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Au Pair - how did you 'know' who to accept? What makes a good au pair? And any do's or don'ts?

(14 Posts)
eightytwenty Thu 22-Sep-16 07:23:04

We are on the verge of employing an au pair.

Last time we found an amazing girl who waltzed into our kitchen, while I was juggling builders and 2 under 3's. She came in made everyone a cup of tea and thereafter was the best thing that could have happened to our family at a time we really needed it.

9 years on we've managed fine without, but now that I am working full time, with 3 kids and a dog, it's time to find an extra pair of hands.

Looking for the wisdom of MN to help with 3 questions:

I wondered how you 'knew' who the right person was (especially cause the person won't be able to make a cup of tea over Skype!).

What qualities have made your au pairs invaluable?

Also any do's and don't's? Our children are between 5-12 so it's a different ball game to last time.

GiGiraffe Thu 22-Sep-16 07:31:37

I have got a bit better at employing aupairs (am on my 4th) but am far from having all the answers! my top tips:
- do make a list of what the non-negotiable tasks are and be really prescriptive so that Aupair knows what the expectation is
- make sure you get an Aupair that actually likes children after our 2nd one that seemed to despise the children (and us) - hideous 3 months
- we had lots of applications from people that want to live in the city we live in but had no childcare experience (lots of "I like children they are so fun" not at 7am when they won't get dressed!! So we ask for previous Aupair experience or a lot of hands of babysitting)

Hope that helps! Good luck and let us know how you get on

eightytwenty Thu 22-Sep-16 16:41:19

Thanks Giraffe. Can see the sense of a list of tasks. I can see how that would help manage expectations.

TimTamTerrier Thu 22-Sep-16 17:03:35

I usually go on gut feeling once it reaches the Skype interview stage. I always let the DC speak to the potential au pair as part of the interview. My DC are, ahem, spirited. If the interviewee looks horrified at their antics then they are not for us. If they are amused and manage to engage with the DC over Skype then they will probably manage to interact well with them in person too.

I like candidates who have coached a sport or have worked in holiday camps, they've already had any idealised view of children and childhood shattered so my two won't be too much of a challenge.

I send them a list of questions that I will be asking when I do the Skype interview, and I do include some not at all hypothetical questions about what they would do if one of my DC was rude to them or did something wrong or dangerous while in their charge. Anyone who has very rigid views about what they would do or is either too strict or too wishy-washy won't suit us. The ones who have worked out best are the ones who would remove the child from the situation and tell me about it or who ask me what I would like them to do in the situation.

eightytwenty Thu 22-Sep-16 18:55:59

Thanks Timtam.

Sending questions in advance is a great idea. Will force us to spend some time planning the important questions too. Been up since 445 and not yet home so may have a clearer head tomorrow. How many do you narrow down to Skype. We thought we'd found what looked like a perfect candidate but she's not convinced our offer is good enough hmm. Hey ho

TimTamTerrier Thu 22-Sep-16 19:21:21

I usually Skype three or four candidates. Most times I have gone on to Skype a further two or three from my shortlist because the first lot aren't right. But current au pair has been here for just over two years and I always had about a million candidates to choose from back then (he's my fifth, I had about one every 10 months before him). I've seen people here on MN saying that there are fewer potential au pairs applying these days.

eightytwenty Thu 22-Sep-16 19:52:28

Thanks. Kids have voted against a male whereas I was quite up for it. How do you find having a male compared to a female?

Artandco Thu 22-Sep-16 20:06:40

As a former au pair (years ago) I would say clear instructions of hours and work. I found it difficult living in a house when the job was ' to help with child'. That doesn't tell me when, should I be helping when your around or just when your not etc

Saying we need you mon-Friday 2-6pm, 2-3 for odd chores like children's laundry, picking up some milk, etc, and 3-6pm with the children, is far clearer for everyone. And then they feel they can come and say hi to you all at 11am but not feel they have to get involved with children every time for the next 2 hrs

eightytwenty Thu 22-Sep-16 22:40:02

Great to hear from a former AP. Am conscious we will need to educate the kids that the AP won't be 'open all hours'!

Did you find it difficult if the jobs changed each day. For us the role will change on a daily basis. On some days it might be cooking the kids tea, on other days it might be taking them to activities.

Artandco Thu 22-Sep-16 22:57:26

I think as long as the time slot remains fairly regular and they know what they are doing. ie you say on Mondays I need to you watch x, help x with homework and sort dinner whilst I take y and z to clubs

Fixed times means au pair usually happier to stay longer as can arrange things like language or other classes in advance if they know they are always free at a certain time. Having to constantly cancel or rearrange is annoying.

TimTamTerrier Thu 22-Sep-16 23:00:52

I've had two female and three male au pairs, all were good. One of the women probably didn't fit in quite as well as the others, but I don't think that was a gender thing, she just wasn't as laid back as the others. Plus she had injured her foot between taking the job and coming over to us so she couldn't play football, which was a massive negative against her in the DC's minds. I don't mind which I get really, but because both DC are mad about football and it tends to be more the men who have played or coached a lot of football, more of them get shortlisted than women. The DC say that they prefer men, but that only started after the second (injured) female au pair, they were neutral after the first female au pair who was very sporty.

eightytwenty Thu 22-Sep-16 23:08:53

We're offering fixed times except on the occasions I'm travelling (though tends to be known well in advance). One prospertive ap said she didn't like what we were offering as we wanted someone to dog walk in the middle of the day as well as pick up the kids from school at 315 2 X per week and once at 1230 (Scotland so early finish on Friday). Wonder if that will put others off too.

eightytwenty Thu 22-Sep-16 23:10:11

I got the older dc to help me with questions. One of which was ... Do you play .... Pokemon Go. Clearly not on my criteria.

TimTamTerrier Thu 22-Sep-16 23:12:55

Well, thank goodness you have the good sense to let your DC ask some questions. Pokemon Go is vitally important.

If I hadn't let my DC ask some of the questions I would never have known what football team the interviewees supported, or whether they had a dog and what the dog's name was. grin

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