It is very early in the morning on my last day of parental leave, ZCP is already awake and I can hear Wifey tapping away on her computer working on a agricultural mentoring program she is involved in. I have spent the last couple of days in a very reflective mood in relation to my time as a full time Dad and what exactly it has meant to me and my family.
What started off as an opportunity to see if Wifey wanted to work full time on the farm became a necessity when halfway through seeding we found ourselves down a workman. There was little doubt in my mind (or anyone else’s for that matter) that Wifey would love being on the farm however what the parental leave enabled us to do was explore this opportunity in a low risk environment from both a financial viewpoint and more importantly in terms of the kid’s wellbeing. On this front the decision has been made that Wifey will continue to work on the farm and start to play a bigger role in it’s running as time goes on.
With the prospect of us both working full time we have started down a new path that has seen us employ a Danish au pair to help out with ZCP and ASH, this is a process which had both amusing as well as challenging moments with the end result being that of a very positive experience to this point.
Another side which needs to be examined is how I found the experience as a full time parent. To be completely honest I am not sure I will be able to articulate exactly what it meant to me however what I can say is that I feel incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to spend 3 months with my beautiful children at such a young age. My frank appraisal is that I would encourage all Dad’s to spend sometime as the primary carer however if possible I would not do it until the children involved are ‘off the boob’.
Taking over Mum and Dad’s room
While I loved the time I spent with ASH and ZCP it would be disingenuous of me to say it was all plain sailing. What I have captured in this Blog have been the more humorous if not somewhat stressful incidents that occured however there were moments when I really questioned what I was doing and if the kids wouldn’t be better off with their Mum looking after them. Has the experience changed me? Definitely would be the answer to that. Something that did happen that was thoroughly welcome if not unexpected was that Wifey and I have become even closer than we were before I started my time at home.
I always knew that me being a full-time Dad would give me a better understanding of what Mum’s go through on a daily basis and similarly it gave Wifey an appreciation of some of the frustrations of working from home with children around on the days she was doing computer work. What I wasn’t sure about and to be honest was somewhat concerned about was how this complete change in roles would make us feel both individually and as a couple. Would there be some jealously around ASH coming to me first when she was upset or resentment from my end at Wifey having an incredibly productive day when all I had done was get one load of washing done?
While I would be lying if we said there hadn’t been certain times when we had those feelings what always came to the fore was that this experience made us realise what a true ‘partnership’ is. My Mum has always said you will only get through being a parent of young children with your relationship intact if you are a ‘unit’ with each contributing what they are able when faced with any give situation. My firm feeling is that our family’s experience over the past few months has given Wifey and I the ability but more importantly the confidence to handle most challenges regardless of which parent would traditionally be expected to handle them.
I have no doubt I will make other observations around my time as a ‘stay at home Dad’ in future Blogs however am feeling quite drained after being serious for more than ten minutes so what better way to lighten the mood than describing our familly’s journey to find a suitable au pair.
As with most big decisions in our life to this point the topic came up in a rather nondescript fashion and the choice made with the minimum of fuss.
Me: So, do you think continuing to work on the farm with your Dad is what you want to do?
Wifey: Yep, do you want to go back to legalised drug pushing?
Wifey: Right then we are going to need a nanny.
A few days later I found myself looking at quite literally dozens of profiles of young women from all over the world who wanted to come and help us out with our somewhat crazy family life. As per usual Wifey did a lot of research and found a website called the thebestaupair.com which for a $70 subscription fee arms you with all the information you need to make an informed decision when it comes to choosing someone to effectively become part of your family.
We found the document database that subscribers can access very helpful, this provided us with questions to ask during the Skype interviews as well as templates for employment contracts and visa requirements etc.
We got tripped up on the last point as having chosen a Georgian (as in formerly part of the USSR) girl to come and work with us we found out her getting a visa to Oz was nigh on impossible so one piece of advice would be to check what the visa agreements are between Australia and the country your prospective au pair comes from.
One of the funnier moments of this process was showing ZCP some of the profile pictures which is something the website reccomends you do if the children are over 2. Having seen the photo of a Portugese girl with dark hair in a bob she all of a sudden got very excited, pointed at the screen and started yelling ‘Dora, Dora I want Dora’. Needless to say this candidate through no fault of her own was immediately removed from the shortlist as Wifey quite rightly pointed out what a nightmare it would be when our Dora the Explorer lookalike au pair finished her six month stint took her ‘backpack, backpack’ and left our daughter heartbroken having lost her cartoon like carer.
Another highly amusing moment came in the form of what I now call the ‘Venezuelan Incident’ which involved Kissa (my father in law), one of my brothers and a 21 yo South American au pair candidate who based on her profile pictures would not have been out of place in a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. Not unsurprisingly my father in law and brother’s interest in the process increased dramatically on viewing the pictures with Kissa quite simply saying ‘she’s the one, her hire’ and my brother indicating he would be spending a lot more time with his Godson ZCP if she was our final choice.
This commentary from two male family members was not unexpected however what was surprising was that Wifey was keen on her from an au pair point of view as she was one of the best qualified candidates with extensive experience. I also had reservations around having someone staying in the house who looked like a cross between a young Catherine Zeta-Jones and Megan Fox not least of all because it would mean my mates and brothers would never leave our place. Despite my concerns in Wifey’s opinion it didn’t matter what she looked like which in my mind was somewhat naive. Thankfully the matter was finally resolved when we found the perfect fit for our family.
‘The Nordic Nanny’ (to be referred to as TNN) as my best mate has nicknamed her is quite simply the most mature, intelligent and humorous 19 year old either of us had ever met. During the course of two Skype interviews we found her to be so delightful that we could not wait to get her out to WA which is something that TNN accomplished in four weeks from when we offered the job. Now while that timeframe may not seem that impressive if you factor in that for two of those weeks were spent in the USA you will appreciate the kind of individual we are dealing with.
It has only been two and a half weeks but already we know we have made the right decision in terms of who we have employed and now it is down to all of us to workout exactly what having an au pair and indeed being an au pair is all about.
The only advice I would give anyone when choosing someone who is going to become part of your family and care for your children is below:
1. Use a website and don’t be a tight arse, spend a bit of cabbage on subscribing to get full access as it is well worth it.
2. Talk to other families who have had au pairs to get there general impressions of the experience but don’t get into too much detail about what they had there’s do.
3. Try and chose someone who:
– is as intelligent as possible, at the end of the day being smart will see them overcome most
challenges they face
– hasn’t been an au pair before but has lived with a host family or been on an exchange program.
This way you know they have experience living with a family but don’t have any preconceived ideas
of what being an au pair is like or should be like.
– is a straight talker, find this out by asking some fairly direct questions about conflict in the interview
Well there you go an idiot’s guide to choosing an au pair. I really should have got Wifey to write about this but no doubt she will mercilessly critique what I have written and have me correct any mistakes the next time I post.
As I finish off I will share my first of several tips around ‘When you know you are a true stay at home Dad’
TIP 1: You know when you are a true stay at home Dad when that random metallic object you find in your jeans is in fact a buttefly shaped hair clip and not a keyring bottle opener.
That’s all from me I will save the UN comes to the Midwest for next time along with Wifey launching a website and more on the farm. On the subject of the farm we are expecting some pretty decent rainfall this week, I hope farmers, farmer’s wives (or husbands for that matter ) or anyone in agriculture gets some good rain in the near future.