We have had a range of experiences finding Au Pairs and welcoming Au Pairs into our family. For us the Au Pair concept offers the right fit with our values, supporting us to live closer to both our goals in parenting along with our personal and business ideals. An Au Pair to us is an extra member on our family team and someone very special to us long term.
You are probably familiar with that old cliche of ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, however in modern Australia the concept of life in a village is a little far from reality. We’re mostly so disconnected. Most of the village is back in the workplace and people often don’t even know their neighbour’s names. I was introduced to the concept of ‘creating your village’ and I think that is a great analogy in 2013. I’m talking get help and take it guilt free.
creating your village
To create a village could mean many things – it might mean hiring a cleaner or a casual babysitter or accepting the help that you do have available from friends or grandparents. Or it may mean some element of childcare. Some may feel that childcare is the best fit for them [awesome] however finding a care facility that is right for us was a questionable possibility, and having a parent accessible to my children remains a core value for me despite my passion for work. For many, childcare is also expensive and difficult to obtain.
I have read that it is impossible to work with children present; that is possibly true in the long term depending on your structure. In the early days I would work while my babies slept, or set up an activity for my big boy while my baby was napping. However as they and the business both grew, it became a massive challenge. Finding Au Pairs has let me continue to grow our business, whilst still breastfeeding our nearly 3 year old daughter and without missing those subtle milestones of the growth and development of our children.
Now our day is supported. Things like making breakfast and snacks, changing clothes and getting ready to go out happen so much more quickly when there are 2 people available to meet the needs of the children. I have had AMAZING Au Pairs and I have one now too who just reads my mind. She is so ridiculously great at reading my mind so that if we are going out I look around and there are a change of clothes ready for the children and snacks. I put washing on and it is dry without my having the think about it again. I walk past something and think “Oh I should do that job,” and the next time I walk past the job is done. This frees up my mental space, improves my productivity, as well as letting me focus on the things I am good at and that are going to make the best contribution to our family.
Ways Our Au Pair Helps Us
Preparing snacks for the children
Crafting together with the children while I work
Stacking/unstacking our dishwasher
Tidying the kitchen/playroom/kids rooms
Sharing her culture with our family
Offering friendship to me and company/relief from isolation of parenting
Does washing/hangs out/brings in/folds it/puts away
Reads books with children
Teaches our children a second language
Helps ensure the children’s needs are met during supermarket shopping
Bakes snacks for the week together with the children
Checks the letterbox
Helps with light housework such as vacuuming/wiping counters
Waits with the children while I do that quick job that requires me to get in and out of the car for 2 minutes instead of having to get everyone out
At times our Au Pair is a team member with me, facilitating me to focus one-on-one with a child without feeling that the other/s are without care. I also find that tasks like shopping or library visits are more calm and relaxed with her support. When I am sitting at the computer and require as-close-to-full-focus-as-a-WAHM-gets our Au Pair provides another trusted person to refer to as a provider of care, functional support and assistance for the children. If I really need to focus sometimes the children will go for a walk to the park while I get that time. Mostly I am still available for a breastfeed, to cuddle a child that has a fall if they want me or to be shown artwork; but I turn over the food prep, dressing of the children etc to our Au Pair unless the children specifically request me to do that job. I like to choose their clothes so when I can I do that. I also change it up when I feel I need to both if the children need more of me or if I have a pressing deadline or project for work.
Our Au Pair is a member of our family and valued contributor to our household. We assume the she is invited to any family gatherings, holidays, she eats all meals with us unless by choice and we consider her in family decisions like meal planning. She is an adult dependent in our household and we offer her compassion, love, friendship and acceptance. On the flip side she is an adult and uses her weekends to socialise, travel and see Australia. We also encourage her to bring friends here even for the occassional dinner or sleep over, just as an adult child of our own would. Or just kick back with us. Whichever.
