Finding an Infant Qualified Au Pair Who Can Manage Twins

by cv harquail on July 5, 2017

NowWeAreThree HostMom thought she had the whole family ready for twins, with her mom coming to stay for an entire year to help with childcare (what a mom!).  Sadly, her father got unexpectedly sick, so her mom can no longer come.

This mom’s got to find a new childcare plan.

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What questions would you ask, and what features would you look for, to find an Au Pair who could handle five-month old twins?

Many au pairs can handle twins, and be adept at balancing the needs of two kids of the same age.  Many au pairs are also ready to care for infants — some even prefer these wee ones to older host kids like toddlers or tweens.

How can you find an Au Pair who is both of these?

Who can keep their cool when two diapers need changing, two babies need bottles, and one baby is crying while the other is asleep for only a few more seconds?

What qualities would you look for?

What questions would you add to your interview?

Dear AuPairMom–  I’ve been obsessively reading your blog and I’m hoping that the community can help me.

We have brand new twins.  My mother was supposed to stay with us for a year to help us with our twins but my father got unexpectedly sick (cancer) so she obviously cannot longer come. We also have a four-year-old who is currently in full-time daycare. But, we cannot afford day care for all three children. Also, the twins were preemies and I’m a little hesitant about putting them in daycare and exposing them to all those germs.

My question is — what have people’s experiences been with au pairs for infants (they will be five months old when the au pair comes if we decide to do this)?

Also, has anyone use an au pair for infant twins? Any tips on screening questions?

I am really nervous but this may be our only child care option. I’m desperate for encouragement and words of wisdom.

Thank you (and thank you for the awesome website. It’s been a godsend!) ~  NowWeAreThree HostMom

 

Image by Abby Bishoff on Flickr

 

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

KathrynW July 6, 2017 at 2:58 am

My family has twin boys and we opted to host an au pair versus daycare because it was more economical and we liked the live-in aspect.

I think it takes a special person who is able and skilled enough to care for two babies at a time. I would hire an older au pair who has very good English (no communication issues) and LOTS of hours caring for babies. We opted for a “professional” au pair who was a pediatric nurse back in Germany.

Several agencies offer the professional option – AuPair in America, Proaupair, Go Au Pair, etc. We went with Proaupair and have had a good experience. They are more expensive but they had pediatric nurses which is what I wanted to start out with.

It’s already stressful as a parent caring for twins, so whomever you hire needs to be up to the task. Be very clear about what you are looking for in a caregiver and do not feel rushed by the agency. Good luck!

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NoVA Twin Mom July 6, 2017 at 7:50 am

We’ve had au pairs since our twin girls were three months old. We just matched with AP 9, who arrives next month. Six were very successful, we had two rematches. One rematch was when the girls were 15 months (AP traded up for a nicer house/richer host family exactly two months after arrival, as early as she thought the program would let her) then the second happened when the girls were two (AP was a crying mess 3.5 days in because she “didn’t like little kids”.) Basically, both rematches were with girls that were a bad fit for the program overall.

Our very first au pair was 19 years old and from Sweden. Our girls were also preemies, so we had been told not to send them to daycare by the NICU. We did want our AP to be able to leave the house, both with them and after work, so we wanted a strong driver. We therefore looked at northern/central Europe for candidates. Other families LOVE Mexican or South American au pairs for babies (but beware that they often – definitely not always – have driving issues). We encouraged our au pair to take the girls out and we have adorable pictures of the girls sitting in high chairs at Starbucks with two or three au pairs. We like younger candidates because they’re less “set in their ways” and are more willing to take direction than their older counterparts. Especially for that first year, we also wanted excellent English, so Sweden was a great choice.

Our first au pair had experience working in the daycare her mom works in, so had experience with multiple young children at the same time. You may be surprised, a lot of candidates have experience with twins (or triplets) in their home countries. We also screen for candidates that have held an “unpleasant” job over a period of time – like waitressing – so that they know that even after a bad shift they have to come back for the next one.

One thing you might consider is searching with multiple agencies and going with the one that has the best candidate for you (most will let you sign up for free and only pay once you match – you might have to ask for a discount but this is not an unreasonable thing to do).

Good luck, and sorry to hear about your dad.

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kat July 6, 2017 at 8:39 am

you can also search for aupairs that already have aupairing/nannying experience from another country. they should be overall easier to settle in.

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WorkingTWINmom July 6, 2017 at 9:04 am

We didn’t have an au pair till my twins were 18 months but I already another child by than. I went with an au pair from Mexico because, she herself was a twin and she loved little ones. I was worried about having someone come in to work with three kids under 2. Its scary to trust that a person will be able to handle the challenge of two babies, much less three but they can. Our au pair is amazing with our children and has stuck with their routines. I think she can handle the children as well as I can. Rigth now we are interviewing for our next au pair for October and know we will be able to find another capable young lady to help with the children.

