How do we wind up with foreign people in our third bedroom? Well, if you’re picky like us, it’s a long road.
The Au Pair in America website offers profiles of their au pairs that include photos, letters of reference, an interviewer’s commentary, a letter from the au pair and a video.
You can search the data base yourself, but a representative from the company will also periodically add girls to your favorites list, using criteria like your language preference, etc.
What do we look for?
Personality, first and foremost. You’re not just looking for a nanny; you’re looking for a roommate.
Experience. For us, we want to see relevant, professional experiences with similarly aged kids as well as a history of caring for multiple kids.
Red flags. This is a variety pack, to be sure. We look for boyfriends at home that may mean an au pair will be too homesick to stay the full year. We look for euphemisms or sugar-coated phrases in the letters of recommendation. We sometimes look at social media accounts or profile pictures to see if someone is a heavy partier, etc. We once interviewed someone who had two Skype profiles, both of which we found when trying to set up the connection. In one, she had a perfectly average picture, in the other, she was wearing a super revealing top and giving the camera a smoldering look. I do not need to share my home with a smolderer (another word I just made up).
Potential for extension. Au pairs and their host families have the option to extend the au pair’s contract for an additional 6, 9, or 12 months. We always hope that we will find a really good person who wants to extend because it saves us both time and money and ensures continuity of care for the boys. Definitely ask about what she plans to do when her year long contract is up, however, be careful about setting up an expectation for extension-you’ll want to get to know her first!
Attitude and values. How does this person feel about pitching in around the house? Does she seem to understand your expectations for the treatment of her loaner car? Does she seem to respect your rules about visitors? Keep in mind that this person will be modeling her values and attitude in front of your kids as well. In this light, you may want to ask what her role is in terms of housework in her current living situation.
Energy. We have two boys under three. We need someone who can keep up with them, especially once Bear starts walking. I want to leave the house with the security of knowing someone is not going to fall asleep when she’s supposed to be watching them. I also don’t want to worry that they won’t get outside because she’d rather turn on Paw Patrol and rest on the couch (that’s my territory, lady).
Kid focused. I tend to skip au pair profiles that don’t launch with how they feel about kids. Girls participate in the au pair program for a variety of reasons and some girls have shared that the agencies make them believe that taking care of kids will only be a small part of their experience. However, with a 45 hour work week, up to ten hour days, and only one two day weekend guaranteed per month, that’s clearly not the case. If a candidate does not truly love kids, she will be miserable in short order. Since we began this program before our son could talk, one of my number one fears was having someone hurt our baby out of frustration or anger; finding someone for whom children are her life’s work lessens this fear for me.
For us, the process of finding the right au pair takes months. We review A LOT of profiles, set up a lot of Skype dates, and agonize over our decisions. However, when I think about what’s at stake-choosing someone to take care of my babies, the road doesn’t seem too long at all.
Would you consider hosting an au pair? What do you look for in a child care provider?