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Congratulations to Manuela Z. of Germany – Au Pair in New York!

Words cannot describe how proud we are of our 2020 Au Pair of the Year. Manuela is a second-year au pair, arriving to New York in July of 2018 where she spent her first year as a cultural exchange participant with a wonderful family of 3 children. She chose to stay in New York for her extension year, joining the Bilal family in 2019 where she became an invaluable member of their family. Please read the nomination essay below, detailing the many reasons why Manuela is our 2020 Au Pair of the Year!

Manuela’s Nomination Essay – Submitted by the Bilal Family!

With a soon-to-be four child family – one severely disabled with a complex medical condition, two babies (one an infant!), and two full-time employed parents, I was sure nobody would want us. I was certain we weren’t going to find the help we so desperately needed especially after interviews with dozens of candidates. But we were wrong. 

Not only were we wrong, but being wrong in this case felt better than winning the lottery. We cannot begin to describe what a blessing, and in many ways a life-saver Manuela has been to our family. From the moment we interviewed her we knew she is special and exceptional. Her calm and warm demeanor combined with a can-do spirit was only confirmed when we saw her in action in our sometimes chaotic household.  

Our second oldest child (now 7), Yonas, has a rare neurological condition called Syngap1 which has left him intellectually disabled, non-verbal and often behaviorally challenging, not to mention he also suffers from a complex seizure disorder and extremely low muscle tone. Manuela has a unique interest in working with the disabled community, bringing with her significant experience of having worked with disabled adults in her native Germany and autistic twins in her previous job. Her interest and passion in working with disabled persons coupled with remarkable intuition was demonstrably unwavering as she led the effort to potty train Yonas, while self-driven to collaborate with, even model for Yonas’ therapists and teachers how to best support him in mastering this skill (a 4 months effort thus far!). Manuela had single handedly potty trained the autistic twins in her previous job so we were confident we were in good hands. In fact, she taught us what to do, developing tools so we could track his progress and chunk Yonas’ learning so as to maximize progress over time while setting realistic expectations for our son.  

Consequently, Manuela’s expertise in child-rearing isn’t just limited to working with our Yonas. She is incredibly self-driven to coordinate activities for the two babies – enthusiastically making her way from one community-based activity to the next. It didn’t take long for our toddler to know every nursery song under the moon. I am always astounded when I am out with her and people I don’t know approach her on the street. She has become an active member of our community and it shows by how many other care-takers and nannies want to connect with her and our children for play dates and activities. 

Manuela is not just an asset for our children – she is our third parent. I am often able to rely on her background and experience to support me in problem solving developmental issues my eldest (now 9) may have in school. He struggles with executive functioning and together we were able to develop a set of interventions to support his planning and organizational skills at home. Manuela often educates herself about a problem toward the end of finding an effective solution when it comes to supporting our kids. She is a natural at teaching others. 

While we are impressed with Manuela’s ability to manage our son’s disability while simultaneously equally dedicated to our other children, what we admire most about her is her passion and dedication, and the pure joy she radiates when caring for all of our children. Childcare is not a checkbox for Manuela and that is clear by watching how dedicated she is and how much joy and energy she radiates when interacting with the kids. Manuela is the perfect combination of firm and strict, setting boundaries when necessary, while also extremely loving, warm and kind. When she recognized that our special needs son is struggling with staying under the covers at night she went out of her way to find onesie pajamas for him. When we had our fourth child in October, she took care of the other three while we stayed at the hospital as all of our families live far away (most of them are abroad). 

No task or responsibility is too big or too small for Manuela and she approaches everything she does with the same level of commitment and dedication. Whether we are asking her to set up furniture for us, rake the leaves in the yard, vacuum the car, even install running boards on the car so that the kids could more easily hop into their car seats, sort the children’s clothes –she does it all without the slightest bit of hesitation and immense competence. Manuela takes her role as a member of our family very seriously. She picks up the slack when she recognizes that we are at capacity, like doing our laundry and performing the weekly grocery runs even when that is “theoretically” beyond her job description. Manuela anticipates both the children and our needs and seldom do we have to ask her to pitch in – she understands and recognizes when there is a need to help out. 

We cannot begin to explain how thankful we are for Manuela’s contributions to our family and are so grateful we have had the pleasure of hosting her this past year. The combination of her incredible and rare work ethic, impeccable skill and competence, alongside a true love for caring for kids regardless of their abilities makes her the ideal candidate for this year’s Au Pair of the Year contest. We hope you recognize all of Manuela’s strengths as we have these past seven months.  

With much gratitude,

-The Bilal Family 

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