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American Host Mom in Europe July 6, 2017 at 11:34 am

I’ve had au pairs since before the twins were born, as I had a toddler and couldn’t manage without help at the end of my pregnancy. My twins are now almost 8, and all of our au pairs were successful with them! For me, some of what I looked for was:
– daycare experience or similar, so accustomed to a lot going on
– willingness / experience with babywearing, as we wore the twins and toddler a lot when they were little, some candidates didn’t get it (and then I wasn’t interested)
– someone physical — sports or outdoors interested, and I wasn’t interested in tiny (5’1″) candidates, because I needed someone who could lift my big double stroller into the back of my giant SUV! (which I could barely do!!)

I have also found that every au pair has her strengths and weaknesses, and as long as I value the strengths and can live with the weaknesses, I adapt to fill the gaps as appropriate – I’m the mom, after all, so don’t really get to pick which bits I do ;-) For example, some APs are better at playing with the kids, and then I would do more of putting away the laundry; others are better at the household chores, so I might spend more time playing… etc.

The OP asked for words of encouragement: I LOVED having au pairs with the twins, and my kids still remember and talk about most of them (several have been back to visit). I loved having them home and not in day care as well. And – if an AP has a meltdown because there are two sick babies, or crying babies, or whatever… well, I’ve had that happen too! We all get through it.

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Mimi July 6, 2017 at 2:21 pm

We started with the AP program when our twins were 3 months old (HK#1 was almost 5 but stayed in daycare until kindergarten). Our criteria for our APs is 19-21 year old Austrians or Germans from larger families, with previous work experience (waitressing is great). We and have a very structured household that suit some cultures better than others, and they tend to have better English and driving skills. IMO, APs who are routine oriented were especially good at handling our twins as infants and toddlers. We look for family experience with children that are the same ages as our children and we ask questions about how they would handle certain problems. DH always has great questions that flushed out the fainthearted and are good at measuring their coping skills (think simultaneous pooping/vomiting…in different colors). What has always been important for us is that the APs know how to communicate when they are unsure about something or are feeling overwhelmed, especially as the frustrations of dealing with a fussy infant are easily magnified when you’re got two of them.

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Indymomof3 July 7, 2017 at 11:31 am

So, we’re on our 1st au pair, 6 months in. Our situation is a bit different in that she stays home with the baby (singleton) and our twin girls go to preschool 4 days a week, but I’m going to pass along the two best pieces of advice I got (from this blog!) when matching with an au pair:
1. Screen for personality. You can teach anyone how to care for a newborn (and how to juggle twins) but it’s the personality facet (calm in the face of chaos for example) that can’t be taught. Our au pair’s calm personality came through in our video chats. I also made sure to have both girls participate so she could see how chaotic our life could be :)

2. I looked for someone who had a job (preferably in a “hard” industry- like service. I was a waitress in high school and it really teaches you a lot.

Our au pair worked at the Mercedes Center in Berlin at one of the food kiosks and had also worked in a smoothie shop. I was also really impressed with the fact that she stayed behind in the city to work and make money during the summer while the rest of her family went up to the Baltic Sea to her aunt’s cottage. To me, that spoke to her maturity.

I wish we would’ve known of the program when our girls were little. They were preemies too and I think an au pair is far superior to daycare for those little ones (although we were fortunate in that our daycare and teachers were wonderful).

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HMof2 July 7, 2017 at 3:44 pm

We had AP since my twins were 2 months old (I was still on maternity leave for a month and used the AP’s 1st month to do a full orientation so AP was ready to be left alone with the twins by their 3rd month).

We looked for AP who:
– Liked routine (doing things over and over again) – had previous jobs that were repetitive; frankly, there is a ton of diaper changing and bottle washing all day long so an AP looking for variety and playing ball and games with kids were not good fit for us (maybe when ours are older but not at the infant stage)
– Not easily bored if spending all day inside with no other adult interaction. Must be comfortable being alone all day with infants. Our infants did not go out much the first year.
– AP who had her most important goal to be improving English will be disappointed because there will be no one else to practice English with during the day.
– With infants, the work hours were usually all day M-F; AP must be okay with taking only evening or weekend classes. AP who wanted to attend day classes several times a week would not be a good fit.
– Not have a habit of being glued to the phone
– Comfortable asking us how to do this or that (not having a “know-it-all attitude”) – willingness to learn
– Patience and a calm demeanor (not easily rattled by 2 crying infants)
– Experience working 9-10 hours stretches (doesn’t have to be childcare but need to have had a job with stamina, physical and mental)
– Have experience being/living with infants (similar age to mine) over long stretches of time per day over many months (experience spending a couple of hours babysitting or playing with a baby over school breaks does not count) – ideally, an AP who lived with an infant such as a sibling with a big age gap so AP is already in her teens when the sibling was born

It did not matter to us the age of the AP, since we do not believe that there is any correlation between age and maturity.

