A welcome addition
In episode three of When the Au Pair Comes to Stay (aired on 4 June 2010), the series offers a glimpse into the lives of the Moore family from Dalkey, Co Dublin and their au pair, Lucia Báguena Berné, who is helping to look after Barry and Margaret Moore's two young teens, Marsha (14) and Phoebe (12). Lucia, who hails from northern Spain, is 23 years old and has just qualified with a degree in primary school teaching. The Moore parents run their own photography business called Photogenic in Dalkey, so they have had an au pair since 1991.
As Margaret Moore explains: " The main reason we got an au pair was because we needed reliable Saturday care. The children were in a fulltime crèche so we thought we could have someone living in who would know the children very well. Then we weren't there on a Saturday we would get a sense of how things were going to go. We've had an au pair consistently since then."
Margaret says she and her husband have always taught their various au pairs how to cook a meal as a way of involving them in family life.
"We realised that an important part of family life is eating together. As far as we're concerned our au pair is a family member with chores. That's how we treat them. All the normal rules of family life apply.
Margaret also says her family can get quite attached to their au pair: "We're had au pairs whose parents have visited us to see what situation their daughters are living in. For one family in Spain, the father had never been on a plane in his life! It was their only daughter and they wanted to make sure she was happy. It was fantastic for us and for them."
Contemplating what an au pair means to her, she says: "To me an au pair gets pocket money, she's part of the family and respected as part of the family. She mirrors our parenting style. Anything we wouldn't permit the children to do, she doesn't permit them to do. Obviously, monitoring internet usage is hugely important at this stage. That's what we really like about our current au pair Lucia – she's a perfect au pair with our girls who are young teenagers."
Margaret's advice for people is to opt for an au pair who has some life experience and who has perhaps done a little bit of travelling.
She also says liaising with an agency can be worthwhile. "When you have the support of the agency and you tell them who you are looking for, they will send you quite a bit of background information, including character references, health clearance, etc. They're well vetted but it's your choice at the end of the day and it's your responsibility what the au pair does in your home. Spend a little time upfront investing in your relationship with your au pair."
To see recordings of When the Au Pair Comes to Stay, check out RTÉ Player at www.rte.ie/player.
Mother & Babies