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Parenting

Last Summer when our Daughter started school for the first time we had a dilemma, both myself and my Husband were not finishing work until 5pm, so who would collect her from school? Should we send her to after school care or think about getting someone else to collect her from school instead? We looked at the various options and came to the conclusion that an Au Pair may be the answer to our needs. Luckily one of my friends had recently hosted two different Au Pairs. So I spent a bit of time quizzing her, then with a bit of insight and advice I was able to get on and start the search for someone who would fit into our family.

What is an Au Pair?

An Au Pair is a young person between the ages of 18 to 30 years old. They are usually unmarried with no children. They are travelling abroad to live in another country on a temporary basis. Au Pair actually means “by mutual agreement” in French. They come and live in your family home free of charge and you also provide the food for their meals. In return they act like a ‘big Brother’ or ‘Sister’ within your family.

What does an Au Pair actually do?

Like any member of your family an Au Pair is expected to help out with the daily household tasks. For example this can include: taking your children to and from school or nursery, helping with homework and playing with them, assisting your children with tidying their rooms, preparing the children’s meals and washing and ironing their clothes.

How many hours should they be working?

30 hours per week including baby sitting. They are entitled to at least one day off a week.

How much do you have to pay them?

Au Pairs are not payed a salary, but instead you provide them with weekly pocket money. In the UK this is in the region of £70-£85 per week, however some families do pay more.

Where do you find one?

There are many agencies that will find an Au Pair for you, but they will charge a substantial fee, however this does take the hassle out of your search and checks.

Or you could like I did use one of the numerous search sites that connect you with various applicants for a a reasonable membership fee. However bear in mind that you will need to put in a lot of time and effort to find your perfect fit.

What sort of qualities or qualifications should you look for?

Firstly ensure that they have the relevant entry visa requirements to work in the UK or consider EU nationals only. Make sure that they do have some childcare experience. Talk to them either on the phone or ideally on Skpe and make sure that their English is up to scratch, especially if you have young children they are going to have to be able to communicate effectively. Check if they had done a paediatric first aid course.

What checks should you make on them?

Ideally you should do a Police Check on them from the country where they live. Also some sort of reference either from a previous employer or at least from a School or College they have attended. I also asked for proof of home address and birth certificate or ID card. It’s also a good idea to ask them for an emergency contact or who their next of kin is in case of emergencies.

Should they sign a contract?

Yes it is a good idea so you can get everything down in writing and then both parties know what is agreed. You can find examples of these online.

My top tips for helping your Au Pair settle in

  1. Before your Au Pair arrives send them some information about the local area you live in. Perhaps suggests websites they could visit to get more information to familiarise themselves with where they are going to be living and things they might want to do.
  2. If your Au Pair is going to attend college while in the UK to improve their English, suggest some reputable colleges they could attend?
  3. Start to draw up a timetable or make a spread sheet which outlines what the families daily routine looks like. For example what time does your child get dropped off or collected from school. Does you child attend after school activities? If so when and where? Make it easy for them to see what is expected of them.
  4. Explain to them how the local transport system works. As we are based in London I made sure our Au Pair had a fully loaded Oyster card and I explained how she could top it up.
  5. Think about providing them with a pay as you go mobile phone. I think most families I know have. Make sure you explain how they top it up.
  6. Try and find out if anyone else in your area has an Au Pair? That way they can be introduced to someone who is in a similar position to them.
  7. Make sure their room is welcoming and has all the essentials, bedding, towels ect..
  8. On the day they arrive try to put them at ease. It can be quite an overwhelming experience coming to live in a new country. We took our Au Pair out for a meal the first day she arrived. Why not think about asking your child to make a welcome card!
  9. Write a list of all the foods that your child like or dislikes and think about what sort of cooking you expect from your Au Pair.
  10. Do discuss how you expect your Au Pair to discipline your child, remember they come from a different culture and also may not have had this much responsibility before.
This is our lovely Au Pair Laurie with our Daughter

Our Experience

We were so lucky as this was our first experience of hosting an Au Pair. Laurie was 19 years old so I was a bit apprehensive that she was so young and was wondering about her level of experience. She came from the South of France and from the moment she arrived I could tell that she was a caring and mature person. She really connected with Amelia from the minute she arrived and would spend hours sitting on the floor playing with Amelia’s toys.

Laurie stayed with us for just over three months and this was always the plan as she wanted to go back to her family for Christmas, plus she had plans to Au Pair in Italy the following year. I feel that not only did Amelia benefit from having a ‘big Sister’, but myself and my Husband also gained by learning more about the French culture and way of life.

Laurie became part of our family and when she left we really missed her. We have stayed in touch and she is coming to visit us for a weekend soon.  We had a very positive experience and I would really recommend hosting an Au Pair if you are looking for extra help with your family!

