|Iain, Sandy, Callista, Diana, & Mike... (essay date March 2012)
Hi! Here is some information about our family, and where we live, and what
life with us will be like.
I'm Scottish, from Dingwall, a small town in the far North Highlands of
Scotland. I'm 47 years old. I studied at Glasgow University, where I completed an Honours degree in
geology. I followed that with a Masters in information technology. By that
time I had met Diana, the woman who would one day be my wife, and we moved
together to Cambridge, England, in 1989. I spent the next few years in
the computer industry, doing at various times practically every job in
the computer business! Today, I'm a firefighter, as you might have guessed, and also a cinematographer!
I'm also Scottish, from a village near Glasgow, in the South of Scotland.
I am 43 years old. I studied chemistry at Strathclyde
University and while I was there I met Mike. After completing my Honours degree,
we went to Cambridge, where I did a PhD in physical chemistry. In 1993 I
started in the financial world, where I work as a portfolio manager of
The biggest change came when I had the opportunity to work in New York
City. We got married, and moved to the USA in the summer of 1998. Mike
quickly found employment with a software company who sponsored us for a
green card which we got in 2001. Mike finally became a US Citizen in 2008, and Diana in 2011!
Our first child,
Iain, was born in March 2003. In July, when Diana went back to work, Mike
resigned from his software job to take up a new career as a full-time
father. Up until that time we had lived
in an apartment in the centre of New York City. Later that year, we decided the time had come to move out of the city,
and we eventually bought a large house in the town of Mamaroneck, which
is around 15 miles/25km from the centre of New York City. We found Iain was so much fun that
we decided to have a second child quickly, and we had Alexander (Sandy) in
November 2004. We decided that we needed to have one-on-one help with the boys and joined
the au pair program in September 2004 – it's been a great experience for
us, we've had four wonderful au pairs, Ewelina from Poland, Gunita from
Latvia, Angie from Austria, and Lara from Iceland, our current au pair. In November 2007 we
had our third (and last!) child - a girl, Callista (known as 'Cally' in
everyday language). Mike still is a stay-at-home dad at times, but he's
also a firefighter, a Lieutenant in the local fire department here in Mamaroneck, and is actively working on a new career as a
cinematographer, which sometimes takes him out of the house, or out of the country, making movies!
OK, time to tell you a bit more about Iain, Sandy, and Callista.
Iain has always been a very happy and loving boy - he didn't cry much,
even when he was very tiny - he was a very easy baby. Now he's a polite,
friendly young man, 9 years old and going to the local Montessori
school every weekday from 09.00 - 15.30, with after-school activities at the school most days. The only thing you have to be
aware of with Iain is that he's allergic to nuts! His biggest strength is, he is amazingly polite and kind, people remark
about it all the time!
Sandy is a bundle of fun! He's 7 and he has boundless energy, he's always
on the go. He has slight special needs - he has some sensory issues, and
a language delay, but he's had therapy and has made great progress. He
goes to school 09.00-15.00 every day, and also does some after-school activities. His biggest strengths are he's very cute and full of fun,
and has a real sense of humour! He's also very smart! We think he's going to be an engineer, he will probably go to MIT :-)
What can you say? She's too cute for words! Like Iain and Sandy, she was
a very 'easy' baby - she slept through the night and seldom cried for long.
She's 4 now, a VERY smart girl and a fearless and very curious
explorer; she loves climbing! We think she might be a firefighter or a
Marine... or a dancer... or an actress, she can be a drama queen at times :-) Like Iain she had a slight language delay but she's talking very well now and will be starting school soon.
Being 'foreign' in America, we perhaps have a more 'open', friendly, and
understanding attitude to people from different cultures than some Americans
do. When we lived in the UK we had an 'open house' with many friends from
different countries and cultures staying with us. We've also travelled a lot ourselves, including the children after they were born - most of Europe, USA & Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand etc.
We have lived with Christians,
Muslims, Jews, Pagans, Atheists, and others, and have friends from Germany,
The Netherlands, Iceland, Ireland, Poland, Russia, The Ukraine, Mongolia, Brazil,
South Africa, Zimbabwe, The Ivory Coast, Australia, New Zealand etc. I
think you understand the idea! Having someone from a different culture
living with us is something we have experience of, and we enjoy it very
The part of America we live in, close to New York, is both very prosperous,
and very diverse - there are many non-American people in our town and the
area around it. People from all over the world live in this area. So whatever
country our Au Pair comes from, she will not find it hard to find people
from your own background to be friendly with. There is also a very active Au Pair network in Westchester so you shouldn’t
have any difficulty meeting friends. A previous Au Pair, Gunita, was
especially active in this, regularly hosting 'au pair movie nights' in
our house, with up to 20 au pairs from every corner of the world visiting!:
There are about 12,000 people in the town of Mamaroneck, but it is just
a part of a series of communities along the shore of the Long Island Sound
- New Rochelle, Larchmont, Harrison, Rye, and Port Chester.
