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Questions a prospective au pair needs to ask?

(24 Posts)
frAKKINPannikin Mon 20-Jul-09 20:10:47

Hi all,

I'm posting on behalf of an acquaintance of mine who thinks she wants to give au pairing a go. She's done babysitting and been involved with Brownies, which is where I know her from, and wants to go to Germany or Switzerland to learn German.

What does she need to ask?

I've sent her my list of questions I ask but I'm a nanny so there are clearly things which aren't appropriate for an au pair and things an au pair needs to consider which I don't! Therefore I am appealing to the AP employing contingent on here.

a) What do you like au pairs to ask?
b) What do au pairs never ask and you wished they'd asked?
c) What shouldn't she/doesn't she need to ask?

TIA!

rupertsabear Mon 20-Jul-09 20:23:58

Exactly what she is expected to do, day by day, and when she can definitely have time off. And whether or not she's expected to be part of the family (participating in weekend outings, eating dinner with the family) or not (more like student living there - organising own meals and making own entertainment at the weekends.

I would be impressed if someone asked. I find au pairs hardly ask anything.

AtheneNoctua Mon 20-Jul-09 20:36:09

If they have had an au pair before? how many? how long have the last three stayed? Can she talk to at least two of them?

ingles2 Mon 20-Jul-09 20:44:28

IMO the perfect AP will ask...
about the children, how old, what they are interested in, if there are any issues, what she can do to help etc
FIRST
then they can ask
how much time can I have off and when can my boyfriend stay over.
I've only ever had a couple ask about the dc and they were the best by far!
It would also be nice if she was upfront about her strengths and weaknesses eg, I'm great at hoovering but I'm not very good at cooking etc.

Cadmum Mon 20-Jul-09 20:52:32

Not too sure that this is the advice you were soliciting but
I would caution her that families who have many au-pairs in their history are challenging to work for/live with. I adored the children that I cared for as an au-pair but they were damaged goods from having made so many temporary attachments.

The two families that I worked for as an au-pair hired me from a photograph and a resume that I could have forged. I asked more questions about them then they ever even wondered about me. That should have been a good indication that they didn't care much for their children's well-being, shouldn't it? I was young and naive.

catepilarr Mon 20-Jul-09 21:10:17

as an ex-aupair and now mother's help i usually ask the following to start with and i think it's going down well

Can you tell me a bit about the children - what they like doing and what
their routines are? What is their favourite toy/ school subject? What do they like to eat and what do you like them to eat?

What do you envisage a typical day would be once I am with you?

Have you had a nanny/ap before? What do you like about having aupairs/nannies and what do you find not that good about the experience? Can I contact any of your previous aupairs/nannies?

and regarding rupertsabear's post 'And whether or not she's expected to be part of the family (participating in weekend outings, eating dinner with the family) or not (more like student living there - organising own meals and making own entertainment at the weekends.'

i think that it should actually be the family who explains how they like it to be. a newbie aupair doesnt know that there are families with different approaches to the whole thing. s/he probably has a vision in her head what it will be like but it wont cross their mind to ask about it.
when i email with potential families i often get an idea from answers to other questions, esp the one about a typical day, and take it from there.

Millarkie Mon 20-Jul-09 21:22:10

My au pairs have not tended to ask many questions - but then I do give them a very long email describing the family, location, duties, typical day etc. I would like to have an au pair who answered my questions fully eg. I ask what they like to eat and nine times out of ten i get 'everything' in reply..including last AP who, when it boiled down to it, was a carb-free zone.
I did have one AP applicant who asked us some quite searching questions - I'll see if I can find the email. She had au paired twice before so obviously had an idea of the type of host family she wanted (one who was laid back about au pairs clubbing til the early hours and having friends to stay )
I find it very difficult to answer 'what are the children like' to be honest..they are like most small children..would prefer to hear about the children the au pair already knows and how they get along with them (particularly any experience of getting grumpy children to do something since getting the kids out of the door in time for the school bus is a big part of the job )

Millarkie Mon 20-Jul-09 21:29:04

I've found the questions we were asked by an experienced au pair - They had already had our preliminary spiel/typical day stuff. (Bear in mind the grammar is not mine )

1. What do you expect from your au-pair?
2. What do you mainly focus on by raising your kids?
3. What does a typical weekend look like?
4. Are there certain activities you wouldn't let me do with the kids?
5. Is there a car provided that I might be able to use every now an then?
6. Would you be fine with it if I had friends over sometimes?
7. Do you give your au-pair a curfew?
8. If I'm off - let's say at the weekends, would you mind if I slept at a friend's place?
9. Do you have any references of previous au-pairs? Or could I get in touch with one of them?
10. What are the kids hobbies? Anything in particular? Could you tell me some more of them - character,...?

