Happy Independence Day!

[tweetmeme source=”FrenchNad” only_single=false]July 4, 1776… the signing of the declaration of independence by the Founding Fathers. What an important day for America!

QUALIFYING TO BE “AMERICAN”

Notice I wrote “OUR country”. It has been 10 years since I have been living in the USA, and it has taken me that long to finally feel like I belong here. I even took the citizenship oath a couple of years ago, and had to study for a test! I wonder if most Americans, and a lot of our au pairs, know some of the basic questions asked about the constitution, the political and legal system?

Some are more tedious and quickly forgotten, but others I think would be worth discussing around the dinner table with your spouse, children and your au pair… and test their knowledge of their (host) country!

Example:

  • How many stars are there in the flag and what does each stand for?
  • What do the stripes on the flag represent?
  • What is the 4th of July?
  • Independence from whom?
  • Who was the first President of the United States?
  • For how long do we elect the President?
  • Who is the Vice-President?
  • Why did the Pilgrims come to America?
  • What are the 13 original States called and name them.
  • Name the right guaranteed by the 1st Amendment.

These are not too difficult, and hopefully your family passed the test. But I believe knowledge is liberty, and liberty can only be appreciated when we understand there was a price paid to obtain it.

AN “INDEPENDENCE DAY GIFT” FOR NEW HOST FAMILIES!

Parents applying to the au pair program between July 6 and July 31, receive ONE FREE MONTH OF CHILDCARE! A little bit of independence and flexibility with balancing your career and family life, in the form of a nice $550.00 discount on your 12-month au pair childcare program fee. Just contact me as always for more details!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!

 

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6 Childcare Considerations For The Work-At-Home Parent

[tweetmeme source=”FrenchNad” only_single=false] While working from home has the great advantage of being closer to your children (and to your household chores…) and avoid a daily commute, that proximity can also represent the greatest disadvantage in the form of a major distraction! While you may be lucky and have 1 quiet, self-entertained baby and have the ability to postpone the need for childcare for a little while, eventually your two worlds may run into each other… So what are some of the things to consider while exploring childcare solutions as a work-at-home parent? 

1. Driving: Having to take your children to a daycare or home care in your town feels like defeating the purpose of working from home, which saves you commute time, car usage and the need to get professionally dressed. Having a nanny to care for your children enables you to see a little bit of them during work breaks, while avoiding the morning rush of getting yourself and the kids ready to leave.

2. Schedule: As a work-at-home parent, you may be working for international clients or a national firm requiring odd working hours, including late night conference calls or travel. Your working schedule may also be in shifts that just do not match the regular 8-5 opening hours of the local daycare center. While a local nanny may not be willing to work odd hours because of conflicting additional jobs or studies, your au pair is a live-in nanny dedicated to providing up to 45 hours per week/ 10 hours per day of childcare (including some week-end hours). They are dedicated to your family only and provide total flexibility of schedule, week-to-week or can accommodate last-minute changes when needed.

3. Tag Team: Even while you work, you want to know that you are still involved in your children’s lives and development. Having a qualified caregiver provides you peace of mind that they are well cared for. Additionally, you have the flexibility of developing a plan for your children based on their specific needs, that your au pair/ nanny can implement for you. Although the au pair is in charge, you are able to “check in” from time to time and discuss how the kids are doing with that program.

4. Household Chores: I know that is a big one too… Although you are home, you are so busy in your home office that it is difficult to get to that load of laundry, emptying the dishwasher, taking the trash out, preparing dinner, … these all take more time than they seem! You can assign “light household chores” to your au pair as part of her daily tasks and “tag team” on that aspect of childcare as well.

5. More Than Childcare: While exploring different options, also evaluate the type of relationship you seek to have with your childcare provider. With a daycare, it will be purely professional: you pay for a service, you receive it. With a local nanny, you will be closer as they will come to you, but they move on, have other plans or obligations. An au pair is dedicated to the care of your children for 1 – 2 years, live with you and truly become part of your family. A unique friendship is created that often lasts beyond their stay, and the opportunity for cultural exchange is a wonderful added benefit for the whole family.

6. $$$ Cost: The local daycare or homecare will most likely provide the cheapest option, but as covered in the points above, also requires time driving and a less personal approach to your family’s needs. The local nanny has the advantage of not requiring housing, however, the price tag attached to that option is sometimes twice the cost of an au pair.

Consider your specific needs, preferences and budget, and call your au pair program consultant Nadia at 864-373-3302 to discuss. There are many colleagues working from home who are quite succesful with the au pair program that can provide additional advice.

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‘Happy “Host” Father’s Day’!…by the way…

[tweetmeme source=”FrenchNad” only_single=false] Celebrating fathers all over the world reminded me of the important, often underappreciated role, host fathers play in their au pair’s life. Because they are usually less emotionally involved with the choice of their childcare provider, or they do not work as closely from day to day with the au pair, it might be easy to forget how their involvement can truly make an impact in their family’s experience with the program.

THE SKEPTIC

Although mom is eager to get some help with the children and around the house, I often hear reluctance to participate to the program from the father’s side. Why? 
1. A fear of losing their privacy: no more walking around the house in their underwear…  >> Solution: Your family will need to find the au pair with the skills, and the personality (very important) to “mesh” with your lifestyle. If the privacy issue is a big concern, finish up the basement or locate her room in the opposite corner of the house, so that you have a portion of the house dedicated to your privacy.
2. A concern about the au pair’s young age and how she would fit in their family: “Would she be a friend/ employee/ temporary daughter?”  >> Solution: Remind dad that although their primary responsibility and the objective of the program is flexible, live-in childcare, the au pair is expecting to become “in par” (part of) the family. S/he will be a responsible young adult that does not require additional parenting, however, they will look up to both of you as their “host parents”.
3. The cost examiner: is the value we are getting for hosting an au pair worth the cost and privacy loss? >> Solution: host dads often become the more enthusiastic half of the couple when they realize how fantastic it is to have a hands-on flexible babysitter when he wants to take mom on a date night, how great it is to have someone live in and help with the household chores, and how much his children are benefiting from the friendship and cultural exchange… SOLD!

THE PROTECTOR

Once host dad gets to know the au pair, the relationship will be similar as with a niece or cousin: a distant family member that chose to share life with your family for a year or two by providing childcare. But when s/he is off the clock, sometimes s/he will accept your invitation to go to the zoo, other times s/he will have her own plans with friends. In forging a relationship with your au pair, you will want to know what s/he enjoys doing outside of her working hours.
I still remember when I first met my now husband in my Spanish class (one of the 6 credit hours required for the program) and I called home to let my host dad know someone was taking me home. When I arrived, his first question was: “So who drove you home? I hear it is A BOY!!!??”… and I blushed. I never thought he was “the one” at the time, but I really appreciated that my host dad cared enough about my choices, and most importantly about my safety… he wanted to know I was choosing my friends wisely, especially when it involved someone else driving me.. and that someone else was a boy.

THE MEDIATOR

If like most families it is host mom that runs 100-miles-an-hour getting everyone situated and organizing the schedules (yes, plural… for each family member including the au pair’s working hours…), she is the one most closely involved with the au pair. And two women (for the case of a female au pair ) working that closely together can sometimes create tensions and emotions… That is where super-host-dad comes in and helps mom to calm down, communicate the issue with the au pair, and resolve it right then instead of building up frustration. My host dad was quite good at that one as well!

Thanks to all the host fathers out there for contributing to a successful au pair year… sometimes you don’t have a clue what mom and the au pair deal with from day-to-day, but we still appreciate you!

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5 Summer Safety Tips For Your Au Pair!

Today is my 101st post on this blog, which is exciting! Similar feeling as when my Honda Accord reached 200,000 miles: a milestone, a special number and personal record reached… I know, I do wish it was a more worthy record, like running a 4-mile under 1 minute, or power-lifting twice my body weight!

Summer Safety is an important topic for Cultural Care Au Pair, and is one of the 4 children safety topics covered in our local coordinator’s au pair meetings. Although water and playground safety are covered through that continuous education, it is important to discuss your expectations for safety with your au pair, as well as your preferences based on your experience living in your area of the USA.

1) Sun Protection

Remember that especially if your au pair is from a colder climate, she may not be fully aware of the impact of extensive exposure to sun for children. Show her what headwear you usually put on the kids before they go out, and also explain when/ where you apply sunscreen (before going to the pool or playing outside, after they have been in water, etc.).
With the intense heat we have had reaching 108 degrees in Tennessee, I don’t think you will have to explain when to stay inside and avoid the heat and humidity!

2) Bugs Off!

I was surprised at the number of large unfriendly insects that reside in semi-tropical South Carolina when I first moved from France. Explain when you apply bug repellent spray and what insects to watch out for, such as hornets, wasps, scorpions, fire ants.

3) Water Safety

This is a topic we cover more in detail, with regards to pool, lake and ocean safety. Most au pairs are good swimmers and comfortable in water with children, but just take the time to explain the rules at the beach you vacation at for example. If you have a pool, explain when it needs to be emptied, covered and the fence closed. With several children of different ages, reiterate how important it is to NEVER leave a child alone in the pool or inside: keep the family together!

4) Hydration

A form of water safety too… Explain how much more water the children need to drink when it is hot and they play outside, even if they do not express their thirst. Your au pair is there to anticipate your children’s needs and she can tactfully provide them with water to drink, or make it fun with lemonade and fresh lemon, or other fresh fruit juice. But water should be the standard beverage consumed, with occasional fruit juice or soda.

5) Prevent Food Poisoning

Explain that most foods, even bread or fruit, are stored in the refrigerator. Ask them not to leave food out for more than two hours (one hour if it’s 90°F or warmer). When grilling it is recommend to use different-colored utensils and plates to keep cooked and raw meats separate.
Show your au pair your storage system for vitamins and medicine so they are never mistaken for candy or at the reach of young children.

I hope this article will help you to keep summer safety at the forefront of your discussions with your au pair and to ensure you communicate your expectations and requirements as necessary. Contact me with question or comments at 864-373-3302 or via e-mail.

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2010 FIFA Football (Soccer) World Cup…

Although soccer is not a strong national sport in the USA, it is very followed in most of the world, including Latin America, Europe, Africa, Australia and even Asia is coming along. So get in the spirit of the World Cup this week and support your au pair’s team! Even if her home country did not qualify, she is likely to have a favorite team or want to follow the game.

Yesterday, the International Center of the Upstate organized a fun get-together at the Westin Poinsett Hotel downtown Greenville were we watched the USA vs. England game! It was quite fun to watch with supporters from both teams, and soccer enthusiasts from all over the world! We were so amazed that the USA scored 1-1 (thanks to English goalkeeper Green’s mistake!)… !! GO TEAM!

On Friday, the day the World Cup launched, it was amazing to see South Africa score 1 – 1 against Mexico. The game represents so much hope for the country, embodied in their goal star Tshabalala, who says his country can look forward to the second round of the World Cup if they defeat Uruguay in Pretoria Wednesday.

 And today, watching Germany score 4 – 0 against Australia was unbelievable! Such a young team, such confidence… absolutely blew my mind! Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium didn’t have to wait long for its first goal of these finals… Lucas Podolski slamming home after only seven minutes to spark a 4-0 rout for Germany against the ten men of Australia.

Olle, olle, olle, olleeeee!! Have fun watching soccer with your au pair and the whole family, especially if your kids are involved in the sport… how fun to watch first-class players compete.

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Summer Childcare… Year-Long!

Just a few more days and it will officially be the SUMMER! Welcome school-break for the kids, welcome swimming at the lake or neighborhood pool, welcome family vacation and overnight camps! The summer also represents a lot of planning for stay-at-home-moms or working parents, who now have school-aged children at home full-time, and need to juggle between kids at the grandparent’s house, day camps, baby-sitters… while continuing all of the normal activities and work involved with running a household.

Getting Acquainted With Your Au Pair

Summer is also a great time to “try out” the au pair program. Hosting an au pair outside of the normal school routine is a great way to get to know each other and have her involved in organizing all those fun activities, from your 1-year-old to your 12-year-old. Have her practise driving in your area, from the local park, to the supermarket, show her where the school is, and have her acquainted with the moms you usually take your youngest on playdates.

Keeping Up Language Skills

Your au pair can also reinforce the foreign language your children are learning in school, and work with them on fun games and homework they may have to keep up their language skills over the summer.

The Family Vacation With HELP!

And then of course having the option to take your au pair with you on your family vacation, calling it a working week for her where her schedule varies with the days, is a fantastic way for you to get to relax some too! And see how your au pair handles the kids, helping with daily chores and how well s/he fits with your family. Don’t forget to give your au pair the normal 1.5 days off per week or her full week-end, so she can also enjoy and discover your vacation spot and have some time to herself… It is important to establish a schedule in your Communication Log as always, so you ensure you are not working your au pair overtime and setting the right expectation regarding the working nature of the family vacation.

Contact me to discuss your needs for the summer and back-to-school, or also review this article on the topic of “Family Vacation With Your Au Pair”.

