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Top Tips? - Au Pair arriving on Monday

(23 Posts)
Reece Thu 15-Feb-07 15:11:49

We have never had an Au Pair before and just wondered if anyone could offer some tips that might make things easier for us all to adjust to our new way of living/sharing our home with someone etc.

mishmash Thu 15-Feb-07 17:03:57

When our aupair arrived we had a "Welcome" pack ready for her - shower gel, shampoo, toothpaste, guide book, (can't remember what else).

I had asked her before she came what she liked to eat and drink and had some things that she liked to tide her over. Brought her shopping but she was a bit shy about putting things into the trolley so I sent around with her own basket.

We also brought her out for Pizza on her first night with the children just to chill out and have a sort of "get to know you" evening.

On the second day I sat her down and discussed what she would be doing which I had typed out if she didn't understand, also gave her a list of "house rules", nothing major in it but a "start as you mean to go on type of thing". Have only had to pull her up on one thing and she is with us almost 7 months. Agree from the outset use of telephone and internet - the internet was what we had an argument over because she was on it constantly even whilst babysitting but we overcame that and now it isn't a problem.

If she asks can she help you let her - I didn't because she arrived on a Friday and wasn't starting work till Monday and I think she would have preferred if I had let her help.

I also spent a full day with her showing her around town, joining her in the library, getting information on various activities - that sort of thing.

Best of luck - hope you have a great experience. It will have its ups and downs!


mishmash Thu 15-Feb-07 17:08:57

I also forgot to mention that feedback from each other is great to have.

Also encourage her to get involved in something outside the house - our girl is happy just to sit in with us or read in her room which I find a bit irritating at times because I like to have a bit of space. She is quite happy doing this.

I am currently looking for her replacement and am being very particular in matching the next girl more carefully. Not that there is anything wrong with our current girl but would prefer someone who is more active and outgoing.

Mumpbump Thu 15-Feb-07 17:23:13

I did a little schedule of what I expected her to do on each day through the week. It just sets out a bit of structure. I gave it to her in writing so she has it to refer to. It more or less works. But both we are she are flexible - we might get home late some evenings, but will give her the day off (time to be made up on another day) in the middle of the week.

We took her out for a meal when she arrived and told her not to worry too much about her duties for the first week - she was keen to prove herself and took our ds to nursery on the second day. I think you have to give them quite a bit of time and sympathy whilst they are getting orientated... Also, because her English isn't very good, I tend to communicate in email during the day so she can always plug it into a translator on the net if she doesn't understand. HTH.

Reece Fri 16-Feb-07 14:02:28

Thank you so much Mishmash and Mumpbump. Great Tips!
I was thinking of getting a little gift to leave in her room to make her feel at home but the practical stuff like shampoo etc is a great idea.
I will get my pack sorted this weekend!
Our Au Pair is arriving late on Monday so she will probably go straight to bed and meet the kids in the morning. I was going to tell her to rest in the morning whilst I take my eldest to Montessori. Then she can meet my youngest and we can take it from there.
Definately going to do a rough schedule for her but I suppose it will take a while for us all to find our feet in this.
She doesn't have much English at all so the translator web sites will be a god send.
My one concern is if she wants to sit with us every night as we love our quiet time. We are signing her up for English classes which will take up 2 nights of the week for her and then she will babysit 2 more nights so we will see how the other 3 nights a week work!!!
Going to e mail her now and find out what she likes to eat!
Do you tell her what you are cooking each night and if she doesn't like it, let her cook something herself? How does that whole thing work?

Mumpbump Fri 16-Feb-07 14:35:32

Sometimes she cooks dinner for us and her during the day. If she hasn't already cooked something for herself to eat, I'll usually tell her what we're having and ask if she wants some. Our au pair is 25 so I kind of figure she's old enough to fend for herself, but if she were 18/19, I suppose I might be more proactive about cooking for her.

When I go shopping, I ask her what she wants me to shop for her. The first shop I did after she arrived, I took her with me 'cos it's easier... You get a bit of a feel for what they eat after a while.

Reece Fri 16-Feb-07 16:36:58

Wow Mumpbump thats great. I haven't heard of anyone else that has an au pair that cooks for them!

I think you must be lucky.

Glassofwine Fri 16-Feb-07 16:53:07

Well it might be mean, but on the advice of lots of people with au pairs I explained upfront that we wanted to spend our evenings alone. We made sure she had a tv, stereo and internet access of her own. That way if she was the kind of girl who wanted to sit with us at nights she'd have the chance to turn us down before arriving. We also made it clear that we were happy for her to be out at nights, but if it was particularly late or staying out overnight she was to let us know, text etc so we didn't worry. We gave her a mobile and a top up from time to time, which was appreciated.

