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Please help me choose between these 2 APs

(31 Posts)
Mendi Tue 09-Jul-13 22:15:54

Haven't had an AP before and have struggled in interviewing to find any suitable. Then today I Skyped/spoke to 2 who sound great. No idea how to choose between them. Can the collective wisdom of MN help?

AP1: age 25, Spanish, never been an AP before. Qualified teacher looking to improve English level. Spoken English was good. Seemed lovely. Desired start date is a bit later than I wanted but is manageable.

AP2: age 25 Italian. Already in UK au pairing for another family where she's unhappy. Told me its because she's here to improve her English and the children of the family are infants and so there's no opportunity to practise English. Has told the family she wants to leave and says this is all agreed. Can start whenever I want. Reading between the lines I suspect she will have to leave the current home before I need her to start. I believed her story. She sounded really nice and like she's just had bad luck first time round. She's already had practice driving on the left, which the other one will need some help with.

In our family, we speak a little Spanish (really just a little), but no Italian. Both girls had a reasonable - slightly faltering but perfectly ok - level of English but with the Spanish one I would be able to help out more.

Spanish one seemed a bit more outgoing and confident but that might just be because she was on home turn while the Italian one has had an unhappy time so far and is stuck in a house she's not comfortable in.

I don't know how to choose. I feel sorry for the Italian one but that's not a basis to choose.

Maybe I should ask both for references and choose that way?

Help me MN!

Mendi Tue 09-Jul-13 22:16:43

Should add: my DC are 11 and 9 so have lots of chat!

Reinette Wed 10-Jul-13 01:17:48

Does AP1 have teaching experience, or has she only completed her courses in it? If she has actual working experience, particularly teaching, I'd lean pretty heavily towards her.

Mendi Wed 10-Jul-13 06:10:40

AP1 has a little teaching experience - what she did during her training rather than as a job IYSWIM. But focused more on younger kids.

Mendi Wed 10-Jul-13 06:11:52

Also AP1 has always lived at home with parents till now, while AP2 lives alone back in Italy.

coffeewineandchocolate Wed 10-Jul-13 06:19:53

I would enlist your dc's help. could you arrange a Skype meeting them to chat? that way you see how they are with children and your children get a say in who they will be spending time with...

Mendi Wed 10-Jul-13 07:13:01

Yup we Skyped one last night and tonight we are Skyping the other (I just spoke to her on the phone last night).

Knowing my DC though, as a point of principle they will take opposing views...

LadyHarrietdeSpook Wed 10-Jul-13 07:25:49

Have you been able to speak to the Italian girl's AP family? I tend to be quite wary in these situations. I have one friend who it worked out for, taking a girl on who'd come from a family that didn't work out. But my only other (limited exp) of this is of a girl who told a tale of a host family with unreasonable demands and promptly turned round and gave the same account of the new family to my next au pair. So I kind of think to myself why take on someone else's problems? But there may be others with more experience of this.

Mendi Wed 10-Jul-13 08:55:43

That's a good idea LadyH, I will ask her if I can speak to her current family.

I slightly prefer the Spanish one but it's the fact that I can't put my finger on why that's bothering me.

Childcareisscary Wed 10-Jul-13 20:22:09

Mendi Good luck with your search. When you decide I might be coming to you for tips if you don't mind. I think getting your childrens help sounds like a good idea.

Mendi Wed 10-Jul-13 21:47:15

Update: tonight the kids and I Skyped the Italian (who I spoke to on the phone last night). She has agreed with current family that she is leaving on 19 Aug; then she will go back to Italy till starting next AP job.

She said she had Skyped with current family before arriving and they'd said they wanted 30-35 hours a week for £100 a week. On arriving it turned out to be more like 40-45 hours a week and when she asked for more money they said she could have a tip if she was good.

She also said they didn't interact with her except to tell her what to do re laundry, ironing etc.

I am aware this is all one side of the story. However she did offer me to speak to the family without me asking. I didn't on this occasion.

I thought she was genuine but have no idea if my bullshit radar works or not.

As she is in the UK currently, I have emailed her asking if she'd like to come and meet us this weekend for lunch. I offered to pay her train fare. It is about 2.5 hours each way from where she is so I guess if she says yes that's a good sign. However, the Spanish one seemed really nice as well.

I just don't know how to decide!

Does MN think this one's story sounded credible?

Childcareisscary Wed 10-Jul-13 22:33:30

I think after the stories you hear on here about au pair's being overworked, I think her story is believable.
But trust your gut, and also the person you are most comfortable with.

Mendi Wed 10-Jul-13 22:59:49

I think you're right Childcare. Anyway, I have nothing to lose in meeting her and she's agreed! So we'll see how it goes this weekend.

blueshoes Wed 10-Jul-13 23:03:37

How long has aupair 2 been with her current family? I appreciate that some aupairs are overworked and exploited but then again, I don't like to see someone skipping from one family to another without at least spending a decent time (6 months?) trying to make it work.

I think it will be crucial to speak to her current family to get the other side of the story. I would only take aupair 2 if the family corroborate her tale and otherwise say good things about her but respect that they cannot offer her the terms she wants.

