For our normally blissfully quiet office, tucked away in Kent – having TWO media appearances within a week certainly brought a bit of excitement to our life!
Appearance on French TV
We were approached by our French partner organisation to take part in a documentary which covers the exploitation of au pairs – and how using an agency like Smartaupairs/our French sending agency – can provide a safety net for all parties.
Our Hone host family and their au pair Oceane kindly agreed to take part in the documentary to represent what the program and experience is meant to be like.
We also made an appearance in the Times newspaper whereby the au pair solution /smartaupairs was recommended as one way to delegate and thereby as a way to making the family life that little bit easier.
Wow, 500 au pairs! That is how many au pairs attended the Sunday gone in the London BAPAA Au Pair Welcome Event. The event brought together au pairs from many different BAPAA agencies for some fun activities, socialising and above all finding new friends.
Tuuli, Smartaupairs Director was the host for the day, joined by Simge and Gianna from Smartaupairs team and other helpers from seven other BAPAA agencies.
Connie and Essential Travel have worked together on an article to introduce the program to young people seeking cultural exchange.
“The main purpose of the Au Pair experience is the cultural exchange, learning a different culture by living alongside a family in the host country. Therefore, it is important that a candidate is not afraid to try out new things and has a positive and flexible approach. As the Au Pair will be spending the majority of the time with their host family, they must enjoy family life, spending time with children, and taking part in family activities for instance.”
The article also notes the main benefits that au pairs get out of the program:
– It could be a great way to learn a language if that’s your aim
– There’s no worry about commuting as you will be living with the family
– If you are lucky, you may even get your own car, TV, mobile or land in a place with a pool!
– You will really get to grips with a foreign culture as you will be living it
If you are interested in taking part in the au pair program, we can help! We specialise in placements to Australia, as we have our very own office in Sydney. We can also help with placements in Europe.
Contact us on 0800 917 8166 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
On Sunday, the Sun Herald newspaper featured a very informative article about the shortage of au pairs and the need for an au pair visa in Australia. We recommend that host families start interviewing 3-6 months in advance and many of our regular family are already interviewing now for their au pair to start in July/August!
To counter the seasonal shortage of au pairs, the industry is lobbying the federal government to introduce a specific au pair working holiday visa, so au pairs can stay with the one family for 12 months instead of the present six-month limit. Australian demand for au pairs has doubled in the past three years, agencies said, as families realise they are a more flexible form of childcare than long-day care or after-school care, and far cheaper to employ than nannies.
Today is Connie Lee’s first day as part of our smartaupairs team.
She has taken on the role as our Business Development Manager with the view of developing and further growing smartaupairs au pair agency.
Connie has graduated from university with a degree in business studies and she therefore has the knowledge and capabilities to enable her to take on this varied role.
She has also previously worked for the family business and therefore has the understanding on how small businesses are run and operate, and we have therefore no doubt that she will easily adapt to our close knit team at smartaupairs.
Connie enjoys spending time with family and close friends, and also has an interest in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and enjoying different forms of fitness such as yoga which she has recently taken up.
Additionally she enjoys travelling and learning about new and different cultures, having visited and travelled within Asia, she would very much one day like to travel around America, and travel the famous route 66!
“Women taking a break in their careers or going part-time to look after their babies or preschool-aged children seems to get a lot more attention and support from governments, the media and society in general.
What’s often not talked about are the women who decide to step off the corporate ladder to spend more time with their teenage children. When your kids are older there’s a fair chance your career is in full-flight and respect from your superiors and peers is growing as fast as your responsibilities and hours.
What motivates women to put on the brakes and pull back in their careers at a time when their workplaces need them just as much as their teenage children?”
“Nicole Kofkin worked fulltime for almost 20 years, primarily in the marketing area of the travel industry in the UK. She loved her work-from-home days but in order to step up to the next level, including managing a team, she was told she had to be in the office every day, which would have meant gruelling commuting and a 60-hour week.
Kofkin set up a Sydney au pair agency called Smartaupairs to enable her to work part-time and have the flexibility to be there for her boys, now aged 9 and 12, as they entered their teenage years. One-third of the families she has on her books have teenage children. They employ au pairs – young women from Europe and America – to live in the home and act as big sisters, role models, homework helpers and a “taxi service” when their parents can’t be around fulltime.
Kofkin: “It would never be voiced but you know in the corporate world if you make the decision as a mum to go part-time or ask for flexibility, it can affect your career. You know the employer will say ‘Oh well, there will be someone else to step into that position to do everything we want’.
I had to make a big decision to go part-time and for women who do that I think they deserve a pat on the back for that bravery.