We also made sure that she knew at least a week in advance the hours she'd be working so that her private arrangements could be made. You wouldn't want to work for an employer who never let you know when you'd be needed, well not on au pair money anyway.

With regard to babysitting, we told her that we would only book her for 2 weekend nights per month, that meant Fri or Sat - again so she could have a social life. When she'd been with us a while and made friends we also allowed her friend to stay overnight (female).

In general we'd give her the odd treat from time to time, which meant she was happy and felt appreciated. So at Christmas we paid her airfair home, paid for her English classes and exam and if I was on top of things on a Friday afternoon let her go early.

We had three au pairs in 18 months - one for a year, one for 3 weeks (caught stealing) and one for 6 months who we 'passed' onto a friend. Most of the time it all worked well, the last one did want her boyfriend to stay over, which we said no to and she wasn't happy about.

Reece Fri 16-Feb-07 18:15:01

Thanks glassofwine. That was interesting stuff.
We plan to give her a top up mobile once she has settled and we are happy with her etc.
We will also give her little treats now and again. I was told by our agency that they are not to be treated as our employees but as a member of the family. I suppose you have to draw the line somewhere on this though. We will make her welcome etc but will have to think how we deal with the privacy issue when she arrives.
I suppose I'm just hoping she will find outside interests and make friends on her English course.

mishmash Fri 16-Feb-07 23:00:53

The little treats do help - always have a bottle of Baileys and give her a glass or two at weekends.

We have provided a TV and radio/cd in her room but don't mind her sitting with us at night particularly the nights DH is away. And she usually goes to her room at around 9.30pm. Had a nanny who spent all her evenings in her room and I used to feel sorry for her and was always worrying if she was happy or not so used to bring her coffee and biscuits.

I also give her Global cards so she can make cheap calls from our phone.

Tomorrow I am taking her out to a horseriding school - as the days are getting better and I am confident to let her have my car I am hoping it will get her out of the house a bit more at the weekends.

We always try and include her in our activities at the weekend - sometimes she will come along and other times she declines.

They certainly appreciate the little extras - got some choccies for her on Valentines Day which just happened to have messages in German on them and she was really amused.

Reece Sat 17-Feb-07 15:44:58

Arh Mishmash you sound like a great person to live with.
I think we will learn as we go along. She has no been an Au Pair before and we have never shared our house with anyone so its going to be new for all of us.
I have put a tv and a CD/radio in her room. Also going to provide earphones just in case she wants to listen to music at night (don't want the kids waking).
I have been e mailing her and translating the messages via the web. I asked her what she liked to eat and she said 'everything' and 'lots of it'. She sounds like me!
Gong to do her welcome pack this weekend although I'm feeling under the weather and DS1 has a fever. Not great, as we have lots to do.

TenaLady Sat 17-Feb-07 15:52:17

Be clear about what you want her to do, create a diary with all the dates for playdates and events that she will need to attend.

Dont leave anything to chance, just be clear and concise about everything.

TenaLady Sat 17-Feb-07 16:02:18

Have a look at this and adapt it:

Probably easier for you to copy and paste!

I would suggest that whatever you put in writing make it more of a "welcome pack", and mixture of positive things - such as maps of the area, bus timetables, phone numbers etc - as well as the negative sounding "rules".

Also things like "DO make yourself lunch", "Feel free to have a bath/shower every day" etc."

We have a new Au pair started recently and based on past experience i have put together a loads of info. I never take it for granted how much AP understand. When written down in 'simple terms' its easier to understand.

when looking after DS and DD- included issues like displine - we don't smack
road saftey - how much the children understand.
limiting treats.
to tell me about any accidents.
washing hands and brushing teeth.
encourage the kids to help tidy up.

General Stuff about what we expect.
Like freinds over to stay
staying out overnight - to let me know.
eating arrangements - help tidy up after meals even at weekends if the join us for a meal.
bacially wanted to get the message across that it not a hotel at weekends, Its their home too, and that means mucking in.
Telephone calls and how much we pay on the mobile.
Using the car.

Emergency numbers and other number like school/nursery
house alarm

First Aid for children simple illustrations thats printed off a website ( hopefully never needed)

It does look harsh on paper but easier in the long run and everyone knows where they stand. I think when they get to know you better they soon realize we are not that bad.. and I am a nice person. at least I hope!!!

