Why I said au revoir to my porn-loving Mary Poppins
Now that au pairs are legally considered employees who must be paid the minimum wage, Carol Hunt remembers her experience of hiring one
About a decade ago we had what could be called a childcare crisis. After five years of spending every spare penny on creche fees, both our children were now firmly ensconced in a local primary school. You'd think things would have gotten easier then, but, as many parents in similar situations will tell you, while full-time creche might be ruinously expensive, at least you don't have to deal with the vagaries of the Irish school calendar. Or the charming way that every other week, there seems to be a reason to celebrate school-life by sending the children home at 12.30 in the afternoon.
Primary school life is predicated on the fact that there is a smiling mammy (with or without the apron) waiting to greet her little darlings every day at the school gate - even if she has only dropped them there three hours previously. Sure what else would she be doing? And so, we had the "au pair" discussion. It seemed the obvious solution. We had room to spare and we were stuck. But I had doubts.
I had heard horror stories from friends and family about experiences with au pairs. There was the one - Maria, tall, brown-eyed, Spanish - who would go to bed early every night, only to reappear in her skimpy night attire when the woman of the house had retired and the hapless husband was catching up with the footie by himself. Needless to say, he was only delighted with Maria's interest in the Champions League and quite happy to overlook the fact that she couldn't tell the difference between Messi and Ronaldo. The wife, sadly, wasn't quite so tolerant and the young siren received a red card within three months.