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To get an aupair or not, that is the question!!! What is it really like having an aupair?

(40 Posts)
Marshmellow Sun 27-Jul-08 20:42:19

hi all, i have 3 small children and no grandparents around to offer any support. My husband works long hours and although i cope very well, i do sometimes think that to have an aupair and to be able to 'pop out' occasionally must be lovely. Is it?
My dh and i never get to spend any time together as, like i said, we have no family to come and babysit or help us with the children when we want to decorate, garden etc for example. What is the real cost of having an aupair? What is it really like having an extra person in the house all the time? We have a 4 bed house so we'd need to put 2 of the children in together but that wouldnt be a problem but it wouldn't be a massive mansion with oodles of space, does that matter? Do people frown upon you for having an aupair and not working yourself? What does your aupair do? Sorry for all the questions!!!

Marshmellow Sun 27-Jul-08 21:00:47

Anyone?

evangelina Sun 27-Jul-08 21:12:34

Hi Marshmellow,
I hope someone does answer your question as I would be very interested. I am due to have one start next week and am a bit nervous about it but have received some good advice here. My dh has done all the work relating to her including drafting some kind of contract but I haven't read it as I'm in denial (our house is a mess and various other reasons). One thing I did stipulate with dh is that I wanted the aupair to cook the family meal each weekday as part of her 5 hours, mainly because I'm a hopeless cook and don't want her complaining about the meals!

geisha Sun 27-Jul-08 21:17:54

Will also watch this thread with interest - think I have found an au pair, but a bit apprehensive due to not knowing what to expect exactly, issues of privacy etc. There are lots of experienced host families on here so I'm sure someone will be along with helpful advice soon!

tabbi Sun 27-Jul-08 22:32:01

Again, I'm also watching with interest. More info from someone, please...

Quattrocento Sun 27-Jul-08 22:40:38

Lots of questions in the OP - I've tried to separate them out:

1. it wouldn't be a massive mansion with oodles of space, does that matter? NO, BUT WORTH THINKING ABOUT BATHROOM ARRANGEMENTS (IS THERE A SEPARATE ONE FOR YOUR AP) AND ALSO WHERE YOUR AP IS GOING TO SIT IN THE EVENINGS.

2. Do people frown upon you for having an aupair and not working yourself? DON'T KNOW THE ANSWER TO THIS ONE AS I WORK BUT I HAVEN'T PERSONALLY FROWNED AT ANY SAHMS I KNOW WHO HAVE AU-PAIRS.

3. What does your aupair do? MINE COLLECTS FROM SCHOOL 3/4 TIMES A WEEK, DOES TEA, SUPERVISES PIANO PRACTICE AND HOMEWORK, DOES BATHTIME ROUTINE. NO HOUSEWORK AS WE HAVE A CLEANING LADY. HAS WORKED WELL SO FAR.

THE IMPORTANT THING IS THAT THERE ISN'T A BLUEPRINT - YOU DECIDE WHAT YOU NEED. THERE ARE A FEW MORE THINGS YOU NEED TO THINK ABOUT:

- NUMBER OF HOURS (NO MORE THAN 20-25)
- LANGUAGE COURSES (FIND SOME FOR THEM AND DECIDE WHETHER YOU ARE PREPARED TO FIT THE BILL FOR THEM)
- HEALTHCARE INSURANCE
- WILL YOUR AUPAIR DRIVE YOUR CAR OR NOT?
- HOW WILL YOUR AUPAIR ENTERTAIN HIM/HERSELF? AFTER ALL YOU ARE BY DEFINITION OLD AND UNINTERESTING ...
- IS A MALE AUPAIR ACCEPTABLE?

SqueakyPop Sun 27-Jul-08 22:43:07

Why don't you try it and see what you think? It does not have to be a lifetime committment - 3 months is absolutely fine.

geisha Mon 28-Jul-08 06:47:54

Quattro - where does your AP sit in the evenings? This is one of my concerns as I am early to bed and I am worried that maybe I would need to sit up in the lounge to keep the AP company? How do you work it?

evangelina Mon 28-Jul-08 07:39:33

Thanks for all the info Quattro- actually it sounds very good having someone do the school run, make tea, supervise baths and homework!
I also go to bed very early and I'm afraid I would not be able to alter this as I fall asleep even in front of favourite programmes.

OneLieIn Mon 28-Jul-08 07:47:21

Our first au pair has been here 8 days and it has been quite different to what I expected.