House Rules - see below - I will probably get lynched for these but they work for us. I also list things on my House Rules like where they can iron (i.e. not on the carpet in their bedroom - our aupair's room now sports a huge burn thanks to a previous occupant), whether or not they can use the phone and when i.e. I dont want to act as her receptionist after a hard day at work and end up running up and down the stairs to her room every five minutes. I also list hygiene things like please change the bed every week and dust your room etc otherwise some will never do it and if its not written down it's difficult to raise - However of course all that stuff is a personal thing so I have not included it here. Oh and also dont wash my cashmere jumpers on boil wash or put them in the dryer and dont put your jeans in with my white towels etc (sound familiar anyone).
So here goes:


Smoking is forbidden anywhere in the house or garden either by you or any of your friends who may visit. These are strict house rules and there are no variations.

2 If you are staying out overnight please let us know beforehand. This is so we do not worry about you and also so we can set the alarm.

3. If you are unsure about anything at all, the children’s routine, what cleaning materials to use, how to use the machines etc.please, please ask. We would much rather explain something to you a few times than have expensive disasters happen!

4. If you want to have a friend (girlfriends only) to stay overnight, please ask our permission first. Please ensure you wash the bedlinen and iron it afterwards and put it back on the bed.

5. We would ask that you seek our permission before you invite your friends into our house and we would expect to be introduced to them on their first visit. Never go out and leave friends alone in our house. (yes, it has been done).

6. SECURITY: - Please make sure that you always set the alarm EVERY time you go out. If you are the last person in at night please make sure that you set the night alarm before you go upstairs to bed.

7. When you are alone in the house or alone with the children, please always deadlock the front door.

8. IMPORTANT - Please do not allow anyone into the house when we are not at home for whatever reason. Ask callers to call again. There are no exceptions to this rule. This is a strict house rule and it must be observed.

9. Never allow the children to go off with anyone unless it has been pre-arranged with me. If in any doubt, ALWAYS telephone me first to check.

10. Never ever leave the children alone in the house or allow them to play outside in the street without you being there.

11 MANNERS – Please make sure that the children say please and thank you for things they ask you for. They normally will do this automatically. Remember also to say please and thank you to them. If they are rude to you, tell them so and say you are unhappy with them, (then tell us). Please discuss this with us if you have any problems.

12. Smacking is strictly forbidden.

13. TIMEKEEPING - It is very important that you are on time each morning and for School collection. There is very little time between breakfast and leaving for school. You must please be punctual.

The phone point is interesting. Our contract allowed our nanny "reasonable" use of the phone, with international calls by prior arrangement. She was the only one in during the day, and hundreds of local/mobile calls ensued. In addition, she used one of those cheap rate access codes to phone home, which was reasonable for the first couple of months, but just after she left, we got the bill, there were several calls a day to her home country, every day. Despite a low rate per minute, it all adds up. We wouldn't even consider chasing her for it, not that much of a problem in itself, but certainly I'm on notice for next time around that we need to be more up-front about what we consider to be reasonable.

We will also change tariff (currently evening/weekend calls are free, daytime calls aren't. Should have thought about that!)

I'm currently drawing up a whole bunch of house rules/procedures for a new nanny. I started with dizzydo's excellent list (or did those come from someone else first??) about the cardinal rules:

- smoking,
- security,
- manners etc

and then moved on to a bit more detail:
- children's routines - who does what, where and when
- how to operate various appliances (and the golden rule about not mixing whites and coloureds in the wash!),
- reminders on what her nursery duties include (eg changing beds each week, keeping her/children's bathroom clean).
- Car safety
- Use of the car when off duty (and reminder about drink driving),
- responsibility for any parking tickets/speeding fines.
- petty cash float for expenses
- food shopping (or lack of it - I like to do it!)
- use of telephone/computer/internet

and so on. I've put it all into a folder in separate sections so each one can be updated as necessary. It feels a bit like one of those info folders you find in hotels/holiday lets, but hey ho. If it does the job...

mishmash Sat 17-Feb-07 20:56:27

Why would you be lynched Tena - my house rules are quite identical - but I know I got them from here so you must have replied to a similar thread I ran last year

mishmash Sat 17-Feb-07 21:04:09

I'm afraid I have slacked off a bit in getting her to clean up after dinner - she was great when I first said it - now it is just putting her plate in the dishwasher.

