When I was a teenager, we had an au pair the years my parents were working long hours. Being the older child of the family, I loved the idea of having an “old sister”. I still remember sweet Anette from Denmark.
So last summer, I thought it would be a good idea to hire an au pair while Marcelo was out of school and our tiny baby kept me so busy. I used Au Pair World, a very user-friendly site with a large database of applicants from all over the world. I recommend you purchase the premium package for Eur39, which gives you full access to the database for 3 months. Also, be very specific on your requirements and expectations. The description on your lifestyle is important to re-assure the candidate that you are a suitable family.
Petra, 23 years old, came from the Czech Republic and travelled with us during July and August, to Turkey and to Provence (we paid her plane tickets, she was responsible for her trip to London). She was such a delight, discreet and very helpful at the same time, full of initiatives. I highly recommend the experience as it can be an affordable way to get help (expect to pay between Eur80-100 per week with full board included and some time off), and in the end everyone benefits.
The children, the parents, and the au pair. The most important aspect is not to consider her as a full time employee, but on the contrary as someone relatively young who is coming for the family life experience (ie. will participate in all household duties), perhaps to improve language skills and to discover a foreign culture.
We were lucky to find Petra, and I hope that she would say the same about our family despite Marcelo asking her 20 times a day for help to climb on the swing!
BozAround tips: Beware that it can be make or break, because most of the time you do not have a chance to meet the person in advance. Make sure that she (he?) already has experience as an au pair, perhaps younger brothers or sisters and do contact her previous host families for references. Also, speak by phone to verify language skills.