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Live in UK | How we live together: the family and the ‘granny au pair’

‘We tried younger au pairs, but they used to look at their phones constantly’

Melissa, left, and Maria. Photograph: Karen Robinson/The Guardian Melissa Lee My husband and I have twins under five and we both work full-time. When the children were born, it was havoc. We tried younger au pairs, but they used to look at their phones constantly instead of taking care of the children. About two years ago, a friend suggested a “granny au pair”, as they are more mature and responsible. Older women also tend to have a lot of wisdom. Maria is our fifth “granny au pair”. My first impression was that she is just like Maria in The Sound Of Music. She is also really tall – like a super-Maria. We talk about British or European issues at dinner, but no matter how serious, we always end up laughing. In Austria, Maria is a comedian and actor, and I’m going to sponsor her to do a writing course to help with her performances.

Maria Neuschmid This is my first time as an au pair and living abroad. I wanted to travel and learn English. I have been married for 33 years so my husband and I have seen each other enough! I’m 60, and I thought, if you don’t do it now, you never will. I have five children and four grandchildren so am very experienced. I was a bit homesick when I arrived in June, but now I know the family. It is interesting to see how people live in other countries. I enjoy the work, too. Nobody believes it, but my passion is cleaning. Melissa and I have a good relationship but I will return to Austria at the end of August for a comedy performance. I can remember an hour’s worth of lines but not the time Melissa is coming home – I have to ask her five times!


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