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The au pair 'employers' thread

266 replies

boo64 · 07/11/2006 15:35

As discussed, here's our new thread to swap advice on finding an au pair, keeping good ones, giving them feedback, what works with APs and what doesn't, what are appropriate duties etc!

Note the word employer is in quotes as they aren't officially employees but I couldn't think of anything better to call the thread!

OP posts:
cloudberry · 07/11/2006 21:23

Boo, fantastic. I've only just come on and seen this. Thank you for setting it up. Update - our ap is going, hooray, but ... she's gone this evening to meet another family, which is great for her if it works out, but as artist67 said on the other thread, she may find history repeating itself. Well thankfully it's no longer our problem. She told me last night that looking after children wasn't a problem for her but she doesn't want to clean or cook!! She does almost no cooking here, just prepares dd's lunch or tea and even that not every time, depends what I'm doing. She told us when she came that she loves to cook and has been mad keen to make cakes on an almost daily basis. I'm confused .... She also described what she did in her only other ap job where her work load was extremely light, clearly her expectations of what an au apair does did not match what we were expecting from her. A good lesson for me for future reference - if a potential au pair has done the job before, find out exactly what she did to avoid confusion and irritation later on. It didn't occur to me to do this in detail before she came. I guess that's how you learn tho'.

boo64 · 08/11/2006 12:38


So are you going to get another one?

It's very useful to learn from others' experiences and I will be making it clear to mine what is involved.

I am rubbish at asking my cleaner to do anything extra so am hoping I won't be quite so wimpy and apologetic with the AP.

Am planning on having a meeting at the start of each week with her to plan the week together and then we can also cover any 'issues' but don't want to make it too formal.

OP posts:
artist67 · 09/11/2006 10:45

Cloudberry ? How did you get on the AP did she find another family?
Ours is also looking for another family; she registered with Aupairworld but not told me of course!!
I?m a bit pissed off, because I have asked her several times if everything is o.k., and is she happy ect. AP says yes. DH doesn?t help by being very impatient with her
I have told her in gentle way things she needs to speed up. So far this week she as worked 34hours, but she is sooo SLOW, and she should be doing 25 hour week and she doesn?t have to do any cleaning to do and still never managed to get my Ironing up- to ?date. In fact she does far less than our last AP?s. On the plus side whatever she does she does it very well (Ironing is perfect) and can is great with the older children and she is reliable and honest and does not have an attitude, and is very pleasant ? At he moment I think some help is better than none!!

On the subject of cleaners it seems AP and Cleaner have a moan together our cleaner is fab, but also a gossip and could stir things up as AP is now quoting what cleaner

I might have to start looking for a new AP

artist67 · 09/11/2006 11:23

BTW since AP arrived I have also been corresponding with another AP from South America but currently working in Sweden as an AP for past year ( since I?m so cynical) she doesn?t need to start until January and will need a visa. I have never had an AP with visa before ? is it straight forward and do they have to wait ages? She also asked if I would contribute to the cost of language school, does anyone else do this?

Any one got any experience/ advice/ or both about visa or South American APs? I have not decided if its worth the hassle or could be let down at he last minute with visa problems.

MizZan · 09/11/2006 11:57

Hi - thanks for starting this thread.

Artist - we contribute to ap's language school fees since there are no free EU citizen English courses in the city we live in. We pay 50% and she pays 50%. Course is about 250 pounds per term, for 4 hrs per week, so pretty expensive. With previous au pair, who spoke very very little English when she arrived, we actually paid for her to do a 2-week intensive language course right when she came - felt this was in our interest as well as hers, and it created a lot of goodwill I think. However I wouldn't do that again unless au pair's English was poor but we had some other reason we felt she was really worth hiring.

On visa question, my understanding was that unless they are EU or commonwealth, or from one of the UK-approved au pair countries (which are all in Europe), there's no real way to get them a visa without a lot of hassle.

things going better with our AP on the childcare side and she seems happier but still has not said whether she would like to stay after xmas or not. housework help still non-existent, but since she's doing well with the kids, I'm starting to think I could live with that, just to avoid the hassle of trying to find another AP who might just end up being worse. Just slightly petrified we'll be left in the lurch come January if she says she'll come back and then changes mind again...

cloudberry · 09/11/2006 15:48

Well, we are now ap-less. Her interview with the other family was a success and they collected her this morning. Needless to say, yesterday evening she was a fantastic help!! Her best friend is working for a friend of mine so I'll definitely hear how she gets on which will be very interesting. Good luck to her.