However I am on the look for a new aupair for August and am already scrutinising every application to make sure that she matches our requirements. Current girl is lovely but not great around the house and she literally has very little to do as we have a cleaner.

I also find leaving a list in the mornings of "What to do" helps - but will definetly use e-mail when next girls arrives.

I would also be clear about internet access - current ap was spending hours on it, we are broadband so no issues there, but I found her on it several times when she was supposed to be working and also babysitting. I pulled her up on it and it isn't a problem anymore.

Bugsy2 Sat 17-Feb-07 21:18:53

Make them feel welcome on arrival. I also do the shampoo, soap, tissues etc in their room & also put a small bunch of flowers in.
I also have a folder of information ready for them. All house rules, local info etc.
I make it clear that I will be helpful but I am not their friend or their mother.
I am very clear about my expectations & also about the day of the week they will receive their pocket money.

Reece Sat 17-Feb-07 21:49:19

Wow you are all brilliant.
I need to get my skates on and get together my rules. Thanks Tenalady. You have saved me a lot of time as I tend to agree with your points.

frenziednester Sat 17-Feb-07 22:05:12

can i say thank you too for such great tips - i was just about to come on and start an identical thread, but don't need to now, this has been so helpful. good luck Reece!

shimmy21 Sat 17-Feb-07 22:23:47

Speaking as a relative and friend of several au-pairs can i just add to your list of dos and don'ts that au-pairs are usually young and away from home for the first time so may well be feeling lonely, confused, terrified or miserable. The only reason they have come to the UK is to learn English (they certainly aren't doing it for the wages!).

it is very important to include some time in your busy weeks where they can be with you (adults not children) and chat informally. If you don't offer them the chance to join in with your weekend activities or evenings then they might as well not be in England at all.

I do understand the need to have your own time to yourselves but au-pairs cannot just be put away out of sight like a walking hoover when you don't need their help.

Reece Sun 18-Feb-07 00:03:09

I understand what you are saying shimmy21. I agree that they need to treated as part of the family but there also needs to be a healthy balance. Not only will we want our private time but so will she and we would love her to have a social life outside of our home.

It will often be difficult for us to include her in all weekend family activities as we do not have a car large enough to take all of us on an outing.

As I don't work I intend to take her out with me quite a lot during the daytime on trips to the zoo etc. with the children. One of our main reasons for hiring an au pair is so that I get help during the day when taking my 2 boys out. They are currently 2 and 3 years old and both seem to always want to run off in different directions!!!

sunnyjim Mon 19-Feb-07 13:02:18

Shimmy I see your point but I think that can be overcome by careful choosing of your Au Pair. At 18/19 I certianly wouldn't have wanted to sit with a host fmaily every night If I had the chance to be in a different country, I would have enjoyed trying out new activities, learning the language and relishing my quiet time in the evenings in my own room reading/watching TV.

(mind you at 18 I was hardly a homesick type of girl)

We're thinking of getting an Au Pair in the autumn so the tips/rules on here are great. One thing I'm curious about DS will be 2 1/2 then. I'd like a year of prior childcare (babysitting/au pair etc) experience and reasonable english so that the Au Pair can do some babysitting during the day (pick up from nursery and bring home 3-6pm 2 days a weekk). Woudl I be better off with an Au Pair who is already in the country?

Reece Thu 22-Feb-07 21:13:24

Well our Au Pair arrived on Monday night. She was very tired so packed herself off to bed.
She has been a wonderful help and I am so pleased I made this decision now. I think we may be lucky that we have found a little gem. She is a lovely 23 yr old girl from Spain. The kids love her! She is energetic and fun and I even think that we could be friends. We are very comfortable with her living in our home so my nerves on that issue have been settled. (Its the husband I have to get rid of now!!!). She barely has any English which was another worry but we are getting by and tbh if thats the only downfall and you can find a great kind and gentle person then go for it!
She has had no au pair experience before but I was given the tip to go for someone from age 21 - 25 max. They understand more of what they are expected to do.
It also helps if they come from a big family and the Spanish usually do.

Good Luck I have had flu since she arrived and so have my 2 kids. She has been so good to us.

mishmash Fri 23-Feb-07 10:46:45

Thats good Reece - another tip if her English isn't great and you need to communicate something important - suggest you e-mail her and she can use an online translator to translate to Spanish.

However against your advice - the advice given to me was to go for someone 19-22 - but thats just horses for courses.

Am looking and talking to a lovely Swedish girl at the moment = aged 18 - turns 19 in the summer - had been to a boarding school of sorts and sounds so confident and independent

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