I love the reactions from our friends and family when they find out that we welcomed a stranger into our home to help take care of our young children. It is often met with shock and lots of (mostly genuine) questions. This often leads to a discussion about the au pair program and then ends with my very serious recommendation that they should consider getting an au pair, too! I realize our story may seem too good to be true and I also recognize that it doesn’t work out this way for everyone, but there is something so satisfying about taking such a risk and having it pay off tenfold, that I feel such a strong conviction to encourage others to do the same.
We are in our second year with Talme. She is our family’s first au pair and the first au pair we’ve ever known. In thinking about our lives before her, it is honestly hard to imagine. It’s as if she’s always been here in a way. The ease in which she integrated into our family is comparable to how one feels when you meet up with an old friend you haven’t seen in forever, but the conversation picks up right where it left off. It’s like she had returned from being gone but she was always there. Originally, we thought we would just get our feet wet with the au pair program but after only a few months into her first year, we knew we had to keep her.
I wish I could articulate the exact reasons why Talme stood out during our search for prospective au pairs, but I guess it was just a feeling – as cliché as that sounds. Almost as if there was a pull, beyond our physical control, that led us to each other. (She was the first and only au pair we interviewed.) And similarly, I find it hard to put into precise words the ways that she has impacted our family life. The normal words you’d expect to describe a meaningful relationship – helpful, honest, respectful, hardworking, flexible – don’t seem to do her justice.
The best I can do is impart some of the feelings that have resulted from her daily actions. It’s the feeling when you come home and the kids are so engaged in activities with her that they barely notice you walk in. Or the feeling when you’re sick and can barely move a muscle and then she makes you a cup of tea. Or the feeling when you go to clean the kitchen floors, but she tells you that it’s already been taken care of (and you didn’t even ask her!). It’s the feeling when you see your children’s drawings always include their au pair “sister.” It’s the feeling you get when your toddler finally starts saying “I love you” but he only says it in Portuguese. Or the feeling when you look at your fireplace and see a stocking with “Talme” hanging on the mantel.
Having Talme in our lives has been nothing short of a blessing from above. She has impressed upon our family a unique view of a culture, food, language, and traditions that we have all come to respect a great deal – something more than they could ever learn from a book. She has created relationships with my children that are so close and meaningful, I dread the day she must leave us. She has enriched our lives in a way I hope our children never forget – I know I won’t forget. She means comfort; she means support; she means relief; she means connection; and she means the world.
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“After years of stress and frustration, and many different nannies, we decided to look for an au pair. When Veronika arrived on January 2, 2016 our lives were forever changed. We had no idea that a real life Mary Poppins had just arrived!”
“I can honestly say that bringing her to live with us as our au pair has been the best decision we could possibly have made. She has afforded us so many priceless “intangibles” during her time here that I can’t begin to quantify her contributions to our family.”