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Modern Mothering: The Decision to Hire an Au Pair

Well the time has come to try something new.  The full time+++ workload, the three kids in varying degrees of school and child care, and the military mum routine every morning and every night has worn way too thin.  It is time for a change.

I am a professional working woman! I am a business owner! I work the usual full time and a half hour’s of business owners!  And I have three beautiful children 10, 4, 2, who are living the same rushed existence as me.  There are a few sure signs that things need to change… like the innocent, but serious question from your 4 year old… “Mum are we in a rush again?”… Or the realisation that you’ve heard yourself bellow “move, move, move” about 50 times this week.  It is time for a change alright, and for me this means… time for an au pair!

Everyone swears by them, everyone who has had them.  Of course there are horror stories, but for the most part it is positive.

Before I tell you about my experiences, I want to clarify that this decision, nor any I make, was made lightly.  I recall as a 12 year old contemplating the professional career path that I had planned, that my mother asked me, “Carrina, are you comfortable with having someone else care for your children?”.  “No!” I responded.

My children are my everything.  I am a dedicated, involved mother, who loves nothing more than playing with her children, listening to their stories, and snuggling them to sleep at night.  I chose to work, because I love it, I am passionate about it; and I believe that this is a reality that my children will face as well – but this is not a choice above my role as a mother.

In June 2014 we met our first au pair.  This was a perfect first match for us, as she “R” was in a nearby city and we were able to meet her before deciding.  For au pair virgins this was fabulous.  R was in Australia with her partner, and was struggling to find work.  Her home was Sweden and the isolation of Australia was not working for her.

R was initially a live-out au pair, who worked around 40 hours per week for our family.  Transporting the older girls to school and back each day, caring for our 2 year old son on 4 days per week, and she was an amazing cleaner and organiser.  In the latter part of hr stay, she became live-in.

R was a mature young woman and became a great friend to the family.  Before long R’s influence on our family, transformed us.  I would arrive home at 5.30pm to calm, happy children who I got to enjoy a pleasant evening meal with, as opposed to the rushed post-work, post-daycare rush into the house at 6pm…cook, showers, homework, eat, bed!  Now it was calm and I could enjoy pressure time with my babies.

After just two months R decided to return home to her family.  We were devastated, but understood her decision.  Today our eldest still Skype’s and Facebook’s her, and we miss her dearly.  When someone joins your family, you don’t easily let them go.

After a month struggling without an au pair (and no replacement child care), we found a new one!!!  I will note that in this month we also had three other au pairs committed to the role… 1) had major delays with visa etc and never made it 2) was on her way down from up north, ready to start within 24 hours and disappeared???  No idea what happened to her, but she never arrived 3) a scammer who sought cash in advance for “her” trip and we said no.  “She” also attempted this on another local family.  This is the WARNING section of my post.

So in late August we were again blessed to meet “F” in our capital city prior to making the decision and she was wonderful.  Younger than “R” and very gentle, but with a beautiful warmth and calm that we knew would be perfect for the children.

It has been 3 weeks since F joined our family, and we are very happy once again.

Today I called home before leaving work (as I was running late) and heard F say “oh good I will have time to clean up the kitchen!”.  This made me smile, because I knew they were up to good things.  I returned home to a fabulously messy kitchen, blissfully happy children, smiles all round, and homemade pizzas!  This is life with an au pair.  They join your family, they connect with your family, they make a mess with your family, and they clean up with your family.

I am no longer ‘military mum’ bellowing instructions at my rushed children; I am calm and enjoy every second I have with them.  I still cook almost every meal for my family; I still read them books and tuck them in at night; and I still allow them to sneak into my bed at night.  I know that an au pair won’t work for every family, but it works for us, and so this is the first of many blogs about our life with au pairs!

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