March 22, 2013

Featuring: Sara, an au pair in Texas

4 minutes
Au pair stories

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. Sara Melina Rauschning is an au pair from Germany is recognized as the 2013 Au Pair of the Year from Texas.
Sara, an au pair in Texas, lives with the Powers family and cares for their two year children: Annika, 7, and Emilia, 4. The Powers family started hosting au pairs in 2009, and host mom, Claudia became a Cultural Care local childcare consultant in 2011. As a result of Claudia being a host mom and LCC, she has gained a lot of experience with au pairs and “knows a great one when she sees one”. Read Claudia’s glowing nomination of her au pair from Germany below, and learn how her love for her fifth au pair is no different than that of her first!
Being an au pair for a seasoned host family with an LCC as a host mom must be nothing short of terrifying– (great) au pairs have come and gone before you, your host mom works with au pairs daily – how can you really leave your mark? Those were many of the questions our German au pair, Sara pondered prior to her arrival to our home. 
Haven’t you seen it all, you may ask? Maybe not all, but pretty darn close. We have hosted many great au pairs who – while all very different – have been outstanding in their own right. Our standards and expectations for our au pairs are high. Sky high, as a friend recently corrected me.
Having au pairs is like having children. You never think you could love your second or third as much as your first, after all, isn’t it a magical love affair that can never be replicated? Don’t we all just “get lucky once”, having the perfect child or au pair, only to settle for mediocrity after? I am writing this essay to tell you this is not so. 
When you welcome any subsequent children into this world, your love just multiplies. It is the same with au pairs. My admiration, respect and love for Sara and what she does for our family is in no way lessened by the fact that she is not our first au pair.
What makes Sara special is that she combines ALL the fine qualities and wisdom of the au pairs who have come before her, bottled in one 110 lb, 19 year old person. 
Sara’s character is an intricate combination of calmness, patience and exceptional maturity, mixed with high energy, intellect, wittiness, common sense and politeness. 
In a given minute, Sara will keep pace with her sometimes crazy goingamillionmilesanhour host mom, while taming the temper tantrums of the world’s most stubborn 4-year old who refuses to wear anything but the bright pink tutu that the bunnies have nibbled on and that is currently in the wash, while patiently teaching the 7-year old how to draw that perfect butterfly for her second grade art contest (in which she later wins second place!). 
That same afternoon, you might find Sara spotting the 7-year old on her back handspring (yes, she is a competitive gymnast too!!) while patiently having a very repetitive German conversation with the preschooler that I could conduct for about 1.2 seconds before losing it.
Sara loves, no, she ADORES children. Really. She’s no fake, because who else would play the cupcake matching game 20 times in a row? Or build a replica of the solar system, with the planets true to scale, during her free time with the 7-year old, because that just sounds like a fun thing to do? Sara makes the most creative lunches (yeah, she cooks too!), and I think we all gained at least 5 lbs over the holidays eating the zillion types of Christmas cookies she decided to whip up one afternoon, all while keeping the kids engaged and entertained. 
Sara is not just awesome with the kids, she’s an adult favorite too, and I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve asked me if they could hire her when we’ve been out and about (and by the way, that would be a NO)! From the time she got here, she was a pro at life in America, having never been here previously. She was the first of our au pairs to NEVER get lost, which still leaves me speechless. Sara thinks on her feet and before the husband has even noticed you’re out of milk or dishwasher detergent, she’s already got it taken care of.
Sara has embraced her life and our family here, and has participated in everything from Thanksgiving Volunteering, delivering presents to the less fortunate, to potlucks, to trying out different churches, to going on 5-hour road trips when the DVD player just happened to break and the drive was accompanied by the “I’m hot, I’m cold, are we there yet?” song sang by both children for the entire drive. Needless to say, all on her own time. 
Sara has seen our family through the good times and the bad. She has remained an even keeled anchor in our family, eager to celebrate successes such as straight A’s in school or a promotion on the job. However, Sara has also experienced the less glamorous side of life here, such as when my husband lost both of his grandparents this year, or those months when we thought we’d drown in expenses when the au pair car, A/C system, refrigerator, and lawn mower all decided to break in the same month (did I mention the shower was leaking too??).
So why should Sara be the next au pair of the year? As seasoned hosts, we’ve “been there, done that”. I can tell a good au pair when I see one. Likewise, I can tell an au pair of the year when I see one. And that one just happens to live at my house.