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New Au Pair arriving - advice please(29 Posts)
We have an au pair arriving tomorrow.
She's young, from Germany and I'm keen to get things off to a good start so all advice appreciated.
(Had a temp older au pair in the past but with experience and had both live in and live out nannies - but this is our first experience of a young au pair on her first role.)
Our youngest DC is 9.
So far I have done notes on the house, school and activities, printed out maps and a draft daily/weekly schedule, got details for language classes and gym.
Also a U.K. phone with a SIM card and we will pay for that.
We are in outer London zone 4 but pretty much everything is within walking distance. She will have an Oyster card for work. (I can get a spare one for her personal use she can put money on.)
The room is bright and tidy and will have flowers, shampoo, shower gel etc in the shower room.
What more to do?
What obvious things am I likely to forget that she wouldn't know?
What do you do in evenings? Do they spend every evening and weekend with you - I know she is young and part of the family too but would like some time "off" and we only have one sitting room.
(We have a good size kitchen and au pairs room is v large with TV, sofa etc.)
How do they meet other au pairs? Some at the school gate and I've emailed one other mother I know with an au pair. Are their websites?
Her English is amazing so she is not sure she will do language classes.
If you don't want her to spend every evening with you, then put it in writing in your welcome back.
Daily routines, checklists etc in writing. Plus any rules for the kids eg when they can watch TV, eat sweets.
Be explicit about everything, for example being fully showered and dressed before starting work. Keeping their room/bathroom clean and tidy (I have even started specifying how often they need t hoover and change bedsheets at a minimum!).
What food can they eat for lunch, when can they use the washing machine?
There are lots of au pair Facebook groups.
If not using an agency:
Get a copy of their passport and home country address details.
Make sure you've followed up references.
Get them to sign a contract/agreement (examples ones abound online)
Sorry to be a party pooper but I didn't do this and it cost me very dearly. I was far too trustworthy despite an uneasy feeling - go with your gut instinct.
You should have her address and to have followed up references before she arrives...
Your prep sounds fine, but maybe try to steer her towards FB groups locally where she can meet other au pairs. If she has a hobby -great, steer her towards a group too. This will really help with the socialising. Most find their feet and dont hang about in the evenings after the first few weeks. We have had one nototious one who didnt but tbh I dont think something in a guide book woukd have helped with this partucular person. See how it goes and if it's an issue you can always pop back.
Hadn't thought of spelling out things like when to change her own bed and hoover room etc.
Will add it to the list!
Along with no sweets other than special occasions, no TV during the week etc.
I clearly need way more detail that I had anticipated.
Will looks on Facebook for groups too.
On evenings - is it fair to expect her to eat with the DCs and then spend some evenings in kitchen and/or her room after off duty?
Happy for her to join us for some evenings chatting, TV and playing cards etc but preferably not all.
During the week I can be late home so DH and I (and poss oldest DC) will eat late most nights.
Also how do weekends work? Is it just like having an extra older DC?
Am beginning to feel a little apprehensive.
We did go through an agency - so have copies of all docs etc.
What went wrong? Anything particular to be aware of?
Will def try to steer her towards Facebook to make contacts and also encourage hobbies.
Explain as much as you can re: DCs. She doesn't have your experience and intuition. Also encourage her to ask you questions - and build up her confidence by making it clear when she has intuited / done something independently that is correct or helpful (or even an improvement to the way you were doing it first).
Tell her you want her to eat with the children. I'm sure she won't mind as then she only has to cook once.
Tell her she is welcome to hang out with you in the kitchen in the evenings but that it's her time so you understand she might prefer to be in her room (or go out?) Chances are she will probably end up spending her non-working hours in her room or out, although at first she won't know anyone or the area so may prefer to hang out around the house getting to know you.
At weekends, tell her when she needs to work, and when she can go out. Again, when she's not working, let her know she's welcome to join in with the family but ultimately it's her choice and you realise she will want freedom/peace and quiet too!
Be approachable and that should mean that any hiccups or misunderstandings are sorted out quickly.
Do not underestimate the impact of age and cultural/family differences - assume nothing.
Rather than just saying 'get kids ready for school' I have a checklist for breakfast, bowls in dishwasher, get dressed, pyjamas away etc.
I would ask that she eats with kids as you and DH eat later, but I don't think its OK for you to expect her to have a nursery tea if your oldest DC then eats with the grown ups! Could you set aside one night a week to all eat together?
I would maybe say something like you and DH like to have time alone as a couple in the living room after 9pm, but she is welcome to join you as a family on x night if she wants.
That's a really good way of putting it!
Because of the age of older DCs we almost never need babysitting - weekends or weekdays - so contractually have set it to zero and will arrange it as a one off and pay extra if and when required. So it's easy to be clear on hours.
Will be as positive as possible to build confidence.
Our oldest DC is the almost the same age as the au pair and home pretty late from college so can't always eat early though does when she can!
We almost always eat together for all meals at weekends and she is welcome to join us then.
I think you need to be careful about not treating the ap differently to oldest DC - so if you don't want ap in the living room in the evenings, you can't then invite the DC to watch tv with you. Our ap is kind of occupying a teenage daughter/niece position in our family. They are more family member than employee.
