Our first Au Pair joined us from Germany when Tom was 6 months.  As the founders of Au Pair Link, we’d given some thought to the type of Au Pair we wanted, and eventually matched with an experienced childcare professional from Germany.  We really liked the idea of having someone that was older and more experienced when Tom was just an infant (nervous, novice parents that we were!).

Our first Au Pair stayed with us for 6 months.  When searching for our next Au Pair, we realised that we really wanted someone who was more part of the family and so matched with the bubbly, smiley Fanny (from Sweden). Fanny had just turned 19 and had never taken care of a baby Tom’s age, however within minutes of arriving at our home she slotted in perfectly (as you can see from the photo of our second day together). The reason why we picked Fanny is because she came across as having a relaxed, funny and loving personality over Skype. She was the only Au Pair who joked with us while we were skyping and that really appealed to both my husband and I.

Having had two Au Pairs that were very different, I’ve realised what I think are the most important aspects of fostering a good relationship with your Au Pair:

  1. Figure out what type of Au Pair will fit with your family

Some families prefer to have an Au Pair who is more of a flatmate. If this is the case, you should really look for someone who wants to explore and get out n’ about in the community – possibly someone that is a bit older and wants more of their own space. For our family, we loved the idea of having an additional family member and the fact that Fanny enjoys having dinners with us, watching TV and joining us for family outings. The great thing about Fanny is that we’ve found a lovely balance of having another family member, while still having some private time.  Fanny still takes the opportunity to go out and explore heaps however she is more like an older daughter, and this is certainly a quality we would look for in our next Au Pair.

  1. Get to know each other beforehand

We made a real effort to get to know Fanny in advance. We skyped with her mum and made sure that we emailed her regularly before she joined us. Knowing your Au Pair in advance makes it easier for you to support them when they get homesick (and most of them do).  It also means that they feel more comfortable talking to you about it.

  1. Keep a schedule and expectations

Anyone who knows me knows that I like to keep things organised. I keep a clear schedule which includes Fanny’s working hours, Tom’s routines and my daily, weekly and monthly expectations. This means that Fanny is really clear on all the little things that need to be done (and I don’t have to nag). It’s important for host parents to remember that most of these girls have never lived away from home before and some of the things you may expect them to know or do – they have simply never done before – so putting it on paper makes it easy for them to digest. It’s also important for parents to remember that verbal instructions can be very difficult at first for the Au Pairs. They are often jetlagged, tired and not to mention dealing with a second language. Putting things in writing really makes a huge difference!

At the end of the day, the thing that we love most about Fanny is the same thing which we first fell in love with when getting to know to know her.  She jokes with us, is very relaxed and incredibly loving towards our little Tom. We also like the idea that she is comfortable enforcing our rules and our style of discipline – it’s not only part the job but being part of our family! Both James and I see Fanny as a key person for role modelling appropriate behaviour to Tom, so we both make an effort to support her when she sets boundaries with him.

At the end of the day, open and honest communication is really the pillar of any relationship and I think that’s particularly important to keep in mind when hosting an Au Pair as a member of the family.

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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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