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An au pair in South Africa is not your typical, often confused 18 year old who doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life, moves into your home and starts caring for your children and doing light house work for a year before trundling home to make a real decision as to what do with her life. In South Africa, an au pair is much more than this traditional view of who and what an au pair is.  An au pair in South Africa, is a professional, responsible, experienced and even trained person who cares for the child’s entire welfare whilst in his or her care and is not responsible for general household duties as their duty is purely to your child/ren. Here an au pair is a person who is passionate about childcare and for most of these special people this is more than just a gap year job, this is their career.

An au pair is expected to do a lot more than just supervise. An au pair helps with daily activities related to the child’s needs, from lifting to helping with homework, preparing healthy snacks and filling the children’s days with fun, age appropriate activities. This leaves time for mom and dad to relax with their children and enjoy a healthy relationship which ultimately will provide the basis to develop the communication and trust needed between children and parents as they get older.

Typically an au pair can be aged anything from 19 years to 55 years of age. The age of the candidate that works for a family depends firstly on the experience of the candidate and the requirements of the family. If your child is 3 years old you may find that a younger candidate works better and is really able to get down on their level, if the child is an infant, an older candidate will definitely feel more comfortable in most cases and for older kids, well that comes down purely to personality.

So what the most important thing to think about when you are interviewing candidates to take on this extremely important role? Personality, personality, personality. After years of working with both candidates and clients, watching some relationships flourish and others quickly dwindle, the most common denominator for both scenarios is definitely personality. You may find a family that wants a person with certain qualifications and certain experience and they pass up on the candidates that would work well for them in terms of beliefs and personality, for someone who has these so called required qualifications and not even a few months later they are back and looking for another candidate. It is really one of the saddest state of affairs,  anyone can take a course, anyone can earn a certificate, why even you or I could. Yet this is certainly not an indication of a persons ability to work so intimately with you and your family which is part of what being an au pair entails. One cant expect to find a person living in your area at any point in time who has a list of qualifications as long as your arm and will actually work for your family, but you can expect to find someone who will work for your family in terms of experience and personality.

As long as the agency you are using insists that their candidates are experienced, have excellent references, ensures that candidates have first aid , a vehicle and preferably a tertiary education, you are likely to find that any candidate you see could do the job. You are also likely to see candidates who are very different from each other and thats what the interview process is all about, establishing which one of their personalities will work for you. Sitters4U believes in this theory and for the clients who have taken this advice from us the process has worked extremely well!

What does an au pair cost these days? Well for starters the benefits include the fact that your child is receiving constant one on one attention, he or she is not lost in a sea of children where there is only one or two teachers available to assist. Your child can flourish under the guidance of an au pair if you and your children work with her. They will drive the children around, set up the playdates, sort out the homework, ensuring your child/ren lead a more active and fulfilling life. You will have more quality time with your angels and really the benefits are so far reaching the list goes on and on. The average rates can be worked out as follows; most candidates will not work less than 3 hours per day and the average salary of a candidate working part time (3 hours to 5 hours per day ) ranges from R 3500 to R 6000 per month.  For full time long term au pairs you can expect to pay salaries ranging from R 6000 to R 12 000 per month depending on the hours and requirements. If the au pair will be assisting with your new born, your 2 year old and 5 year old children and working from 8am to 6pm, expect to pay a salary of around R 9000 to R 12 000 per month. It may seem a little steep but what is the alternative? Play school, driving around, a nursery ( full of other babies) , constantly picking up bugs from other kids, doctors fees, time off work, perhaps a domestic nanny ( would you really want your children to be simply supervised and put in front of a TV, while the domestic cleans up the house and your children don’t know what to do with themselves, doing everything except what they are supposed to be doing or not receiving the attention they crave and need to develop into socially adept adults)? I don’t know about you but I prefer the au pair option. Knowing that my children are developing and getting the attention they rightly deserve, that I wont have to take time off work when they get sick, that they are less likely to get sick, are more likely to be ahead of their peers in terms of their mental and emotional development and giving them an edge in life, makes me think well that’s how it should be. Maybe I am a little bias, but I have seen my daughter flourish over the years with her au pair and years ago, when I myself worked as an au pair I loved and watched  all the children I cared for flourish. It is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world and mind you, not the easiest either. Not anyone can do this job and do it well. It takes passion, knowledge and an ability to work and match the families needs;  socially , intellectually and emotionally. So think carefully about your needs and what you want for your kids and yourself  and when doing those ever important interviews think to yourself as you are speaking is this person someone I can and my children can work well with. If the answer is yes, never mind the qualifications, you may have just found your au pair.

If you would like to enquire about an au pair in Cape Town, Johannesburg or Pretoria, simply click here and service with a smile is little more than a request form away!

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