Ten Reasons Why You Should Get an Au pair
This is not a post about how an Au Pair will solve all your household problems, but reasons why it would work with your family. If you don’t fit the scene set by this list then an Au Pair probably wouldn’t work for you. After Martina being with us for nearly 4 months now I decided it was a good time to put my fingers to the keyboard and share what we’ve learned. So here are my top ten reasons why you should get an au pair.
1) You need some help
An Au Pair, is not someone who is a slave, although after hearing some of the horror stories Martina has told me (she meets up with other Au Pairs for her days out, she finds them online) a lot of people think so. An Au Pair is someone who can provide a helping hand. They are not there to do everything. They are a fantastic solution to after school care if you have older children. Au Pair’s can collect your children from school and play games with them whilst you come home from work. If you have an Au Pair that likes to cook, they can be really helpful in preparing meals for the children. They can help with some light house work. For us Martina is an extra pair of hands. I was struggling to keep on top of the workload and it was getting me down. It would’ve cost us approximately £80 a day to send the toddlers to nursery so I could get on top of things, or we could get an Au Pair for between £70-£85 a week.
2) You have a spare room
An Au Pair is someone who lives with you. Part of their wage is that you provide a roof over their heads and food. This is a big factor for some people as they don’t think they could cope with the idea of having another person (essentially a stranger initially) in their home. I don’t think this is something that everyone can handle. I genuinely believe if you are having any domestic issues then bringing another person into your home is a terrible idea. It could provide a source of conflict if you aren’t secure in your relationship, especially as Au Pairs stereotypically are young girls seeking adventure and different experiences in a new country. Again, I’ve heard some awful tales from Au Pairs that Martina has met of young girls who’ve been asked to stay in their room when the host family parents are home. Like they’re Rapunzel locked in the tower. If you are not a hospitable person then I would suggest avoiding an Au Pair. It will just be an awkward atmosphere for you and for them.
3) You are a patient person
Au Pairs usually come over to a different country to learn the culture and language. They are not trained childcare professionals and sometimes they have had no experience of working with children at all. Again it depends on what you’re looking for from your Au Pair. I had no intention of Martina being someone that would watch the children whilst I wasn’t in the home, so it didn’t matter to me that she hadn’t looked after babies and toddlers before as she was going to be another pair of hands. As the months have passed Martina is excellent with the babies and they have now learned that they cannot run rings around her. At first it was difficult as we had to go through the whole pushing boundaries again with Judah. Obviously older children are different. If you need an Au Pair to watch the children whilst you are not around, Au Pair world recommends that you don’t get an Au Pair for children younger than 2.
4) You know how to delegate
Having an Au Pair is like having a member of staff. You are the manager and they are your employee. As you could imagine this would be a terrible scenario if you have an Au Pair that is lazy and doesn’t want to work, also if you are a tyrant boss. I made a timetable for Martina and I when she first came but we now have a good balance where we work together effectively anyway. It’s important at first to have structure, as it is just as daunting for them trying to figure out what they should be doing, as you may feel having another person in your home.
5) You’re an effective communicator
I thought that this was one I had nailed but it still can result in crossed wires when your native languages are different. Some people specify that they would like someone fluent in English. Most Au Pairs are using this experience as a way to learn the language better. Martina’s English is excellent, but there are a lot of times when I need to remember that she speaks Italian and use pigeon English, or simplify sentences as if you were explaining to a child. I have always had lots of friends from different countries (Poland, Malta, Italy, Russia), so this wasn’t so difficult a transition for me, but it still led to a few times of confusion. I chose not to react as I put it down to the fact I must not have communicated what I needed effectively.
6) You’re willing to do some research
I joined a few different websites (we found Martina on Au Pair World) and spent about 6 months debating before we took the plunge to inviting Martina over. I have a couple of friends who have gone to be Au Pairs in other countries on their Summer breaks from university, so the concept wasn’t completely alien to me. However, taking the step to actually getting an Au Pair was huge for me. I added Martina and a few others that were on my shortlist to my facebook page. I saw their statuses as time passed. There were girls who were constantly partying, and that’s fine that’s their life, but I knew it wouldn’t work well for our family life. Then there was Martina, who was cutting off all her long locks and sending it to be made into wigs for children with cancer, and who was always in the library, or dressing up in fancy dress to help with charity events. I knew that she was the one for us, we both shared a passion for social justice.
