Tuesday, 29 November 2011

How to recrute a babysitter : la suite

Over 3 years ago, I posted about harassing English speaking students in the park during my run. I was trying to recruit a babysitter for Suzanne who was nearly 1 at the time. The problem was that I wasn't quite ready for a babysitter yet.

Two years ago, when Max was one, J and I were on vacation and I was desperately craving a return to aikido at the rentrée. But...I couldn't allow myself. It took a very long discussion for me to come to a very simple conclusion : I couldn't leave my kids for an evening at aikido because every minute away from them meant that much less English. The solution was simple : hire an English speaker to take care of them once a week so I could go and know people to the ground once again (nb: aikido is a non-violent martial art that is extremely popular in France).

So, I turned to my blogging contacts and Elizabeth, a Lillloise living in the US, put me in touch with the local university. I told them I was looking for a sitter, they sent out an announcement to the exchange students and just like that we had a babysitter. This is the second year in a row we've hired an American to watch the kids once a week.

And I have to say that I wish we'd done it sooner. There are so many advantages that it makes me realize why au pairs are so popular. Obviously, I enjoy having time to myself, especially when there is minimal mommy guilt involved. But the advantage of having another native English speaker in my kids life is immeasurable. Because the babysitters don't speak French as well as someone who's been living here for a while, they don't speak French in front of my kids and so my kids don't even realize the sitter speaks any French at all. This is essential for bilingual kids, I've found.

Like many bilinguals I've read about, my kids are easily able to suss out who speaks what language. And if a person speaks the "wrong" language to them they either don't respond or respond in the "correct" language. So having another person around who speaks no French with them - since they obviously know I speak french - has been a real gift to them, especially since Max was only 1 when we hired our first babysitter.

So to any Americans in Lille, there is a huge number of American and Canadian students out there who are looking to make money. You can either get directly in touch with the university's foreign student coordination (I got in touch with the Catho). You can also go to the forum for assistants in France. Many language assistants are also looking for extra income.

The one thing you need to be careful of is to be extremely clear with the sitter that you want him/her to speak only English with your kids. We interviewed one girl who spoke French to our kids just after I explained just that; we didn't hire her.

Good luck!

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