So I now have 7 weeks of no au pair/help. Our new one arrives on Jan 3rd for 3 months. It'll be very good for me to get really organised (in my dreams I expect!), get a good list of duties compiled and create a clutter-free canvas for the new girl. Hmmm .... So tips please! I am very lucky as my mother lives very near and has said she'll have the children when I need to work. We'll be fine.

Artist67, afraid I can't help with visa question, sorry. I'm looking for another ap on aupairworld to start in April next year - d'you think I'll end up with yours?!!

Bubbletrouble · 09/11/2006 16:59

What a brilliant thread even though we are post au pairs now. In our experience the more organised we were the happier our APs. V.boring and sounds like an army camp but they knew what and when free time they had and what we expected, babysitting, cleaning. The down side to this was that one girl stayed 3 yrs and the children really, really missed her. The other "rule" I always tried to stick to was only take girls for at least one year. That way we all bonded and the girls got more fun out of the U.K. and their stay.

boo64 · 09/11/2006 22:32

Actually here's a question - how much are you guys paying - especially if you are in London? I know it's only pocket money but I just can't see how it will cover much more than her train fares to english school and for the odd trip to central London (we are in zone 4).

Was thinking £60 pw.

And what have you all done about holiday (not only their paid holiday to go home but also do you take them with you when you go on holiday?)

OP posts:
Badpups · 10/11/2006 13:41

I'm brand new to Mumsnet but have just seen this thread and hope that someone will be able to answer a question for me please.

We've had an ap for 3.5 years and so far have been very lucky with them. However, our current ap is leaving at Christmas so I'm trying to find a replacement (without any luck so far). I'm registered with a couple of agencies and am also using aupairworld.
My question is - has anybody had any luck using aupairworld? I keep contacting aps who seem suitable and they respond saying that they're interested so I email them back but that's the last I hear from them! On my email I'm just asking a few basic questions (what's your previous experience, how good is your English, would you be happy to drive in the uk after practice etc...). Does anybody have any tips please?

On the subject of money - we pay our current ap £100 per week for 35 hours (aupair plus). We started at £80 but have increased it to reflect the extra work that she does. I'm offering our new ap £90 so that I have the scope to increase if she's good. We live just outside of London. Does this sound reasonable? We have 3 young children but I'm at home most of the time. She doesn't have to do any cleaning and not much cooking other than getting the children tea.

MizZan · 10/11/2006 19:32

hi badpups - we also have an au pair plus doing 35 hrs and pay 90 per week, plus extra 3 per hr for any "overtime". we are in Cambridge.

re aupairworld, I've used and found I have to contact many, many au pairs before finding 1 who is suitable, willing and will actually commit. People who contacted us on their own initiative were almost uniformly unsuitable (mainly for visa reasons).

Results have been very mixed. first one I found on there last year stood us up (texted me as I was at the train station waiting to pick her up - nice), another one we corresponded with for weeks and she then went to someone else for reasons I was never too clear on, and the one we finally found, we actually got to meet first, which was great. This year we had a similar run-around with one person who committed and then bagged on us for personal reasons (well before start date fortunately), and the one we have now is ok, but had committed to stay 9 months and is now looking to leave at xmas, so we now have to start all over again.

Having said that, I don't know if going through an agency would be any better guarantee of good results, though they probably can quickly help find a replacement if something goes wrong. otherwise if you're near london, try maybe?

