In the past 7 months I feel as if a new world of choices (and anguish) has opened up for me. The choices that you have to make for your unborn child start as soon as you become pregnant. Initially questions such as ‘who should be your midwife’ and ‘how you want to give birth’ become paramount but over the next 40 weeks of pregnancy plenty of choices need to be made.

At about 20 weeks new questions began popping up for me – such as ‘what stroller to purchase’ (we purchased a Bugaboo Cameleon), ‘when to start buying baby clothes’ (now is as good a time as any), ‘what type of car will be family friendly’ (yet to be decided) and so the list goes on…

Being in the childcare industry – I think that one of the most important decisions that you make for your child is what type of childcare you are going to use.

For me – it’s an easy choice. As the owner of Au Pair Link having an Au Pair is the only option I would consider for my family. I firmly believe having an Au Pair is the best childcare choice not only for our child but for us as parents. The reason why having an Au Pair makes sense for our family is because:

  • It’s cost effective (on average $200.00 per/week – not per child)
  • Having an extra pair of hands in the home means I will get help and support. This entails everything from the daily care of our child to organising our sons washing, cooking and light housekeeping (this really appeals to me)
  • For the cultural exchange e.g. someone who speaks Swedish and helps to integrate the Swedish culture into our home
  • And finally for the convenience…e.g. if our son is sick our Au Pair can stay home with him or if I want to pop out to gym or simply just buy milk – I can leave my Au Pair with our child.

People who question having an Au Pair generally ask me about how our child will get ‘social interaction’ and access to learning opportunities. For me, this is actually a key selling point for getting an Au Pair and certainly not a downside as some people assume.

When you are selecting your Au Pair, try and choose an agency that organises weekly playgroups, outings and activities for the Au Pairs and the children. Simply put – a child does not have to be in centre-based childcare for social interaction and learning opportunities.

And finally – as a parent or at least parent to be, my most important consideration is that of the safety of my unborn child. To me, having someone one-on-one caring for my child – building that bond and loving them is the best part of having an Au Pair. When I went to the USA as an Au Pair I never expected to fall in love with my children. But the fact of the matter is that even 8 years down the track I absolutely adore them. And as their Au Pair, I would do anything to protect them – I would risk my own life – without hesitation to keep them safe. That’s how deep the love and bond really goes. I always tell people that my host family children, Alison and Elisabeth totally changed my life and my perception of love. Without Alison and Elisabeth – Au Pair Link would not exist today. So I guess what I am saying is that if you can find that person who will love and protect your children the way you do – then there is no better place for them to be.

When discussing getting an Au Pair with families they often ask me what to look for in the perfect candidate. My key criteria when looking for an Au Pair are:

  1. Cultural fit and personality – Will the Au Pair fit with your family? Do they have similar interests to your family’s andk will they be willing to get involved with the activities your family enjoys?
  2. Experience – if you are expecting the Au Pair to look after an infant, you will want to check whether the Au Pair has cared for infants before or whether this something she would consider doing.
  3. Philosophy – is her ‘parenting’ philosophy or style going to be the same as ours or will she be willing to be open-minded around how you want your children parented?

For some reason a lot of people get very focused on the age of the Au Pair. However, from experience I can tell you first hand that age truly does not matter when it comes to being an Au Pair. In fact I would rather host an 18 year old girl who has the aspiration of going home to study to be a doctor than a 25 year old woman that has lost direction in her life and decided to become an Au Pair on a whim.

One key thing that parents do need to realise is that getting an Au Pair is not a quick fix. It doesn’t happen overnight. Most of our Au Pairs come from overseas and it can take 6 – 12 weeks  to match and place with an Au Pair.  And being a woman (who for the record is totally impatient) I would of course love to lock in our Au Pair now (yes I have already found her and she is gorgeous!). However, my husband – while he loves the Au Pair concept and fully supports us getting an Au Pair – has vetoed me offering her the role before the arrival of our son. He is far too superstitious to lock in our childcare solution – before we even have a child.

At the end of the day – the most important thing to look for is simply the right person. Someone who you will trust implicitly, someone who you will enjoy having in your home and someone who you know will use the same parenting philosophies as you when you are not there.

The most important thing is that you feel confident that the care you choose for your child will be the best option for your child and your family. However, as there are plenty of options out there I thoroughly recommend researching all options.

Anyway – I better get back to researching the perfect cot but if you ever have questions about hosting an Au Pair don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and I’ll try and help you out.

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Cecilia Robinson, founder of My Food Bag, and Au Pair Link, is one of New Zealand's most successful female CEOs. Cecilia's business awards include: 'Her Business Best New Business award' in 2009, 'Businesswoman of the Year 2012’, ‘Best SME 2012’ and 'Supreme Winner of the Woman of Influence Programme' in 2017.

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