In the beautiful house of Marieke and her family we, team Nanny Nina, were allowed to take a look and ask questions about how they experience life with an au pair. What is it really like to have an au pair at home? What are the benefits that a host family experiences and which topics left them in doubt? Marieke tells you everything you need to know if you are considering choosing an au pair.
What did your search look like?
“It has now been 10 years, so therefore we have now had 10 au pairs. When we made the choice to go for an au pair, we actually had little knowledge about the entire process. We were therefore determined to go for a Dutch-speaking au pair. The children were still small and only spoke Dutch, so we thought it was a nice idea that the au pair would understand them if they spoke Dutch. We’ve had a number of calls with ladies from South Africa, but unfortunately, we didn’t feel the click we were looking for. We soon decided to leave the requirement for the Dutch language for what it was. We actually liked it when the children learn English well at a young age.”
“Expanding the search area the au pair could come from made the search process a lot easier, but certainly no less exciting. You want the very best for your children and you are in fact also looking for an extra family member. Soon we received the profile of a Filipino au pair. A nice spontaneous lady with enough experience. In the beginning, the conversations are a bit more general. Get to know each other and see if there might be a click. Later you talk about expectations. What are we looking for and what is the reason that she would like to come to the Netherlands as an au pair. We quickly noticed that we had the same intention with the program, the same kind of humor, and we were both equally excited to start the program as soon as possible. Only three video calls were needed for the match to take place. If it’s good, it’s good. You feel that right away.”
Were there times when you had doubts when the au pair was already there?
“Luckily I only had that once. That was when I decided to quit my current job and start my own business as an integrative gastroenterologist. I started a practice for complementary care for people with chronically misunderstood, unexplained, and unloved complaints. I offer guidance on the path of self-healing and transformation, and I also help doctors who get stuck in their profession. Not only a new challenge for me but also for us as a family. This made me doubt whether an au pair would still fit our lifestyle. Fortunately, my husband soon convinced me that it is nice to always have someone on hand during this period. Building a new business is not easy, especially in combination with a busy family life. He knows that better than anyone. With his company QWIC, he offers a sustainable alternative to the car and public transport through innovatively designed e-bikes.”
“Especially now that we are both busy with our own companies, it is extra nice to know that the children are in good hands and are doing fun things while we are working hard. And when we come home after a busy day, we don’t have to worry about housework anymore. We can then really spend our free time with the children. We really consider that a luxury.”
Many people are afraid of losing their privacy. How do you experience this?
“Yes, I understand that. That is certainly something we have doubted about. It is not surprising, because someone will come to live with you. Fortunately, we have not experienced it as something negative at all. At our home, we discuss everything with each other, including with our au pair. For example, we as a family like to spend some time together after dinner. We also made that clear during the matching process. Fortunately, this is no problem for our au pairs. At the end of the day, they also like to have some time to themselves. In the beginning, we did think about what we would do if an au pair was sitting here on the couch all weekend, but that is not the case either. An au pair naturally comes to the Netherlands as part of a cultural exchange. They enjoy seeing what the Netherlands has to offer at the weekend, going out with friends, or having a coffee in the village.”
How do you coordinate the education of children with the au pair?
“That’s definitely something to think about. I think it’s very important to be clear about that from the start. It is already a lot easier if you match with an au pair whose norms and values correspond to a large extent with those of the family. Of course, there will always be differences, the au pair simply comes from another country. By clearly stating what we want to give our children from the start, the chance that the au pair will be faced with surprises in the Netherlands is a lot smaller. Every time a new au pair arrives, we organize a kind of meeting. Then we go through all the rules and other important matters together. Then we are on the same page from the start.”
How often do you switch au pairs?
“In the Netherlands, au pairs can stay for a maximum of 12 months. As a result, we welcome a new au pair every year. I sometimes find that difficult, especially for the children. They have to say goodbye to their best friend and big sister again and again. We always plan a party when we switch au pairs. For our current au pair, it is nice to know who will take over and for the new au pair it is a great opportunity to get to know everyone. We also invite au pairs from the neighborhood so that the new au pair can make new friends.”
What will your au pair do when her year in the Netherlands is over?
“Our au pair will work next as an au pair in Norway. She loves children very much and enjoys working as an au pair. In Norway, the rules regarding the age of an au pair are different than here in the Netherlands, so now she can go there. Many of her friends also go that way after their year in the Netherlands, so they stay together happily.”
How does your au pair experience this whole adventure?
“She is having a lot of fun with it. The Netherlands is a safe country where she can do her own thing in her spare time. Furthermore, most people speak English quite well, so she can make herself understood. Sometimes it can be difficult with the children’s friends who come to play here and do not speak English. Then the children act as interpreters.”
“She also sometimes had a hard time with, for example, the Dutch weather. She arrived in the middle of winter, so it took a while to acclimate. Now she can appreciate the fresh air and a rain shower every now and then. In the beginning, she often got on a bicycle in her spare time to get to know the neighborhood. She has now built up her own social life here and undertakes many activities with it when she is free.”
Would you recommend the program to other families?
“Certainly, it really is a great solution! You build a close relationship with someone in such a short time, especially the children. That’s really nice to see. In addition, it is a very special way to teach your children about other cultures and they often also learn another language. It is nice for parents to always have someone on hand, especially if you both work a lot. It is a requirement that the au pair has their own bedroom, and if you have one, I would definitely recommend it. It is a great solution to have childcare for 30 hours a week, which in most cases can be even cheaper than the daycare.”