Should we match with a friend of our current Au Pair?

by cv harquail on September 13, 2010

Birds of a feather flock together, and often great au pairs have wonderful people as friends.

When you have a terrific au pair whom you wish you could replicate, sometimes matching with his or her friend seems like the next best thing. Or is it?

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Host Mom Sandy D. asks:

We are finishing up our time with our first au pair, R. She has extended but only for three months since she will be starting college in her home country after the first of the year. We love R and have had a great year plus with her as part of our family. We have older kids (11 and 9) and an easy au pair gig with most weeks well under the hours limit and only rare morning hours. R has been completely responsible and we have had no significant problems with her at all.

We also have a very good relationship with R’s friends here, most of whom are from her same host country. As we were starting to look for our next au pair I realized that one of the candidates I had selected is from the same small city where R is from. I mentioned that to R and she wondered if it could be her friend M, who had told R she was interested in becoming an AP too. We confirmed that it was in fact her friend who is one of my AP candidates.  R has said that M is great, can drive well, and she is sure that we would like her.

I love the idea of having a match with a personal reference like R and also the fact that R can talk candidly with M about whether we are a good match for her. It seems like a big plus versus having to select someone unknown and especially since I think R generally has nice responsible friends not party girls.

But I’d like to get a view from your more experienced moms as to whether there is a downside to hiring the friend of a great AP as the next AP.

Readers, would you match with your au pair’s friend from home?

Best Friends by Son Marki on Flickr

{ 15 comments }

Gianna September 13, 2010 at 11:45 am

I cannot think of a better route to take – a personal reference from a fabulous aupair.
There is something else I like about this , too. I am interested in learning about lots of different cultures but I like to meet different people from the same country in order to avoid stereotypes. If we meet different people from the same country we are less inclined to assign all of that young person’s personal characteristics to her ethnic/national group. This seems like a terrific idea. Does that mean , though, that it is a pre-match ?

Taking a Computer Lunch September 13, 2010 at 12:23 pm

I cannot envision any problems out of the ordinary – you selected the AP and then she turned out to be a friend. Thus, she has qualities that you want. It’s not as though your AP came to you and said, “You should select my friend.”

iMom September 13, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I agree – a personal reference from someone you trust and respect goes a looong way. That being said, it may be hard to avoid constant comparison to your first AP and ending up being disappointed if the new AP doesn’t fully measure up. From personal experience, although we didn’t take her ourselves, I helped to place one of my AP’s friends with an acquaintance family. If our AP hadn’t extended with us I would have asked her to live with us – I find them to have very similar good judgement, work ethic and easy-going nature – which is probably why they are friends.

OB Mom September 13, 2010 at 12:48 pm

I agree with the above … a personal recommendation is great. Go for it. I actually have asked my good AP’s to review applications and help me understand the possible motivation that the girls might have.

The only quandary would be if you want to change any rules. I made some big changes b/t AP#1 and AP#2. If AP#2 had been a friend of AP#1, she might have not understood the changes. But then again, I think they were fair, so I could have just explained why I was doing them.

PA AP mom September 13, 2010 at 3:52 pm

I think there is the potential for a wonderful year with “friend” as long as you remember that “friend” and “AP” aren’t going to be exactly the same. Living with someone is a lot different than just knowing them. If you can avoid the trap of having the friend and your current AP be in constant comparison, I say go for it!

darthastewart September 13, 2010 at 4:08 pm

I had “little sister” one year, and she was fabulous. Not quite like “big sister” who we had the year before- but both were great. It’s best to remember that everyone is a bit different. We found both to be delightful.

