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Au pair question: which is likely to work out better?

(20 Posts)
MizZan Fri 05-Sep-08 13:40:25

We look likely to have a choice between 2 APs and despite having employed APs before I am really unsure what to do.

Candidate 1 is a 19 year old German who has only babysitting experience (and no references other than a character reference from a teacher) but lots of younger sibs, very good English, never lived away from home for any length of time, sounds nice on phone but no way to meet her or have her meet kids, happy to take English classes at night to suit our schedule. My concerns with her are: we haven't met her (and had our sole AP disaster in the past with the only one we hadn't met ahead of time), she's very young and may end up very homesick, not sure she has experience to have sole charge of my 2 boys after school (and ds2 for a few half-days after nursery) and during school holidays.

Candidate 2 is a 34 year old E. European who is already in our town and has been working for another family for a month or so, has no previous childcare experience to speak of but current family says she is doing a great job, but they no longer need her as their child has entered full time school, very basic English, wants to take courses every morning for 4 hours which could work with our schedule most of the time but could get awkward if I need to change work days or work extra time, or if one of the boys is ill(as sometimes happens). My concern with her is that schedule may be too inflexible, and she may just be too old for an AP role - we don't offer separate accomodation, and need someone who is happy to get down on floor and play with kids or take them out to the garden to kick a football around. Also a bit concerned about the English level, though I think that will improve pretty quickly. But the plus side is I think she'd be very responsible and I'd probably feel less nervous leaving the children with her. I work out of the home part-time, and would love to have someone who is fine cooking dinners and does not need to be shown everything, and who I know will make sensible decisions.

What to do? past APs have all been in early 20's so we are more used to that - had a nanny (not in UK) in mid-30s who was hopeless because of ongoing personal problems and family situations which took up all her energy, though I think that would not be the case here. Any suggestions very welcome.

DadInsteadofMum Fri 05-Sep-08 15:29:50

Sorry going to answer question with questions.

Why can't option 1 provided references from babysittee parents?
What is your timescale, do you have time to invite option 1 over for a long weekend via EasyJet or Ryanair?

About option 2 have you talked to her current family, have they had similar issues, have they been resolved? Have you spoken to her and said "look, once a fortnight you might have to miss a class because of xyz, would this be a problem?"

Our current AP is type 1, she gave me her mother's email address and I asked her how she thought AP would cope, she gave a surprisingly honest answer.

Millarkie Sat 06-Sep-08 08:03:08

I am biased as we have a fantastic (so far) German au pair, although slightly older than your potential ap. but ours had been away from home at Uni for 2 years and is training to be a I don't know. Personally I think I would rather have a 19year old around the place than a 34 year old, but understand your worry that the lack of experience would mean that she wouldn't be able to cope with sole charge.

SquiffyHock Sat 06-Sep-08 08:09:11

Odd that the other family have only had her for a month - surely they knew that their son was starting school?

Seeping statement, i know, but everyone I know that's had a German aupair has loved them. Also, how old are your children? Good English would be a must for me.

SquiffyHock Sat 06-Sep-08 08:09:39

sweeping statement!

blondemum Sat 06-Sep-08 08:33:32

Personally I would go with the 19 year old. Maybe for th efirst couple of weeks pop home early unexpected to check that she is ok and kids happy. People have to start somewhere. With her being in a home environment with a family and speaks the lingo i thibk you will find she may not be as home sick as you would expect. She just needs to make sure she builds a good social circle when she moves over. She will be more energetic, fun, and is more likely to kick a ball around, rollar skate etc than a 34 year old. I know that as I am 34 with a 19 month old monkey and i wouldn't be seen dead with a pair of skates on!! AS you kow we were 19 once and could manage on 2 hours sleep after being on the dance floor all night, then in bed for 5am up for 8am.