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Taking a Computer Lunch July 8, 2017 at 9:13 pm

While I don’t have twins, when they were babies mine were “twin-like.” My child with special needs was just past two – and finally sitting independently (as opposed to the one year of tripoding) and my youngest was 5 months old – and weeks away from sitting up independently – when our first AP arrived so I could go back to work (DH had taken care of the eldest from the time I went back to work after she was born until I had my 2nd). She was a PICU nurse from Brazil and could handle the 5 pm bewitching hour so much better than I (driving was another story). We ended up trying to sponsor her as an employer, although she was ready to move on long before her application rose to the top of the pile in the U.S. Labor Dept. Our second au pair, from Austria, had done a teacher training program with children who had special needs as well as typically developing children.

One question I asked for a long time was to imagine that one child was crying and the other was in danger of getting hurt, and ask her to imagine how to handle the situation.

The other question, and far more telling, was to ask candidates to give an example of a time in which they were stressed out and how they handled it. Those that gave a childcare answer obviously were prepared to work with children. We gave a pass on those who talked about exams. They might have been perfectly lovely au pairs in the end, just not right for us.

Pose your questions for how the babies will function at the beginning of your AP’s year (lots of work, perhaps not moving so much) as well as the end (crawling? running?).

If you think your preemies might need in-home therapy through the infants and toddlers program (both of my kids did – child #1 for obvious reasons, and child #2 because he had bacterial meningitis when he was 4 weeks old and the hospitalization really set him back), then you’ll want an au pair with some sort of experience with children with special needs – even if it was just a two-week practicum as part of her education.

We hosted 13 APs in 15 years with only one rematch. A lot of our APs have gone on to have careers that made the world a better place! I wish we could still host, but now that the eldest is 18 and the youngest is driving, the agency turned us down.

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DCBurbTwinMomma+1more July 9, 2017 at 8:06 am

We had an au pair since the girls were 3mo preemies at about 4 pounds. The au pair had to not only care for two, but care for two who needed special feeding, weighed diapers, extra skin care and couldn’t yet do some “normal” infant things. We also cloth diaper so I thought we’d be a nightmare family. Not true.

First, be upfront about what the au pair will experience. Yes she will see you have twins but explain that clearly in your family letter.

1. Someone with daycare experience will have had to care for many children at once. My twins are now 5 and I continue to use this rule. Especially now that we’ve added an infant to the mix.

2. Go for maturity. Someone who has had responsibility beyond school and family was important to us. This experience can be invaluable when the person has to use judgment that isn’t something you’d think to discuss but that usually happens such as running low on a baby related food or supply (don’t just assume the parents know–be proactive).

3. Communication is key. Taking care of twins in the beginning was an assembly line of diapering, feeding, reading and laundering. The next adult has to do the hand off and be able to communicate the state of the state. If there is miscommunication or shyness, this would not work for our family. We were all to tired to need to spend energy on coddling the au pair at the same time as caring for tiny preemie twins. Go with your gut with communication during the interview. I rejected many shy reserved types who seemed fine on paper but who would get swallowed up in my house.

4. Bonus: someone who valued children as more than toys or “the job”. Every au pair proclaims he or she “just loves babies/kids”. Ask why. My candidates get zero points for stating because they’re cute or fun. My infants at least were not so cute after vomiting all day and rarely super fun in their sleep, poop, eat, repeat routine that was the first year. Someone looking for excitement is not going to do well with the “loaf of bread” stage that newborns tend to be. Times two! I would listen for someone who wanted to get experience in early childhood development to read, teach and in age appropriate play and interactions. Someone who emphasizes coloring or games is NOT going to enjoy all of year one. Adjust this as they grow. Now I’m all about positive role models in fitness and eating for the twins. Then, I cared little if the au pair herself are vegetables (the first au pair lived on chocolate whole milk and sugar cereal. Fine. This would NOT work now).

It’s very possible to find great twin au pairs. Some of the key indicators of success are the same for any configuration. Know your family well, not what you aspire to be but who you really are. We are an active, loud, aggressive couple who value travel and spontaneity over routine. We have a messy house and rely on the weekly housekeeper because dishes will sit while we take an impromptu hike. We require high energy, go with the flow, aggressive au pairs who will join us in parenting. Otherwise she will fade into the woodwork and not thrive or survive our fun chaos.

