What is an au pair and how does au pairing work?
Au pair roughly translates from French into ‘on par’ or ‘equal to’. Au pairs are usually young, female and between the ages of 18-26; often possessing an interest in childcare and travel. Au pairs are matched with suitable families and, having found a family with whom they’d like to work, take up residence in the house of their employer.
Au Pair placements are international exchange programs, usually facilitated by a third party platform, allowing young people to travel abroad and become part of another family as a live-in caretaker. Au pairs are typically introduced to a family in order to look after children, usually those over 3 but under the age of 18. This care taking responsibility can include dropping children to and from school and other extracurricular activities, babysitting and preparing lunches and light meals.
Other tasks may include light housekeeping duties, some cooking and possible after hours care, though this is something that is agreed upon between the au pair and their family. Whether or not sundry housekeeping tasks are included in the contract, it is generally accepted that the au pair will take part in regular household chores as part of their assimilation into the household.
The matching process is thorough, with complete au pair profiles presented to potential host families and vice versa. Should the profiles indicate a good match to both parties, families and au pairs are able to speak to each other before deciding whether they’d like to work together. This can be over the phone or via online video chat; either way it allows both parties to make sure that they are on the same page and can avoid any strife as a result of not seeing eye to eye later on. Au pair contracts usually last up to a year so it is important for all involved to feel happy and content with the arrangement.
Au pairs are given room and board as well as a weekly allowance, usually dictated by industry standards in the relevant country. Days off per week, overtime and pay rates are part of the contract agreed upon and written up by the participants. It is generally expected that au pairs will work between 30 and 40 hours per week with 1.5 to 2 days off.
While the majority of their every day expenses are taken care during the duration of their stay in the host country, au pairs are required to pay for their visas and passage either way, unless they and their family have come to a prior arrangement. Depending on the quality of the au pair’s work, it is sometimes the case that their host family will pay for their return flight.
Best suited to individuals passionate about rich cultural experiences and childcare, Au Pair placements are beneficial to all involved and are hugely popular as a modern solution to childcare. Beginning a position as or with an au pair can be a big leap of faith for all parties involved; but this mutually beneficial arrangement is proven to be a surprisingly good option for many families. Below, we’ve collated the most notable benefits of au pair placements for both au pair and host.
The benefits of becoming an Au Pair
The benefits of applying to become an au pair are numerous – exposure to foreign countries, languages and different lifestyles in a fully immersive experience are just a few of the things that au pairs get to experience during their placements.
Besides this, au pairing with a foreign family can be invaluable on your CV in future, demonstrating efficiency in childcare and an amicable personality. It can also be an excellent developmental opportunity for individuals looking to hone their proficiency in a particular foreign language, as learning by immersion has been proven quite successful. Many au pairs have been known to study in conjunction with their placement in order to gain credit for their qualifications in the care taking field.
Becoming an au pair is also recognised as a fantastic way to experience the world. Not only do these programs tend to include food and board (cancelling out a large portion of your spending overseas), they offer a valuable insight into the way other cultures operate. Safety is another, perhaps unexpected benefit of choosing to au pair – a home to go back to and surrogate family is a stable and safe travelling environment for the au pair. With a steady allowance and adequate time off, you can experience both living and working in another country.
Au pair agencies are incredibly helpful in the process of finding and getting to ones host family. They simplify the visa process for most destinations, help arrange airport transfer and facilitate your initial contact with possible families. This makes the entire process very easy and ideal for people only just beginning to become familiar with long term, solo travel.
In the long term, having and maintaining points of contact on the other side of the globe can be hard, but with the strong and enduring bonds built through living as part of an au pair arrangement are made for life. Many au pairs return to stay with previous host families even after their contract has ended and continue to have a strong bond with their wards. As such au pairing oughtn’t to be seen as only a contract of employment, but as a real surrogate family experience.
The Benefits of becoming a host family
Despite the sometimes daunting prospect of inviting a relative stranger to live in your house and look after your children, the huge range of benefits associated with participating in an au pair program are becoming more widely recognised. This rising opinion of au pairing as a safer and more comfortable option for childcare undoubtedly comes as a reaction to these benefits. Au pairing allows children to experience a form of care that is both more genuine and less disruptive to their lives.
Hiring an au pair is an invaluable option for families that would prefer not to institutionalise their kids at a young age but have other important work or family commitments that demand a lot of their time. An au pair acts as a stable and constant figure in your children’s lives, which is hugely important to their social and personal development. It also allows them to continue their every day lives in the comfort of familiar surrounding by avoiding the need for after school and vacation care. Having an au pair on hand during school holidays and in case of emergencies is also an invaluable feature of the arrangement.
Au pairing means that parents and children have the opportunity to develop a personal connection with their chosen secondary carer as well being able to learn each other’s tastes and requirements. Au pairing arrangements build long lasting bonds that could continue well beyond the duration of the contract.
Developing a relationship with their au pair can have a fantastic effect on the educational development of your child. By exposing them to different cultures, perspectives and languages; you encourage their understanding of the world and of other people. It can also be great for children to have a trusted connection closer to their own age, particularly as they reach their teens. These same benefits can be applicable to parents, making it a learning experience across the board. As hosts to an au pair, families are instrumental in their au pair’s experience of their country and are given an unique opportunity to teach about their own country and way of life as well as to learn that of their au pair.
Having your families personal needs met can be challenging, particularly if you have a strange schedule or children with special requirements that go outside the boundaries of basic care. Hiring an au pair allows you to screen potential candidates and search for the perfect match before embarking on the partnership. It ensures that you will be able to select an au pair with whom your family will mesh well and who will meet all your requirements.
The major benefit to hosting an au pair is that, in many countries it can even be cheaper than full time daycare, babysitting, vacation care and all the associated costs thereof. This is, of course, dependant on the number of children the host family has, but it is becoming more and more financially viable; particularly for larger families. The cost of most programs includes the registration and facilitation fees charged by the agency as well as the au pairs weekly allowance for the duration of their stay. This, in comparison to many childcare options, is quite reasonable and appealing to many; even with sundry living costs taken into account.
In conclusion, becoming an au pair and hosting an au pair are both excellent options for people looking to undertake a somewhat unconventional travel or childcare experience. While many factors need to be taken into consideration to make a well informed decision on whether it is the right option for you or your family; once decided the avenues are there for your exploration.