How to Choose the Perfect Gift for Your Au Pair this Christmas

 

With the holidays steadily approaching and Christmas decorations proudly displayed in every store, it’s time to start planning the holidays and preparing for the excitement of Christmas trees, holiday food and gift giving. Once you’ve decided where to set up your tree this year, your thoughts may turn to the presents that you’re going to put under it. While, no doubt your children have lists of things they’d like for Christmas, you may feel slightly less sure about what to get for your au pair. Finding the perfect gift for someone who is no doubt a big part of your family’s life can be tricky, so we’ve put together some ideas to help you decide the best way to show your appreciation.

Location, location, location

Your au pair is far from home and may be used to spending this time of year with friends and family. This will be a memorable Christmas for her with new traditions in a brand new place and new people with whom to share it. You may like to consider getting her something that will remind her of her time in your city or of Australia by buying something that is unique to your country or state. Consider a piece of jewellery   in the shape of your state or postcards from all the places she’s experienced on her trip. By reminding her what’s special about where she is, you’ll not only help to fight off homesickness, you’ll also have given her something she can keep long after her time with you is done.

Part of the family

Your au pair has spent a lot of time getting to know your children and will likely feel like an integral part of your day to day lives now. Why not make her really feel like part of the family with a gift that reminds her of the special bond she shares with your children? This may be a personalised mug or photo frame or a Christmas stocking to hang next to the rest of the family’s stockings. Whatever you decide, get the kids involved in helping pick something special that shows that they appreciate how much she does too.

Made with love

Your au pair will have a special bond with your children and share your sense of pride in everything that they do. Getting the kids to make something special for your au pair for Christmas will get them involved and excited and will provide your au pair with a one of a kind keepsake that will bring back memories of her time with the children. Think of activities they enjoy doing together such as crafts or painting or perhaps create a collage of all the things they appreciate about their au pair. Whatever you choose, make sure you stick to projects that are age appropriate and that aren’t too complex or you may find yourself dashing off to find a gift at the last minute to replace an overly ambitious Pinterest project that seemed like a good idea at the time!

Time out

While your au pair enjoys spending time with your children, you’ll know better than anyone that everyone needs some time off. Your au pair will be on a budget and may be saving her pennies for sightseeing and experiencing all that Australia has to offer. Why not contribute by putting some money towards an activity that you know she’s been wanting to try or a weekend trip you know she’s been saving up for. You could also show that you know how much hard work she puts in by getting her a voucher for a massage or another relaxing activity you know she enjoys. This will help make her trip extra special and help her extend her budget to make sure she can tick off all the activities she’s been wanting to try.

Whatever you decide to get for your au pair, remember to make sure that any keepsakes are light enough to fit in her luggage and aren’t likely to get damaged on a long flight. Also remember to take into account your au pair’s interests and likes and dislikes as this will show her that you’ve taken the time to get to know her and have thought carefully about a personal gift you know she will enjoy.

For more information on how to make your au pair feel extra welcome this holidays or to start the process of finding the perfect au pair for your family this Christmas, browse the Smart Au Pairs website or contact us today. As a local Australian au pair agency, we can help you with all aspects of finding and hosting an au pair.

17 Bright Ideas For Mums Working From Home

Looking for ideas of how to make working from home easier? Nicole Kofkin works hard to balance her business and personal life and knows how important it is have that balance. She started Smart Au Pairs to help families to access a convenient and affordable child care option so that they too can achieve balance. As a working mum, here are Nicole’s top 17 tips for mums working from home.

  1. Set up your home office – Have a suitable space, even if it is a desk in the lounge room, where you can work and can create an office space.
  2. Get what you need technology-wise – If your work is online and you need good online access, invest in this. You don’t need frustrations as a result of a slow internet connection
  3. Create a schedule – It is easy to be distracted when you are working from home because there are always chores to be done. Create a schedule so that you can allocate specific time for work, and know that the chores can be done in their allocated time slot.
  4. Create a ‘to do’ list for each day – Start your day by giving thought to what needs to be achieved, especially if you find it difficult to focus on work.
  5. Turn off your phone and (personal) social media when you are working – These can be distracting, but you will accomplish more work during your set hours if you focus on the tasks at hand and don’t have these distractions.
  6. Take regular breaks – Sometimes mums who work from home stay closeted in their home office. It’s important to take regular breaks to give your mind a rest from what you are doing. It also helps you to work more effectively and efficiently.
  7. Set boundaries for the people around you – Ensure that family members realise that you should not be disturbed when you are working so that you can accomplish what needs to be done.
  8. Get help with caring for your children – If you don’t have a relative nearby, or want to consider other options, think about getting an au pair, who can help care for your children in your own home. This gives you that bit of extra time to focus on your business, while feeling the peace of mind that your kids being looked after in their familiar environment.
  9. Make time for people – This is important when it comes to both family members and friends. Working from home can be isolating so it is important to make time to have coffee with a friend, attend a networking event, or spend time with your family.
  10. Get out of the house – If you are feeling cooped up at home, but can’t escape from a work deadline, go and sit in the library or a coffee shop with your laptop. Sometimes being in a different environment breaks the monotony.
  11. Be grateful – There are disadvantages to working from home, but there are also significant advantages. Be grateful that you don’t have to do the regular office commute or put up with office politics.
  12. Enjoy the flexibility – Working from home enables you to be flexible; make the most of it. Do your shopping at midday during the week, if you are able to leave your work at that time. Spend an hour working on a Saturday, if that suits you better.
  13. Take time for yourself – The time you spend working from home is not considered time for yourself! Ensure that you care for yourself and have some fun, and ‘me’ time.
  14. Eat healthy foods– It’s tempting to avoid eating, and then grab unhealthy snacks when the hunger pangs come knocking, when you work from home. Focus on eating well, starting with breakfast. If you find this difficult, keep healthy snacks on hand so that you can nibble on those
  15. Find out about tax advantages of working from home – You might be able to claim certain expenses against your tax. Speak to an accountant to find out what might work best in your situation.
  16. Delegate – Particularly when it comes to housework, think about who can help you to shoulder responsibilities. It may be your partner, you might use the services of a cleaner, or your au pair may perform some light housework, such as folding and putting away the kid’s clothes.
  17. Give yourself credit – When the challenges of working from home and being a mum feel overwhelming, and you feel like you are battling to keep up with everything that needs to be done, take a deep breath and think about how far you have come.

Top 5 Concerns About Hosting An Au Pair

Hosting an au pair can be an affordable and convenient childcare option for your family. If you use an Australian au pair agency to find an au pair you will be given some guidelines about how the process works but sometimes potential host families can express a few common concerns about hosting an au pair.

Let’s take a look at these and help you feel more confident when it comes to hosting an au pair.

1. What if things don’t work out between us and the au pair?

If you are having difficulties with your au pair, the first step is to talk to them. Sometimes you might need to clarify your expectations and ensure that there are no misunderstandings between you.

If you still cannot sort things out, the next step would be to contact your au pair agency. This is one of the benefits of finding your au pair through an agency. They can provide assistance and talk to both you and your au pair. They may have suggestions that you had not thought of because they have dealt with similar situations in the past.

As a last resort, if the situation cannot be resolved, an au pair agency will look at the option of matching you up with a different au pair.

2. What happens if my au pair is sick?

Au pairs do not get sick leave like someone does when they are employed because au pairing is regarded as a cultural exchange. You do still need to give your au pair pocket money if they are sick.

You will need to arrange alternative child care if your au pair is unwell and able to perform their regular duties. However, if your au pair is unable to assist for any length of time, you may need to discuss options with the au pair agency that you used to find your au pair.

3. What do I need to pay towards my au pair’s travel costs?

Most agencies require au pairs to pay for their flights to Australia, their visa and also travel insurance.

As a host family, you will need to pay for travel from the time they arrive in the country. This could mean fetching them at the airport (or arranging transport from the airport to your home), or a connecting flight for the au pair, if it is necessary for them to fly on from the international airport at which they originally arrived. This is particularly for families that live in remote locations which require additional travel within Australia.

Similarly, when your au pair leaves to return home you are responsible for the domestic travel to the international airport from which they will depart.

4. Won’t we lose our privacy with someone living in our house?

This concern is raised by many host. It does take some getting used to, and couples may choose to have more regular date nights, for example, to give yourself more privacy. However, you will hopefully also form a great relationship with your au pair who is intended to become part of your family.

Most families find that the help they receive from the au pair makes up for the inconvenience of having an additional person in the house.

5. How do we avoid having an au pair who uses excessive amounts of internet data and has lots of guests over on a regular basis?

Some families are concerned that internet bills may be end up being exorbitant due to the au pair’s usage, that they will have noisy guests over or that they will sit on their phone rather than being focused on the kids.

The best way to deal with this in advance of any issues occurring is to have clear rules right from the start. If you find your au pair through a reputable au pair agency, they will talk you through how best to approach this. However, the most important thing is that you write out your rules and talk through them with your au pair when they first arrive. If you have concerns that your rules are not being followed, then this should be addressed immediately before the problem escalates.

To speak to a respected au pair agency in Australia about any concerns that you have about hosting an au pair, or to chat about how an au pair can make childcare easier for your family, contact Smart Au Pairs today.

Why You Should Take Your Au Pair On Your Next Family Holiday

Not all families are keen on the idea of taking their au pair on holiday with them, but there are many reasons why doing just that can help you have an even more enjoyable break. It can enable you and your partner to have some time out, the kids will enjoy having someone familiar to look after them and it also gives your au pair the opportunity to travel and see more of the country or even a new country if you are holidaying overseas.

Childcare

If you take your au pair on holiday with you, they will be able to provide childcare at least some of the time that you are away. How much time they will spend looking after the kids will depend on your requirements and needs to be agreed upfront – before you even book the holiday – so that there are no uncomfortable misunderstandings during the trip.

You may want an extra pair of hands while on a flight, on the beach or at a busy theme park, particularly if you are travelling as a single parent. Perhaps your au pair can look after the children if you and your partner are adventure sport fans, or simply want to enjoy an evening show or romantic dinner. You may choose for your au pair to be on duty when one child has a nap so that you can enjoy some one-on-one time with another child.

Some hotels or resorts offer facilities for childcare or can source babysitters, but having your own au pair means that you know who is looking after your children and you can set up flexible arrangements that fit in with your requirements.

Cultural exchange

One of the reasons for being and hosting an au pair is the cultural exchange. Taking your au pair on a holiday enables her to learn more about Australia, or another country, if you are travelling internationally. You may be able to make suggestions or provide opportunities for her to be exposed to things that are different from the way things are where you live. Most au pairs become au pairs to enable them to explore more countries and travel as much as possible, so the majority of au pairs would jump at the chance to travel with your family

Vacation for your au pair

Your au pair will still get time off – perhaps more than at home when you are working – so she can use some of her time off to explore the area on her own. You can help her plan her holiday as well by sharing information about what activities she may like to do, or areas she may want to explore depending on her interests.

Part of the family

An au pair is regarded as ‘part of your family’ when she stays with you. A family holiday can be a time to get to know your au pair better, and to enjoy spending time with her if you get along well. It provides further opportunities for her to interact with your family and not just with the children.

 

Australian au pair agency, Smart Au Pairs can help you to find an au pair that will provide childcare for you in your home and while you are on a family vacation. Contact us today to register and begin the search for your perfect au pair.

Au Pairs – A More Nurturing Alternative to Day Care

Deciding on a child care option is a challenge for mums returning to work. Nicole Kofkin from Smart Au Pairs outlines the idea of using an au pair as a nurturing alternative to day care.

If you’re returning to work and are looking at the choices available for nurturing child care, you may have considered options such as day care or perhaps an au pair. Day care may be offered from a centre or family day care which is from a professional carer’s home. An au pair provides care for your children in your own home, which can provide a nurturing alternative to traditional forms of child care.

Au pairs are usually young people from overseas who live in your home for about three to six months. They provide about 25 to 35 hours of child care and light housework each week, and you provider them with food, accommodation and an allowance.

A nurturing option for child care, having an au pair enables you to have your children at home while you are at work. This means that they are in a familiar environment – able to nap in their own bed and play with their own toys, for example.

Your child is also able to keep to a routine without getting disrupted by other children. In a shared environment, children may be disturbed by others during nap time, or your child’s routine might need to be changed to fit in with the schedule that may be required when bigger numbers of kids have to be taken into account.

As a mum, you are familiar with the safety measures in place around your home, you know the standard of cleanliness and you know about the quality of toys and play equipment with which your child will have contact.

When you have an au pair in your home, there is continuity of care which creates a stable environment for a young child. There is no change of primary carer on different days or at different times, which means no need for your child to adapt to different adults providing care, and your child gets one-on-one, undivided attention from the au pair.

A challenge for mums heading off to work is the morning rush, getting yourself and your child ready, and then in the afternoon the possibility of rushing to get to a child care facility by the time it closes. Having an au pair at home means you avoid that stressful time for yourself and, most importantly, your child. Kids can be tired at the end of the day, and it’s reassuring as a mum to know that they are surrounded by home comforts and are with a nurturing carer, even if you are caught up at the office or in traffic on the drive home.

Depending on the agreement between parents and au pairs, your child could be taken to fun or educational activities outside of your home while you’re at work. Engaging activities such as musical groups and library activities are options which will ensure that your child has nurturing care. Other activities you may choose are classes such as swimming or music lessons. An au pair may even just take your child to play regularly in the park.

An au pair can provide nurturing care for your child, but you may be concerned about finding someone you can trust with that care. A reputable Australian au pair agency will help you to find an au pair who has been carefully selected and screened. With the support of the au pair agency, you get the final say in who is caring for your child.

Providing a nurturing child care arrangement by having an au pair to look after your child can help alleviate the guilt that mums often feel when they need to return to work.

Nicole Kofkin started Smart Au Pairs to help working families access an affordable and nurturing child care solution. A busy mum herself, Nicole wanted to help other families to best balance their work and family commitments. For more information on au pairs, get in touch today.

Au Pair Visa LATEST NEWS

Au pair visa: Government considers flexible deal to ease childcare burden

SHARRI MARKSON, EXCLUSIVE,

The Daily Telegraph July 1, 2017

 

A SPECIAL au pair visa to help make childcare more affordable and flexible — and enable mothers to return to work — is being considered by the Turnbull government. Immigration and Border Protection Assistant Minister Alex Hawke is looking at proposals for a special au pair and carer visa, allowing au pairs to stay with families for 12 months to two years.

 

Click here to read more

 

 

Top 10 Ways Your Au Pair Can Keep Boredom at Bay this Winter

 Winter is in full swing and while your kids may be celebrating the start of school holidays, your au pair may be wondering how to keep busy bodies entertained in the cold and windy weather. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the top ten activities your au pair can do with your kids to keep boredom at bay this winter.

Get Creative!

While this one might seem obvious, we mean it quite literally. With hundreds of ideas on websites such as Pinterest, there’s no excuse not to get artsy this winter. Don’t limit yours au pair to paint and paper. Why not experiment with clay, mosaic, putty or even cement moulds to create projects that can be adapted for a variety of age groups. Make sure to stock up on a variety of craft supplies and let little hands help to choose projects that suit their personal interests. While younger children might need a bit of guidance, older kids can be given a bit more freedom to create something that allows them to think outside the box and explore their creative side.

Get Cooking!

More time at home plus cooler weather means more time spent in the kitchen sneaking snacks. Getting the kids involved not only means a set of helping hands, it can be a great way to teach them the value of healthy snacks and creating meals and treats from scratch. Again, make sure your au pair chooses recipes and tasks that are age appropriate and keep instructions simple to prevent little ones from getting frustrated and bored.

Get Active!

Cold weather doesn’t have to mean lying slouched in front of the TV all day. Get the kids involved in physical activities that will burn energy and fight boredom. Activities such as aerobics, dancing or even some relaxing yoga are great ways to keep busy bodies from bouncing off the walls.

Get Musical!

Music is a universal language and can be a great way for your au pair to share the music they grew up with and teach your children the nursery rhymes and songs they sang at the same age as your children. If your au pair plays a musical instrument, why not encourage them to teach your children a few basic songs they can play together to fight off the winter blues.

