A few weeks ago my girlfriend reached out to me and asked for help. She wanted what I had and she wanted it baaaddddd. “I’m drowning” she said. With 3 kids at home, a husband who worked long hours and a thriving home business, she was trying to do it all and wasn’t. She was suffering from The Rushing Womans Syndrome, except she never actually rushed to leave the house, or got out of her PJ’s. No use wasting time changing twice a day when you could just stay in the same PJ’s for 24 hours straight. Saves time and washing.
So she wanted my little secret to having it all……and that is…… an au pair.
When I first started back in breakfast radio after a year off with Millie it became pretty evident that the only way we could manage was to employ care within the home. We had exhausted all our family and friends help, and although they would have kept on helping us, I didn’t want Millie’s grandparents and godparents to start to view her as a job. I know that sounds strange but my mother-in-law, who took on the lions share, started to get that weary new mother look in her eyes. When it became a daily thing, it was all discipline and daily routine as opposed to that lovely grandparenty thing of treats and day trips.
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My husband and I then tried adjusted work times. He started work when I finished, but it meant we barely spent any time together because with my breakfast radio hours I would be heading to bed as he got home. I wasn’t going to go back to work if it put our relationship on the line, I’d rather be poor and in love. Daycare wasn’t an option either as nothing was opened early enough for us and it seemed silly to pay for a whole day when I finished at 11am and wanted to be with my daughter. So we opted for an au pair.
The Millie Whisperer. Our beautiful Au Pair @naemie_ we love your work! A photo posted by Emily Jade O’Keeffe (@emilyjadeokeeffe) on
She changed our lives. Like Mary Poppins floating in on her umbrella she was practically perfect in every way, I’d even go as far as calling her supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. A German girl on her gap year she moved in and became part of our busy family. She cooked, cleaned, loved and played with Millie and was really great company. I finally understood why men wanted to get married…..I had found myself a wife and it was bloody good.
I had a newly married glow and it was infectious, which is why my friend wanted what I was having. After helping her find a new wife……I mean au pair…..she suggested I share my au pair finding tips because inviting one into your home is a daunting task, it works well for some and for others it can be a disaster.
2015 family Christmas portrait. We are going to miss our @naemie_ so so much, we don’t even want to think about life without her now. The White Christmas parade @movieworldaus was fab. #mwwhitechristmas A photo posted by Emily Jade O’Keeffe (@emilyjadeokeeffe) on
So here are my top five tips for hiring an au pair:
1) Make sure you are people people. If having long term guests makes you break out in hives, it won’t work for you. You need to love opening your home and sharing your lives with others. I treat my au pairs like an exchange student that works for you… I share my culture with them, and they with me, it’s actually really awesome.
2) Have the space. My last 4 au pairs all came from other homes. We called ourselves the AWL, Au Pair Welfare League. They all were promised a safe and comfortable space but arrived to be shoved in garages, working home offices or sharing a room with the children they cared for. That is quite simply not on. They are normally young women and they need a room to themselves to escape to, but also to give you some private family time. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just clean, quiet and somewhere they can fart alone.
3) Know what you need and write it down for the interview process so they can accept the job or not based on your requirements. Some of the feedback I received from my AWL girls was that they were not told what they would be doing when they got the job and found all they did was clean. I have an even mix of childcare and house care and I don’t make them do anything I wouldn’t do myself.
4) Stalk them. I found my au pairs by word of mouth and online. Au Pair World is pretty good, it’s like eHarmony for Au pairs and families. You both register and then find each other and do the dating dance. But my point here is to meet them somehow before you employ them, even if its just Skype. Show them your house and family and ask to see theirs. That will give you a rough idea on if you are a bit similar and if there will be any barrier’s like language. I totally Facebook stalk the hell out of my girls. It can tell you a lot, like if they like to wear clothes on a regular basis or can skull a pint in 30 seconds…….true story.
5) Rules Rules and more Rules. Have house rules, make them clear and then stick to them. If they break them, get rid of them. One of my girlfriends discovered her au pair was secretly drinking wine out of a metal water bottle while caring for her kids at 9am! She fired her on the spot, packed her up and paid for a week’s accommodation for her at a backpackers. Make the rules and if they break them, let them know the consequences. If they are going to drink on the job, at least share. Kidding…….no, really I am kidding. Only I’m allowed to drink on the job.
I hope that helps and if you have any questions fire away in the comments section because I honestly can’t sing an au pairs praises enough, they are the wind beneath my wings…….
Emily Jade is half of the Flan & Emily Jade Breakfast Show which can be heard week days from 5am-9am on 1029 Hot Tomato.
This piece originally ran in Bmag here: