Balancing Brood and Business
Gone are the days when women gave up work when they got married and stayed at home to bring up the family. Today’s mothers juggle childcare, domestic chores, career and being an attentive wife or partner. The pressure to be a super-mum, to keep all the balls in the air and keep everyone happy is immense.
Many women opt to start up their own business in an attempt to have more flexibility for childcare duties and to have more time at home. However, running a business is never an easy option and requires several child-free hours each day to concentrate on it.
With our 24 hour society, lots of busy families contend with the irregular hours of shift work and the complexities this adds to childcare routines. Day-care child facilities are usually not an option as they will require you to stick to specified days and hours.
Of the childcare options available, a live-in au pair will offer you by far the most flexibility. Often dismissed as being too expensive,in actual fact it can be much cheaper than paying childcare centre or nursery fees, particularly if you have more than one child or a younger child still in a crib who needs one on one attention. An au pair can be an ideal choice for a mum with a home business.
What is an Au Pair?
An au pair is generally a young girl, although sometimes they can be boys. Usually they are aged 18-25 and are taking some time out from studies. They don’t normally have much childcare experience, apart from baby-sitting or caring for younger brothers or sisters. Au pairs are usually looking for an experience overseas to practise English and to immerse themselves in another culture for 6 months to a year. In return for a “pocket money” wage, food and board, they will help out for around 30 hours per week.
For the host family, it is a unique experience to have a young adult from another country living with them and to have an extra pair of hands to take the pressure off mum. Au pairs will do a range of duties including light housework, meal preparation, minding the children, school drop offs etc. However, they can’t be expected to do heavy household chores or have sole care of children under the age of 2. It has to be remembered that au pairs are not childcare professionals and many will not speak English as their first language, so there are some limitations. Nevertheless, most families who welcome an au pair into their lives find the advantages far outweigh any drawbacks.
When running a business and a home with children, it’s difficult to find time for everything you want to do. Here are some of the benefits of having an au pair around:
Regain your sanity: pamper yourself with a long soak in the bath and have time to do your hair and make-up while the children are being looked after in another part of the house.
Have an evening out with your partner or girlfriends: always have a babysitter on hand and someone who knows your children’s routines.
Get some work done: Working from home becomes a real challenge with children, particularly toddlers who seem to want to get into everything. You can’t take your eyes off them for a moment. With an au pair to keep them entertained, or take them out for a few hours, it enables you to concentrate on your business, make some phone calls and generally have some peace and quiet to get on with work.
Grocery shopping without tantrums: leave the children at home with an au pair and nip out to the shops without the children in tow. You can get round the aisles quickly and there’s no risk of being embarrassed by a screaming child.
Quality time at home: with an au pair you can get help with hanging out the washing, putting the groceries away, sweeping the floors and all that time consuming stuff. While you can’t expect her to be a full time cleaner, it allows you to have some quality time with your children and partner and takes the pressure off having to do everything at home.
Adult company when your partner is away: if your partner needs to travel frequently for work, it can leave you feeling isolated. With an au pair at home you’ll have some adult interaction as well as an extra pair of hands.
Fill the gaps between shifts: if shift work overlaps by a few hours, an au pair can be a great option for childcare.
Time out on holiday: au pairs will be delighted to travel with you on holiday as it will give them a chance to see somewhere new. It also provides you with a baby sitter on site so you can have some valuable time alone with your partner.
If you decide that an au pair is for you, it’s highly recommended that you engage a specialist au pair agency to find a suitable candidate. A good agency will fully vet your au pair and conduct a number of background checks including references, medical and police checks. They also will help you prepare and let you know what to expect. It’s a good idea to choose an agency that will give au pairs access to an orientation program when they arrive in the country.