Get Out!

While dancing around the lounge and singing in the mirror are great ways to keep active and upbeat indoors, there is no substitute for getting out the house once in a while. Look for indoor playgrounds in your area and see if there are any special activities being run during the holidays for kids in your area. This will be a great way for your children to keep in touch with their friends and still interact with other children their age while school is out.

Get Sporty!

Winter sports are a great way to keep kids entertained and healthy. Find out what local clubs are in your area and encourage your au pair to take the kids to practices every week. This is a great way for your kids to make friends, stay healthy and learn about being in a team.

Get Reading!

School holidays may be here but that doesn’t mean your kids shouldn’t be reading. Encouraging a love of books is one of the best things you could do for your children as it not only will help them to do well at school, it also encourages language skills, imagination and a love of learning which will stay with them for a lifetime. Encourage your au pair to read to your children and to take them to your local library regularly to allow them to choose books that appeal to their individual interests.

Get Cultural!

One of the best advantages of hosting an au pair is exposing your children to a different culture and allowing them to learn about the world in which we live. This winter, allow your au pair to share cultural experiences with your children and play games with them that they would have played back home while it’s cold outside. Discuss differences in climate and traditions and explore different food and activities.

Get Involved!

Another important aspect of culture is community so why not encourage your au pair to help your children take part in community outreach this winter. Whether it’s helping out at the local animal shelter or knitting blankets for those less fortunate, encourage activities that emphasise the value of community and helping those around us, especially those who will be suffering the effects of the colder weather.

Get Social!

One of the best parts of school holidays is spending time with your friends so encourage your au pair to arrange play dates with your children’s friends. Whether it’s at the park or even at home, this is a great way to keep the kids active and entertained.

 

For more great ideas for activities for your au pair to do with your children or to start the process of finding the perfect au pair for your family, contact Smart Au Pairs – your local Australian au pair agency.

Top 5 FAQs About Hosting an Au Pair

Hosting an au pair is an exciting experience that helps to alleviate much of the stress and pressure that many families face when choosing childcare options. However, having someone new in your home can be daunting for some families. It’s important to communicate openly and ask any questions you may have. We’ve compiled a list of the top 5 frequently asked questions to help you get started on your journey to hosting an au pair.

How do we choose an au pair that suits our family?

One of the many benefits of working through an au pair agency is having the expertise of professionals who have experience working with families and au pairs from all walks of life. They’ll ask you all about your family, your lifestyle, what your requirements for childcare are and any other information that might be necessary to help find you the perfect match. All au pairs registered with an agency are usually required to give background information, references, list any qualifications they may have and all other relevant information. This is then compared and you will be matched with au pairs that the agency believes wll suit your family. You will then be able to interview the short listed candidates and select the au pair that suits your needs.

How much pocket money do I pay?

The minimum recommended pocket money for a 25-30 hour working week is $170 in Australia but this can vary and is negotiable depending on your au pair’s hours and the type of care you require.

What if I am unhappy?

Sometimes problems arise or things don’t work out quite as you expected and you may be concerned that you will be stuck in a situation that you are uncomfortable with. Sometimes differences in personality or culture may lead to a match that doesn’t work out. A reputable au pair agency will be able to do their best to sort out any misunderstandings and, if you are still unhappy, they can help you find a replacement au pair. Most agencies ask that au pairs and families give four weeks’ notice to allow them to make alternative arrangements.

Are all au pairs trained in first aid?

Not all au pairs are trained in first aid so it is important to discuss this if it is a requirement for your family. In Germany, a basic first aid course is part of the requirement for driving so some au pairs may already have first aid training depending on where they are from. Many families choose to arrange for their au pairs to take a first aid course on arrival so discuss this option with your au pair.

Should I find language classes?

Most au pairs generally don’t need to take language classes. They often have learned English at school and are looking for more practical experience to practice their language skills. If your au pair is interested in taking language classes, show them your local library, church or community centre or help them to look up other places that have affordable classes available. The only au pairs that will require language classes are demi-pairs from Korea whose program is designed to include language classes but these will be pre-arranged.

