SWMBO stayed home for 18 months after or last little guy was born. We are fortunate that we both work in the same office, and live in a place where an 18 month mat leave is a possibility. I know that our American friends feel lucky to get 4 months, but up here in the frozen north, family values means you value family, and that means moms have a chance to raise their kids at least until they are weaned. The kids - not the moms.
In any case, our big move happened while SWMBO was on mat leave. It gave us a chance to get settled into the new house and handle the moving surprises without being under the gun with the baby underfoot. It also meant switching between programs and libraries, and community centres. Since we moved in June, and school and work both got underway in September, we were able to register the kids and get settled in the interim.
One of the family issues with moving and SWMBO going back to work was what to do about childcare. We are too far from family to lean on grandma, and we don't know anyone in the area to drop the kids with, and daycare centres are quite expensive. We opted to do something a little different and hired in an au pair.
Au pairs are a fairly foreign concept to most people we know. The name is french, and expensive sounding. The concept is international and costs about the same as a daycare would once all costs are tallied. Au pair translates directly as "an equal" and the concept is that the au pair joins your family as an equal to your children - like an older sibling that cares for the kids. An au pair is part exchange student, part nanny, part spare kid.
We hired our au pair via a website (www.aupair-world.net) that allows you to match your needs to a candidate's profile without going through an agent. this means it is up to you to do all your own leg work with regards to references, police checks, government regulations etc. Basically all the things that a nanny agency would do for you if you paid them the fees. Our hiring cost for our au pair was $50. She came to us from Paris - Champs Elysees exactly, a 21 year old just starting her career in tourism and looking for a chance to live in a Canadian family for long enough to improve her english and see the sites. We hired her on for a 6 month term and haven't looked back.
To get our house ready for the au pair, I put a floor in the basement bedroom and re-painted. I think it looks pretty good down there. She is very happy with her room.
Having an au pair so far has been fantastic. French cooking is divine, and having the extra hands to help with kids, do some light housework, and cover for us when we go out has been fantastic. As a bonus the kids are learning a little french. its almost too good to be true. Actually...
About 4 weeks into her stay with us, our au pair came to me and confided that she had been talking to her old boss back in France. She had been offered a job and a promotion back in the hotel industry in Paris - in a convention hotel's sales group. It isn't a surprise. She is fantastic with people, extremely organized, and energetic. We wish her well. But we were left scrambling with 6 weeks to find a replacement for her. The replacement arrives tonight.
Our new au pair will be coming from a small city in the northwest of France. She is young, only 18, but we are hoping she works out well. We go to the airport tonight to pick her up.