Hiring an au pair is an alternative childcare method to some of the more traditional options such as a crèche or child-minder.
Childcare costs can really cripple a family’s budget. For a lot of families, there is a thin line between being able to afford to work and not to work.
costs are considered there is often a very minor difference to the family’s income levels. In fact, childcare costs
can often come in at a higher amount than a home mortgage in families with more than one child.
Hiring an au pair is an alternative childcare method to some of the more traditional options such as a crèche or child-minder. For considerably less money you could have a live-in child-minder who might just babysit at the weekend and do some light housework also.
There are quite a few stipulations in Irish law that protect au pairs. The majority will “work” for a maximum of thirty hours per week (including any weekend babysitting) and will be entitled to two days off per week as well as time to attend language classes and study.
In return, they receive pocket money and free accommodation in the case of live-in au pairs. In Ireland, an au pair is entitled to be paid the legal minimum wage just like any other employee – however, specific deductions may be made to cover the au pair's food and lodgings.
The problem is an au pair is technically a stranger so choosing the right one for your family is an extremely important decision.
There are au pair agencies which charge a fee in return for you being able to access their list of potential au pairs from all over the world. The list includes females and males who would love the opportunity to come and live in your country and being an au pair is a great way for them to do that. Many of them want to learn how to speak English and learn about a new culture at the same time.
An au pair agency can act as a link between a family and an au pair. They may do background checks, organise the logistics and help you deal with any problems that should arise when the au pair begins working for your family. Other websites simply offer the listing and do not engage themselves in any other aspect of the relationship. These websites are usually a lot cheaper and do not incur any extra fees.
Choosing the right au pair for your family can feel extremely daunting. You are trusting this person in so many sensitive areas of your life such as your children’s safety, emotional wellbeing and studies. You are also trusting them with your home and car (in some cases). Finding an au pair that everyone feels comfortable with is not an easy task, but one that thousands of families in Ireland are having great success with.
Here are some helpful tips to consider when trying to choose the right au pair for your family
- Personality matters. A person’s educational CV and ability to speak and read well is a good first impression but the most important thing is the relationship that your children will form with this person. If your children do not feel comfortable then neither will you. Look out for personality traits that you believe your children will respond well to. This can often come across through phone-calls and email conversations in the beginning stages of your enquiries.
- Think about any “extras” that you are hoping your au pair will be happy to do. Light house-work or meal-prep for example. Ask about them in the beginning stages to ensure that you find someone willing and comfortable with that arrangement as opposed to hoping for the best when they arrive.
- Ask about their previous work with other families and children. You will learn a lot about them from the way they speak about this subject.
- Take references seriously. Request them and follow them up as a matter of priority.
- Think of the practicalities. Do you need the au pair to drive your children to and from extracurricular activities? They will need a full driver’s license in this case. Do your children love arts and crafts? You might gravitate toward an au pair who enjoys this kind of activity.
- You might like to ask if they are a smoker. Smoking in the home or around the children will be undesirable for a lot of parents.
- Use Skype for interview purposes and get the kids involved in secondand/or third interview. Their opinion will really matter in this situation.
Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at www.loveofliving.ie.