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. Madlen Lipp of Austria is recognized as the 2014 New Jersey Au Pair of the Year honoree.
“What makes Madlen’s story so remarkable to us is how it began: we were her third family after two re-matches in her first 3 months as an Au Pair!” says Swati Sharma, Cultural Care Au Pair host mom, about finding her in-country au pair. “Madlen is a testament to the idea that there is an amazing family and experience waiting for every au pair, and sometimes it does not happen right away.”
Following is her nomination essay:
Our family is delighted to nominate Madlen Lipp as Au Pair of the Year for 2014. Madlen has been an exceptional Au Pair for our family and for the last year and a half she has been an absolute superstar in the eyes of our twin boys. What makes Madlen’s story so remarkable to us is how it began: we were her third family after two prior re-matches!
Madlen could have easily given up and gone back home to Austria after not finding a good fit with a family in her first few months in the United States, but we were so lucky she did not. Even more amazing is how she handled her first week with our family, which coincided with Hurricane Sandy! Although we luckily did not experience the level of devastation that many in our area suffered, our house was without electricity for over 1 week with freezing temperatures outside days after her arrival. We spent several nights huddled together in one room in front of a gas fireplace. Following that were stays at multiple homes – sharing floor space with grandparents and siblings. Within a week Madlen had met every member of our extended family in New Jersey, under difficult circumstances, all the while trying to adjust to her third host family in three months! We were sure the experience would cause her to turn right around and go home, but Madlen’s attitude was the exact opposite. She told us that going through the struggles of that week really made her feel part of our family, and she made an immediate bond with our boys.
After that challenging start, we saw amazing things with Madlen and her relationship with our twin three-year-old boys. The milestones are too numerous to count! Within one month she was able to potty train one of our sons who had a fear of using the “big boy” toilet. She has been instrumental in the growth of their confidence and independence, while encouraging their curiosity and desire to try new things. Madlen has both boys eating by themselves, trying new vegetables (and loving them!), and has even made them into the best little chefs in town! We love coming home to the sweet aroma of fresh bread and goodies cooked each week. Madlen has been there for so many of their first experiences–from tirelessly teaching both boys to ride bikes without training wheels to running up and down the soccer field cheering even when they missed the goal to helping them build their confidence to swim on their own. She created a balance between structured routines for school each morning while allowing for off-the-cuff fun with spontaneous dance parties in the kitchen and creative arts and craft projects on rainy afternoons. Her enthusiasm and creativity led to the most fantastic handmade Halloween costumes ever for the whole family based on some of our favorite things – coffee, cookies, and milk! Most special was Madlen’s introduction of Austrian Christmas customs to our home. She incorporated the boys’ love of trains with one of her cherished childhood traditions by building two elaborate train advent calendars from scratch–-each with 25 small but meaningful gifts inside for each day before Christmas.
To our boys, Madlen is their hero – a big sister who they love tremendously. As host parents we feel the same. Madlen has been a joy to get to know and is a member of our family in a way we never could have imagined as our first experience with an au pair. The reason Madlen deserves to be named Au Pair of the Year for 2014 is not only because she was exceptional and unbelievable with our children, going well beyond anything we could have imagined, but more importantly because she stuck with the program despite so many reasons that any normal 20-year-old a thousand miles away from home might have used to give up. Madlen is a testament to the idea that there is an amazing family and experience waiting for every au pair, and sometimes it does not happen right away. Along with our boys, we will be so very sad to see Madlen go back home this year, but we have a new family member across the ocean who will be cherished forever! We hope you can agree to recognize Madlen for her year as an au pair in our family.