 9am-2pm, with the au pair looking after her from 8-9am and 2-6pm. Is this reasonable? What amount of babysitting is ok ask for? What kind of wage would we need to offer to attract good candidates?

We will be living in central London, near tube, and I assume language colleges nearby.

Red2003 Sat 23-Feb-13 18:49:15

Hi yes it should work. Not all au pairs get large bedrooms with en suites. The fact that you are in central London may be a bonus for some of them. You'll have to get used to having someone else around of course but this can be fine if you like the benefits ie childcare in the home and babysitting. Usually it's 2 nights babysitting a week but we sometimes have no babysitting one week and three or more the next - but as long it doesn't impinge on the au pairs free time they don't mind. We give them a TV ( you can always put one on the wall if the bedroom is small maybe with a built in DVD player??) and then ask them to bring a laptop and allow them to use you wifi - this way they can feel happy in their room and it gives you some family time in the evenings.
Salary is anything between £70 - £100 a week.

NumericalMum Sat 23-Feb-13 22:13:58

We have a small room for our AP - it is comfortable with a single bed, wardrobe, drawers next ot her bed and tv on the wall. We have three toilets and two showers but she typically shares ours as the other one is on a different floor in the house. She doesn't seem to mind. One of her friends shared a room with a 4 YO as an AP. She only lasted a week though! That is just bizarre!

cjn27b Sun 24-Feb-13 20:33:15

The issue will not be the size of the bedroom etc.. but how you feel about someone else living with you. We have had lots of au-pairs. When they are a good 'fit' with your family all is well and good. When they are not, it is a nightmare no matter how big your house is.

My main tip would be - interview carefully. Not only to ensure they're genuinely good with kids and understand what it is like to look after small children, but also to work out if they are someone you can live with. Ask lot of questions about their family life to try and work out if they have similar values to you.

Being in London you'll have no problem finding someone. We use Au-Pair World website and get hundreds of applications each time. We've met lots of au-pairs (via our ones) and many have smaller rooms and share bathrooms. None of them worry about this. What they care about is if they get on with the family, feel included, and manage to get out and about to meet others. The ones that have worked best for us are those who have similar(ish) values and family lifestyles, speak good enough English that they can make friends with au-pairs of all sorts of nationalities and converse with them in a common language, and who are brave enough to go out and do 'au-pair blind dating' as we call it. There are facebook groups for au-pairs in London which are a life saver for when it comes to developing a social life.

blueshoes Sun 24-Feb-13 21:03:43

I agree with the others.

Her duties look fine. You can ask her to do light housework during the morning when your dd is at nursery.

To ensure no surprises, I usually look for aupairs with previous aupair (not just babysitting) experience who are looking to change families. You can get this in Central London because some aupairs start in more rural locations and then for the rest of their stay in UK want to come to London (or a big city). I will check up on references with their current host family and speak to the host parent (ideally the mother because ime fathers can be clueless) over the phone to gauge what she is like as an aupair and housemate and to make sure she is not leaving on bad terms.

By getting someone with previous aupair experience, they will understand what being an aupair is about and living with another family is like, and so would have tempered their expectations. They are also less likely to get homesick, which is a major reason for aupair terminating early, because they have a track record of living outside their family home.

I think this is particularly important since you have a smallish flat and will be living in each other pockets a lot more than in a bigger house where you have somewhere to escape to.

redplasticspoon Mon 25-Feb-13 21:19:31

Thank you all. I was worried an au pair wouldn't want such a small room, but am reassured. It is only 7-8 m2 but we will kit it out nicely.

Blue shoes that sounds like a great idea, Iwould just be worried you would get the au pairs who are too problematic for other families? Why do au pairs change families?

blueshoes Tue 26-Feb-13 08:59:48

redplasticspoon, aupairs change families for the same reasons people change jobs. It could be on good or bad terms. The host family might have been at fault or the aupair might have been at fault or the fit just wasn't right. Or the aupair wanted a change of scene (like move to London)!

I therefore always insist on speaking to the host family to find out the story. There are horror stories of aupairs who give their friends' numbers to pose as the host parent. It has never happened to me but to avoid that, I ask personal details about the host family from the prospective aupair (e.g. how many children, their ages, what do the parents do, where they live) and then weave these questions into the conversation with the reference to see if the story checks out. Their friend might be prepared to sing the aupair's praises but chances are, will not have been coached on the nitty gritty details! I always ask the question at the end, if you had to do it again, would you have hired that aupair? Interesting to note whether there is a pause.

You also want to see that the aupair spent a decent amount of time (6 months or more) with the previous host family.

The hardest situations are where the aupair say she is changing families because she was badly treated by the family in which case, she cannot give a reference. On balance, I put that on hold and explore other candidates. You can feel for some of these young girls but I am not a lie detector nor a refuge. I am a busy working mother with a family and house to run. There are plenty of families that will take on an aupair in the UK without checking references. Once an aupair is in the UK, it is much easier for her to find another host family.

I sound harsh but I am quite jaded. I have been let down by aupairs before as well as wowed by some of them. It is pretty hit and miss so don't beat yourself up if it does not work out. Just move her on and find another. I had 3 duds in quick succession and then now have the holy grail of aupairs living with me.

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