For years I struggled along, wondering how everyone else was doing it, and thinking "what the hell is wrong we me? Why can't I cope or manage?"
My husband has always worked long hours and this only changed slightly this year (March 2020) when he became a consultant - then corona virus hit, well that’s another story. It’s taken him eighteen years of training as a Junior Doctor to become a Consultant. We have travelled around the country for his job; Bristol, Exeter and ended up in Yorkshire six years ago. A week after we arrived in Yorkshire our second child was born. The last few years have been hard and definitely a challenge with his career and me working from home.
Moving to a new place, five hours from my parents, with no family help nearby was daunting. In those early days I felt like a single mother most of the time. My husband would work long hours, often live in the hospital (miles away from us) and sometimes only came home at weekends. His night shifts were not only awful for him, but also for me and the children. He would not eat or sleep properly and the repercussions would go on for days after the shift. The exam revision seemed to go on for years and years and I began to think it would never end.
After years of struggling, turning up to children’s parties on the wrong day (or forgetting the present), doing the school run in my slippers and my wearing top on back to front (with my Primark label hanging out) I knew I needed to do something or I would crack.
Friends around me seemed to have their grandparents helping. Although I know that's not the case for everyone, however I felt everyone else had someone family nearby except me. I longed for my Mum to help me, but she still works and my parents live a good five hours away (plus I dread my seventy plus year old father on that motorway, he refuses to get the train). The other option was to pay for help and they only way to do that was for me to work harder.
We looked at nurseries or at getting a nanny, but they were so expensive and not within our budget. We even had a neighbour who was on a gap year help at one stage and I would pay her by the hour to help me to do tea and bath time. Au pairs were not really a thing on our village yet everyone seemed to have them in London. I started researching and finally found what I wished I had found all those years ago when I was cracking up.
The reason for getting an au pair and what they do:
We pay £90 per week for 25-30 hours of help. For the government guidelines click here. In London you can pay up to £150 per week - but you would negotiate this before they arrive. In return you feed them and give them a lovely place to stay and make them part of your family. Our au pair does two nights a week babysitting, meaning we can go for a walk, go for dinner or a drink, go out with friends or even visit Ikea for a date night (yes we know how to Rock'n'Roll). We used to spend so much money on babysitters and now it’s all in that £90 per week.
Example of what the au pair does:
Help get the children up in the morning
Help get them ready and brush their teeth, make them breakfast and brush their hair
Make the children's beds
Look after Rafferty while I take the others to school and then take him to play group
Sort out the washing, fold it all and put it in drawers (this never happened before, it was just pushed into the drawers)
Help cook dinner
Take them to the park
Help with bath time
At weekend help with the activities and party runs
Your au pair is pretty much part of your family and so we invite ours to all our activities that we might do at the weekend. Some of my friends from the surrounding villages have au pairs too. There are also lots more in Harrogate, York and Leeds. They often all meet up at weekends meaning you have time on your own with your family too.
Here are some tips:
Use au pair world. Au pair agencies cost so much money and, although it's more time consuming looking for someone yourself, you can really see what all the options are and vet them yourself
Make sure you have a clear profile blurb (message me if you need any help) and good photos, especially of the bedroom and the bathroom they will be using. Some au pairs are lucky enough to live in their own annexes etc (ours is in a small spare room next to all the children’s bedrooms). She shares a bathroom with the children too
Add a video explaining who you all are to your profile if you can
Have a think about what nationality you would prefer your au pair to be and who you may get on with. My friends have all had French, Italian Spanish etc. We chose German as my father is German however rather embarrassingly I speak very little German.
I can't emphasise enough how much having that extra pair of hands turned my life around. each year we look forward to the new au pair’s arrival and our next adventure to start with her. Equally we had great relationships with previous ones and hope they all come back in the future to visit us. Please do message if you have any questions or you would like some advice.