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Grania Groezinger writes about the experiences of two older au pairs in the UK.
Grandparents are often the first choice for parents looking for childcare. Not only do they offer their services free of charge, which helps parents on a tight budget, but parents appreciate the experience the older generation have when looking after their little ones.
This attitude was one of the sparks which ignited the idea behind the Granny Au Pair Agency founded by Michaela Hansen in 2010. The ‘granny’ au pair is treated as a family member and has free room and board. In return she cares for the children in the way a grandmother would (even if she is not related to them) and gets the chance to directly experience her host country and its culture.
Women over 50, 60 or 70 often yearn for something new. After bringing up their children and/or retiring from work they may want to try something new, be with young people, widen their horizons and their language skills.
A beautiful experience
One of the several thousand ‘grannies’ who has taken up the Granny Au Pair challenge is Margret B. (62) from Germany, who managed to find a family in Wimbledon via the Granny Au Pair platform a couple of years ago. She arrived in England in January to help look after then 10-year-old Chloe and seven-year-old James. Among other things one of her jobs was to support their busy parents with the school run.
Margret [pictured above] said: “On three days a week I fetched the children from school, spent their free time with them and cooked their evening meal. Sometimes I accompanied them to guitar lessons and other group activities or looked after the children in the evening when their parents had a night out. I also helped with the housework a bit on two days a week, but the rest of the time I could spend as I liked exploring London and joining a choir and, thanks to the contacts in the choir, a weekly lunch event with other women.”
The weekends were also often spent with the family and Margret joined them on several trips to Devon. Her husband and adult daughters also visited her several times. The stay with the family was such a success that the initially planned three months up to April were extended to August.
Margret says: “Overall, I can only draw a very positive conclusion: I couldn’t have had it better. It has always been my wish to get to know England more, its people and the language. It was a very valuable and beautiful experience in my life, from which I will certainly benefit for a long time.”
Another Granny who spent time in London was Petra (54) from Bavaria, a mother of four children between the ages of 37 and 17. Initially the choices on the Granny Au Pair website seemed endless: there was everything from being a companion to a lonely widow in Washington D.C. to caring for a diplomat’s family in Geneva or living in a family in Ireland, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.
Petra cast her net closer to home and chose to spend four months with a single mother and two teenage children in
London. Petra’s “job” was mainly looking after the kids after school (they attended a German International School) and preparing the evening meal. Making meals she met with several unexpected challenges like looking for “normal” flour
for yeast dough (there is no self-raising flour in Germany) and searching for German “Quark” (curd cheese) for making cheesecake.
When the family was on holiday Petra spent her time discovering London. She says: “I now know the route from St James’ Park via Piccadilly and Leicester Square, past Admiral Nelson at Trafalgar Square, to the banks of the Thames. I know which tube stations have clean toilets and where, if you don’t trust the old lift, you have to take 194 stairs to get back to the surface.”
She particularly enjoyed meeting all kinds of different people from many places around the world. “I am carrying so many new streets, squares and people within me now. Going home, on the other hand, was like pulling on an old favourite sweater. A bit loose at the hem, but cozy, cuddly and warm. But part of me is still in London….”
*Since 2010 several thousand ‘granny’ au pairs have already been placed in families worldwide. You can get more information at www.granny-aupair.com