She has her own room and shares a bathroom with the children only. Her room is not that big, but she has a TV, DVD, laptop.
She is here to look after the DCs f/t in the school holidays. We always ended up doing a mix of clubs, other care which we felt kind of defeated the point of holidays for the DCs. She is an au pair plus and works 35 hours a week (7 hours per day m- f) and has weekends off.

We went for someone who is only available for 12 weeks so we could test it and see. I would say after 8 days, it is OK. She is really good with the kids. I think the hardest things have been (1) explaining every little thing you do, for example, tonight we are not cooking because we cannot be arsed (actually i said I was tired) and (2) making sure she gets out by herself and makes some friends. As yet she has met no-one other than us which bothers me a little. However this week, she is going out without us which should be good.

12 weeks is not long why not try it?

SqueakyPop Mon 28-Jul-08 08:00:11

You don't have to keep your aupair company in the evening. You just do what you would normally do and she will fit in around the family.

MadamePlatypus Mon 28-Jul-08 08:10:31

I have never had an au pair, but I was an au pair. My job was pretty similar to Quattro's au pair's - I worked from school pick up time till the youngest child was in bed (8 ish) Monday to Friday. As is fairly normal in Paris, I had a separate room in the attic of the family's apartment building with my own bathroom and separate entrance, so didn't spend time with the family when I wasn't working. I have never really heard of this arrangement in the UK.

I think there seem to be two kinds of au pairs these days:

1) People who really are 'au pairs'. Au pair means 'equal to', and the au pair lives as part of the family. This kind of au pair will usually have minimal experience of looking after children beyond having younger siblings/babysitting, and will be coming to this country to learn the language/for experience. Having this kind of au pair won't be like having your mum living next door, but it might be like having your younger cousin to stay.

I was this kind of au pair and it worked well (I stayed with the same family for a year). I think this was because there were realistic expectations on both sides of what the other was able to provide. I know of one au pair who was expected to iron the husband's very expensive shirts. I think this is a bit mad. Also, au pairs (like any other family member who doesn't have children) are probably better at caring for children who are walking around, not very young babies.

Re: judging you for having an au pair, I think that if you have 3 children and little support, and can put up with having another person living in the house, it seems quite a sensible option.

2) Some more experienced child care workers seem to be working as 'au pairs' so that they can get an au pair visa, but are working more hours than an au pair usually would. To me this sounds like a way to get a nanny on the cheap, which sounds dodgy. However, I don't know anybody well who has done this in practice so don't really know.

AbbeyA Mon 28-Jul-08 08:11:13

I haven't had one but I think that you would have to imagine one of your DCs wanting to do it when older to learn a language and think how you hope they would be treated.

MarmadukeScarlet Mon 28-Jul-08 08:36:06

I currently have a fab one, but have had some duff ones in my time...one ceiling still left to be replaced after the mad sewage pipe blocking/flooding italian!

We have AP+ and I don't work, my Dh works away mostly and my DS has severe special needs - anyone looking down on me would be invited to care for my DS for 24 hours and see how they felt afterwards!

For me a good AP is the difference between (sometimes not) coping with life and enjoying my family.

We live in a big 5 bed house but AP shares a bathroom with DC - although technically she is still showering nextdoor as plumbers finished (installing new bathroom due to flood damage with foulwater caused by last AP) whilst I was on hols and I need to give the travertine one last coat of sealant.

Ours has TV, DVD, wireless laptop, kettle & fridge in her bedroom. She spends her evenings on SKYpe with friends and family although she eats several evening meals per week with DH and I, she has befriended girl next door and they go out together.

She joins in most weekend activities with the family when she is in, although I regularly remind her that it is her day off and ask her if she wants to have some peace and quiet.

Yesterday she helped with plum picking and electric fencing, weeding of ragwort and docks from paddock, hanging out laundry, rounding up chooks, clearing up after meals (I cooked/made all meals), playing with DC. We have just returned from 10 days hols where she did only 2 hrs per day max(animals, her own laundry etc) for full pay so I didn't feel so bad about her helping.

<waits to be flamed for exploitation of AP>

I can't force her not to play with the DC or join me in hanging out laundry, but on her days off I do not let the DC go to her to play only if she chooses to join in with the DC and I.

She has fully 'joined' our family and it feels like having a really helpful 22 yr old DD who is happy to muck in with chores, as are my own DC (they both mucked out, fenced, weeded, picked plums, cleared tables, loaded dishwasher, chased chooks and collected eggs yesterday)

When it works well it is great.

squiffy Mon 28-Jul-08 10:19:08

What Marmaduke said.