To be honest, I have never taken on an aupair in aupair 2's situation because she usually will not be able to provide references and I see references as crucial. Then again, when I read aupairs who say on their profile they don't want to be treated like a slave or do housework all day long, well, that's fair but then again, I don't really want to take the risk that she is a madam either. Both parties have to show some flexibility and realism that things are not always going to be perfect. If there is no give-and-take, I don't see it as working.

For example, it is possible that if I am busy at work, there will be a few days where I am home an hour or so late. Those could very well add up to 5 extra hours. But then again, there is one day in the week where I work from home and she does not have to do the school run. There are also many days where my dh or I are on holiday and take the children completely. Swings and roundabouts. If my aupair expected to be paid extra for overtime and still get full pay on days we give her a day off, then I won't be impressed. Thankfully, most aupairs I have are not so inflexible.

Mendi Wed 10-Jul-13 23:16:17

All good points blueshoes and I have not had an au pair before so not yet had my fingers burnt.

This AP told me she has been with current family 6 weeks. However, she also told me that 3 days a week she does 7am-7pm and the other 2 days 7-8am and then 3-6pm. For £100. And the kids of that family are only 2 and 5. I think that is a lot, more than I would be willing to do if I were an AP.

She did ask if I wanted to speak to her current family so I will email her and say I'd like to.

I did feel we "clicked", however I also felt that with the other one. It's hard.

blueshoes Wed 10-Jul-13 23:31:06

6 weeks isn't a very long time. Definitely speak to her family, don't just email. Get them to confirm her working hours. Ask whether they explained it to her during the interview. How do they feel about her leaving.

I will just mention this though it has never happened to me. You don't want to be speaking to someone impersonating the aupair's family. It seems to be slightly odd that this aupair is ok with allowing you to contact her host family, when you would expect the host family would be put out by an aupair leaving after such a short time. So just keep one feeler out for this. One way of doing this is to get minor details from the aupair of her current host family e.g. the age of the children, their names, their schools, whether they are at nursery and which days, what do the parents do. Once you have a minor detail, ask the person on the phone and get the person to confirm. If it is the aupair's friend, chances are they won't know these little details and will stumble.

Of course, this only works over the phone or skype, but not if you email ...

Mimishimi Thu 11-Jul-13 04:55:57

The story of AP2 sounds credible, however, my gut deeling is AP1 will be more cheerful with your children. I doubt AP2's family will confirm that they are overworking her though.

LadyHarrietdeSpook Thu 11-Jul-13 11:12:05

definitely take blueshoes' comments into consideration. I also very much doubt that her current family will be delighted she's going after only six weeks. I would ask lots and lots of questions about this situation before risking it, if you have time to keep looking.

Mendi Thu 11-Jul-13 11:23:10

I have emailed her today asking her if I can speak to the mother in her current family, we'll see what comes of that.

In the meantime re meeting up, it turns out her family are coming to London this weekend to see her (pre-arranged), so she can't come to our house but has invited me and the DC to meet her and her family in London. I think that's quite nice in a sense. Gut feel says if she was a real nightmare, she wouldn't want to introduce her family.

blueshoes Thu 11-Jul-13 15:00:39

I am not sure what others’ experience is but I don’t tend to get know the aupair’s family personally – save for one whose father drove over from Germany in a car with a trailer to collect her and her many possessions when she left! It could be an Italian cultural trait and quite nice.

We all have different styles as host families but I started out on this aupair jamboree 5 years ago thinking that she would be a member of the family. As time goes on, I have come to treat it more and more like an employer/employee relationship with pastoral care thrown in because she is a young person living under my roof. I don’t know if letting you know her family means anything. If she is a nightmare, she would go straight back to her family and what they think of you is irrelevant. My personal preference is for aupairs to treat it as seriously as a job rather than as a extended family – which is part of the reason why I go for aupairs with previous aupairing experience because they are no longer sold on the dream and know the score.

But I digress. Obviously your gut feel is important.

Mendi Thu 11-Jul-13 15:15:42

I'm feeling more and more rose-tinted specs and less and less certain as we go on! Gut feel with both was good, it's just the slight question over the other side of the story with the Italian one's current family that niggles. If she is happy for me to speak to the mother then I will. If not then I think I should go with the Spanish one.

Am worried whichever one I choose will turn out to be a nightmare and then I'll spend months wondering how the other one would have been!

blueshoes Thu 11-Jul-13 15:28:51

Sounds like a plan.

BTW, if you choose a dud (with the best will in the world, it is not an exact science), it is not the end of the world. You don't have to suffer for months and months. Just calmly tell her what she needs to do to improve, give her a chance to improve, then tell her “ciao” or “adios”, and give her an opportunity to find another family. Start re-hiring in the meantime. It is not a skilled job. So much is common sense and personality driven. If it is not working, she can easily find another family since she is already in London. You will be relieved to have her out of the house and start afresh.

The key to finding a good aupair is in the firing as much as the hiring, everything done humanely and fairly, of course.

blueshoes Thu 11-Jul-13 15:34:23

PS, you will probably get a gut feeling by the first week whether or not she will work out.

LadyHarrietdeSpook Thu 11-Jul-13 18:23:22

our AP for next year's mother just befriended me on FB.

Hope the AP still shows up...

blueshoes Fri 12-Jul-13 06:40:36

harriet, next year as in September?

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