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A Reunion With Former Au Pair Nicole From Germany…

On my return home from a business trip to Turkey, I had the opportunity to take a week-long layover in Munich, Germany. I was able to pay a visit to my cousin and his family (3 beautiful little girls!) in Ingolstadt (45 min. from Munich) and drive with them to Alsace, France, to visit my family and almost 3-month-old nephew (see article “Nurturing Family Ties Beyond Distance“)!

German Au Pair Nicole and Nadia at a Cafe in Beilngries

German Au Pair Nicole and Nadia at a Cafe in Beilngries

Today was really special though… it just so happens that one of the former au pairs in my group during my tenure as LCC (Local Childcare Coordinator), returned home to Beilngries, a beautiful town in the heart of Bavaria, last December.

She completed her au pair year in Simpsonville, SC, in 2008, caring for 2 school-aged boys for a single dad. She had a fantastic year, especially in the second half of her stay when she made so many friends beyond the au pairs in the area.

Her host dad was German and wanted someone with the same culture and language to care for the boys and act as a “big sister” figure for them. She truly bonded with the whole family and she was greatly missed upon her departure… Nicole with my second cousins Sarah and Rebecca

We were all hoping Nicole would extend for a second year, but other adventures were awaiting her… including in London, where we got to meet last July during another business trip of mine. Our paths keep crossing, and we have seen each other every year since she left America!

This fun reunion reminded me of the truly special bonds that are created during an au pair year: between friends and between the host family and the au pair, who share life together for 1 year or more and create a truly unique friendship that, in most cases, is nurtured beyond their time together. Often times, it is a goal for the host family to visit the au pair in her home country once the children have grown a little, and can truly “take in” their trip.

This is truly where the heart of the au pair program is: childcare with cultural exchange and lifelong friendships!

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Face Painting With A Cultural Twist at the May 1 Reedy River Duck Derby

At the 6th Annual Reedy River Duck Derby organized by the Greenville Evening Rotary Club, there were rubber ducks, people dressed like ducks and lots of children getting their faces painted with a yellow duck!

Anette and Nadia, local Cultural Care Au Pair respresentatives, with Courtney and her family's German au pair Tanja, posing with Duck.

Anette and Nadia, local Cultural Care Au Pair respresentatives, with Courtney and her au pair Tanja, posing with Duck

Cultural Care Au Pair (culturalcare.com), the leading provider of intercultural childcare in the United States, along with Premier Yorkie (PremierYorkie.com), an on-line retailer for small dog clothing and accessories, offered free face- and nail-painting at one of the many booths at the pre-race event in Falls Park.

“The event was an occasion to get our group of host families and au pairs involved with one of the largest and most popular family events in Greenville”, says Local Childcare Coordinator Anette Menke. “As the local support for Cultural Care Au Pair, I organize at least 2 host family events a year, whether focused on health & safety, or organizing an event or outreach for the local community. This was a great opportunity for our group of au pairs to give back to their community utilizing their talent and creativity.”

Au pairs are live-in nannies from abroad between 18 and 26 years old, who provide up to 45 hours of childcare per week in exchange for the opportunity to share life with an American family for 1 or 2 years and a weekly stipend. “Greenville was my first home for 1 year when I worked as an au pair for a local family with 4 children”, adds Nadia Price, Au Pair Program Consultant for Cultural Care in the Southeast region. “My host family and I had a great experience with the program: my host parents had flexible, live-in childcare and help with household chores, and a “big sister” figure for their children, while I had the opportunity to share life with them, improve my English and fall in love with Greenville (and a trilingual Greer native)!”.

Read the full article at this LINK to find out more about the activity and about our event partner, PremierYorkie.com.

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Hallo! A Special Report on Germany…

With our largest pool of au pairs from Germany arriving in the spring and summer, I thought I would cover a few highlights about our largest recruitment country in Europe. Germans make wonderful au pairs because they are very organized, efficient and punctual.

Fast Facts

  • Capital: Berlin
  • Population: 82,422,299 (July 2006 est.)
  • Currency: Euro (EUR)
  • Government: Federal Republic
  • Religion: Protestant 34%, Roman Catholic 34%, Muslim 3.7%, unaffiliated or other 28.3%
  • Climate: Temperate and marine; cool, cloudy, wet winters and summers; occasional warm mountain wind

The Language

German is the official language.  However, Germany has a multitude of dialects.  It is usually possible to determine a German’s native region from his or her dialect and pronunciation.  These dialects differ greatly.  If, for instance, a Frisian or a Mecklenburger and a Bavarian were to carry on a conversation in their respective pure dialects, they would have great difficulty understanding each other.

