This was our first-ever time to host an au pair. We live in a small village called Shawnigan Lake in British Columbia, Canada and having visitors from other countries staying with us was nothing new.
We had hosted WWOOFers (World Wide Workers on Organic Farms) the past 3 years and have always enjoyed having enthusiastic and interesting young people from other parts of the world sharing their lives with us while helping us with our garden and land in exchange for room and board.
As Fall of 2013 approached, we knew we were needing a different childcare situation than we had been using up until then. My partner, Tim, and I both commute to the biggest city on Vancouver Island, Victoria, 4-5 times/week and need someone to look after our two girls, ages 2 and 6 years, on those days. The only way it was going to work with our schedules was to have in-home care, so a friend suggested hosting an au pair. She recommended the site www.aupair-world.net and we got a subscription just before summer.
We felt it was important to write a clear, informative, upfront and detailed profile in order to attract the right person. We wanted to reflect an accurate picture of what we were wanting and what the au pair could expect. The categories were helpful in guiding us to thinking what it was we were looking for and the description themes made it easy to break down the specifics for both sides.
Quickly, we were able to narrow down our search, end conversations that didn't fit, and focus on partnerships that had real potential. We didn't have to initiate too many conversations before we heard from one woman who was interested in our profile. Elisa was easily available to send messages back and forth and soon we set up a Skype conversation to get a true feel for each other, check out language ability, and introduce her to the girls via the screen. Over the course of a couple of weeks, we had more conversations and we worked out details and logistics of flying from her home in Germany to ours in Canada.
Finally the day came for Elisa to join us in early September 2013. She flew in just as she said she would and I met her at the airport with my youngest daughter. When we got home, my 6 year old was excited to show her around and take her to her room to get settled. The next day, I was able to go through our regular daily routine and help get her familiarized with our home and neighbourhood. It became apparent that Elisa was a natural with the girls; a firm supervisor, but also a playful friend. She also demonstrated initiative when it came to household tasks and didn't need much detailed direction, which was a blessing!
Somehow Elisa would sense that privacy was warranted in the evenings and she would retire to her private room while we could relax and enjoy our home without feeling we needed to entertain. What I especially liked was that Elisa didn't “punch a clock” and run away when we came home as if desperate to get away from the girls, but would often take time, even when it was her time off, to connect with the girls.
Now we are preparing to say “good-bye” to Elisa as she will be returning home in just over two weeks. I'm not sure how the girls will manage it, although they are resilient little beings. Truth be told, I am not sure how I am going to manage it! Elisa provided us with the security of knowing our most precious jewels were tenderly cared for while helping around our home in meaningful, noticeable ways. But despite the sadness of seeing her go, we are also excited and looking forward to welcoming our next au pair with the help of www.aupair-world.net. I think Elisa will remain a life-long friend.