Thursday, December 03, 2009

Bad experience

I got an email yesterday from an au pair who had a bad experience with her host family. She was asking my opinion about what to do. Some of her friends told her to go back home instead of changing the family.

I understand her friends' point but as I understand this family was just not a good fit for her and vice versa. That's why it is so important to do a very thorough interview beforehand.

I would recommend not to give up after a bad match or experience. As most of us know there are too many great families out there to try out only one and give up. It is important to try to find a good match and make the best of this experience.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

How to choose the right au pair

Some families believe that au pairs cannot give the same level of care nannies can provide for their children. It might be true for some cases. But I believe if the families put some effort into choosing the right au pair rather than just expecting an agency to do the matching, it might be well worth it. Every family and their lifestyle is unique. Every kid is different and so are the parents.

Being open and honest about what is expected of an au pair is the most important thing in my mind. If I were to be told something during the interview and came across a different situation, I would be dissappointed no matter what. Good or bad, both sides should be open.

Some girls are party animals and see this as an opportunity to be away from their parents and go out most nights. Although everyone is entitled to do whatever they want on their free time. It should be made clear beforehand that late night outs during the work week are not a good idea. Even though au pairs are young, everyone needs their rest to handle active children.

Some families may assume that some things don't need to be discussed. They might assume anyone with some commonsense would know certain things. However, most au pairs are young and some of them are really young. They are not professional nannies and probably this is the first and last time they will be taking care of someone's children. Family needs to be able to assess how much the au pair candidate likes the children and is willing to provide them good care.

Friday, July 10, 2009

How to screen families

Finding a good family is every au pair candidates first concern. Many of us refer to the various au pair web sites nowadays to find families because it is fast and easy thanks to the easy Internet access most of the world is enjoying. I found my families at http://www.aupairconnect.com and I was lucky enough to be matched with great families.

There are still some precautions to take during the interview process to make sure the family is who they say they are. My personal favorite is to ask the family to send a family photo holding a big piece of paper with my written on it. I also like to do the interviews via my webcam after emailing each other couple of times. Webcams are so popular and there free services such as msn and skype where everyone with a webcam and internet connection can do a live interview.

There are scammers on the internet and we need to protect ourselves. You are the first person to make sure that you protect yourself.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Ages of children

It is very important to pay special attention to the ages of the children before taking any au pair job. Children under two years of age need constant attention and it might be little overwhelming to take care of a young child for a young au pair. Make sure you have experience in the age group you are signing up for. Child development is very important and the caretaker should know the needs of the age group. Read some books or articles. Find out the characteristics of the age and assess yourself to see if you are able to care for a child of a particular age group.

Monday, February 23, 2009

How to change host family in the US

Changing host families while in the US should be done through the agency au pair is working with. Only the government approved au pair agencies can help you change families. They find the new family which is also a member of the agency. They introduce and help the au pair move to the new host family's house. If the agency does not make these arrangements, au pair will be breaking the immigration laws and may not be able to enter the US again. US has certain rules that apply to au pair visas and do not let them do whatever they like once they are in the country.

These agencies also have local coordinators who help the au pairs when they have problems with the host families. If you have a problem with your current host family, you should contact your local coordinator to help you with the situation. They know the legal procedure and can be very helpful when needed.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Flexible hours

Being an au pair is not for everybody. It takes certain characteristics to make the au pair adventure work for both parties. Families hire an au pair like having live-in childcare as these parents usually work long hours. That doesn't mean au pair should work constantly or irregular hours. However, an ideal au pair for such parents is flexible and willing to help out a busy household. Au pair should expect the same from the family as well, especially if she is trying to take classes and improve herself. It's a give and take relationship and may require some compramises.

Some au pairs are concerned that they are taken advantage of. If this is the case, you should expect some flexibility when it comes to your needs and plans.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Changing families

There is always a chance that au pair and the family may not get along or may not be the best match for each other. It is not easy to live with anyone and au pair situation is no different. If you find yourself in a situation where you wish to change the family, learn from this experience and pick your next family accordingly.

Figure out the reason why it didn't work out with the family. Look for the qualities you want on your next family. If the problem was the number of children, pick one with less number of children. If the lifestyle of the family didn't fit you, be open about it to your next family when you talk to them.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Travel expenses

There is no set rule about the travel expenses of the au pairs. Some countries may already have rules such as USA where you have to use an agency to get there. In this case, au pair gives a deposit that covers her airfare, but she gets it back when she successfully completes the program and goes back to her home country. We can say that she eventually gets her airfare back from the agency. I am pretty sure the agency already builds in this expense to the host family. They pay a hefty fee like $5000 to start with the program. But most people say that the cost of having an au pair in the US is very reasonable compared to the other options like nanny or daycare.

In Europe, there are also au pair agencies which some people use where the travel arrangements can be made by them. In the case of going to Europe on your own, families would ask you to buy your own ticket. Most of them gladly reimburse the cost over a year by paying extra each month to the au pair. Even though most au pairs have trouble coming up with the money to purchase tickets upfront, it is better than not getting anything back. Most families realise it is not easy to come up for the money for most au pairs, they want to make sure that the au pair is serious and she showed some effort to be there. Sending a ticket to someone they don't know is not exactly the smart way to deal with it especially if they don't know the au pair.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hard part of au pair work

Even though most of us enjoy being away from our parent's house for a while, traveling, learning new things, meeting new people, there are things we miss or find it little hard to deal with. Being an au pair is not all about fun and games. You got to take good care of your charges, make sure they are safe and sound. Of course taking care of children is not the easiest thing in the world. Most people assume au pairs literally watch children with their eyes without moving from a couch. Children need much attention, especially the infants and toddlers. I am sure most au pairs who took care of young children share my view but I don't really feel comfortable turning my back to the young one even for a minute, of course unless they are in a safe place like their cribs. Children's development at the young age is also very important for their future life. We get to spend considerable time with them. I always wonder how my time with them effects their development and their future. So far, I have been told by parents that I love children and I do a great job with them. But there is always room for improvement!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Difference between nanny and au pair

Nannies are professional childcare workers with substantial childcare experience compared to au pairs. Nanny is considered an employee of the family while au pair is considered a part of the family. Au pairs do receive a pocket money no matter which country they work at while nannies receive a salary which sometimes they may have to live on, in the case of live-out nannies. Live-out nannies go to work, children's home, during their set work hours and get paid by hour usually. Their wage vary by the location and the scope of their duties.

For example, in the US au pairs currently receive around 180 dollars weekly and they don't pay taxes. However, the host families pay more fees to the agencies to cover other expenses. Au pairs in the US report that the pocket money is sufficient for their expenses since they don't have to buy food or pay rent. Basically, this money is paid for au pairs to do sightseeing or shop. At the end of the year some of my friends who could save money were able to have a vacation in other parts of the US.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Happy New Year!

I'd like to wish everyone a happy new year. I am always here ready to answer all your questions to the best of my knowledge. Email me any questions you have.