Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 20.57.51.pngChildcare is a tricky subject isn’t it? Over the last 5 years we have tried all manner of arrangements. And each of them have had there merits as well as there drawbacks. It’s a changeable, moveable feast too. What might work for one point in your life, might not work for the next. Perhaps one child needs something another doesn’t.

As such, I am forever asking friends about their childcare set up, in a vain attempt to find the ‘dream solution’. Here Kelly Ford sheds light on how her and her family have found having an Au Pair. Is it as brilliantly convenient and economical as people say? And what about having someone in your house all the time, does that work? Answers and much more below:

  • Finding ourselves in the need of some extra help we decided that the spare room could be put to good use and we could trial having an au-pair live with our family.

  • This was initially a 5-week trial with one candidate that then turned into us working with another for a 4-month term. It has been brilliant.

  • So, I am sharing our story to anyone that may be considering an au-pair and wondering how to go about it. In terms of affordable childcare this is an excellent option and has been a lifesaver to us, again if you have the spare room required.

  • We have a 2-year-old daughter who attends a small nursery offering locally that is exceptional and we pay £70 a day once a week for a Wednesday attendance.

  • When freelancing on production jobs they the ‘boutique nursery’ have been extremely flexible offering me extra days’ childcare when needed if hopping onto a new project, their care of our daughter and their continued affability has been a life saver and given me peace of mind whilst out there on the front lines trying to make a crust and keep food on the table.

  • However, due to sickness on my part** and in need to go to multiple hospital appointments and not working we needed a childcare option that was even more flexible.

  • Affordability is a massive consideration too when lining up any childcare, my family suggested that an au-pair could be a good way to progress.

  • An extra pair of hands to help the running of the house was the best suggestion as my energy levels have been majorly effected and needing a tag team come relay race with taking care of the home, the jobs and most importantly sharing childcare for Tabitha.

  • Being able to attend an appointment for a morning without having to pay for a whole day or being able to go to the post office without having to take your smalls, all that does add up in happiness points and efficiency levels all round.Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 20.55.10

  • Here are some learnings from the whole experience of having our first au-pair live with us for 5 weeks.

  • I subscribed to https://www.aupairworld.com/en for a month where I posted a profile of our family – what we are looking for in an au-pair and where in the world we wanted applications from. It’s a brilliant and easy to use website.

  • Once you receive applications from potentials you can then take it further to a Skype chat. This bit sounds so Tinder. Don’t worry it isn’t. Well at least I don’t think it is – I wouldn’t know. one of my major regrets of meeting my now husband aged 24 – is that I properly missed out on the Tinder thing. I think I would have been so good at it.  Back to business, anyway, The Skype call is a great opportunity to find out what your au-pair is like, interests and hobbies and to discuss more about your family and your homely requirements.

  • I interviewed 6 candidates over Skype and then narrowed down to one who we made appropriate travel and action plans with. We then Skyped a few more times ahead of their arrival day so as they could meet all family members including the cat and get a good feel for our unit.

  • Payment terms vary for Au-Pairs – our deal was £100 cash a week for 30 hours, accommodation, food, travel expenses and then if we do anything extra or fun I would cover it. This amount also covers a babysit or two.  I know, right?! Amazing – you can actually go out without having to pay £50 , or do a babysit swap with pals and fill the fridge with M&S (which I love to do btw – but it is all logistics and added brain confetti to consider) – NB: Rights to the term Brain Confetti – Steph Douglas – Don’t buy her flowers). The odd date night – especially when going through stuff is essential. To hang, to connect, to be, to go to some pals and share a dinner. To be bloody normal.

  • As a freelancer, I make sure to go through the week’s plan on a Sunday with all the family. Clear communication helps everyone. Meal plans on the fridge – buy a magnet small whiteboard from Wilko’s and thank me later, it feels really good to use and you feel like you are properly owning it making the plan for the week. God Bless Wilkos.

  • Consider Hello Fresh or Gousto as an option for a few nights a week – then you, your husband or au- pair can follow the recipe and have definite evening meals sorted for the week and all the ingredients shopped for. Sometimes not to have to think of a sexy meal is a relief and what a luxury to have it sorted and cooked for a few nights of the week.