 

For more answers to your questions, or to start the process of finding an au pair, contact Smart Au Pairs today.

 

Antonia is a winner! Nominate your au pair next month

Every month our host families from all over Australia have a chance to nominate their au pair to win our Au Pair of the Month competition. Antonia is a winning au pair and here is the lovely nomination from her host family.

Antonia from Germany is, above all, a beautiful, generous and divine human being. Her extreme gentleness, faultless care, and boundless generosity flow over and she brings an incredible energy to our household and our lives. We outright love Antonia, and we all feel so very loved back by her – especially my two children. They arrive home from preschool and school and call “Antonia!!!” as the first thing when they walk in the door. Antonia is there with a smile and a cuddle for them and they just adore her, as do I.

Not only is she incredible with the children but she is an amazing help to me around the house – cooking, tidying up the kitchen, helping with the kids rooms, helping with the laundry. She is fabulous with the routines of the house and so reliable in everything she does. For the first time in 6 years I go to the gym a couple of mornings a week, can work more effectively, and go on a date night with my husband once a week – all because of the beautiful Antonia.

In 6 months have never seen her grumpy or in a bad mood. She is the most selfless, beautiful, appreciative and happy person. We as a family feel honoured to have her living with us, and I can only say that I dread the day we have to say goodbye – and that will be the day we start thinking of a holiday to Germany to go visit her.

She is the most outstanding Au Pair. Thank you Antonia. We love you. Riedl family, NSW

 

How Hosting an Au Pair Could Solve Your Daycare Woes

 

The hefty cost of childcare forms a large part of a family’s budget, but still many parents find themselves unsatisfied with the level of care that their children are receiving for the exorbitant prices. With growing group sizes and ever changing views on parenting styles and discipline practices, it can be difficult to find a childcare option that satisfies your child’s individual needs and aligns itself with your family’s values.

Hosting an au pair not only offers an affordable solution to the problem of flexible work schedules and after-hours care, it also allows you the opportunity to create a caring environment where your child is looked after by someone you can trust and who can ensure that your views on parenting and discipline are respected and applied consistently while those important foundations are being laid.

Cost effectiveness

 For many years, hosting an au pair seemed a luxury of the upper class and families resigned themselves to the fact that when they returned to work, their children would start their school career and begin life in the classroom where they would be taught the fundamentals they needed to be successful in the school system. Now however, parents have begun to realise that while daycare and before and after school care provides their children with structure and a solid foundation for learning, there is still a great need for one on one attention and care in the early formative years that the formal classroom is unable to provide.

More and more families are realising that an au pair can be a very viable option for everyday families who are turning to this form of childcare as an all-in-one daycare, after school and babysitting option. Considering the value that an au pair can bring to your home, in terms of flexible hours, one on one care and cultural enrichment, this can be a more cost effective option than other traditional forms of childcare.

Less exposure to illness

 While attending daycare may provide a source of social interaction for your children, there is no denying that children who attend daycare centres are much more exposed to childhood viruses and illnesses than those who receive in-home childcare. In a classroom full of children who are learning to share, your child is more likely to get sick more often and this means a miserable child, time off work and expensive doctor bills as well as numerous doses of antibiotics and over-the-counter remedies. In-home childcare means your child can build up their immune system without being bombarded with one illness after another and having to potentially rely too heavily on medication.

Consistency

 Not only does hosting an au pair mean consistency in terms of who cares for your child both during the day when you’re at work and at night when you’re taking some time out with your spouse, but it also means consistency in the kind of care your child receives too. Having an au pair living in your home means you’ll be able to demonstrate the kind of parenting philosophy that you think is right for your children and you’ll be able to ensure that this is applied consistently even when you’re not there. You can spend time choosing an au pair who thinks the same way you do and make sure that your children always know what boundaries are in place and what kind of morals and values you expect them to live by no matter who they are with.

These are just some of the reasons that families are considering hosting an au pair as an alternative to other traditional forms of childcare. To find out more about why hosting an au pair could be right for you, or to start the process of finding the perfect fit for your family, contact Smart Au Pairs today.