Mamaroneck is best known as a recreational port, with a marina and many
moorings for yachts and power boats - sailing is a big activity here! The
climate is generally cold in winter, hot in summer - similar to most of
northern Europe. We get some snow; one winter there were three large storms,
each leaving 12" / 30cm of snow on the ground. There is skiing in
the mountains an hour or two by car from us. The countryside around Mamaroneck
itself has smaller hills, and there are a lot of trees and parks. New York City is just 35 minutes away by train.
Ok, now to tell you about our house:
As you can see, it's quite a 'modern' house design, it was built in 1967, and has a very large living room with many large windows. There is also a large 'family room', and a play space. The kitchen is large and modern, with all the useful things you would expect. The garden is very pretty, there are many large trees. The house is built on the side of a rocky hill, so there is bare rock in the garden, as well as flat grass areas for playing games.
We have a wooden deck leading to the very pretty garden:
This is common in American homes, at the rear of the house - it makes a
great place for having a party, a barbecue, or just sunbathing! We have a very large house, there are seven bedrooms. So you will have
a room of your own in a private part of the house and a bathroom which
will only be used by you and any visitors. There's a spare room, all fitted
out with a large bed and furniture, next to the Au Pair room, so there
is no problem if you want to have friends or family come to visit and stay
- for a night, or a week! Both our last au pairs had family come to stay with us to enjoy a vacation in New York :-)
You will have your own PC to use, and high-speed internet access. You might want to look into using the Skype internet phone service
as a great way of keeping in touch with friends and relatives in your home
country very cheaply.
We expect you to be able to drive well, and you will be able to drive our
cars - we have the following cars:
A Subaru Imprezza WRX station wagon (mostly driven by Diana):
A tuned Imprezza WRX STi (a very fast car, mostly driven by Mike):
And a Mercedes-Benz R350, mostly driven by our au pair:
You will have use of one of the
cars to get to and from childrens’ activities and your education but also
reasonable use after work hours and at the weekend. Other perks…you will also have your own cellphone and use of a state-of-the-art
gym and pool at the nearby YMCA where we have a family membership.
What else? Rules...
we will discuss this with you, but we are not very 'strict' people. We're not
going to tell you things like when you must be home in the evening! (unless you
are 'on duty' that evening of course!) We expect you to be adult, responsible,
reasonable and fair - things like no loud music late at night. Other 'rules'
are just obvious common sense - for instance, keeping the children under close
control in the garden, because the rocks can be dangerous. Don't even think
about trying to drive if you have had a drink. Just normal things like
that. Of course the number 1 rule is
that if there is a problem of any kind you should speak up about it.
One thing you should
be aware of - you will be a member of our family, and part of that is going on
holiday with us! Every year or two we will be going to Scotland, where we have a second
house, for 2-4 weeks. It's a smaller house, very old - very different to
our house in America! But it's pretty, and is in the beautiful North of
(our house in Scotland)
Of course, if you are from a European country, we would be happy if you wanted to visit your home for a short period when we are in Scotland. We go to other places for holidays too - we are most likely to go to Hawai'i, the Caribbean, Iceland, or New Zealand in the next two years. Ewelina, one previous Au Pair (from Poland) enjoyed two weeks in the Caribbean during her time with us, and Gunita & Angie have been on trips to the UK, and spent two weeks with us in Hawai'i. Lara, our present au pair, went to New Zealand for two weeks with us on vacation last year.
happiness is the most important thing in the world for us. We are not afraid for the children to form affectionate bonds with their
caregivers and we also believe that a child will not be happy if his caregiver
is not happy.
Consequently, we promise to live by the letter and the spirit of the au
pair agreement and will try our hardest to make your experience a happy and
memorable one. We've been told we're a very good host family - our last three au pairs all
decided to stay with us for a second year. Please remember to ask us any
questions, and if you come to live with us, we're sure you'll have a great
Iain, Sandy, Callista, Diana, & Mike
Last updated March 2012
Words and images © 2012 Michael J. Ross