If you are looking for more information then have a look at the  Gov UK Website.

 

 

 

Cuddle Fairy

I will never forget the trip to the supermarket on a day when I was feeling really low about not having a another baby. There I was loading all my usual shopping onto the conveyor belt. It was obvious I had a child, packs of wipes, fish fingers, rice crackers, ice lollies. I smiled at the lady on the till who was scanning them through. I’m sure it was her intention to just make a bit of polite conversation, but for me this was going to be one step too far today. The conversation started like this:

“So, you have children do you?”

“Yes.” I gave a curt one word answer hoping it would go no further.

“Oh how many do you have?”

“One.”

“Oh, only the one? Aren’t you going to have another one then?”

“No, not at the moment.”

“It’s such a shame, children need other little brothers and sisters to play with. You should do it, you have plenty of time”

Thankfully she had finished scanning all my shopping, so I grabbed my Tesco Clubcard,  and money-saving vouchers and got out of there as fast as my legs and trolley would carry me.

Back in the safety bubble of my car, tears rolled down my cheeks. It’s happening again the same old scenario, why do complete strangers feel they have the right to discuss with you in public your future family plans? I know many people are just making an innocent conversation, but could someone please teach supermarket cashiers or any other well-meaning person to keep their probing questions to themselves? They have no idea what so ever why I might not be having another child. I may have had fertility issues or my Husband may have just left me. Neither of which are true, but please a bit of sensitively could go a long way.

I will tell you why I am having one child and no more. Lets get it out in the open shall we? Firstly I am 41 years old and I do not honestly think my general health, mind or body could cope with another pregnancy or a newborn. I suffered with Post Natal Depression and it is only now four and half years later than I have finally managed to come off my antidepressants. Secondly my Husband really does not want another child, he is in his mid fifties and says the prospects of another newborn would finish him off! So despite still having a strong desire for another child I have decided against it.

It is a sad fact that my Daughter will never have a brother or sister and I can tell you the pain I feel when she asks, (which she does often), “please Mummy can I have a baby Sister” it goes through me like a knife. Or the time when I see her stoking the head of a newborn, which she does in such a caring and gentle way, another little piece of me dies.

However, I try to be positive and see how blessed I am to have a healthy happy little girl in the first place. In my work as a Nurse I often come across women who have fertility issues and will never conceive naturally or at all. So I am grateful every day for my gorgeous girl, but that doesn’t stop me wondering what it could have been like if I had more than one child.

I have learnt to accept my position as a Mother of one. I am not going to be part of the baby number two club. No, I won’t be able to join in the conversation at the school gates about how you entertain two children at the same time. I know I will never again feel that strange butterfly feeling when your baby kicks for the first time. However, I still need to get rid of that newborn car seat that I was hanging on to just in case. I am almost at peace with my situation, if only people would just not have to ask ‘that’ question, “is it just the one child you have then?”

Mummy Times Two

How many times have you suffered with a health issue and thought I really should see a Doctor about that, but because of the busy and hectic life you are leading you don’t manage to make that appointment? I know this feeling well and as a working parent there have been many occasions over the last four years that I have perhaps not taken my health as seriously as I should. We are all too busy running around looking after everyone else in our lives. Our children are our main focus, so we rarely have time to stop and think about ourselves.

It is obvious that your own health should be your priority, because if you are not mentally and physically fit to look after your own family then who will? In today’s society it is often the case that we no longer live near our immediate family. In my case both my parents live more than 100 miles away, so are not in a position to help if things go wrong. So now is the time to start looking at what you can do to improve your health. Why leave it to the New Year to start?

First of all, are there any outstanding tests or investigations that you have been putting off? Are you up to date with your cervical smear test? You should be having a test every three years. In my job as a Practice Nurse I perform numerous smears on a daily basis. One of the things I hear nearly every day is “I know I should have come sooner, I have been putting it off”. Please don’t put this test off, it really does just take a couple of minutes and it could save your life. So if you have had a letter recently reminding you your test is due, pick up the phone and book your appointment at your GP surgery today. For more information about cervical screening have a look at NHS Choices .

My next question to you is are you over forty? If so did you know that the NHS offers a free health check? This is something that not everyone seems to be aware of and doesn’t always take up. It is a check up of your overall health and it can tell you if you are more at risk of: heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and stroke. First you need to attend your surgery to have blood tests taken and then you will be invited back to discuss the results. At the appointment you will also have your blood pressure and weight taken. This is usually done by the Practice Nurse or Health Care Assistant. Once completed it will be able to give you an overall picture of your health and the areas you need to improve upon.