7) You can be honest about what you need and what you’re offering
I found it helpful that I am a blogger, I was able to show the shortlists who we were really easily by directing them to our blog. I knew that a lot of Au Pairs want to live in the big cities, London especially and usually work for families that have some money. I wanted them to know this wouldn’t be the sort of family that they were coming to, so they wouldn’t be disappointed and I wasn’t disappointed that they had wanderlust after a week. I was clear with Martina that I would be in the home, I was clear about what we could afford to pay (she was willing to come for less, as she wanted the experience desperately but I needed to at least pay the minimum recommended for my own personal integrity). Martina is coeliac and I knew what this entailed having my sister and friends who suffer from it too. So I knew that I would be needing to buy different foods in for our gluten-free friend. Martina was willing to buy her own food as she didn’t want to be difficult, and her Mum sometimes sends her parcels but on the whole I always buy in gluten-free pasta, bread, pizza bases, treats so that mostly we all eat together and Martina feels a part of the family rather than an outsider.
A girl that she found online, she met up with on a trip to Manchester came over to work with a family. She is vegan and explained that before coming. She stated that she wouldn’t need any special food, she would sort that for herself so long as they always had fruit and vegetables in she would be able to sort herself. The host family said of course but then they never bought fruit and vegetables, so she needed to buy all her own food out of her minimal wage. This same girl was treated like Cinderella in the home, she had to clean the windows and floors in the house twice a week, iron shirts for the husband for work, and do all the cleaning. To me this is disgraceful, this is not an Au Pair, this is verging on human trafficking (the difference was of course that she could leave). This girl was brought into our country under false pretenses and was basically someone’s slave. She stayed in that position for a year because she had bonded with the children. It’s awful how some people take advantage of good-natured people.
8) You’re interested in an intercultural exchange
Au Pairs may not only have a different language to you but also a different religion/belief system. It’s important to be respectful of this. It’s also great for the children to learn that not everyone is the same as their parents. Martina has been raised Catholic and believes in God. She comes to church with us sometimes, we may disagree on some theology, but it never comes up in everyday life and is not a concern to us. This is something to consider though if you have strict religious beliefs. You may not want someone communicating different beliefs to your children, although I personally find this interesting as when our children step out into the big wide world they will be subjected to a variation of opinions on everything that they believe. Why not introduce some cultural differences early on?
9) You have a specific time period where you need an extra hand
There’s no reason why you can’t have another Au Pair once your first one has finished, but it is a lot easier if you know that this is for a season. It’s become normal for us having Martina in the home. I am from a big family, so it’s just like having another child to keep my eye on (one that is extremely helpful) or a younger sister. To me the way we have things set up now, Martina could be with us infinitely, she is no trouble at all. However, Martina’s lifelong ambition is not to come and live in our home and look after our children indefinitely. She wants to travel the world and she thought it would be a good idea to improve her English first. She will be leaving at the end of September, we have already talked about going to visit her in Italy in the future and she may come visit us over Christmas. I really feel we’ve made a lifelong friend in her, and her family who have been lovely and visited just after Easter.
10) You don’t mind change and trying new things
Having an Au Pair is something I found so daunting, I had no idea how it would go for us, or for Martina. We had said to her we would have a months trial and that if at any point she wanted to leave I wanted her to say, as there was no point in her being unhappy with us. Nobody wants that around their children. It has worked like a dream for us, but as I said earlier I have heard some horror stories. So why not have a go, it could save you a fortune, provide another person to love your little people (Martina sees them as her younger siblings) and work really well. What have you got to lose?
If you’d like to know more please feel free to ask questions in the comment box, Martina and I will do our best to answer any and all questions. Or if you want to hear from her perspective go and check out her blog by clicking here.