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Thinking about an au pair. Could anyone share tips and experiences please?(36 Posts)
DH and I work full time and DC have both been going to a lovely childminder before and after school/ preschool. This is working fine, but we are considering an au pair, mainly to provide the dc with more time to be in their own home.
We have a spare room with its own bathroom. An absolute essential would be that the au pair could drive the children to and from school.
How do we get started in the process and what do we need to know? I have been browsing 'Au Pair World' and there are a number of potential people on there.
Mum. Been there, done that - 3 years altogether.
We started when DD2 was tiny and DD1 started reception, mostly as a flexible solution to childcare DD1 mainly afterschool and for DD2 (in full time nursery)
I found out a lot. For example: I am not as flexible as I thought, nor as "young" as I thought. And I really like walking around during naked in my own home, which I obviously could not do anymore.
We have now gone back to childminder in the afternoon after school and do the mornings on our own. Got easier as DD2 grew older, and am very happy to go around naked as I used to!
Thanks. How did you recruit your au pairs? The naked/ privacy thing wouldn't be an issue for us as the bedrooms are a long way apart. DH and I don't have much time at home anyway, so we don't think we'd mind an extra person around. How much 'entertaining' is needed at weekends and so on? Our Sundays, particularly, involve us all doing our own thing - DH cycling, me working at home, DC playing, dog walk etc.
We used an agency first time. Waste of money, and they were useless when we sought help. First au pair was in hindsight too young, it felt like having a third child although she was lovely with DDs. I found it very difficult with her expectations to share every moment in our life including WE and holidays (which we took her on and she came along, sulking quite a lot like a teen). Altogether, she failed to provide much outside of after school care for DD1. And refused to go out / visit on her own.
Our next two were through aupairworld. Lovely girls, a bit older, with specific qualifications in childcare or scouting from my home country. They actually quickly made friends in our city and developed their own network of friends and activity. Both used to go party most evenings and WE once done with their duties. Some minor niggles with whether or not they do need feeding at WE etc. Took them on hols when we went. They were friendly and professional.
Sorry no idea on how to spell this.
Anyhow - we actually went through thorough interview process 2nd and 3rd time round.
We have had au pairs for five years. They have changed my life. It takes a village to raise a child, or so the saying goes, I have bought my village in the form or au pairs. We hire through au pair world for the academic year only. We always choose girls on a gap year because I like them young so I can mound them. I also find living with teens fun.
All our au pairs have been like family. We keep in touch with them all and they visit regularly. They have all loved our children and our children have adored them.
Living with an au pair is easier than we feared. In fact having another "adult" around means DH and I step-up, we cook nice meals and chat about our days over dinner rather than slouching on the sofa.
The flexibility of 25 hours a week care plus two inclusive babysittings is a lifesaver. DH and I go out to the cinema and all sorts. Things we would never have paid a babysitter for.
To avoid the horror of an au pair hanging around every evening and weekend we sort of interview out those that don't seem social. We often end up with ultra social party girls but that's fine, I'm happy for them to be out partying as long as it's not the night before they work. We invite them along to most events but within a month or so of joining they tend to have busy social
lives of their own. They do eat with us each night though. We like that.
Definitely second the weeding out of non-social candidates, and a tour of all that your local area has to offer in term of events, classes, meet-ups etc
Does it only really work if you live in an exciting big city? The profiles I've looked at include people who say they love animals, rural or town etc, but is that just to broaden their appeal? Is a small rural town (in driving distance of two cities) likely to be of interest?
No idea. We live in the party district of a big city!
My younger cousin is however on aupairworld looking for a family. She seeks a town (not big city) with hills for walking, a local pool, access to a car and ideally pets in the home. All sorts on there.
Make sure you interview and are as straight bat as possible with candidates.
We found all our au pairs via au pair world or workaway (but offer to pay pocket money if you go through workaway!!!)
Make your advert very clear (describing children, family life, (including your Sundays), exact duties expected and hours, house location, etc) just read through other peoples adverts and then write your own and add photo's.
Once you've posted your ad, then have a bit of an email exchange with the ones who show enthusiasm for your family (I loved your advert and I think I'd be a great fit for your family because....).
Once I've narrowed it down to my favourite few candidates I then do a Skype interview and really question them on why they want to be an au pair (so are they keen to live abroad and have an adventure, are they wanting to perfect their spoken English,
are they running away from their home country because their boyfriend just dumped them and they are sad about it and want to be miserable and lick their wounds in your house for a few months ).