You might wonder if having a health check actually makes any difference? The NHS latest research suggests that,
“For every 27 people having an NHS Health Check, one person is diagnosed with high blood pressure, for every 110 people having a Health Check, one person is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and for every 265 people having a Health Check, one person is diagnosed with kidney disease”.

Getting this check done could be the first step to ensuring you get the correct treatment for a condition, that you might have otherwise not known you had.

Don’t forget about your mental health either. 1 in 4 people will have suffered with some sort of mental health problem in their lifetime. Stop for a second and think about how your mental health may be effecting your daily life?

  • Are you eating, drinking or smoking too much?
  • Are you short tempered with your children or partner?
  • Do you lack energy or always feel tied or run down?

All of these things could be related to your mental health. Not all of us want to or need to go for counselling, but have you considered it? You will be able to get help via your GP. For more information about mental health see the Mind website .

Finally, I would like to draw to your attention to that health niggle that you might have had for some time. Whether it be the mole on your back that you have noticed has been getting bigger, or perhaps you have suffered with heart burn/acid indigestion for a long time or you have had a change in bowel habit, but have done nothing about it. Make the time now to speak to your GP. Our health is so precious and you should never under estimate the benefits of an early diagnosis.

 

 

Little girl with eyes closed blowing nose into white tissue

I work as a Practice Nurse within a GP surgery, so that means I am heavily involved in the promotion and administration of the nasal spray flu vaccine for children. I have noticed that apart from GP surgeries writing to parents to remind them that the nasal flu is available, there seems to be very little in the way of public promotion on this very important vaccination.

We all know the hand hygiene of our little people can be very poor. When pre-schoolers start Nursery there seems to be an influx of them picking up every bug going. Most parents I know are making sure their children are up to date with their pre-school booster and MMR, but what about getting the nasal flu this Winter?

You might be thinking is it really necessary? The first thing I would say is think about contracting Flu, it really is an unpleasant experience for both you and your child. Flu itself is a lot more than a nasty cold and it can lead to hospitalisation in a young child, especially one that has a chronic conditions such as Asthma and Diabetes. According to the DOH “Healthy under-5s are more likely to be admitted to hospital with flu than any other age group – and 5 times more likely than 65-year-olds”.

Another side issue that I would like to point out is how contracting Flu and then passing it on to another member of the community is something that we really can avoid. Looking at immunisation from this perspective is something in my experience as a health professional that people rarely consider. Perhaps your child is going to be visiting an elderly person who for what ever reason didn’t manage to get their flu jab this Winter. How would you feel about passing it on to them? Or maybe you have a friend or relative who is undergoing chemotherapy and their immune system is compromised? Catching Flu could really put them at risk. Lastly how about newborn or premature babies, they are really at risk from Flu and the complications that goes with it. I think we all need to think a bit further that our own families.

Which children are offered it?

In the autumn/winter of 2016-17, the vaccine will be available free on the NHS for eligible children, including:
children aged two, three and four on August 31 2016 – that is, children born between September 1 2011 and August 31 2014
children in school years one, two and three
in some parts of the country, all primary school-aged children will be offered the vaccine as part of a test programme
children aged 2 to 17 with long-term health conditions

(Above information from NHS Choices)

So what does it involve?

I administer this vaccination numerous times a day, so I can tell you honestly it is pain free and if anything your child may find it uncomfortable for a few seconds at the most. The vaccine is squirted up both nostrils, your child doesn’t have to do anything and that is it! (some children may require a second dose if they have a chronic health condition check with your GP).

Make sure you tell your health professional if your child has any allergies, especially eggs or neomycin as this vaccine may not be advisable.

So if you have not heard from your local surgery by November then why not contact them to book an appointment, or you could ask your School Nurse.

For more information have a look at the following Public Health England leaflet

5 reasons reasons to vaccinate your child against flu

If you have any more questions you can have a look at the below link or speak to your GP or Practice Nurse.

Flu Vaccination Q&A

This post has recently been featured on Huffington Post

The Pramshed

Lets face it all Mums these days need to be a Fairy Godmother and wave their magic wand to make sure that the whole of the family have their numerous events, appointments and other social engagements synced. Now that my Daughter has started full time School I decided that I needed to be more organised with planning my week. I was going to wait until the end of the year to purchase a new diary, but I happened to be browsing in Waterstones last week and found an excellent new diary called the Family Life Book 2017 by Organised Mum (RRP: £14.49).

I have tried many times to used an electronic diary either on my smart phone or via Google Mail. Of course there are many benefits to having your diary online including being able to access it online at anytime.You can share it with other members of your family and make any changes instantly. However something just doesn’t sit right with me and electronic diaries. I am quite traditional and like to hold my diary in my hand, keep it in my handbag and always have it as a record for years to come if I want to look back and see what I did on a particular day.

This diary runs from academic year August 2016 until December 2017, which for a busy Mum actually makes more sense than your usual January to December diary.

 One of the best features for this type of dairy is that it has seven columns which you can use to document each member of your families daily appointment or activities. So it is perfect for me to keep track of which after school clubs my Daughter is participating in and to make sure I know what her pick up time is each day.

At the front there is a useful Weekly Routines page so you could put regular clubs or activities here also, if you don’t want to keep repeating yourself. An added extra is that you get some great stickers included. So you can stick them on the relevant pages so that these events or appointments stand out.

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Other extra features include: To Do section, Budget, Income and Outgoing set out for each month, Christmas Plans and Shopping Lists, Summer Holiday Planner, removable shopping lists, separate address book and a pouch to the back cover which you can store sheets of paper/notes/flyers ect….

My top ten tips for keeping an organised diary

  • Consider writing everything in pencil, then if your schedule changes you can just rub it out and start again, it keeps everything neat and tidy.
  • Take the time from the start to write in all of your child’s important dates and holidays relating to school including parents evenings then you won’t miss a thing!
  • Ensure you have all family birthday and anniversaries written in, then no more missed or late cards.
  • Why not take a photocopy of your weekly page and give it to your partner or even your older children to put up in their bedrooms, that way everyone knows that is happening week to week.
  • This diary includes a column for Meal Ideas so try planning your meals the week before and shopping lists will become more organised.
  • Try to write appointments in your diary straight away when you know them.
  • Keep all your previous years diary in a designated storage box, that way if you every need to check where you were it is easy to locate.
  • Using stickers helps to make important events stand out.
  • If you like writing ‘To Do’ lists why not keep these on your diary page instead of on random bits of paper or post its.
  • Keep your diary with you at all time, it might weigh your handbag down a bit, but I think it is worth it!

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Organised Mum sells lots of other products that can help you in this busy life such as: Calendars, Receipt books, Budget Books, Children’s Reward Charts and Stickers.

Disclaimer

This post is an honest reflection of my opinion of the above product. It is not a sponsored post and I have not received any payment or products for writing it.

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As a working parent the biggest headache in my opinion has to be school holidays. There are so many days to cover if you work full time hours like me. I am lucky in some respects to be self employed, so I can be some what flexible with the time I want to take off to look after my Daughter. However being self employed means that I don’t get holiday pay, so if I don’t work then I don’t get paid!

You can feel pulled between work commitments and making sure your child enjoys the Summer and that you are still doing special things together. So some how you need to find a balance of work and holidays with your children.

So here are my top tips for organising childcare this Summer:

Tip 1 – Consider asking a Grandparent or another close relative if they can help out? However this can be tricky as many people’s family are not living near by. So in my case if my Mum helps out she has to come and stay at our house for a number of weeks.

Tip 2 -What about asking one of your child’s friends parents to organise a fun day out and take your child along too? Then in return you can give them a day off? I do this occasionally with one of Amelia’s friends and it works really well. I can actually get more done round the house if she has a friend over to play.

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Tip 3 – Childminders can be a good holiday option. This can work well as some Childminders may have dry periods over the Summer when their usual children are away on holiday. Plus your child gets to be cared for in a more relaxed homely environment.

Tip 4 – Holiday Clubs and Camps are becoming more popular. Some independents Schools offer holiday clubs so check out your local area. What to look out for: staff to child ratio, are meals included or do you need to include a packed lunch, do the pick up and collection times fit into your schedule, what are the late collection charges (they can be very costly if you don’t pick up on time), will your child know anyone? As some children who are not very confident can find it really hard to fit in.

Tip 5 – Check local Gyms and Health Clubs, for example Club V at Virgin Active Gyms run holiday camps.

Tip 6 – Consider working from home, however you may not be very productive!

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Tip 7 – Registered at a Nursery for the Summer, but the child must be under 5 years. This can be very expensive, as you may be charged an admin fee.

Tip 8 – Stay and play schemes, for example the Y Active, YMCA West London run holiday fun clubs, the only down side is you can only leave your child there for a couple hours.

Tip 9 – Have you thought about getting an Au Pair to help for the Summer? You can either ask an Agency to assist in finding a suitable candidate (but the placement fee can be high) or you could try using a website such as Au Pair World and finding one yourself. This can be time consuming so be ready to spend a lot of time searching profiles and interviewing potential candidates via Skype. The average pocket money per week for an Au Pair is £80-£100.

Tip 10 – Be organised! Many holiday clubs get booked far in advance. Do your research and sign up with various companies so  you are on their email list and they will contact you once they have dates for Summer and half term.

unspecified-17Ideas for Holiday Camps/Clubs:

The Little Gym

Stagecoach

Barracudas Activity Day Camp

 

 

 

This blog post was originally written as a guest post for Networking Mummies