For many families, particularly those with very young children and both parents working, an ideal solution to childcare arrangements may be to consider using the services of an au pair.
Living in Can Be Helpful
If you have a house big enough to accommodate an extra adult, or are lucky enough to have a house with an annexe, extension or additional accommodation that is separate from the main house, then arranging for an au pair to move in will be relatively straightforward in terms of finding space.
Do Your Homework
However, do not enter in to this arrangement lightly as the Internet is packed with agencies, organisations and websites offering au pair services and these need to be thoroughly researched and checked out first.
Personal recommendations from friends, colleagues and other parents at school will all prove invaluable, and it is worth taking some time to talk to them about their au pairs and finding out which agencies they used.
Big Family and Lots to Do!
For Katharine and James, parents to four children and both with demanding careers and a large house to run, to enlist the services of an au pair seemed like the best option.
Katharine said: “It really did seem like the best option, and we are lucky enough to have a house with a separate annexe for the au pair to live in.
This is totally self contained so it means they can cook their own meals if they want to and have some privacy, and we can have time with our children on our own.”
Searching for the Right Person
Katharine added: “It is so important to spend as much time as you can looking for the right person, and it is difficult if you are planning to employ someone from abroad as you never get to actually meet them in person before they arrive in the UK.
Exchanging emails and phone calls is one thing, but actually having a stranger to live in your home and take care of your children, is quite another!”
Easy to Get Caught Out
Although someone may come across as being perfect on the phone, the reality can be very different.
Katharine added: “We have had a few au pairs over the last few years and generally they have been lovely and the children have really taken to them quite quickly.
Sadly, because the au pairs are young they move on quickly to other things, and we have found that they rarely stay for more than about six months. That is one of the downsides, but the benefits can be massive-especially if you are both working.”
Leaving Your Children in Safe Hands
A good au pair is worth their weight in gold, and is likely to be the envy of many people at the school gate! To be able to leave the house after breakfast, knowing that the school and nursery runs are covered, and that your children will be well cared for, fed and possibly even bathed by the time you return from work is a huge bonus to parents who have busy lives.
Check Their Credentials
To find a good au pair, ask around and take personal recommendations very seriously. Check out agencies well before you commit to handing over any fees of any sort, and ask as many questions as you can think of before you employ anyone.