For many of us Host Moms and Dads, our first Au Pair arrives shortly after our first baby.
Twice in one season you become a new parent– first of your own baby, and then of your Au Pair.
I look back on those times now and think how absolutely naive I was about both new family members!
I took the infant care classes at the Hospital and read my baby books cover to cover a hundred times. I had all the ideas for how I was going to do everything — and then the baby arrived and I was gobsmacked by the complexity of it all.
Ten weeks later, just as I’d figured out the diapers, the nursing, the napping, the car seat and the one-handed folding up of the stroller when –wham– I was orienting a brand new au pair.
I was telling her how to do all the infant things, as though I were some kind of an expert, when I’d had only 10 weeks of experience with my one little twinkle.
I was lucky, because our first Au Pair MK had real experience with an infant. MK knew how to scoop up the baby from the crib without disturbing her nap. MK knew how to snuggle the baby to calm her down, how to swaddle her to make her feel secure, and how to coo all sorts of soothing baby sounds (in Estonian, though). MK was goooooooood at the infant thing.
Finding the right kind of ‘Infant-qualified’ Au Pair
MK didn’t have any academic qualifications in infant care, just the regular babysitting kind of qualification. I think, truth be told, she was one of those “natural” baby wranglers.
How can you tell, though, if an au pair really has the kind of infant experience that translates into a strong sense of how to hold a baby, how to soothe a baby, how to cope with the crying and the neediness with generosity and patience?
One way would be to ask a candidate to show him/herself interacting with an infant. For example, a short (I minute) video of an Au Pair candidate interacting with an infant would be really great. (I’d love to see a candidate hold a squirming baby, to see if the Au Pair was confident and gentle.)
I’d dig in with the “Tell me how you’d handle this situation”-kind of interview question.
I’d ask the candidates about all the situations I found myself facing — such as when the baby refused to take a bottle even when we knew she was hungry, or what to do when you realized that you’d left the breast milk out on the counter for over two hours, but there was nothing else to defrost for the baby. Or what to do when the baby kept screaming after being fed, burped, diapered, swaddled, and tucked into bed and you were all alone and kindof losing your mind.
I’d ask the candidates to tell me the hardest parts of their infant caring experience and how they coped with these parts.
I’d ask about whether the candidates had cared for more than one infant… not as a requirement of the job, but to get a sense of how they adapted their caregiving to the needs of different children. (As many parents know, experience with infant #1 doesn’t mean you know how to help infant #2 with every challenge.)
What else could you look for in an au pair candidate? What else would you ask him or her?
If you’ve had an infant-qualified Au Pair, what qualities turned out to be critical ones you were glad s/he had?
Image from Martin Gommel on Flickr