One family's au pair success
For Bill and Emily Coggins, hiring an au pair was the perfect answer to their childcare needs. With demanding work, a two-year-old toddler at home, and twins on the way, they knew that live-in help was the way to go. But why an au pair?
"We like people!" said Ms. Coggins with a wide grin.
While she talked, Anju, an au pair from Katmandu, Nepal, sat nearby holding one-year old Grace on her lap and keeping Matthew, three, occupied until she could make his lunch.
The Coggins's are a hard-working couple: he is part owner of Ben and Bill's Chocolate Emporium while she owns Fancy That, a women's specialty shop. Their comfortable old Vineyard Haven house was once Bill's family's home. Both had successfully employed young people from other countries in their shops, which made them optimistic about hosting an au pair.
The process of finding an au pair was smooth from the outset, said Ms. Coggins. The couple employed their first au pair, Hardeep from India, in May 2007 for a one-year contract that was a success for all concerned.
The young woman helped with the newborn twins and made sure Matthew had attention. Fringe benefits were many, including the Indian food she often cooked for the whole family and the information she shared about her country and culture. The children were very comfortable with her. Now Anju and the family are getting to know each other and starting their own traditions, one of which is enjoying Nepalese cuisine together.
Reserved but cheery and smiling, Anju, 21, said her main goal in becoming an au pair is to improve her English and added that she loves children. She is delighted with her situation: "The kids are so nice, the family is so good." She keeps in close touch with family and friends in Nepal and elsewhere thanks to email and a webcam, which keeps her from being too homesick. She does not miss nightlife or urban activities on the Island since young people her age in Nepal are family-oriented and stay close to home.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
Ms. Coggins recalled the long process of getting their first au pair, beginning with searching for an agency to work with. She discovered 11 organizations online offering au pair services: all but 10 told her they do not serve this area. A staffer at the Au Pair Foundation said they also did not serve the Vineyard, but if Ms. Coggins could help find a community representative the agency would work with her. Ms. Coggins advertised the position, the Foundation hired Meg Higgins of West Tisbury, and the parents began their au pair search.
Ms. Coggins attributes her success in finding compatible au pairs to careful preparation and interviewing. "We really tried to make a match for our lifestyle with someone who would blend," she said. "I was really thorough." She asked countless questions about habits, likes and dislikes, and attitudes. "Try to cover every little thing so you don't have bumps that can be avoided," she advised.