SUMMER seems to go on forever when you've got toddlers at home.
So naturally enough at this time of year, many parents think of hiring a summer au pair. This is usually a female college student who wants to come over for a few weeks in July and August to practise her English.
She gets free board, food and pocket money and you get cheap childcare. So all in all it's a win-win situation, right? Well, not always.
I've had a few au pairs and I've been an au pair myself. It's not that easy getting a live-in au pair throughout the school year. However, during the summer there seems to be an influx of girls who 'love children'.
Of course they're going to say that. I mean, when they list their hobbies they're going to mention 'reading' and 'sport' and maybe 'music'. They're not going to put 'drinking', 'smoking' and 'sexting' down on their CVs, are they?
Now, you may wonder what I'm getting at, but a couple of years ago I hired a childminder who seemed nice and bubbly and enthusiastic. So far, so good.
But then her partying started getting in the way of her duties. She turned up one morning stinking of alcohol and I asked her at what time she had come home that morning.
She admitted that she had been out clubbing until 6am. I gave her a warning, sent her home to bed and expected that she would never make the same mistake again. She came back again the following weekend looking fresh and happy and played in the garden with my child.
I forgave her for the hungover incident thinking it must have just been a once-off, and put it to the back of my mind. But can you imagine my shock when I received a text message a few weeks later reading, "I'm naked, r u?"
I think I just froze to the spot. I was too astonished to reply. But a few minutes later I received another text from the same number, "sorry, thought u were some1 else".
I'd say she was probably mortified, because I never heard from her again and I didn't contact her to do any more babysitting. Honestly I was just thankful she wasn't a live-in. I told a friend about the incident.
She confided in me that herself and her husband had fired their live-in au pair after finding out she was working as a phone sex operator using their landline!
It is not easy finding somebody suitable to look after your child but it isn't enough to just go on initial instincts. Your child is the most precious thing in the world and you need to feel you can trust their minder 100pc.
Of course what au pairs do in their own private time should really be none of my business but when saucy messages appear on my phone or I can smell the whiff of alcohol on them as they walk past, it's a different matter.
Live-in au pairs sound great as you always have somebody there in an emergency and it's a lot cheaper than paying by the hour. But there's an old Irish saying 'if you want to know me, come and live with me'. Maybe you just don't want to know.