I think the only way it works is if both you and they expect a 'family-type' relationship. We have had 3 AP's and 2 nannies (one live-in) and are pretty much sussed on what works or doesn't work and where the differences between nannies and AP's lies. If you treat an AP as a big sister to the children then you can get an idea of what you can/can't expect. It means you don't exploit them and have them working their socks off, and it also means that you have to be there with a shoulder for them to cry on when their boyfriend dumps them. And sometimes it means putting up with four back-to-back episodes of 'America's next top model'

Things to bear in mind:-
1) Sharing a bathroom with another adult that isn't your DH can be disconcerting.
2) The more sociable and outgoing they are the more fun they can be around the house and the less draining in terms of needing input from you into their life. The downside is that you will have to timetable their hours because they'll be out having fun the minute they are 'off-duty'
3) Sometimes they are just like your childless mates in that they expect you to drop everything and be there to 'talk through something' at exactly the point you are planning to go to bed/take 10 minutes breather
4) I recommend that you treat them like the local A level babysitter in terms of expectations, especially regarding 'sole care': babysitting or collecting from school and taking to swimming lessons, or spending a day looking after a child in bed with a virus = OK. Leaving them for the day with a year old baby = not OK
5) Boy, can they eat.
6) When it works it is so so fab. Watching my AP swinging my son above her head for hours in the garden playing helicopters whilst I sat down with a cup of tea was fab. Having an old AP come back to visit bringing me a photo album of your son that she had obviusly spent hours on, adding sweet captions underneath each one had me in floods of tears

Overall I think they are great. Even though I already have a nanny, I am getting another AP in a couple of weeks to stay 6 months. Just to give me added flexibility. And after that I might get a male AP to play rugby and footy with my son. You have to expect the odd nightmare every now and then but the magic ones are worth their weight in gold.

FWIW I always try to get Scandinavians (relentlessly cheerful, good drivers, great English), and I have heard great things about German girls too.

stressed2007 Mon 28-Jul-08 11:17:19

why do you need health insurance ( see previous post) for an au pair if she is from EU?

squiffy Mon 28-Jul-08 11:20:46

Our EU AP's have always been able to enrol with local GP and not had to pay. Would be a surprise if this has changed?

MarmadukeScarlet Mon 28-Jul-08 11:44:49

Mine is German squiffy, have had a good Finn too.

The only issue with GP is short term/summer aps - mine will only see them if I/they fill in a TR form (temp resident) but this form only lasts a certain amount of days, so I have one here to be filled in in case of need. Will not register them as the cost in man hours etc to do so for 8 weeks stay is not worth it.

geisha Mon 28-Jul-08 20:31:58

Sorry to hijack marshmellow -

for those who already have an au pair, do you have a cleaner as well? How much cleaning is your au pair required to do?

Quattrocento Mon 28-Jul-08 20:44:57

Our AP does not do any cleaning as we have a cleaning lady. I think whoever posted about Au-pairs from the EU and just registering at the doctors is right. Healthcare insurance only really becomes an issue for AP's from non-EU countries. The issue of paying for language courses is a bit surprising though because our local college has started charging for EU residents now - where previously they didn't.

SqueakyPop Mon 28-Jul-08 23:31:32

Does your cleaner come every day, QC?

SqueakyPop Mon 28-Jul-08 23:31:34

Does your cleaner come every day, QC?

catepilarr Mon 28-Jul-08 23:32:08

eventhough eligible for nhs treatment, the aupair might to want to get travel insurance in their home country for
a) beeing transported home in case of illness/death
b/ because they might need a proof that they were insured abroad to their health insurance company at home when they discontinue health insurance at home

catepilarr Mon 28-Jul-08 23:37:23

c) if they were to be treated as a tourist and therefore used europian health insurance card from their country (while continuing paying health insurance in their home country), the travel insurance would cover more costs then the card. but i think they always get treated as uk residents.

squiffy Tue 29-Jul-08 09:25:46

We have a cleaner who comes once a week to do the 'heavy' stuff (which I call changing sheets, cleaning bathrooms, washing floors & hoovering and dusting throughout)

The AP is expected to do 8 hours of her 25 each week doing the lighter stuff , which involves a daily wipe round the kitchen, tidying stuff up during the week and helping with 'light ironing' (stuff like duvet covers and our work clothes all go away to be pressed, the kids clothes are done by the nanny, so it is just the leftover stuff that she is expected to do). I think for many AP's the 8 hours might be more like 12 (half their hours). It all depends on what the AP and family are happiest with.

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