Let u sknow how you get on.

blueshoes Sat 06-Sep-08 09:07:57

MizZan, my current aupair is 19 - she is mature, responsible and sensible. I would trust her sole charge of my dcs 5 and 2 for a few hours. My last one (also German) 20 was the same - reliable and calm. I think it is depends on the girl, rather than the age.

I rely on references a lot. Try to talk to them, if possible. Agree to dad that you should get the babysitting family's references - do they speak english or at least email? If their English is not as strong, sometimes it is easier for them to email instead.

And also raise your specific concerns with the eastern European's parents. Agree with squiffy that it is odd when the family should have known their child was going to start school. Could it have been they realised the 4 hours a day of classes would interfere with the school run or, in the worst case, non-fit?

SqueakyPop Sat 06-Sep-08 09:12:18

I would take the 19 year old German.

HarrietTheSpy Sat 06-Sep-08 15:46:19

What was the 34 year old doing before she came to work as an au pair? Why does she want the job? It would be references from her previous employers you'd want to speak to, given her age. I would be a BIT wary I suppose, but then again friends of ours have a fab 31 year old au pair plus (Hungarian).

MizZan Sat 06-Sep-08 20:04:48

Hi all - thank you for all the great feedback. In fact I am leaning toward the 19 yo partly because of concerns about general flexibility and energy level (though tbh a 34 year old with no kids of her own is probably way more energetic than most of us here with kiddies regardless of age...) and in part because I think there is too much risk that her course schedule will clash with our need for school runs and occasional extra cover in the AM. also a little concerned that a 34 yo will have expectations re things like having friends round and boyfriends to stay which I am not necessarily comfortable with.

I work close to home and can work from home at least part of the time esp in the early weeks, and there is no driving involved or anything overly risky I don't think, so hopefully if she is sensible and kids are well-behaved enough, it will work ok. I guess I can assess pretty well in the first couple of weeks whether it's going to be ok or not, and if not, then we'll see where we go from there.

Millarkie, glad to hear yours is working out. Will contact you via email to see if we can introduce mine to yours when she gets here, if that is still ok.

Millarkie Sat 06-Sep-08 20:24:08

Mizzan - I thought it would be too much for me to answer - go for the 19year old German - then she can be friends with mine!

Tryharder Sun 07-Sep-08 00:01:34

I was an au pair when I was 19 - looking back, I wouldn't have employed me - I was dreadful, knew nothing about childcare or cleaning the house, hated the kids I looked after and just wanted to be out clubbing or with my new boyfriend wink - I've improved a lot since then, however...

My aupair/nanny is 50 and she's great!

googgly Sun 07-Sep-08 16:05:23

I have both (lucky me, maybe). I would definitely choose my 35 yr-old over my 20 yr-old everytime. She's less self-obsessed and more fun with the kids. But I have had a 19 yr-old in the past who beat everyone else hands down. Very responsible and really, really fun with the kids. It depends on the person really. Someone in their 30s is likely to have a better idea what having a job means. When I was an au pair I was completely clueless, and also too young to notice mess. It just would never have occurred to me to do anything like the washing-up, unless specifically asked.

QuintessentialShadow Sun 07-Sep-08 16:12:52

I have had 3 19/20 year olds. I would not hesitate to chose the same age group again.

I would be very concerned with the 34 year old. There must be a reason why her current family wants rid of her after just a month. They must have known their child was starting school, and as most of us know, starting school is no reason to not have an au pair....

My friend got herself an au pair who was already in the uk, and keen to leave her family after just a month or two there. The agency said the family could not give references because of privacy issues,and their high up jobs. Bolloeaux to that. She was a thieving little thing, and was booted out of my friends house after she was found going throug her stuff and helping herself to cosmetics and perfume.....

