Mum to one, driven, busy and with a husband who was anything but a “hands on dad” in the early days, we went down the route of an au pair very early on. I returned back to full time work when he was 6 months old, he had pneumonia in under a week and we just needed the extra help to get by.
Our first au pair was a total Godsend! We found her on Aupair World (online au pair dating). A lovely Indonesian girl named Rifka, a seasoned professional that you simply couldn’t stop working! For Rifka au pairing was a career choice, not a working holiday. She sent the money home to support her family and was always 5 steps ahead with whatever needed doing. She’d care for Ollie, cook dinner, wash up the pans before we were even home, put on the laundry, this woman was a MACHINE! It felt like she was the mum and we were the kids!
Silly me, I thought all our au pairs would be similarly fantastic. WRONG!
I think the first point to note here culture choice. Now I obviously I can’t pigeon hole all au pairs from the same continent and nor do I want to and I’m sure that many would have had the opposite experience to what I’m about to say, but we’ve now had an Indonesian, a South Korean, 2 German and an American and the Asian au pairs knocked it out of the park when it came to work ethic, compared to the others who came for a working holiday, emphasis on “holiday”.
Something to consider though is “Will they need to drive?” Neither of the Asian girls could drive (unless you count a scooter around the crazy roads of Jakarta?), which was fine when Ollie was a baby, but once he started things like swimming lessons or you wanted some milk bought, the bus grew old fast!
Another difference I noted instantly was just the way they interacted with our family. The Asian au pairs finished their tasks and disappeared to their rooms almost immediately, more like a polite housekeeper, whereas the Western girls wanted to feel more a part of the family, watch TV with us and play the big sister role. Both can be great in moderation, but good to identify which you prefer before selection.
The second German au pair we had was a 6 week stop gap that only made it to week 4 before we had to ask her to leave. On one occasion I came home from work to tales of a poo explosion (“Okay” I’m thinking “It’s just poo”) only to be told she’d thrown out his clothes, so as not to have to deal with it! That wasn’t actually the deal breaker though – the tipping point came one morning when my husband and I were going out, she was looking after Ollie and there was a fairly major vomit episode. We were running late and had to go, so I figured she’d just take care of it. She didn’t touch it! 3 hours later we came home to hardened vomit on the carpet, through his bedding, down the side of the cot…….she was gone the next day.
Would probably be remiss of me not to tell you about our most recent au pair while I’m at it. The last of our au pairs (for now) was a gorgeous Texan blonde that my husband chose, not for her looks (I don’t think), but because she had worked in a Texas BBQ Restaurant and he had dreams of southern fried chicken. Over the course of 6 months I found her buttering bread BEFORE she put it in the toaster, she failed to deliver on a simple chocolate cake request for Ollie’s 3rd birthday (saved by The Cheesecake Shop), and she went out for a Sunday session one week and got so drunk that she didn’t appear home until 10am Monday morning, by which stage we’d had to find emergency care and run late for work (eyes rolling and husband furious). Not the best note to end on!
How you go about finding your au pair plays a big part in all of this. We took it upon ourselves to find our own through Aupair World, which is like cheap online dating. In many cases it can be hit or miss and it’s very time consuming. Alternatively you could pay a feww to an au pair agency who take all the headache away – they check them train them, match them and guarantee them, which surely increases your chances of success?! I’d highly recommend checking out Aussie Au Pair Services if you’re a Perth local.
If you’re umming and ahhing then personally I’d try it. 3 months won’t kill you and having a babysitter readily available when you just want to go for a quiet child-free dinner out makes you feel like a new person. On the other hand if you’re reading this thinking, “Nope, not for us” or you simply don’t have space, why not try our other solution…..a “BubDesk friendly” childcare centre. The new online directory has just gone live and interstate centres to offer the service by June.