I go for my gut feeling and its been great 4/5 times (the one who was recently dumped was a cloud of doom the entire time she was with us).
Really think about the type of personality and character traits you need. So if you have super noisy energetic DC then a shy person may get overwhelmed, etc.
If you want a driver get someone over 25 as insurance will be significantly cheaper. We don't need a driver, but I've known families to then pay for a few hours in a car with a UK driving instructor just to get them used to driving on the wrong side of the road, etc)
Our criteria (after having had 5 au pairs) are
Must already speak a very good level of English, so we look for people who want to perfect their fluency rather than total beginners (yes I know its a language exchange but my DC ptrefer someone who they can easily communicate with)
Must have much younger siblings - that way they have already witnessed a toddler running round the house wearing pants on their head, shoving peas up his nose, and other toddler shenanigans and are not completely baffled by my rather lively Ds.
Must have lived away from family home before
Must not have a million dietary requirements, we had a lactose intolerant au pair and that was fine,but we don't host vegans. Or if you are all vegetarian, then try and find someone who doesn't love eating meat.
I've had two au pairs. The first was Spanish, 20 here for 4 months. The second, Polish, 26, here for about 6 months. Both positive experiences on balance. There are pros and cons..e.g. Niggles when one didn't wash up, or they ate all the cereal and didn't tell me to buy more, or had visitors round..but on balance I'd say they were both lovely and helped me out loads. You really can't tell what it will be like until they come, and for the second au pair you'll have learnings from the first and so on and so forth. Having someone living in my house though was fine- I live in a small three bed semi and the au pair had the box room.
Sorry I found via aupairworld.com which is essentially like match.com for finding an au pair...
We are on our first au pair, he has been with us for four months. I have to say if it wasn't necessary I'd rather not have an au pair as I am not keen on sharing my home, my things, food etc.
We found him via family connections but I also had some great candidates from aupairworld.
Pros of an au pair:
Mornings! I just get yourself ready and out of the house whilst kids spend more time at home and there is no rush. I do help getting the younger one dressed though but generally having an au pair takes the stress out of mornings.
Same with evenings. No need to rush home to make it to nursery before it closes - the au pair will have already picked up the younger child.
Au pair is great with the older child, takes him swimming, to the park, museums, various activities - a million times better for our son than hours and hours at the after school club.
Au pair can help with some chores like the children's laundry.
And babysitting on tap!
Sharing the house!
You never know which food is still left in the fridge..
Loss of privacy. Whilst our au pair is discrete a friend of mine had one who constantly spent time in the lounge with her and her DH. Yes they say it should be a family member etc but you still need some time for yourselves!
Most au pairs are still very young and you have to teach them things like health and safety, how to handle household goods, cooking etc
When recruiting I decided not to go for the candidates that had housekeeping, childcare experience, I went for the one I liked the most on a personal level. Whilst a lot of teaching was required I still would do it the same way again. The person will need to fit into your family.
Thanks, that's all really useful. What sort of response can I expect from AuPair World? Do you tend to get loads of responses and have to sift through carefully or are you lucky to just get a few candidates?
How long does it take to organise from start of process to having an au pair in your home? What do you need to provide for them in terms of language classes?
I got LOADS of responses on aupairworld. All of them saying the same thing, typically in broken English.."I think I'd be perfect for your family because of X Y Z..." It is a chore and time consuming to go through them and reply to ones you like/ Make time to Skype them to interview them etc.
I agree with all the stuff the other posters have said. Each au pair will be different though and with each one you'll have learnings for next time. Both of my au pairs were lovely (despite various niggles like I say). One has invited us to her wedding and the other spent Xmas day with us.
Sorry replying to the other bit- how long does it take to organise ... if you go on aupairworld you can put in your criteria when you want them to join. I found someone in December to start in January.
Language classes - varies - my Spanish one, we found her some classes. She paid herself. Polish one, didn't bother with classes, she volunteered in Oxfam.
There are plenty of old threads on here to check out, plus lots of tips on aupairworld.com. I would just pay the £35 fee (or whatever it is now) and explore the options. Good luck OP.