Good luck. Join your local twin group–there are many resources in Geneva there as well. We love ours! Being mom to twins is magical.

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Nowwearethree July 9, 2017 at 10:03 am

Hi! I’m the OP and I wanted to thank everyone for the encouragement and suggestions! I’m still scared out of my mind, but I’m hopeful we’ll find someone.

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SDHostMom July 10, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Our first au pair came when our triplets were 4 months old and stayed until they were 2 years and 4 months. We wanted someone who lived away from home and had a job with a regular schedule, and was 23 or older. We ended up with someone with not a lot of infant experience but who loved babies. She declined our offer initially because we wanted her to be done before she would have finished a work contract, and she would not break the contract that she had signed. That was a huge plus for us–responsibility! abiding by agreed upon terms!–and we waited for her. She was worth it x1000. Honestly, someone who is willing to work hard can do it. This is not a vacation, and give people ample opportunity to say that two infants is too much for them.

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nyctwins July 11, 2017 at 12:04 pm

Have never commented here, but this one is in my wheelhouse.

Our au pair came when my twin girls were a little less than 4 months old. She was the ‘backup’ candidate; I remember searching for candidates who had taken care of twin infants, and found one with tons of experience; but she had an accident that prevented her from going forward with the program.

The backup had worked as an au pair out of country and taken care of babies, no twins. I found out I did not need someone who had taken care of twins. Our au pair’s calm nature, which I didn’t really screen for, was so important. Someone who wasn’t phased by multitasking in chaotic, unpredictable situations. And as some have mentioned above, loving babies helps; our au pair would laugh out loud most days at every new milestone and truly enjoyed being with them, which was great for them, her, us. Excellent English is critical; I chose someone over 21, but not sure ultimately if that was cruciai; and I profiled a bit from Eastern European countries, wanting someone who would be comfortable with routines; a lot of bottles and synchronizing of sleep schedules, logging. As intimidating as twin babies can be to all the world, there are au pairs who can do it. Cheers-

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Twinning on the East Coast July 13, 2017 at 3:57 pm

To the OP, do not be scared! For one, you have found this blog and I wish I had before we started interviewing our first AP several months ago. I do not have very sage advice at this point, but I can offer encouragement and a bit of what we went through.

We have infant twins as well. They are preemies and subject to a lot of restrictions. During the interview process (which we had no idea what we were doing as a first time HF), we were sure to hammer the point home that the twins were not typical babies and why (size, health issues, delayed development, etc.). We also hammered home the importance of the schedule they were on and sticking to it (having them on the same feeding/sleep/awake schedule keeps us sane). My husband and I both have demanding careers and we stressed that we would also be a 45 hour week family, especially since both of us have to travel on occasion (but not at the same time). The AP also had to be able to work well on their own without a lot of push from us and stick to a schedule. We found a lovely AP from Europe who lifeguarded over her summers and nanny-ed infants in her extended family. Lifeguard experience wasn’t something I necessarily would have thought special, but she’s used to keeping a close eye on lots of little kids for a long period of time while sitting in the same chair and already knows how to do CPR/first aid. BONUS!

We arranged for our AP’s arrival to overlap with my maternity leave by a few weeks, so I was able to train her for a good amount of time before being able to leave her alone with them. I was terrified at first with the whole process once she arrived but having that overlap really helped where I could show her how to do everything and build trust. Make sure she can communicate well with you (we needed both written and verbal skills as I have a sheet for documenting food/diapers/sleep/tummy time). We also wanted someone who would sit down to dinner with us frequently where we could have meetings to discuss how the day went and get up to speed for the nighttime/evening/early morning care. It’s a team effort in our house with myself, my husband, and the AP working together, so also make sure they have a good family dynamic. We were able to ‘interview’ our AP’s family in that they spoke enough English to be able to sit down and Skype with us in addition to her. Seeing their interaction was really insightful. I heartily concur with everything the other commenters have replied with as well!

Above all, it will be ok. I was terrified as well. Childcare in general is very expensive, especially when you throw two preemie infants into the mix. We chose the AP route after interviewing nannies and realizing that with our careers, we needed the flexibility of a live-in caregiver. Daycare wasn’t an option. It has been good so far with our first experience. This blog has REALLY helped me and I hope you also find the answers you need too! Good luck!

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2 kids and a cat July 13, 2017 at 4:49 pm

Our “twins” are the Irish variety, and we now have an additional infant. The make-or-break moments for me are having someone who can keep her cool when things don’t go as planned, and who can be mindful of both kids at all times. So, I’d ask a lot of hypotheticals. If one kid starts vomiting … does her answer include securing the other baby in the crib to attend to the sick one. If one wakes of inconsolable from a nap while she was planning to do the dishes and fold laundry, how will she adjust her schedule?

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