DadInsteadofMum Mon 20-Jul-09 22:28:48

Questions I have been asked (I make no comment as to whether they are good or bad).

What is the daily routine?
What are the kids hobbies what do they like doing in the evenings/holidays?
What do I have to pay for in the house? (????)
How many power points are there in my room and am I allowed to plug my own stuff in? (????)
What was good about your previous APs?
What annoyed you about previous APs?(Millarkie suggest you shouldn't answer this one you may block the internet!)
What facilities are in your village?
Are there other APs nearby?
Plus a lot of the ones already posted.

Millarkie Tue 21-Jul-09 17:52:22

DIOM - stop laughing at me - she's asked me for a reference! ARGH!!

frAKKINPannikin Tue 21-Jul-09 18:58:13

Be honest, millarkie!

Stress her 'creativity'....(this was the wooden sculptures girl, right?)

Millarkie Tue 21-Jul-09 19:37:12

That's the one FP!

DadInsteadofMum Wed 22-Jul-09 10:40:38

A reference - wow how self unaware can she be?

frAKKINPannikin Wed 22-Jul-09 20:03:47

Hypothetically (millarkie is excused from answering but is encouraged to namechange!) what do you say if a mildly odd, but not entirely awful, AP asks for a reference? Like the one in question but with only the wood-sculpting issues.

PixiNanny Wed 22-Jul-09 21:39:21

In my first few emails I ask about the family and children and the pay (as you may as well be upfront about it!), if they reply all okay then I ask about things I feel they've missed out in their family profiles, maybe more info about the kids apart form "They like swimming and do lots of outside things!" because swimming and being outdoors are common things that families put and I doubt that many kids really are that outdoorsy and love swimming that much grin I have also noticed that many APs also put outdoorsy, which is annoying actually, as that's a perfectly good description for me and OH but so overused that it's quite unbelievable :P

I also ask about the area they live in, a bit about the parents and their jobs, what activities there are nearby for me and what there is for kids nearby (though I usually google both of those, it's nice to have an opinion from somebody who lives there iyswim?)

If the family don't reply brilliantly or in detail I tend to get turned off of them a little lol

I've only had this AP job but have been in contact with many many families last time and one or two already this time (gr Finland lady for saying she didn't want a couple after numrous emails about how great a couple would be! lol)

Millarkie Wed 22-Jul-09 22:15:14

FP - For ex-AP I guess I will stick to facts like glue, confirm she was here from date a to date b, and give an outline of her role and not too many words describing how well she performed in it..and as always an offer to discuss by phone if required. That AP is going on to train in a different area which I think she is very suited too..would be more worried if she was going into childcare or another live-in job.
Are you going to confess to wood-sculpting?

catepilarr Thu 23-Jul-09 00:40:35

daim, perhaps the ap candidate wasnt allowed to plug her own things in and had to pay for phonecalls/ extra food? not a nice environment to be in... though thinking about it, i had a friend who wasnt allowed extra food, had to use her phonecard or go to a phone box and had up to, or rather down to, four degrees celsius in her bedroom.

Millarkie Thu 23-Jul-09 09:10:20

My lovely ex-AP asked me how she would be able to do her washing and if she would be allowed to use our washing machine!! It does make you worry what they are hearing from people who have au paired before!

DadInsteadofMum Thu 23-Jul-09 09:49:04

Caterpillar - no this was her first AP job (straight out of university), I can only conclude it had been raised by another family she was talking to, it shocked me at the time that it could even be an issue, hardly joining as one of the family.

frAKKINPannikin Thu 23-Jul-09 12:24:18

No I don't wood-sculpt! I burn it....in the fireplace, with full permission, supervising my charge and teaching about fire safety (obviously).

catepilarr Thu 23-Jul-09 21:42:24

or she might have been warned by a friend who was an ap in a bad family... i once ended up with a family who did not allowed me to use the washing maschine because a previous caribian ap broke one. the mother would wash my clothes herself, but not my underware.

Millarkie Sat 25-Jul-09 17:26:50

catepilarr - OMG - did you stay there long? Did she expect you to handwash all your underwear or trek to a launderette? Crazy!

catepilarr Sat 25-Jul-09 23:56:46

two weeks;) she was a crazy woman. when i firs arrived she was half naked !

FeatheredHeart Fri 31-Jul-09 15:51:23

I emailed one and asked if there was anything she wanted to know. She said more photos of the house (we had 2 up), and the family (we put up 7, but maybe she missed the photos) and the room (fair enough) and can she talk to a previous au pair. But nothing about us. Would you bother with her? Or are most of them like that?

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