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'My au pair saves me at least €500 a month'

Louise Murphy is a single mother of a 21-month-old boy, Oisin. Until recently she was paying €250 a week for full-time care of Oisin in a creche.

But since she is a psychiatric nurse and works shifts, she still often had to ask her mother to take care of Oisin in the evening.

"I work three days a week in 12-hour shifts. I could drop him off at the creche before I started at 7.45am since it was open at 7.30am. But the creche closed at six and I often wouldn't finish until nine," she says.

Because the days she worked varied week to week, Murphy still paid for full-time care even if she only used the creche for three days.

The biggest problem was the cost. "I had no money left at the end of the month; something had to change," she says.

Murphy decided to find an au pair. She now has a 25-year-old Spanish woman, Miriam Solana, who is in Ireland to improve her English.

Solana is paid €100 a week pocket money and has her own bedroom and bathroom. Murphy also provides meals.

"So far it's been great. I'm saving at least €500 a month.

" I'm now in a position where I can think about reducing my hours and have more time with Oisin," she says.

Irish Independent