cloudberry · 10/11/2006 20:02

Hi Badpups. Both our aps came through aupairworld. The first one was great. She was Spanish and was at uni so could only come for 3 months over the summer which suited us perfectly. We really enjoyed having her here. My ds was about 9 weeks old when she arrived and really quite difficult. She had had no previous experience as an ap or with such a young baby but was brilliant with him. She rings us up from time to time now and I'm sure we'll stay in touch with her. You can read about our 2nd experience here and on another thread. We were looking throughout August which I don't think was a great month to be doing that. She was really the only girl who was interested - all the others did exactly what you're having problems with which is infuriating. It really reminded me of being a teenager and not wanting to show that you're too keen on a boy!! I kept sending emails to these wretched girls with photographs etc and would hear nothing back and think "oh God, perhaps I've come on too strong and scared them off!!" But I've learnt a lot from having her and perhaps didn't ask exactly the right questions. I did have a conversation with her on the telephone and her English was crap. Perhaps that should have been a warning. But then I've spent time abroad learning languages and know how hard it is at the beginning, so I'm happy to give the benefit of the doubt in that area anyway. We have found another ap also through apworld who arrives at the beginning of Jan. She's German, so a new nationality for us. I liked her email responses and when I had a very brief chat with her on the telephone last weekend she seemed really sweet and has good English (which is lucky as I speak absolutely no German). I'm not quite sure what to say on the telephone to them as hopefully I have the information I need from emails. For me it's more so I can hear their voices and they can hear mine and we can say hello. I think you can tell a bit from what people sound like. I've spoken to some and thought "No way thank you very much". I'm now looking for someone for April onwards again from aupairworld. so I'll let you know. My sister-in-law who told us about the website, has generally had good experiences with her aps, all found from it.

Regarding what you pay them .... blimey, I'm glad we don't live in or on the outskirts of London!! We paid the Spanish girl £70 per week which she absolutely deserved in retrospect. This last one had £60 and the new one next year will have £50. If she's an improvement on the other then I intend to add more. Talking to other people round where we live and my sil, it seems to be the going rate. They get their own car to use, weekends free, they go to a free language school 3 mornings a week. We include them in whtever we're doing if they want to come. Mobile phone. Probably it's all normal stuff. They are expected to help with housework, ironing but not really with cooking unless they'd like to cos they enjoy it! Once a potential ap has contacted me I email them back describing a typical day with us. I then wait for their reply and depending on what they write, then ask a few questions about experience etc. Hope that has helped a bit and thatI haven't waffled too much!

mishmash · 11/11/2006 01:43

Great to see this thread - our AP is here 3 months and is with us for a 12 month period.

She is German, lovely girl, but totally addicted to the net - had to have words with her yesterday and hopefully we have smoothed out the edges and re-defined the boundaries. As in - no puter during work hours, no puter whilst babysitting and more interaction with the kids.

Her job is easy - my kids are all school going and make their beds and tidy their rooms in the morning so her main role is just checking their rooms, their bathroom, tidying after breakfast, putting on the dishwasher, washing machine, small ironing, getting lunch and supervising homework plus doing vegetables for dinner and helping to clean up after dinner (this is mostly restricted to her putting her plate in the dishwasher!!!)

dizzydo · 11/11/2006 06:55

Mishmash, our last au-pair was a german girl who stayed for a year and she was an absolute nightmare with the computer. I know that she spent the whole day on it (her free time) while I worked but she also used to sneak off when she was meant to be working and I am convinced that she did not do as well with her exams (her spoken english was great) because she could not drag herself away from the net. She used to "talk" to her boyfriend on it so could not drag herself away. We had to get really strict about it in the end because we could never got on it ourselves. I think you have to sit her down and tell her exactly when she can and cannot use it. Our AP used to download all sorts of cra* as well and completely filled up our hard disc. Lovely girl tho.

boo64 · 11/11/2006 12:51

Ours (German too) is bringing her own laptop and we will have a wireless internet connection by then but will definitely need to have guidelines on times she can use it.

I can empathise with the internet addiction as I certainly have one!!

OP posts:
crazybird · 11/11/2006 13:50

This is a great thread. I'm hoping you can give me some advice. I'm pregnant and looking to set up child-care from when the baby is a few weeks old. My husband and I are both self-employed and one or other of us is nearly always in the house. I've read guidelines that an au-pair shouldn't look after a baby but would that apply even in this case? At most the au-pair would be left for a couple of times a week for a couple of hours with the baby (and only after I was convinced she was confident to pick up and feed the baby if necessary). Most of her time would be assisting me or my husband look after the baby, and helping us with making up bottles, washing baby clothes etc (so we can take advantage of the time the baby is asleep and be in the other room fitting in work phone calls/emails etc). What do you all think? It doesn't seem that any other type of child care would work for us. I'm happy to pay extra money to cover someone who has some experience of babies - I noticed on that quite a few of the girls had experience working in creches/babysitting, and many of those that had that experience said they were happy to look after babies as well as older children. The alternative is a nanny but I just don't think this applies to our situation i.e. amount of work, the degree to which we will be around in the home/most of the work will be light housework/baby clothes washing etc.