If you're not in a big city, what is public transport like? If they want to go out with friends in the evening, how will they get there? Obviously if they have to drive then they won't be able to drink. How will they get around at weekends? Likewise, how will they get to language lessons or the gym? If you give them access to the car, is this just for work purposes or could they take a bunch of friends out for the day in your car? We consider an au pair every few months but the maths just doesn't work for us as we would have to buy, insure, tax, service and pay for petrol for a third car (DH and I both drive 45mins in opposite directions to work).
Again, if you live in a town, who will they make friends with? Do other families have au pairs? Is there a student population?
We live in a large village but there are no amenities within walking distance & only a couple of families have au pairs. I know the mum of one family & she gets her next au pair over for a week in June each year to really see what it is like. Yes, this costs her a few hundred pounds but she has never had an au pair leave early. She also agrees to pick the au pair up once a week provided it is before midnight and to pay for a taxi home once a week as she would rather do that and have the au pair out than always have her at home.
I'd be looking for someone a bit outdoorsy, able to walk the dog each day. We're in a great location for hills, climbing, swimming, running, kayaking,if they were into that sort of thing.
Offering occasional late night lifts would be possible but we're in walking distance of town if that was enough for going out at night. Good practise for us for when our small DC become teens!
We're expecting car insurance (probably even buying a small car) as part of the cost.
Language lessons would be available in one of the two local cities and I think there is a small language school in the village where the DC's school is.
Gym, pool, shops all ten minutes walk away.
As Londoners we get a lot of responses on au our world so I set my filters tight to limit who applies. I don't know whether it would be different in a more rural area. Put lots of info and photos on your ad. I imagine that needing a driver will naturally limit who can apply.
I filter for only Canadians, NZ or Aussies as I want English speaking while my children are very little and learning to talk. 18-20 years old. Female. Non smoking.
In case it's helpful here is a note of recruiting which I sent to a friend.
"The first thing I would say about recruiting through the au pair world site is that you must be specific about what you want. If you are clear from the outset about duties, hours, housework and how much you will include the au pair in your family then you are more likely to find an au pair who will be happy when she arrives and who will stay and work well with your family.
As a London family you will be inundated with applicants. Decide on a just a few countries you want to recruit from and limit your criteria to those countries. Also decide an age range and ask for applicants only from that range. I personally have had good experiences with Germans, there is a real culture of au pairing as a gap year activity in Germany. Having said that I currently go only for English speaking countries as my youngest is learning to talk.
I look for young au pairs. I choose 18/19 year olds as I would prefer to teach them how I like things rather than have them come with lots of pre-set ideas, plus I find younger au pairs easier to live with. But it's personal choice.
On au pair world I delete all applicants that don't write a bespoke message when they contact me (some use generic messages generated by the site). If their message doesn't mention my kids I delete them, I want them to show they have really connected with what I have written in our profile. This immediately leaves me with a long list. I then email a few basic questions:
Why do you want to be an au pair?
Tell me more about your childcare experience.
What kind of relationship do you want with your host family?
If I like their answers, and they ask good questions in return, then we arrange to Skype. On Skype the key is deciding whether you have a rapport. Au pairs become part of your family, you spend a lot of time with them, so rapport is important.
Think carefully what kind of person you want. For example, do you hope they will go out a lot and give you space? If so look for someone who is obviously outgoing and sociable. But consider whether returning from late night parties will bother you. On Skype I ask the following:
Why did you choose au pairing over other gap year activities?
What kind of activities would you do with the kids on a rainy day?
How would you deal with the kids fighting with each other?
What's your approach to discipline?
Can you cook?
What do you like to cook?
Is there anything you don't eat?
I ask for light housework. Are you comfortable with this?
Are you a naturally tidy person?
What were your own hobbies in school?
What do you hope to do after au pairing?
How much time do you want to spend with us as a family?
What do you hope for from your year in London?
How will you spend you spare time?
How will you make friends in London?
Have you lived away from home before? Did you get homesick?
If I like their answers I bring the kids in and let them Skype and watch how they interact with the kids. Then I make an offer which includes a clearly written set of hours and tasks plus pay and holiday details. Having au pairs has been amazing for us. Our kids love them and I find the flexibility of live-in help is a god send. I hope that is helpful. Good luck with your search!
Brilliant advice from Stalingrad
That is really great, thanks. I've been browsing other families' ads on 'AuPair World' today to get an idea of what people ask for. It's really varied!
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