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  • Writer's pictureOlaitan Alabi

Hosting an Aupair gave me a life and saved £6000 on my childcare costs

Updated: Nov 22, 2021

Hello, my name is Laitan, I live in the West Midlands, I have twin 10-year-old boys and this is my story of how I juggled childcare for 10 years with being a full-time working mum.

Hosting an Au Pair helped me balance my career and childcare.

I am married but due to the nature of my husband’s job, I might as well have been a single mum. My husband’s job was abroad, so he was away from the country 4 to 6 months at a time. These were very tough times for us as a family.

When my twins were 9 months old, I decided to start working. I applied for a trainee investment banking job with Lloyds TSB Bank through an agency and I got the job. The salary was poor, as all entry level jobs tend to be, but I was filled with ambition and I knew the job had potential for progression.

I had exclusively breastfed the twins until they were 6 months old and then introduced solids to them, but I still kept on breastfeeding until they were 1 year old. So, going back to work meant taking a whole kit of breast pumps and bottles and ice boxes and frozen packs so that I could spend my lunch time expressing milk in the sick bay in the office, which they very kindly let me use.

At this point, I was using virtually my whole monthly salary to pay for the childminder, who was charging around £900 a month, but I was lucky enough that our combined salaries made sure we weren’t suffering because of my decision to work. So, we went along with this routine for a while, until I stumbled across the word “Au pair”.

I still don’t remember how I first learnt this word, but I did and it changed my life.

I did my research, signed up with an online Au Pair agency and after interviewing 3 preferred Aupair options, I chose an 18 year old from Spain who spoke not a word of English, but I didn’t care about that.

She seemed like a lovely, caring person and that was all that mattered to me. Besides, the main reason for young people from Europe who become Au Pairs in the UK is to learn the English language and culture.

By staying with a family, they save on the costs of rent, bills and feeding and also receive weekly pocket money which they then use for their clothes and make-up shopping, city exploring and night clubbing on the weekends.

Her name was Linda and she had never been an Au pair before but she was excited to be one. I spoke to her parents on Skype to reassure them I was a real mum, not a psycho in a basement luring young girls to a foreign country. We discussed and agreed on pocket money, babysitting hours and non-babysitting days and expected tasks and dietary requirements. We discussed everything we could think of. Two weeks later, I picked her up from Birmingham Airport and that was the beginning of our lives as a host family.

Chatting online with someone who doesn’t understand or speak English is very different from talking to them. Talking to them face to face was harder than I thought. My best friend had lived in Spain for 10 years and was fluent in the language, so she sometimes came to say hello and acted as our translator but for most of the time, communication involved a lot of hand gestures, miming, charades and google translate.

Despite this big communication gap, I didn’t regret having Linda as an Au pair, she was a kind and lovely person. She cooked beautiful Spanish meals for us, baked me a surprise cake for my birthday, and was just a huge ball of energy playing with the twins. She would go swimming with us on the weekend, go to the safari park with us, she was the big sister my twins didn’t know they needed. She really was a part of the family.

My dad lives in Nigeria, he died. Because of Linda, I could go away to Nigeria for 3 days for his funeral and she was there for the children, even though it ate into her non-babysitting days, and she didn’t ask for any extra payments for it.

The agreement we had was that she babysat for me for 4 days a week, I paid her £100 a week, according to the government's guidelines on hosting Aupairs, which came up to £400 a month and I was getting what I would describe as “unprofessional nanny” services in the comfort of my home. This was nothing compared to £900 a month our childminder was charging us for the 2 boys. We were saving £500 a month, £6000 a year, by hosting an Au Pair.

It was the perfect arrangement. A win-win. But, I think I was the lucky one as I never really got another Aupair as good as Linda was for another 7 years.

Linda went back home to Spain to start university after 9 months of staying with us.

We hosted another Aupair shortly after she left, but I would be telling that story in another blog.

It’s been over 8 years and 8 more Au Pairs since we hosted Linda and she still says hello to the family through social media, although the kids do not know or recognise her.

This is my true story and I now run my own Aupair agency because of my own experiences.

Hosting an Au Pair really did give me the chance to chase my dreams and ambitions as without it, I could have been overwhelmed by the cost of childcare and probably quit my dreams to be a full-time mum.

Hosting an Au Pair can be very difficult, as you would find out in my next blogs when we hired our second Aupair, however, so can be said for recruiting or hiring a staff member or babysitter.

If you ever decide that your family is ready to host an Aupair, I hope you contact me to help you navigate that world.

If you would like to know of the UK government's guidelines on hosting an Aupair, you can click here.

See you at the next blog.

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