My in­ter­net child­min­der

The Jewish Chronicle - - Front Page -

WOULD you e n t r u s t your child r e n t o the care of an au pair you h a d met, in­terv i e w e d and hired over the in­ter­net? When a friend first sug­gested the idea, I was hor­ri­fied. How could I leave my kids with a stranger I had never laid eyes upon? A busi­ness­woman and her­self a mother of three, she as­sured me the web of­fered good, af­ford­able child­care and that she had re­cruited sev­eral re­li­able au pairs this way.

I was un­con­vinced, but the re­al­ity of looking af­ter three young chil­dren was tak­ing its toll. My ma­ter­nity leave was end­ing and our child­min­der was not go­ing to be able pick up the slack. A new ar­range­ment was needed.

I was al­ways amazed by the calm in my friend’s house, com­pared with the war zone in ours. What is more, she and her hus­band had a so­cial life and gym mem­ber­shipthey­ac­tu­al­lyused.Ourevenings and week­ends were spent tidy­ing up, bick­er­ing about tidy­ing up and sit­ting on the couch in a TV-in­duced coma.

Af­ter much de­bate, we de­cided to take a chance. Co­in­ci­den­tally, we heard about a Hun­gar­ian au pair who was looking for a new fam­ily. We met her, I took ref­er­ences, spoke to her em­ployer, then asked her to start when we re­turned from hol­i­day. The pre­ar­ranged date came around… but our au pair didn’t. I re­peat­edly tried con­tact­ing her, but to no avail.

It was back to the draw­ing board and I was run­ning out of steam. My friend stepped in and pointed me to­wards a pop­u­lar au pair­ing web­site. The idea ap­pealed more now. We had mis­judged the pre­vi­ous girl af­ter meet­ing her. On­line there were hun­dreds of hope­fuls — but where to be­gin? My friend helped me cre­ate a fam­ily pro­file with a de­scrip­tion of the kind of per­son we were af­ter. I ner­vously pressed en­ter…

The re­sponse was un­der­whelm­ing. No one suit­able came back to us. So I started to trawl through the list­ings, seek­ing out ap­pro­pri­ate candidates. With three boys un­der five, the last thing I needed was an­other child in my house. I wanted some­one in­de­pen­dent, sen­si­ble and in her mid-20s. All I had to go on were brief bios ac­com­pa­nied by thumb­nail pho­tos posted on the site.

My in­box soon filled up with mes­sages from women I had con­tacted. Some were no longer avail­able; oth­ers were keen but had no child­care ex­pe­ri­ence. Then there were those who wanted to come to Lon­don to join their boy- friends. I was not ex­pect­ing fire­works, but they all felt wrong.

Un­til Alice. She was 26 and worked in a spe­cial-needs nurs­ery in Prague. She had a teach­ing de­gree and had pre­vi­ously spent a year in France looking af­ter four chil­dren. She re­turned to the Czech Repub­lic with flu­ent French and hoped to do the same with her English. I was im­pressed and con­tacted her im­me­di­ately. We ex­changed emails and chat­ted over the phone. She sent pic- tures and de­scribed her­self, her fam­ily and her ad­dic­tion to bikram yoga. We replied with pho­tos of us and a taste of life in our fam­ily. Some­thing seemed to click. I took ref­er­ences and con­tacted the French fam­ily she had lived with. The mother told me we were “lucky to have found her”.

Alice ar­rived in May. We were ex­cited, but guarded. I wor­ried that our in­ter­net “con­nec­tion” may not ex­tend to real life, de­spite a good first im­pres­sion. One night my anx­i­ety ran riot as I awoke with a start, pan­ick­ing that her ref­er­ences could be fake. “Who is this girl?” I won­dered, ter­ror-stricken. “She could be a se­rial killer!”

For­tu­nately, there has been no blood­shed, nor any ma­jor dis­as­ters. In fact, from our per­spec­tive, things are go­ing well. Alice gets on with the kids and our moun­tain of house­work has been down­graded to a mi­nor mole­hill. Now that we have a reg­u­lar babysit­ter my hus­band and I have been go­ing out more, get­ting on bet­ter, and have even re­joined the gym.

Of course Alice’s French em­ployer was right — we got lucky; it could so eas­ily have gone ei­ther way. So when Alice even­tu­ally de­cides to head home, will we go back to the in­ter­net for her suc­ces­sor? Maybe, maybe not. We will cross that su­per­high­way when we come to it.

Lianne Kolirin ( left) with her three chil­dren and Alice the au pair

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.