Finding Au Pairs
Most of the Au Pairs we have met through finding Au Pairs have come from one of these 2 sites and we have personally used both. Needless to say we take the process extremely seriously. We have chosen not to use an agency as there doesn’t seem to be a difference in the outcome, but agency Au Pairs do cost more per week as well requiring an initial fee outlay. The small consideration in mind is that when Au Pairs engage with an agency they too make a financial commitment to their role, however we feel that flying across the world is commitment enough! Our approach to finding Au Pairs is comprehensive and takes personal responsibility for ensuring that we have checked checked and triple checked on compatibility, security and trust before the person arrives. We learned and grew from our first experience where we rushed into things and the result was a poor fit.
We now interview our Au Pairs 3-6 months out from their arrival. Initially we review their profile and if we see a good fit, we send a comprehensive approach letter outlining our family dynamic, values and lifestyle. We then carry out an interview via Skype and provide the Au Pair with our 14 page household manual for consideration. We prefer finding Au Pairs with a stable family life, demonstrated commitment to education and that have a history of applying themselves to a variety of extra curricular activities. We have found that Au Pairs that are studious and well grounded are often available from the end of the European school year in July. In some ways we have felt it better to welcome someone who has not lived independent of their own family yet, as it makes some sense that they would be more likely to have that value and familiarity on being a family member and a member of a household. Perhaps they find it easier to integrate with family life. We have heard others that lived more independently comment about feeling restricted in the Au Pair structure. We also preference understanding in natural living and of course a genuine, effortless appreciation for children.
We think it is a great idea that when you are finding Au Pairs, you join a Facebook group for Au Pair Families in Australia for support and encouragement and also a bunch of resources such as this one or this one. Check their files section for further support. However do keep in mind that not everyone is accessing this facility with the same needs as your own. You will need to review the information and experiences offered and temper them with your own attitudes, needs and experience. We took the household manual provided on one of our Facebook groups and practically rewrote it to reflect our own approach.
Tips for Finding Au Pairs
1. Don’t kid yourself, this is recruitment. Don’t take it any less seriously or if not more so. Like any job you are looking for the PERFECT fit for your needs. It is okay when someone isn’t the right fit in interview stages. Welcoming the wrong person is only going to take your time, not give you more of it.
2. Allow enough time to find the right person. Otherwise you may feel pushed to compromise – at which point, see tip 1. 😛
3. Be very clear about the position you are offering. Communicating expectations is key to being sure that you have found a person who is a great fit. Share the details of the job that make you uncomfortable or that you feel unsure about. Their reaction will help guide your decision making and release your fears about whether the person will be happy in your home.
4. Think about what you need and not what another family needs. There is no use getting an Au Pair that will help in the same way that the Jones’ Au Pair did, if what you really need is unique or more like the Jolly’s.
5. Think about what the ideal person would look like to you and seek that. Form a connection with the person by communicating before arrival.
An Au Pair might not be a good fit for you if you don’t have a spare room to offer, you want an employee instead of a family member or if you have an abusive or unstable living environment.
What to pay your Au Pair
The answer is like any ‘job’: this is subjective. An Au Pair is paid room and board as well as pocket money that in Australia averages between $150 and $250/week for between 25-40 hours of assistance per week. The actual cost of having an Au Pair is greater than this of course, with meals, internet and utilities included over and above these figures. For the Au Pair the value is significant as not only does he or she get free board but a family to help immerse her in Australian culture and support her adventure with security. We also do what we can to support our Au Pair to obtain extra work in the community as a babysitter. We pay on the lower side of the scale because I am mostly home and there is little cleaning or cooking, driving or sole care involved in our position. However we don’t supply a car or phone.
Payment depends on the full set of considerations. Some examples of influences on the amount you pay your Au Pair are whether or not a SIM card and phone are included, use of a vehicle after hours, unlimited internet access included, whether the Au Pair needs to cook or clean as part of her job, whether she cares for the children unsupervised. Remember that if you are clear and open about the position you have to offer and what you can afford to provide as pocket money, the Au Pair herself can decide if the fit is right at her end. You should not expect to pay the cost of tickets or travel to Australia, this is met by the Au Pair herself.
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Do you have any questions about finding Au Pairs? Are you an Au Pair with questions? Do you have your own tips buy strattera online canada or resources to share? Please comment and build this resource for the many Australian families thinking about finding an Au Pair.