My name is Karen and I am married with 2 small children, I decided to go back to college to retrain after two very difficult pregnancies and births. I wanted to become a hairdresser and to do this I needed to go to college full time.
We looked in to nannies, childminders, nurseries and au pairs/mothers helps. We decided as the children were so young we would have to have someone who lived with us. That is when we decided to have our first au pair, that was in the summer of 2009. We looked and looked, our requirements were quite specific in terms of the hours needed and the experience of looking after younger children, the children were very young so we needed someone special.
I looked at AuPairWorld, other agencies and websites, and found our first girl Heidi from Norway. She had worked in a nursery and was available for one year. She seemed very nice and easy to speak with. We needed someone with very good English as the children were so young and Heidi was perfect. Her English was good, her experience was perfect as she had worked with young babies and children. And she knew what to expect in terms of child care.
Since Heidi, we have had Melina from Germany. Now we are on our 3rd au pair Romy also from Germany. I have been incredibly lucky with all 3 of my beautiful young women chosen for our family. It helps that I am a good judge of character, especially when I have heard so many horror stories from both au pairs and Host Families. Our experiences have been lovely. They have bonded well with the children and the children with them very easily. All my au pairs have been very different in many ways but they all have been like little sisters to me and have been as much friends to me as help with child care.
The au pairs are given a couple of basic house rules to follow:
Generally the main tasks for our au pairs have been to be 100% child focussed. When the children are playing or having a snooze, we asked that they do a little house work. Including washing clothes, drying clothes, hoovering, and generally helping keep the house tidy, as well as catering in terms of snacks and food.
At present my children are just in the school holidays, the days are very different then as they have both children more often, Romy has mananged to arrange lots of activities locally with other au pairs and nannies so that the children are occupied and have exciting adventures. In September, the day will be far less hours with the children, my eldest will be at school from 8.15 am to 3.40 and my youngest will be at preschool 9-12 or 1pm depending on the day, the au pairs will have some hours to do their own things and then have children to look after in the afternoon and evening.
Hosting au pairs has been an amazing thing for me. Because my husband works long hours and is often away from home. And it is really nice to have company when I am home alone. They often spend evenings with me in the house as well as socialising in the local town with the other au pairs and nannies. There is a huge number of au pairs here and they all seem to get along very well and have a great time exploring at the weekends.
Our children are very adaptable. When the 6 month mark is approaching we start talking about when the au pair is leaving. And talk about who the next person is and what they will be like to prepare them for the change. Of course there is a settlement period and I have in the past tried to arrange a handover period of a few days. So the new au pair can get to know the area. The other au pairs and the children whilst still having some continuation which is slowly weaned to the new au pair. This has worked very well, however, this time we were not able to have a hand over period. But the children still adapted to Romy and love her as much as the other au pairs we have had in the past.
We are in touch with our previous au pairs and we tend to invite everyone over around the late autumn to celebrate the birthdays. Last year that was amazing fun, both Heidi and Melina will visit us. And we hope to visit them during holiday times too.
The best advice I can give to anyone looking to host an au pair is, they are young eager and generally very willing, give them respect, and they respect you. Let them have their family and friends visit letting them know that if they do they still have to look after the children. Allow them to be able to get out and about, don't over use them, and they will always be willing to help in cases of Emergency. I am so happy to have known all 3 of my au pairs and hope that in the years to come we will have many friends from around the world in which to keep in touch as pen friends for the children.