Cultural Care Au Pair

When my husband and I decided to host an au pair we had no idea the adventure that would await us. We interviewed Gugu one week after our daughter Caroline was born and after a brief 15-minute interview I knew she was the perfect fit! Her warm personality and infectious smile made this very exhausted second time mother feel more at ease about welcoming yet another person into our home.

I remember the day I picked Gugu up from the bus stop. When she got off the bus, she ran over, and gave me the biggest and most loving hug. It was as if I was reunited with a long lost family member. She was immediately attentive to both children and quickly picked up on their needs and personalities as if she was their own mother.

Gugu quickly acclimated herself to life with at the Walker household. We lead a very busy life with each of us working two jobs that frequently require evening and weekend hours. She is always flexible and dependable. Gugu goes above and beyond all expectations and will frequently do extra things around the house to make life easier for my husband and me. She does these extra things not for recognition or praise, but because she genuinely cares and listens to me and then finds a way to make life easier for us.

Jackson and Caroline have an incredible bond with Gugu, she’s more than just a childcare provider. She is another member of their family who loves and cares for them. Anytime Gugu is away from the family, Jackson always wants to know where she is and if she is ok. He loves going to her room because he knows she will have a small treat for him. Gugu helped us start the potty training process for Jackson and makes it a point to teach him new things each day. I love coming home from work to see what project they have done or what Zulu words she has taught him. Caroline lights up anytime she’s around Gugu and the two of them together are as thick as thieves. Gugu was the first one to get Caroline to take a pacifier, which was a huge breakthrough for our family. Caroline was sick over New Year’s and the only person she would cuddle and fall asleep on was Gugu. As a mother, I find great comfort in knowing my children can seek and find comfort in the arms of their au pair.

Not only has she bonded with our children, she has found unique ways of bonding with my husband and me. Gugu and I love making Target runs together, even if it is with a toddler and an infant in tow. We celebrate when the other finds a cute pair of shoes and have even given ourselves at home facials while watching our favorite TV shows. Gugu and Grant are always laughing together and can have an entire conversation with just one look.

Moreover, we love that Gugu is always willing to try something new with our family. Whether it’s going to a local Renaissance Festival, the county fair, an outdoor symphony concert, eating Maryland blue crabs with firefighters, visiting the Atlantic Ocean, going to an ice sculpture exhibit in 9 degree weather, exploring college campuses, Gugu finds fun in everything she does.

Gugu has openly shared her culture and traditions with our family as well. We love listening to her explain traditional Zulu ceremonies and she always keeps us updated on her family. She’s introduced us to new movies and tv shows. When she arrived in the US, she brought everyone in our family a piece of traditional Zulu clothing. It was such a thoughtful and unique gift that we will cherish for years to come. We found a South African food market in the US that will ship traditional foods and snacks to our home and have enjoyed trying all of the new foods Gugu has introduced us to.

As a choir director, I am always looking to expand my knowledge of music from other cultures. When selecting music for the winter concert, I wanted to find a song that would honor our family cultures and Gugu’s at the same time. I selected the song “Hope for Resolution” by Paul Caldwell and Sean Ivory. This song combines the traditional Christian hymn Of the Father’s Love Begotten and the South African apartheid song Tula Sizwe. In order to make sure the choir sang the song in the most authentic way possible, Gugu worked with me to teach me the background of song. She told me stories that were passed down to her and her experiences with the backlash of apartheid in South Africa. She coached me on my Zulu pronunciation and even recorded a track for my singers to practice their pronunciation. We bonded over the time spent searching for recordings of choirs from South African performing the same song. Her insight into South African and Zulu culture not only inspired and educated me, but it made an impact for over 100 singers and the community that attended the concert.

Gugu is more than anything we could have hoped for in an au pair. She has truly become a member of the family, we love her and we can’t imagine our life right now without her.