Saturday, January 17, 2009

Au Pair for the Pair

Status quo with the babies - no news is good news!  I definitely feel like they are getting bigger by the way it feels when they move around.  Feeling more contractions (mainly at night) - so I'm probably getting used to this dosage of medication.  Might need to increase the dosage but at least there's room to increase it.  I go back to the doctor on Tuesday of this week.

I thought I would write a bit about our process for finding daycare for these two little boys.  As I'm still waiting for this to feel "real" this part of the process is not complete.  We started last summer by inquiring of a few day care centers in the area.  It was a little difficult because I work in Eden Prairie and Ben works downtown....and then we live in another direction.  So there wasn't a logical area that would be conducive to us sharing the drop-off/pick-up process.  We also found that it was quite expensive...over $2k per month PER baby.  The next idea was a nanny and we found those prices to be slightly less expensive but not significantly.  Someone then told us about "au pairs".  We decided to investigate...

An au pair is essentially a nanny that comes from a different country and lives with you for one year. They range from ages 18-26 and have significant experience with caring for children and are certified with things like CPR.  They are looking for an experience in the United States to improve their English, learn the culture, and take care of children. Therefore the costs are mainly to pay the agency and subsidize their living costs.  Having done Camp Adventure in college and experiencing Okinawa Japan for a summer I was very interested in the program.  I feel that she will have more of a vested interest in caring for the babies.  I also think that having her live here she will see how Ben and I parent and love the babies and that will help too.  We also found that it was significantly less expensive than the other options we explored (about 1/3 of the annual cost).  And it will be less stressful not having to pack the boys up each day and night - they could be at our home with Gussie.

We applied for the program in October and had an in-home interview.  We were accepted and given access to the "family room" - a website that has very comprehensive profiles of all of the candidates.  The profiles include pictures, references, details of their childcare experience, their health history, a letter from them, etc.  From that website we are to look for possible matches. They recommended we interview 3-5 candidates and speak with them each on the phone 5 times before making a decision.  My sense is that their English skills can vary significantly.  Because you don't get to meet them in person before they jump on a plane to come move in with you and take care of your children the phone interviews are very important!

We were also paired with a matching expert that I have spoken to several times.  She has told me that South America might be a good area to find someone since they typically have larger families and the candidates are likely experienced in caring for siblings and relatives.  We also like the idea of the Spanish/Portuguese language influence. On the other hand, because the maternity leave policies in Europe are usually very long many of the European candidates likely have experience with babies 6 months and up.  Since there are going to be two little tiny ones we have been focusing on candidates that have experience with babies 0-6 months and also preferably situations where there are multiple infants such as a daycare environment.  

I remember when I was selecting countries for my Camp Adventure trip I was drawn to Okinawa for reasons like the warm weather and the ocean (it is often referred to as Asia's Hawaii).  A few of the profiles of au pairs that I have seen are interested in California or NYC - so they are clearly out of the running.  I'm still trying to think about how to credibly "sell" Minneapolis.  So far I'm have the Mall of America and lots of lakes (although we have neither a boat or cabin).  Since I despise outdoor winter activities when the temperature is below 45 I'm open for ideas!!

This morning I finally called two of the candidates that we want to interview.  One is in Switzerland and one in Brazil. Wasn't able to reach either of them but I feel a lot better now that the first call has been made.  I have promised myself to call again this weekend until I reach them.  I'm usually very quick about making decisions - if you told me I had to go buy a new car and only had 1 hour to get it done I would get it done....but something about this decision is making me procrastinate.  I really want someone hired before they are born because I have this feeling that after I see them for the first time there wouldn't be any candidates that would fit the bill.

Since we concluded on the au pair route we decided to finish the basement.  We received some quotes for people to do it all for us and it was insane (one quote was $80k).  So we decided Ben would be the "general contractor". Needless to say it's not done yet, but I am very proud of all the work he has done, even though there was a lot of air-nailing that took place after my 8:00 bedtime during the first and second trimesters!  He's more than just a cute CPA!  It's actually coming along very nicely. All that is left are the custom cabinets, the trim, the doors, and setting the bathroom fixtures. It will definitely be ready for the au pair to move in in February or March.

Here's Ben working on the framing...

Ben primed the walls and ceiling  all day on Friday after Thanksgiving and then Saturday my Dad came up and helped him paint the walls.  Thanks for helping, Dad!! They went through 12 gallons of paint on the walls (after it was primed) and were VERY tired by the time they finished at 9:30 that night.  He'll appreciate me posting this picture...

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