I do intend to treat the au pair as extended family.
At weekends she will be very welcome to join us in almost all activities and meals and - like the DCs and nieces and nephews when visiting.
But where do you draw the line?
If you and your DH are doing something, or you're doing something 1:1 with one child, then obviously you wouldn't invite the ap as well. But you can't exclude her from family time/family activities - for example all go out for dinner without her, or all watch TV together in the evening but expect her to stay in her room.
That's why weekends and weekend meals are important to us as don't have much family time - it's a challenge to fit in family time, 1 to 1 time with each DC and time with DH.
Life is a little manic - which is why we stayed with nannies for 18 years!
Not enough for a nanny to do now with all older, at school and getting more and more independent though as one told us!
It is fine to ask the aupair to eat with the younger children on the basis that you and dh don't know when you, dh and/or older dh will be home or whether you will all be eating together. If she has already eaten with the younger dc, she won't want to eat with the later 'shift'.
In my long experience of aupairs (18-22 age group), almost all are tired by the time dh/I get home and will want to go into their rooms to play on the internet/phone. They only stay up with us during weekdays in the early weeks because they are under the mistaken impression that it is what the family expects of them. Once they realise we really don't mind, they gratefully retreat. As for weekends, if they are home at mealtimes, they might join us. Others prefer, even on weekends, not to join us at mealtimes.
Girls this age can be funny about food. My experience is they prefer to buy
junk food from the nearby supermarket and eat it in their rooms. If they do not join us, we still cook an extra portion for them which I leave in the fridge for them to eat at lunch.
I do say in my house rules that on weekdays, once the children are in bed (9.30pm), then dh and I would like some quiet time alone. They can gradually extrapolate from there.
Even oldest DD eats on early shift if she is home in time as I can be late home.
I'll try following your approach.
Hopefully our au pair will make lots of local friends and really enjoy her time in the UK.
Thanks Blueshoes - that makes sense.
I do want to make our new au pair feel at home but we will all need space too.
One extra question. Did you pay or contribute to your au pair's language classes.
It's almost £400 for a term here which seems a lot. Think our au pair thought it might be free.
As your aupair's English is amazing, I doubt if she would do language classes. If she was thinking of it, I think the £400 cost per term would deter her.
I believe the only affordable English classes for aupairs are the ESOL classes run by the local council. However, funding has been severely cut back for years and years now. The term also starts in Sept and your aupair would have missed it. You need to check that the times for the courses, which I assume is part time, coincide with your aupair's schedule. I don't know the latest situation with language classes because almost all my aupairs have good English - it is a requirement for me because I am out of the house so much. I don't offer to pay for language courses for this reason but if an aupair felt strongly she wanted classes and was good enough at her role, I would offer a subsidy. I wouldn't offer from the word go. It would be better if she could prove herself first - voice of experience.
If the £400 per term is for local ESOL classes, I'd say that is as low as it gets.
Once your aupair's social life gets started, she will naturally prefer to hang out with her friends. If you can facilitate that by showing her around the area and put her in touch with other aupairs, she will quickly get the hang of it. With social media, it is pretty easy.
Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.
It's the Cambridge Advanced certificate - so a recognised qualification which is meant to be useful.
A friend mentioned it as she knew someone who had done it but it seems a lot even run by the local college.
Just found out that one of my DCs friends now has an au pair so have arranged for them to meet up next week which will hopefully help.
Hopefully, she will meet more at the school gate too.
I've got a phone for her also (not new) too but we will pay for the sim with lots of minutes and unlimited text and data.
And we have provided an oystercard for on auto top up for work - though she won't need it much in term time as almost everything is walking) and an Oyster card with £10 on it which she top up for personal use.
Now having read other threads - should I look at gym membership?
Yes. I'm panicking!
Hi, it is up to you but I personally would not be keen to pay for a Cambridge Advanced cert as that is a nice to have for her. If she wants it, she should fund it herself
or prove herself to be indispensable. As for gym membership, not every aupair wants to use the gym. Perhaps keep that up your sleeve and if she is lovely ask if she wants it a few weeks later. It will be a nice sweetener and recognition of her diligence.
No need to panic . Just be nice and friendly to her and hospitable and keep talking - I am sure you will. If there are any issues, raise them kindly but immediately. She is from a different culture and cannot read your mind. That way, you don't stew and it will become clear quite early on what can improve. Or she might be a superstar from the word go!
You sound like a nice host mum.
Thanks for the reassurance, Blueshoes.
So far she is absolutely lovely - older DC relieved and youngest absolutely thrilled!
I will keep contribution to gym up my sleeve for now. Will be nice to have something to give as positive thank you in a little if (hopefully) going well.
Re language classes, our current au pair has been with us years now (fabulous!) - we found her conversation classes at an international society, there are often also esol type classes around for less if you're in a multicultural area. We tried (and failed) to get her on a gsce class (but she did a level 2?? at a local college, which was free as it was the first level 2/3 and she is an eu citizen), so in the end we paid for her to sit the igcse as an independent student and bought a few online Skype lessons with a tutor.
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