Not everyone is in the situation where they can start their own business but you have to respect that other people want the flexibility you have. I’m proud that amongst the entire team I employ, not a single person works nine to five, five days a week. I employ several part-timers, including one mum who works some of the time from home. We all have a life outside work. Having that flexibility to work part time creates so much more happiness and fulfilment.”
Birte’s sending agency in Germany is partners both with Smartaupairs UK and Smartaupairs Australia.
Below is part of the heart-warming letter received from the Bess family to nominate Birte for the award:
“She is so instantly warm, friendly, and full of creativity. And now, after having lived with us for 7 months, she is family and we love her dearly. We will forever have her in our lives. In fact, she is flying to the US to visit us this Christmas and spend 2 weeks with us, and the kids are counting the days! I can’t even begin to detail everything she did for our family. She was always doing projects with the kids – from making life-sized drawings of them to colouring/painting. Her personality is so special…she‘s always smiling or laughing or re-telling something funny she heard. You simply cannot be depressed around her. She became so much a part of our family that the older kids would not go to bed at night without seeing her. They still to this day, over 4 months later, ask for her almost every night.
Birte also helped me so much around the house. I never had to ask her to do anything. In fact, I had to ask her to STOP doing so much and take some time for herself! To which she would always reply “We are family, and this is just what family does for each other… And then, when the kids would go to sleep and my husband was working late (again!), Birte and I would chat about life and love and our experiences…and we would laugh and sometimes cry…and watch our favorite shows together. She is like an older daughter and a sister and a best friend, all rolled into one!”
Letter from Birte:
“How can I describe so many unforgettable moments I experienced while I was an Au Pair in Australia. I love to think about all the incredible adventures and funny little situations. When I look back I always remember the warm welcoming feeling when I saw my host family for the first time. It was Keira’s 3rd birthday party (I quickly had a huge butterfly drawn on my face) and as soon as I saw Sean, Sara and the kids it felt so comfortable being around them. I never had a second thought that this would not work out. The more time we spent together (family outings, playing games, talking, special girls outings…) the more I got to know them and the more I got attached to them. I loved getting up in the morning, go upstairs and see the kids running at me asking if we could make German waffles for breakfast or if we could just play together. I will always remember Kyler asking me: ‘Are you happy, B?’ – And I answered him ‘Yes, I am’. (Because it was the truth) I was happy about everything – it was like being home! His kind and enthusiastic personality always cheered me up. Keira and I had our very own girl’s connection. After the twins were born Keira would hold my hand and tell everyone that the two of us were also twinsJ. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure how disciplining the kids would work coming from someone new, but it was very natural. Kyler and Keira seemed comforted that I held them to the boundaries they were used to. Sean and Sara helped me with that a lot. We worked like a team: They accepted me from the first day, responded to me and respected my opinions and techniques with the kids. I could always ask them how they would usually react in a certain situation. Kyler, Keira and I loved to play, to draw, to paint, to sing, to dress up and to do “silly things” together but they also respected me when I had to correct their behavior. At night when the kids were all asleep Sara, Sean and I were sitting on the couch talking (about everything), laughing, doing quizzes and eating cookies. Having Sara as my best friend, someone I could always (!) talk to, and being part of this family helped me in so many situations – I never felt alone in a country where I hardly knew anyone. When I first learned that Sara was pregnant with twins I didn’t really know what to expect. But now, looking back, I can say it was an amazing experience to be around for Aidan and Isaac’s arrival and first months. It was a huge change in the beginning and I am still impressed with how great Sara and Sean handled the whole situation. (When I visited them for Christmas again the twins had grown so much – unbelievable that I have known them from their first day on.) During my time in Australia, I took a few days off and flew up to Darwin. I drove down to Alice Springs with a group of backpackers– to see the real Outback. I really enjoyed my trip. While I was gone the older kids counted the days until I came back (and so did I). Every night they called me before they went to bed to say “Gute Nacht” (I tried to teach them some GermanJ). When it was time to leave Australia in August it was really hard to say good-bye (lots of cryingJ) but I visited them for Christmas and I got introduced to many more members of this great family (My German family is very small but now I am also part of a big American family) And I am even more excited to see them this summer again. I miss them every single day! I am honored that Smart Au Pair chose me to be “the Australian Au Pair of 2011” (although many Au Pairs are just that!!) but at the same time I know thatnothing would have been the same if I hadn’t gotten connected with the loving, kind and caring Bess family. Thank you Smart Au Pairs and magoo_international (partner agency)! This whole experience was beyond wonderful!”
Congratulations Birte from both Smartaupairs UK and Australia teams!!
If you are looking to be an au pair in Australia, click here
If you are a UK host family looking for an au pair,click here