What Is an Au Pair?
An Au Pair is a young foreign person who helps with the day-to-day activities of a host family in return for board and pocket money. In many cases, the Au Pair becomes part of the family, eating meals with the rest of the family and joining in many of the family’s activities and outings.
Typically, Au Pairs are aged between 17 and 33, or a little older in some cases, and their aim is to gain a new cultural experience in a foreign countries and to improve their language skills. As this is a daunting experience for any young person, particularly if they are just out of school or college, we have found that the system works best if the Au Pair is made feel as welcome and comfortable as possible.
Au Pair Duties
An Au Pair often decides to accept a position based on the duties the host family expects him/him to cover. It’s therefore extremely important to discuss and agree duties and responsibilities at the very start of the hiring process. An Au Pair contract should be drawn up to outline all agreed duties and responsibilities so both parties are clear from the outset. This contract should be signed with your Au Pair at the start of the Au Pair stay.
Care of children is always the priority of the Au Pair, but other duties can include some light household duties. However, a maximum of one hour per day of household duties is recommended. Some examples of light housework include tidying the kitchen, loading and unloading the washing machine, ironing children’s clothes, vacuuming children’s rooms, making children’s beds, keeping own room and bathroom neat and tidy, picking up a few items in the local convenience store and washing dishes.
The following is some examples of an Au Pair’s duties:
- Helping with the children’s morning routine, including breakfast and getting dressed
- Transporting the children to and from school, and to after-school activities
- Helping children with homework and playing with them in the afternoons
- Preparing simple snacks for the children and taking them on outings such as the playground and baby and toddler groups
- Light household duties, as outlined above (max. one hour per day)
Suggested questions for potential Au Pairs
We recommend that you have as much contact as possible with the potential Au Pair to ensure he/she is a good fit with your family. Communicating through a video medium like Skype is very useful. Even if you have some knowledge of the Au Pair’s native language, be sure to communicate in your own language so you have some idea of the potential Au Pair’s current language skills. You should give your Au Pair as much information on your family and daily routine as possible.
The questions below are a good start to ensure you find out everything that’s important for your family. Make sure to add some questions of your own.
- Why are you interested in becoming an Au Pair in our home/family?
- Have you worked as an Au Pair before?
- How long do you want to stay? When would you like to start?
- Have you been to our country before? What appeals to you about our country? What would you like to see and do in our country?
- What do you expect to gain from being an Au Pair with our family?
- Is your driving licence valid in our country? Are you an experienced driver?
- How often do you want to travel home?
- Are you prepared to help out with light housework?
- Can you cook? What would you cook for our children?
- (If you have pets) Do you like animals? Would you be prepared to help mind our pet?
- (If applicable) Have you applied for your visa? When are you available to travel?
- Have you any experience with childcare? How old were any children you have minded before?
- Have you ever cared for children over a longer period of time?
- Do you feel comfortable being responsible for children?
- Can you provide childcare references?
- Are you willing to come on holidays with us and care for our children while on holidays?
Daily routine with children:
- Can you help the children with their homework?
- How would you entertain the children for a few hours?
- How would you handle discipline issues?
Personal questions for the Au Pair:
- What do you like to eat? Do you have any specific diet or allergies?
- If you are vegetarian, would you be comfortable in preparing meat dishes for the children?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Do you have any hobbies? What do you like to do in your spare time?
- Do you smoke?
- Would you like to be part of our family or to be given more time and space to yourself?
- What do your family and friends think about you becoming an Au Pair?
- Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend? What does he/she think of you becoming an Au Pair? How do you feel about being apart from him/her for a long period of time?
- Do you want your family or friends to visit you during your stay here?
When you are finalising arrangements with your chosen Au Pair, we recommend you draw up some agreements:
- Work schedule: outline the Au Pair’s duties and responsibilities, including free time and important dates
- Working hours: outline the exact hours the Au Pair is required to help out with your family. Consider when your Au Pair can have free time, holidays and time to participate in a language course
- Payment: clarify the amount of pocket money the Au Pair will receive and who is paying for any language courses