We’ve talked a bit about how to start out with an au pair, and it seems that in general, we think that the best strategy is to get her working right away. This helps your au pair feel needed, distracts her from homesickenss, helps with training, and ramps all of the family up fairly quickly.
Sometimes this strategy is a little harder to execute. … Especially when you have a baby under 3 months (and thus can’t leave alone with the Au Pair) and when you are temporarily at home on maternity leave.
Megan sent us this question:
Our first Au Pair is arriving on June 12th and I’m on maternity leave until July 20th. I had planned to spend the month plus acclimating her to our house, kids, the city, etc. We also plan to take her to our cabin at the end of June (provided she wants to come) for a week long vacation. Now I’m really worried. Any tips on how I can still make this work? I’m not a very authoritative person…this may be really tough. Also, our new baby won’t be 12 weeks until the end of June so she cannot be left alone with him until then anyway.
I checked in with Megan and she not only has her new baby son (2 months old) but also a daughter who is 3 1/2. Megan has a terrific maternity leave– the kind all parents should have IMHO, a full 16 weeks.
How can Megan use her time at home, with her new au pair and kids, to the best advantage?
Let me jump in by saying– See this as an opportunity! You’ll have someone to watch the baby (even with you around somewhere) while you attend to the ‘big sister’, you’ll have an extra set of hands while things are the most crazy, you can show, tell, show, show and watch, rather than tell and run out the door to work, and even more!
— Tell your AP that the challenge is for all of you to learn how to work together and to ease into the situation of you going back to work full time. I remember how hard it was to leave my babies that first week back at work, and it helped me to be able to go in for a few hours, get a bit organized, then go back home, and just ease into full time. (I had a lot of flexibility).
— Ask your AP to take special charge of your daughter , and help your daughter establish herself as a big sister. I bet that she has been enjoying having you home, and will struggle a bit when you go back to work. Plus, your daughter now has to share you with her brother. Your au pair can make the effort to connect warmly with your daughter and be "her" special new thing for a while.
— Ask your au pair to become an ‘infant expert’- – to do a little reading or Howcast video watching on baby development, to share these tips with you.
— Practice "leaving" the baby with your Au Pair while you and your daughter go off and do things together around your house. Give your au pair chances to be ‘in charge’ while you are around but not watching.
— Give your au pair a mix of fun work and regular work (e.g., playing with baby and doing laundry) — make sure that you balance things out so that neither one of you gets all the diaper changing. Draw on what you learned when your daughter was born and you and your partner and caregiver(s) were learning how to share responsibility.
— Use the fact that you have au pair care right now to take some time for yourself. Yes, really. Take the time to sort clothes in your closet so you have things to wear to work. Take the time to write in his baby book. Take the time to take videos of him and his big sister. Take the time to have a glass of wine with your partner, on the back steps, while the au pair tucks the kids in upstairs.
— Think of this extra help as a luxury that you and your family deserve … it’s a precious time (heck, it’s all precious time).
Moms, dads, au pairs — what would you suggest for Megan?