Is An Au Pair Right For My Family? The ellaslist Guide To Au Pairs
- Parents Only
By Sarah Stores, ellaslist explorer
When I was looking to return to work after my second baby there were so many things that were completely overwhelming to me. Aside from the fundamental question of whether my brain would still work I was overwhelmed about how we would cope with consecutive kids sicknesses, days when my husband and I both had to work late (even if it was only a few minutes late), how we would manage drop off to two separate locations and two sets of childcare fees. No matter how we sliced and diced all of the variables we couldn’t land a position where we were happy with the outcome. It was at this point that someone suggested we look into having an au pair.
My Family’s Experience With An Au Pair
Getting an au pair has been the greatest thing we have done for our family. There really are so many benefits for each person. For my eldest preschool aged boy, it has meant that he doesn’t have to rush over breakfast and getting dressed and getting out of the house. It completely removes that stress. He is dropped off when he is ready after a good breakfast and a good play. He then gets picked up and has playtime at home and dinner before mum and/or dad get home. Once we are home there is no need for us to rush around, we can simply sit and play and talk until it is bath time.
For my youngest it has meant a significant delay to the start of his day-care experience. He spends his days playing at home or exploring the zoo, playgroup and the park. All with someone who is dedicated to him for the day. I get photo updates all day long of his smiley face having adventures with our beautiful au pairs.
For me it has (almost) completely removed my mother’s guilt of returning to work. I know my babies are happy and well cared for by someone who I have picked and whom I trust and sometimes I even get my dinner cooked for me! I have also made lifelong friends with some of the girls and learnt a lot about myself as a parent.
If you’re thinking of getting an au pair, here are a few of my top tips to finding and keeping a fabulous au pair.
Is An Au Pair Right For You?
I think the number one comment I get when people learn that we have an au pair is “I don’t think I could have another adult in my house”. I totally get that and this was our primary concern when we chose to go down this path. However, for us the potential benefits far outweighed the cons. The worst that could happen is that we learn that we don’t live well with other adults and we move onto an alternative form of care. Also it helps to remember that these are young girls who want to spend time talking to friends, and being on facebook. They don’t necessarily want to sit on the couch with you and your hubbie and watch your favourite shows (I haven’t found an au pair yet who shares my love/obsession with House of Cards).
In the end we went with the ‘what have we got to lose attitude?’ and the answer was…nothing!
How Do I Find The Right Au Pair?
There are many different ways to find an au pair. You can employ an agency or you can sign up to one of the (many) websites and find one for yourself. I chose to do the finding myself and we have used several websites (such as aupairworld.com and greataupair.com) as well as Facebook groups to find suitable candidates.
The process is relatively simple. You write up a profile that provides information about your family and the details of the role. It is useful to try and convey a sense of what your family is like and be very clear about what the role entails. Then you wait for au pairs to apply to you or you search for au pairs and apply to the ones that sound right.
From there we usually exchange a few emails and ask some important questions about childcare experience, driving experience, smoking, food likes and dislikes. After that we have proceeded straight to skype chats. Ultimately when picking the au pair I simply trust my instincts as I am best placed to know who will fit into our unique family and who will bond well with me and my kids.
We really want someone who is active and wants to explore our beautiful city but also someone who wants to be an integral part of our family. To us, this isn’t a job, the au pair will be part of our family.
So How Does It All Work
The au pair relationship is based on a cultural exchange where host families provide a safe place for the au pairs to stay and use as a platform to explore Australia. In essence this is generally board and food (as well as possible extras such as wifi and phone). In return they provide you with the child care that you need and have agreed upon. As this is not a regulated industry it really is up to each family and au pair to agree to the hours, tasks, pay, etc. Host families generally pay pocket money to the au pair (the general rule of thumb seems to be between $6-8 an hour plus food, board and the other inclusions listed above).
The Au Pair will need to be from a country that is eligible for a working holiday visa or a study visa. Generally the au pairs are responsible for the costs of flying from their home country and for their visa. There are two types of working holiday visas where the au pair can work with one family for 6 months (and extend to 12 months after requesting approval).
Not Convinced Yet? Here Are Some Of My Favourite Moments
- Having someone who cares just as much as you (and perhaps more than your husband) about when you got the toddler to use the toilet or have a nap or when the pre-schooler wrote his name.
- Coming home to a tidy house with the shrills of laughter coming from the backyard where the kids and the au pair are jumping on the trampoline together
- Sitting in a terrible meeting at work and receiving a photo of your au pair and children all dressed in superhero gear.
- Exploring Sydney a-fresh with someone who has never seen its beauty
- Having someone who helps you create the perfect Dinosaur Party for your 4 year old just because they love him