The day came and there we went to the airport.
I explained the children the concept of an au pair and how wonderful it would be to have someone living with us, sharing new experiences, a new culture, learn a new language.
My eldest is very much like me and just wished this new person would not interfere in the routine too much. But my youngest was over the moon. A new friend to play with.
The room looked lovely. We bought her a nice soft robe and slippers, as well as a cuddly bear and a box of chocolates. On her desk there was a notebook with the main responsibilities, perks, time-table of activities, emergency contacts, a couple of maps (of our town), London tube map, train times, a copy of what’s on in the area and a set of keys. I was so proud of what we put together for our au pair. Most of all I wanted her to feel welcome.
At the airport there was nervousness and excitement. We spoke on Skype and seen pictures, but I was not sure I could recognise her. I saw a young girl coming out and thought it had to be her.
Long dark wavy hair. Big Blue eyes. Tall. Two huge suitcases and looked like she was lost. As soon as she looked our way I stood up, smiled and went to meet her. It was our very first au pair and I hope she stayed for at least a year.
First impressions were great. We got home, she unpacked and made herself comfortable. I stayed home for about two days, so I could introduce her at nursery and familiarise her with the places she needed to bring the children to.
A. revealed to be a very shy girl. Very much into her studies. She was doing her degree with Open University. She didn’t go out. She didn’t come down and socialise with us, apart from meal times. I couldn’t notice she was even in the house.
She was always polite and smiley. I soon realised she had no initiative and would only do what I would directly ask for.
At the beginning the relationship with my youngest was hard. She would not find a way of getting the little one to do what she was asked and the au pair ended up in tears most times. I advised her, that she was an adult dealing with a 4 years and that she should not be shy, to ask for the little one to do as she was told. It was getting to a point where it was getting dangerous. The little one refused to hold her hand when outside and once even crossed a road unattended. I told the au pair I could provide a push chair (at this point I was fearing for my daughter’s safety), but ultimately she would have to come up with a way of getting listened to. Our nursery offered for her to come and stay with the kids, so she could get some tips on how to deal and direct little ones.
Let me say that my little one has been in childcare since she was 1-year-old and she never had any issue following rules and accepting discipline. But children are very quick to smell weakness and take advantage of that. And that’s what happened here.
The au pair had no experience with children. But, as soon as I had a decisive chat with her, she changed her attitude and them two became closer and closer. My child was happy to follow through and the au pair stopped crying…well stopped crying because of the little one. Then she started crying because she was homesick.
The days went well. Both au pair and youngest child getting on. Eldest one happy with the no interference. She done nothing around the house, unless I explicitly asked her for. I got home many times to find the au pair studying at the dinning table and the little one watching films. I was not absolutely happy. Was not what I had imagined about an au pair, but the fact that she was so reserved as a person, suited us.
All went well up to Christmas. I usually have two weeks off from Christmas to New Year. I agreed with the au pair she could go home and spend this special season with her family. She was travelling back home on Boxing day. I drove her to the airport and on our way there, I casually asked when would she be back (she knew the day I was due back to work).
The answer hit me like a lightning bolt. I don’t know yet, she said. I smiled, and asked what did she mean. She said her granny was ill, had to go through surgery and that she needed to be there for her. I asked when would the surgery be. She said she didn’t know yet, but she was sure it would happen before I was due back to work and then she’d buy her ticket back. Note that this dialogue was happening in the car, while I was driving her to the airport. I asked when was she planning to let me know about this and that I needed her back on the 2nd, the latest. She said sure.
On the 30th of December, A. texted me saying that her granny’s surgery was delayed and that she could only be back on the 7th. I replied back saying that it was not ok, I had no one to help out with the kids and needed her back on the 2nd. I added that if she was not back on the due date I would look for another au pair.
You might be thinking I was harsh. The truth is, I don’t think there was any ill granny having surgery. The truth is that Christmas in Spain is celebrated on the 6th of Jan and she wanted to be there. If she would just have told me, I could have catered for a replacement. Because she chose to deceive me, I had no time to find a replacement and had to miss work. That was unacceptable. I got her bags ready and asked her to come around and get her stuff whenever it was suitable for her.
My first au pair: shy, solitaire, stubborn, homesick, no initiative, quiet, academic, no communications skills, insecure.
There was drama and tears from both sides. But I didn’t feel I could count on her. She had to go.
After four months I was on the search again.