NJmom September 13, 2010 at 5:52 pm

I agree, we hired a friend of a friend of our last AP. We knew the friend quite well and liked her a lot. The friend was another AP in our cluster. When she heard we were looking for the next AP and weren’t having a lot of luck she told us we should at least consider her friend back home who had just had her application processed. She said that the friend was VERY responsible in school, one of the best students in the dept. but that she couldn’t comment really on her childcare abillities. I figured good student and responsible were good starting points and that I should at least interview her. Favorite anecdote from my interview was when I said, “Do you have any questions about our town?” She said, “Yes, do you have a library there?” When I said yes she asked me if it would be OK to take the children there regularly. LOL! I almost said, “You’re hired!” on the spot. Previous girls had asked only about the mall and the discos so what a great contrast. I think a friend can work out very well but you should still interview carefully. And, yes, the two APs will be very different people but it can be in a good way. We’ve had a great year with her.

PA AP mom September 13, 2010 at 8:14 pm

NJmom:

that’s awesome! When she asked about the library I would have said, “when can you start????”

HMinWI September 13, 2010 at 9:30 pm

I’d go for it! I have a few APs who I’d wished they had friends coming the year after them. I always ask my former APs to interview my potential APs for me…and I take my best APs opinion as an important recommendation. I think that a current APs opinion that you would be a good match with her friend is a great starting point. Plus, you had that AP in your candidate pool before you knew they were friends. That’s an even bigger reason to seriously consider it.

Carly September 14, 2010 at 5:28 am

thats great that you feel comfortable with her friend and think that she would be great however you still have to look at her experience, qualities of childcare and maybe speak with her host family. I have a great friend however I know we could never live together and we would probably get on each others nerves. I’m not saying ditch the whole idea together. Just make sure that you have made the right choice.

Carly September 14, 2010 at 5:33 am

i missed that she was still in her country….but yes just be sure to check everything for yourself

Should be working September 14, 2010 at 8:55 am

I do see one downside: if things don’t work well with the new AP, will you be more reluctant than you otherwise would be to rematch? Might you be less honest with yourself about the fact that she is not working out, or might you worry that rematch would anger your 1st AP?

I mention these things because you said that the outgoing AP is your first AP ever, and you’ve had a good year with her. Rematch, however, does happen and it is important in my view not to be too afraid of it. I don’t think that this is a reason not to match with your AP’s friend, but I think it is important to remind yourselves that sometimes an AP doesn’t work out, and you should not set yourself up to feel stuck with someone for a whole year if it is not going to be a happy match.

Apart from that, I think it’s great to have the friend’s recommendation, but I would still vet this candidate as carefully as your other candidates.

Hula Gal September 14, 2010 at 9:06 am

We matched with a friend of an au pair in our cluster. We liked the au pair and met with her a few times to discuss her friend. We also did the normal interview process with the friend. It ended up being a disaster. I think the friend was not ready to be an au pair and couldn’t admit it to herself. So when she had the opportunity to match with a family in the same town as her friend from home she decided to take the plunge. She was not qualified to be an au pair. But, my husband and I were coming off a rematch and we were feeling desparate and put too much weight on this girls’ recommendation and not enough on our own needs. So the moral of my story is that it is nice to have a personal recommendation from someone you know well and trust but you need to be sure that she is someone you would have selected anyway. We would not have selected this girl if it were not for her friend’s recommendation which was clearly self-serving, in hindsight.

Anna September 14, 2010 at 12:23 pm

I am ambivalent about it. You should not give any additional weight to the candidate BECAUSE you know her friend; if you would match with her anyway because of chemistry and qualifications, then match away!

I had an experience when my first year hosting I had a great au pair. Her friend was coming to be an au pair, and prematched with my sister who was also brand new to hosting. She turned out to be an OK au pair but far from great. I think if my sister matched from the pool, she could’ve done better. I feel a bit guilty for helping arrange this, even 3 years later…

Host Mom in Phx October 1, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Yea, this did not work so well for us. Our neighbor has an AP and we were looking for our new AP (as our second one had already extended and her time was up). We decided to go with a friend of the neighbors AP. Big mistake! Really could not speak much English, even though we did conduct a phone interview, maybe it was not her on the phone? Did not seem to want to be with us, always at the friend’s house from day 1. We rematched quickly, 2 months, and the AP is out there living illegally on an expired VISA!

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