Please let me know your thoughts and advice

boo64 · 11/11/2006 14:17

I agree that a nanny isn't for you - I had a similar situation as I work at home. Good nannies seem to want sole charge. I might be wrong though.

Sounds like you need what's called an 'au pair plus'.

I'm not sure I'd have wanted to leave my ds with an au pair as a newborn in sole charge at all but if I was in the next room that would be ok - but you are right, maybe once you get to know them?

Maybe try Gumtree so you can get someone already in the UK and interview them?

OP posts:
artist67 · 11/11/2006 14:26

I once had a summer Au pair that came to help out with the other children so I could see to baby. I was at home most of the time and she was brilliant with the baby, and had lots of experience, just started to make up bottles one-day then asked if she could see to the baby in the mornings bathing ect and help with weaning, she even pureed vegetables.

I just think you need to be careful as a lot of AP say they have experience but this may only be holding a relatives baby occasionally.

Cloudberry ? it seem our AP as given up on Aupair world after a flurry of activity, so I?m not sure what her intentions are. I have come to the conclusion that some help is better than none. She has managed to get all the ironing up to date this week. but made the point of telling me it took her all day and keeps hinting she does more than 25hours !! But has I mentioned before she is so slow and not taking anymore jobs off her.

Now I have got to know her better, I say the she is very nice but very has really indulged her self over the years ? studying and travelling for 10 years but not achieved much, and is certainly not cut out for any form of hard work.

I have given up on the Au pair with visa,s.

Of all the sites I prefer greataupair for the search facilities and gumtree

dizzydo · 12/11/2006 08:59

Crazybird I agree an aupair is what you need. Artist is right tho they do tend to exagerate their childminding experience so you will have to just wait until she's with you to decide how capable she is. Having said that, a lot of them are very mature and if you are fortunate to find someone already in the country you can get a good idea of whether or not they will suit by interviewing them. I think I might look for someone in their twenties rather than an eighteen year old. That said, most of us mums start of as a novices with our firstborn and we manage. Good luck, I wish I had had one when my daughter was born but we didnt have the room!

crazybird · 12/11/2006 12:41

Thank you for all your replies.
I'm still unsure what to do I suppose because I would need to meet the person before I was 100% sure. I'm 50:50 between the idea of getting an experienced au-pair or a part-time flexible hours childminding place (assuming it is possible to find one). Because I'm thinking the second option would allow me to do more concentrated/undistracted work and the person will probably be a mother and the experience can be verified more easily. Oh I just don't know! This is so hard!

If anyone has anymore advice/stories of their own experiences I'd be grateful.

mishmash · 12/11/2006 21:34

Crazy - agree Aupair Plus is best.

Now I had humdinger today - my ap has friends visiting and are being put up by my mum for sleeping. They all arrive at my house today and besides the fact that I had my sisters 4 children here all weekend - they arrived en-masse this afternoon and took over the kitchen, ate all the biscuits I bought for the week!!! and cleaned me out of milk as well. Never cleaned up! I casually asked if they were in for dinner, expecting a "No" answer to which I got a "yes" - scrambled into action - chicken, ham, swede, carotts, spinach, peas, roast spuds - dished all out to be told the other 2 were vegetarian!!! - told AP that it was too difficult to do seperate diff dinners and told her to look after them.

They have ate my mum out of fruit - so I phoned her tonight and told her when it runs out not to buy more - she is an elderly lady (she would kill me if I said that) but she and I are not running hotels!

Am I cruel or what? They did bring presents to the kids.

Our AP has a very easy job, gets paid well - but I honestly didn't expect that I would have be motering her friends as well

mishmash · 12/11/2006 21:35

Mothering not motering

boo64 · 12/11/2006 22:30

no way is mine going to be allowed friends to stay - I think you are very generous!

OP posts:
totallyfloaty35 · 14/11/2006 09:49

Boo,your ap who starts in jan,sounds just like my old one,does her name start with an M?
I have had a couple of fab ap from aupair-world,but also some horrors and i must say every german girl ive had has been an internet addict

boo64 · 14/11/2006 21:23

Hi floaty - no it doesn't and also it's her 1st time au pairing.

I will watch out for internet addiction!


OP posts:
boo64 · 14/11/2006 21:24

Hi floaty - no it doesn't and also it's her 1st time au pairing.

I will watch out for internet addiction!


OP posts:
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