Each year, we ask our host families to nominate extraordinary au pairs for the Au Pair of the Year Award sponsored by the International Au Pair Association (IAPA). In addition to selecting three finalists to submit to IAPA for this prestigious award, Cultural Care Au Pair selects one outstanding au pair from each state to honor as the Au Pair of the Year. Merylin Nau of Estonia is recognized as the 2014 Oregon Au Pair of the Year honoree.
“I was ready to quit my job as I struggled to find suitable child care for my youngest daughter, Emily,” says Vera Sell, Cultural Care Au Pair host mom. Like many parents, Vera struggled to find the right childcare for her family. “Two events intersected and informed my decision to host and au pair. When I decided to go back to work, I tried several day care centers. However, my heart never felt peaceful after I dropped her off, I worried about her and she did not sleep well. I was ready to quit my job to stay home with Emily in order to provide her with the attention and love that she demanded and deserved.” Luckily, Sell’s cousin was staying with the family for a few months and she realized that she loved having her around to help with the kids and joining family outings. “I wanted this help full-time!” she says, “I bumped into an au pair at [my eldest daughter’s] school and she told me about the Culture Care program. I applied the same day.”
Following is her nomination essay:
All au pairs have an affinity for children and a thirst to explore – that is why they choose to become au pairs in the first place. Merylin loves children and strives to learn something new every day. In addition, she is the embodiment of joy, kindness and love. Her smile is contagious and she puts everyone around her in a good mood. It is like having a fairy living in our house that sprinkles laughter and giggles on all inhabitants and visitors.
My husband and I moved to the U.S. from Germany 10 years ago. Originally, we came for work, but we stayed for the life Portland offers: friendly people, wilderness, and a laid-back lifestyle that is hard to find anywhere else in the world. Our daughters, Lara (3 years) and Emily (1 year), bring us joy every day and let us explore the world anew. We both have engaging careers and have successfully juggled home and work life despite being half a world away from our extended families. When I decided to go back to work, I tried several day care centers. However, my heart never felt peaceful after I dropped Emily off. We decided to host an au pair but were doubtful if we would find one that would meet our ridiculously high expectations.
You know how sometimes you meet someone and feel you have known them a lifetime? That was the first impression I got when I met Merylin. She is a 20-year-old Estonian with a sweet and perpetual smile that conveys her warm, caring and positive nature in one instant. Small and big kids alike flock to her wanting to play and cuddle with her. My usually shy daughter, Lara, opened up to Merylin on her first day, took her by the hand and showed her around the house while yapping incessantly in German (luckily Merylin understands a bit of German). Merylin is very kind and always eager to help. Merylin is an avid cook and sometimes surprises us with an Estonian meal when we return home from work. She helps with household chores and goes the extra mile in becoming a part of our family. I feel like she can read my mind. She is great with kids, getting on their level, engaging them in play and earning their trust. No matter what else is going on – Merylin always put the kids first.
It is very difficult to come to a new country, join a new family and start a new job. And Merylin had to do all these things at once. I am very impressed with her ability to get comfortable with new challenges. With her cheerful and outgoing personality she instantly made friends with other au pairs in Portland. She knows how to enjoy herself to recharge and relax. I like her independence and interest in exploring new things: She frequently joins our family in trips and has braved our nearby snowy mountain to learn how to snowboard. She also overcame her fear of heights to join us in the rock climbing gym. She has forever engraved herself in our hearts and has become an integral part of our family. I fondly remember the times we cooked together swapping recipes and kitchen hacks, shared in a game of cards during the dark winter evenings, or compared notes on how different America is from our home countries. Lara and Emily will benefit from growing up alongside such a resilient, caring and sweet young woman.
Since Merylin has joined our family, my heart feels peaceful when I leave home because having Merylin watch my kids is the next best thing to being there myself.