Could you cope with an Au Pair?

I went for a business lunch at Jamie’s in Cardiff with one of the Superwomen yesterday.  I like the atmosphere at Jamie’s but have to say I think the food is going downhill. I had a steak which, had I been the host instead of the lunchee, I would have sent back – very poor quality meat and very touch.  Not a patch on the one I had at the Brasserie a few weeks back (not that I go out for lunch a lot you understand) even if the Brasserie does smell a bit damp these days.

Anyway I digress,  one of the (many) things we chatted about was pulling off the juggle between career, kids, family life and the odd tiny scraping of personal time.   We agreed from the off that no one manages it entirely successfully but one of the things which helps my lunch companion have a good stab at it is her au pair.  She has had about six or seven different au pairs over the years, mostly from Germany but also Spain and France.  For £70 a week  (guidelines for salaries for  au pairs in the UK are between £60 and £75) plus food and board her au pairs get the children ready for school including making breakfast, do all the washing and ironing for the entire family, clean their own room and those of the children, be there to look after the children when they get home from school and cook their tea plus two nights babysitting.  They don’t work weekends and are usually out the nights they aren’t babysitting, at language school or with friends.    Her au pairs get an en suite bedroom with a telly and broadband and must bring their own lap top with them.  They spend a lot of time on Skype apparently, talking to their friends and family, even propping up their lap tops to chat while they do the ironing.

This sounds like  a good solution to many a hiccup in a Superwoman’s life.   An extra pair of hands to help out, someone to get the kids ready so that you can attend early meetings, and two nights babysitting so that you can go to the pictures with your other half rather than deciding that the costs of a babysitter make it uneconomic to go to the cinema and you’d be better off renting a DVD instead.  But could you cope with having someone else living in your home?  My lunch companion had the considerable advantage of an en suite bedroom for the au pair set a little away from the rest of the family bedrooms.  This I think would be essential for most families considering an au pair.  However, my lunch companion has another tip for au pair management which is setting out very clearly from the outset and before the au pair comes to work for you what you expect from them, when and how.  She, being an accountant, has devised a spreadsheet setting out the tasks and the time lines.   Sadly, such efficiency is way beyond me.   I can’t do spreadsheets.  I can’t even manage my cleaning lady properly and still rush round the house the day before she comes tidying up so she doesn’t think I’m a slut and I cringe if I have to leave her a note suggesting she might, this week, just if she has time of course, mop the bathroom floor.  If we got an au pair I’m pretty certain I’d end up making her tea for her and not being able to go to sleep until I knew she was home from a night out safe and sound.    You’ve got to be a spreadsheet sort of person to cope with an au pair.

One Response to “Could you cope with an Au Pair?”

  1. Edina Stone Says:

    Au pairs certainly do help a busy woman and if you are aspiring to be a “Superwoman” a great au pair who can drive the kids around and start dinner is a great support to have! Au pairs are also inexpensive compared to daycare or a private nanny. Au pairs can take care of multiple children and their agencies do not charge per child. It is also nice to have an international person in the family – to learn their culture and pick up a few words of their primary language. My son learned many words of Spanish through our au pairs and he said it helped a lot to have someone tutor him before tests!

    Edina Stone, Founder of http://www.aupairclearinghouse.com

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