– Choosing an au pair to look after your children is fraught with difficulty and you’re sure to worry not only about whom to choose but how to choose.
Before you set about choosing an au pair, there are some things to be taken into account.
1. Bear in mind that he or she will need to live in your home with you and that bed and board will be part of the deal. As well as feeding and accommodating an extra person, you will be expected to pay a weekly amount which could be termed pocket money. Can you afford it and do you really want to share your house with a stranger for a long period of time.
2. People looking for live-in positions such as this are usually young and quite probably have had no previous formal child care experience. It is therefore wise not to leave them in sole charge of your child and not to leave them in charge of children under three years old. Someone who has had to help look after younger siblings at home may be a good choice.
3. Au pairs usually come from another country to the UK or America because they want to improve their English. Do make sure that they speak enough English already to make themselves understood particularly to your children. It may be helpful if you already speak their language. You should also check what visa requirements your country of residence has with regard to someone who will be working. Is there a time limit?
4. Having come to terms with the possible pitfalls, you need to decide what light household duties you want them to carry out. These could include getting your children ready for school and giving them their breakfast, collecting them from school or taking them to after school activities, evening babysitting if you want to go out and some housework. An au pair will only expect to work 25 to 30 hours a week as they may well have a language course to attend. Make sure you know what hours they will be available.
5. Register with a reputable agency who will match the needs of the au pair with those of your family. They will also let you know what is expected of you as the host family and what you can expect from an au pair. They will be able to arrange an interview over the telephone when you can discuss pay and conditions and whether the candidate has the correct entry paperwork and work permits for your country. You will need to follow up with a written invitation.
Choosing an au pair needn’t be difficult but you should be aware of potential problems. With the help of a competent agency, you’ll soon be welcoming your new member of the family.
Ella McGinley is a mother herself and knows how hard it is to leave a child in the care of someone else. For more information on choosing an au pair or a nanny for your children, please click here.