Useful phrases

Guten Tag/Abend Good Day/Evening
Ja Yes
Nein No
Bitte Please
Danke Thank you
Wie geht’s? How are you?
Tschüss Good bye!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The People

 

Germany has a population of approximately 82 million (including 7.3 million foreigners) and is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe. Only Belgium, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Northern Ireland have a higher population density.

Cultural Tips for German Au Pairs

Without stereotyping, these are some cultural traits common to au pairs from Germany:

  • Qualities: Germans make wonderful au pairs because they are very organized, efficient and punctual.  They are quite good at following rules so be sure to outline your needs and requirements from the beginning. 
  • Driving: German au pairs tend to have very good driving experience.  However, it is helpful to remember that cars outside the United States tend to be much smaller so driving that SUV or minivan might take some getting used to. 
  • Working Relationship: German culture is quite blunt.  Don’t be surprised if your German au pair makes statements without the usual polite “small talk” that Americans are used to.  This is not rudeness; it’s just a cultural difference.
  • Sense Of Independance: German young people are raised to work out their own problems independently.  They are not accustomed to asking for help or assistance.  It is helpful to try to remain aware and if your German au pair is struggling or homesick, ask her/him if help is needed.
  • Analytical Eye: Similarly, part of German culture is to look at things with a critical eye.  Germans view their own political and social systems critically and question why things are done in a certain way.  Again, don’t be offended if they express critical views of politics or other general topics.
  • Great English Vs. Cultural Differences: Finally, since most Germans speak English quite well it is easy to quickly forget that their culture is different than ours.  If any sources of frustration develop, try to ask yourself if a cultural difference could be at play.  Keep lines of communication open with your au pair and, if further help is needed, speak to your Local Childcare Coordinator.

View the “available au pairs” section of my blog and contact me for more information on hosting an au pair from Germany!

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Hosting an au pair: is a live-in nanny the right option for me?

If like many American families you are not quite familiar with the concept of “exchange students” or “hosting an au pair”, you may be reluctant to the idea of housing your childcare provider.
With childcare, there is not a “one-size-fits-all”, however, with thousands of au pairs placed each year encompassing many cultural and childcare experience backgrounds, we most likely have an au pair that truly “fits” with your family!

So let’s discuss a few points regarding the “live-in” aspect of the au pair program, to help you figure out if you are “host family material”!

From reluctant to passionate…

In my personal experience helping to place au pairs with families, I have observed that parents that expressed the most reluctance to the live-in aspect of the program became the most passionate about their au pair! There are many advantages with hosting an au pair that may not come to mind when first considering the program:

  1. They are always available and dedicated to your family >> no competition with other family or job and continuity of childcare for 1 – 2 years
  2. They are already in the home, so there are no traffic delays or snow days with no childcare
  3. They live, eat and sleep in your home >> participate in “roommate”/ family chores
  4. They can work split shifts, working hours can be changed week to week >> provide flexible schedule
  5. They come to know your children very well and become more than a childcare worker >> “big sister or brother” figure

Setting Boundaries

A big part of the success of the program for our families is communication. Setting the right expectation from the beginning about the level of involvement in your family life you expect from your au pair will be most beneficial for everyone involved, starting at the initial phone interview. These boundaries can be defined in time, opportunity and location.

“Homebody” vs. “Explorer” Au Pair

If you prefer an au pair that is mainly there just during her working hours, you can opt for an au pair older than our average of 20 years old, and/or that has already lived on her own, studying or abroad.
Important Note:Age doesn’t always determine maturity level (I was 18 but had already been an au pair for 3 months in London, and live in Belgium, Texas, Germany, Spain for 2 – 4 weeks at a time; so more independent).

Either way and regardless of personality, your au pair will quickly get “plugged in” to our au pair network, managed by your local childcare coordinator, and make friends quickly. You do not need to feel responsible for your au pair’s entertainment; friends, classes and local festivals/ activities will keep them busy.

Some families prefer an au pair that will get involved in families activities and stay around for dinner and games, because they truly enjoy the cultural exchange aspect in their daily, busy lives.
You may find that you really value the relationship you build with your new family member, beyond work and the benefit of childcare. Most of our families keep in touch with their au pairs many years after they have departed, and end up visiting them in their home countries once their children are older.

Contact me to discuss the live-in aspect of the au pair program and other questions you may have!

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