I would be extremely cautious of an au pair who has been a very short time with a family.

sunnydelight Mon 08-Sep-08 07:23:24

I don't think the older woman could really be considered an au pair in the true sense of the word in that the scheme is basically for young people who want to come and live as part of a family and improve their English. The max age is usually 27. Preaumably if she has an EU passport she is entitled to work in the UK, but it might put you in a very different position legally as a proper "employer" - your obligations as such would be very different. I'd check it out if I were you.

blueshoes Mon 08-Sep-08 09:22:48

sunnydelight, I believe obligations as an employer arise irrespective of the age of aupair. Most aupairs do not pay income tax because they earn less than £100 a week. The minimum wage requirements do not apply if they are live-in.

If you are refering to the Council of Europe's European Agreement on Au Pair Placement 1969 for the aupair scheme, it does not apply to the UK and its provisions are largely outdated.

Libra Mon 08-Sep-08 12:17:22

Another one who has good experiences of 19 year-old German au pairs.

Only negative thing I can think about is the cost of insuring the car for a driver under 21.

On our second 19 year-old now and I think in terms of family dynamics and 'who's in charge' I prefer to have someone I can still consider a teenager rather than someone who would only be a few years younger than me.

englishspringer Thu 18-Sep-08 14:42:18

we have just had a 19 year old German girl who we asked to go home - we have had other au pairs for the last 5 years with no probs. she was so 'young' nothing wrong with her looking after children (she only had to do school run) but it was just like having another child in the house. She has never been away from home, her idea of cooking was toast - she blew the microwave up because she thought that English microwaves could have metal in them. she had the maglite in the bath because she thought it was a bath toy, put a plastic child's plate on a gas flame to heat food - the list goes on she used to ask if she could shower, ask if she could eat, ask if she could do everything, every single day all the time - she was homesick and even her other au pairs thought she was immature and niave.

however, we have had a canadian au pair ebfore who was 19 and she was fantastic - i think it is the girl rather than the age - i would pay for her to fly over for a week-end. i bet you it will not be her childcare skills that drive you nuts but her inability to look after herself - especially since she has lived at home.

i would be worried about the 34 year old - never understood why a 34 year old would want to be an au pair and also surely the family knew about their son starting school - i would perhaps give her a few days with you whilst she is living with the other family.

MizZan Thu 18-Sep-08 23:24:04

update - we went with the 19 year old as the 34 year old basically spoke no English at all and also her schedule was just not going to work for us. She is here, but does have some of the same issues as yours, Englishspringer. Seems very very young, never lived away from home, never held a real job - nice with the kids but does seem like she will need a huge amount of handholding. However it's still early days, she is nice and the kids seem ok with her, and she seems to have managed the school run ok (though with both me and DH at home in the AM - not sure how she will cope when we are not there to cajole kids into eating breakfast, brushing teeth etc.). Also definitely not a person to notice mess, or be overly fussed about keeping to schedules, and I haven't even started to broach the cooking thing (she will need to do simple meals for the kids a few times a week). We shall see. I'd love it to all work out so fingers crossed. That said, I think I'd try to focus next time on getting someone who'd been an au pair before or at least had lived on their own for a year or two. This is the first one we've had who really does feel like another kid around the house (albeit a very nice one).

englishspringer Fri 26-Sep-08 12:09:05

the key is training but in a non-patronising way - show them how to do everything you want them to do - DO NOT assume they know how. even simple things as explained in above chat - use of mircowave when to leave home, how long it should take etc.

I had a timetable with a tickbox on the wall - i said it was for DS1 as he liked to know what was happening etc. literally it said AP to get up at 6.45 and take over from Mummy, AP to feed DS1 shreddies, full fat milk etc. then it said AP to help get DS1 dressed, brush teeth DS1 DS2 to leave home with AP @ 8am. DS1 & DS2 to sit in back with seat belts on etc. it took me ages to do but it so worked and by 3 weeks she was trained - i left the list up and the ticking continued.

i also gave her recipes for shepherd's pie etc. and the first week did them with her - well i watched her i so wanted to step in - seriously you have never seen a girl peel a carrot as slowly as this girl and chopping the potatoes was just a nightmare ! i wish you luck

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