We just said good bye to our 6th au pair. She came to our home in September and was scheduled to be with us for a year, but it wasn't working out.
I was not particularly happy with the childcare skills of #6. She seemed to
have a very difficult time engaging and truly “playing” with the kids. Arts and
crafts, playing make believe, doing fun stuff outside, etc., just seemed very
unnatural. There was almost an awkwardness. She did a fine job with household
tasks--like the kids laundry, making kids school lunches, etc. But, I prefer someone
who can actually play and bond with the kids. There were also a few incidents
that made me skeptical of her experience. The last straw was when I found her
using her smart phone much too often... f.acebooking, texting, etc. I called
her out on it and we decided together that it wasn't a good fit.
The timing was also right for us to say goodbye, as my contract work ended
at the end of July. And, for the first time since Matteo died, I'm not in
"panic" mode at night when I'm home alone with the kids. For the
longest time, I always feared the worst at night – like another emergency was
going to happen. This fear could almost consume me at times (and yes, I know it
sounds crazy). But, the memories and experience of Matteo dying at night… ugh.
It’s not something I will ever get past. I still have a great fear of sick
kids. Fevers, being the worst of my fears. Especially fevers with itty bitty
people. Anyway, since Dan travels a lot for business… having an au pair has
always provided me with an extra sense of security. “If there is an emergency,
I can rush to the ER with so and so, and the au pair will be there to take care
of the other kids.” (Yes, I know…crrrrrrrrraaaaaaaazzzzzzzzzzyyyyyy!)
This last experience was somewhat disappointing, as we were fresh off of two
of the greatest au pairs ever. Our 4th and 5th au pairs became an extension of
our families. We'll keep in touch with them forever, and hopefully see
eachother again some day. I could always trust them with the kids. They knew
how to get them involved in activities and really PLAY with them. They would
spend hours reading and looking at books with the kids, going on walks, finding
things in the forest, playing many various make-believe scenarios. And, it was
so clear they truly loved the kids.
Our 3rd au pair was also amazing. And, I give her so much credit as she
joined our family a mere month and a half after Matteo had died. Looking
back... ugh. I almost feel sorry for her, as it was SUCH a dark time in our
lives. She probably listened to more crying and saw more sadness than she'll
ever hear/see again in her life. She must have thought I was the nuttiest, nut
on the planet. She was a great person. She was amazing... never complained,
always had a smile and positive attitude, and just came into our home and seemed
to know exactly what we needed. Took great care of Gabby and Rocco, developed
daily routines with Rocco while Gabby was at school, helped Gabby develop an
interest in arts and crafts, etc. While we don't keep in touch with her as much
as our 4th and 5th au pairs, I'll always have a great deal of respect for her
and appreciate all she did for our family during that year after Matteo died.
Au pairs are a great childcare option if you're looking for flexible, affordable childcare. And, it's an absolute bargain if you have two or more children. I also liked the fact that I got to know the girls well, instead of just hiring some random person who you don't "really" know. The kids love having a sort of older sibling figure in the house and the cultural experience/exchange is fun for everyone.
I am reviewing applications for a replacement au pair... but I'm in no rush to find another. It was nice to have the extra help even when not "working". I got a lot of things checked off my personal to-do lists, and was able to spend so much 1:1 time with Marco that I wouldn't have been able to had we not had an au pair. But, since I am not currently working, or searching for more work... it was somewhat a luxury, and only partly a necessity, as it allowed me to taxi kids around w/o having to bring Marco who HATES driving in the car.
For now, I'm going to enjoy being mommy to the kids w/o a house guest. I am enjoying it right now. Yes, it's a definite juggling act sometimes. Yes, Marco unfortunately has to ride in the car more than he would like to. And, yes, I have to rely on the TV to babysit sometimes so I can nurse Marco in quiet and not worry about a 2 year old getting into mischeif. And, yes, I will lose my sanity in some moments of complete chaos that only 4 kids under the age of 7 can bring. But, it's ok. We're living life and I love being the playmate, the book reader, the best friend, the tooth brusher, helping to pick outfits in the morning and preparing all their little healthy meals.
I'll eventurally look for another job, and at that time we will absolutely need another au pair. But, right now, I'm just focused on being the best momma I can be to my little people. They're so awesome. I love them so much. And, I know everyone says "they grow up so fast"... but wow, do they ever. It's mind-blowing how fast time flies.