  • Clarify everything in a contract ahead of your Au-Pairs arrival in particular tasks, housework, childcare hours and ‘pocket money’ that you are going to give.

  • A happy au-pair = A happy family. So, I make sure ours has the food that she likes to eat, has loads of scheduled spare time to explore the city and hang out with new found pals, suggest they do one new thing a day after realizing she had never used chopsticks…suggest fun ideas of things to do in London…

  • There are plenty of au-pair groups on Facebook – these can provide a lifeline to those who have come to London for the first time. They have meet up groups and splinter Whatsapp group’s depending on where they have come from.

  • I would recommend asking if they want to take an English language course – this is something many Au-Pairs want to do to make the most of their experience in a new country. Some may want to do an alternative course – but it is good to ask. Our second au – pair wanted to do still life classes and that is something we cover.

  • Personally, I like to treat our au-pair like an Older daughter and asked that she treated my little one like hers. This was good advice from my sister who has had many au-pairs. Thanks sis. It is family when you are living together. They are also being left responsible of your most prized treasure so really it can’t be anything else but that feeling of all being one big happy family.

  • Don’t be jealous. Your au-pair may wear only white hot pants and have a physique like Lara Croft.  Rise above.

  • Show how you like things to be done…. If your au-pair is 18+, they may never have changed a nappy or packed a bag for the beach or made a Chilli. So, don’t presume things. Make time to explain how you like things to be done. That is the bare minimum you can do. The key is communication. Make a Whatsapp group to talk about last minute things that may come up. Hot topics like cat needing to be fed, nappies running are often the theme of the day.

  • Be kind.

  • Have fun. It can be a brilliant experience for all your family and adds a new dimension to life on a daily basis. Our 2-year-old ankle biter now can count to 5 in Spanish and we have gained some new friends for life. She is working on her Finnish – it is somewhat trickier – but we will get there.

  • Finally, just to flag our first au-pair has now gone home after a slap-up steak goodbye dinner, hugs and gifts exchanged, the agreed contract time of 5 weeks was up – so it was time. We Whatsapp, that is cool. Instagram also keeping us connected. She was dreamy. We now have a new replacement au-pair who has travelled from the countryside in Finland who is making our life as amazing as our first experience. She has settled in fantastically and has developed a wonderful bond with our daughter in no time at all. She is frank and caring and a qualified childminder. Exactly what we need during this time.

  • So, would I recommend having an au-pair join your family? Yes, yes, yes. I think it is an excellent option for those that have the room in their living space. It means you have an addition to your family, you also get to learn about new culture. Also for the reasons mentioned above. It works on several levels.

  • (**  I have recently been diagnosed with an Autoimmune disorder called Pyoderma Gangrenosum that was realised after a bite on my posterior thigh turned into an open wound/s after a magical trip to Bali.  I had never heard of it before either. It is extremely rare. Please do have your lunch before you look it up. It has been a scary, painful and troubling time. I also also been recently diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, either Chron’s or Colitis. So, a new diagnoses’ but maybe the primary disease that caused the Pyoderma. Pyoderma Gangrenosum usually appears as a secondary disease to IBD and Rheumatoid Arthritis or Myelocytic Leukemia. I am on a number of Immune Suppressor’s to try and make it all better, the side effects are severe but they seem to be closing the wounds. All a bit scary but I am being treated and tested and MOT’d within an inch of my life.) This has allowed for a major re-shift of my life and priorities and everything in between However, the illness invading has meant I have had to attend weekly Derma appointment’s, dressing clinics, new clinics, doctor’s appointments, hospital visits, tests etc.)Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 20.54.18

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  • Reply Lisa September 23, 2018 at 8:08 am

    This is really interesting- not something I’d thought a possibility before but seems like there’s lots of pluses. Sorry to hear you’ve been so poorly, thanks for sharing! X

  • Reply Mummykins September 24, 2018 at 10:04 pm

    Haha ‘Binky Felstead’s Mummy Tribe Retreat’.

    Is this what Peckham people are like these days ?

    The frankly amazing world of insta mummies.

  • Reply Chapter 10: Everything you need to know about having an Au-Pair – Book of Mum October 8, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    […] Everything You Need to Know About Having an Au-Pair […]

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