We live in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada, and we have one son. We have hosted one au pair so far, and we are currently looking into finding our next one. We would like to share our experience with you. It was summertime (2010), and we were planning for Thomas’ very first birthday in the fall. We were also planning to return to work full time, which meant Thomas would need full time childcare. He is our first and only child, and we wanted to make sure we would be leaving him in good hands.
As we were exploring our options, our friends recommended looking into hosting an au pair. They had hosted a few au pairs, and had lots of stories to share with us, including positive stories and challenging times. As our interest grew, we asked our friends for more details (such as visa requirements and contract options). Above all, they highly recommended trying the au pair experience. Their favorite website came with much praise (the AuPairWorld website).
So we decided to try it. We created our profile, and while it was overwhelming at first in terms of the volume of applications we were receiving and all the details to figure out about the process (not to mention our nervousness in leaving our first born baby in the hands of a new care giver!). Though it didn't take long for us to make a connection with Nina from Denmark, our first au pair. We began emailing and made a few Skype dates. Nina was 19 years old, mature, and very sweet. She made us feel very comfortable knowing we could trust her in the care of our son.
Nina’s main tasks were to supervise and play with Thomas, to prepare daytime meals for Thomas, take Thomas to park / library / play group / pool / on walks. Babysit occasionally by arrangement, assist with light housework such as tidying toys, clean up of kitchen, sweeping, vacuum, some cooking, doing Thomas’ laundry as needed, and folding clothes. A typical day for an au pair in our house would be to take over child care as we left for work in the morning. Play with Thomas and take him out to an activity. Give him his snacks, prepare and feed him lunch, put him down for a nap, and give him a snack when he awoke. Her day was done when one of us returned home.
Thomas was very receptive to this type of childcare and instantly bonded with Nina. He would get happy when she would walk in the door, and he liked to visit her in her room, if her door was open. In the mornings, he would occasionally protest upon our departure for the day. But within a minute of us leaving, Nina would have him playing and laughing. Most importantly of all, she loved our son and he loved her. :)
Nina stayed with us for 8 months, and soon after arriving she connected with other au pairs in town. We enjoyed having her as part of our family. And we would have interesting conversations over dinner about our different cultures. We loved sharing our Christmas with her and again comparing our cultures during the holiday. On the evenings and weekends, we let her decide how she wanted to use her time. Whether it be going out with other au pairs, going skiing, or spending time alone reading; whatever she wanted.
Sometimes we would watch movies all together, or just simply talk and hang out. And we would always make a point of inviting her to our social gatherings as well. We did our best to cultivate open communication with our au pair from the beginning to ensure all her needs and our needs were being met. It seemed to work well. During her stay, Nina had the opportunity to meet our parents when they would visit. Her family also took advantage of having her as a 'tour guide' when they came to vacation in Canada to see this part of our country for the first time.
Hosting an au pair has been a wonderful experience and has made our daily lives easier and more stress free. Our first au pair experience was excellent and truly special. Now that Nina has gone home, we are searching for our second au pair and are looking forward to having another au pair experience. We are still in touch with Nina, and look forward to visiting her in Denmark in the future! :)