An au pair is an invaluable support to a busy family and will usually attend to the needs of the host family’s children during the day, such as preparing meals and snacks for them while the parents are at work, or out of the home on other errands. An au pair is also expected to help with household chores to lighten the load on their host family. However, it’s important to always remember that an au pair is not a live-in babysitter or housekeeper and should be treated more as a temporary member of the family. An au pair is participating in a homestay cultural exchange with the aim of the au pair programme to create a mutually beneficial and enriching experience for the au pair and the host family – parents and children alike.
Typical au pair responsibilities
The duties of an au pair can be quite diverse and may differ from family to family, depending on the host family’s schedule and activities, so it’s important that both parties are clear from the outset about what is expected. The expectations should be agreed upon in the au pair contract to avoid any misunderstandings. Some typical duties of an au pair can include the following:
- Daily childcare and play. This could range from playing games or reading stories to helping the children to engage in creative activities such as drawing or painting. It could be preparing children’s meals and snacks, dressing the children’s beds, or helping tidy up after the children. All the while, it’s important for an au pair to be a positive role model for the children while in their care.
- Help with homework. An au pair is not responsible for teaching children, however, should be willing to support a child to understand their school lessons, and help a child to complete their homework.
- Grocery shopping. An au pair may be expected to help with the grocery shopping. This does not include doing the bigger weekly shop but more supporting with lighter shopping errands.
- Cooking dinner. One of the most common duties for an au pair is to cook meals and prepare snacks for the host family’s children. Enquiring at the outset about any food restrictions or preferences is advisable, for example, is there a gluten intolerance and what is the attitude to eating meat and vegetables?
- Laundry and tidying up. This is an important part of being an au pair because it helps keep the family organised and efficient. This could be doing the children’s laundry or loading and unloading the dishwasher for example.
- School pick-ups/drop-offs. An au pair may be asked to undertake school pick-ups and drop-offs. It is important that this is communicated at the outset and that the au pair is familiarised with the local public transport options and routes, walking/ cycling routes, or indeed has a valid driving license and is a competent driver if private transport is required, as well as permission and insurance to use the host family’s vehicle for this purpose.
- Participate in family activities. An au pair is a temporary member of the family and may be expected to participate in and help on outings or other planned activities that the host family may have planned for weekends or during holidays.
- Baby-sitting on date nights or when parents travel for work. It is important for an au pair to have a clear understanding of the expectations here.
Housework tasks that are not typically the responsibility of an au pair
An au pair should have a clear understanding of what is expected of them in terms of housework before accepting a position. Au pairs do not typically do, for example:
- Heavy house cleaning. Maintaining a clean home is not an au pair’s responsibility, but an au pair can be expected to help with some housework duties as needed. An au pair is not expected to do the family’s laundry but may be expected to do some light laundry for the children. An au pair should not be expected to cook full meals on a consistent basis but may be expected to help with light cooking, such as heating up leftovers or preparing snacks for children. The au pair should not be expected to deep clean the house, clean the kitchen or scrub windows or floors either for example.
- Garden work. An au pair should not be expected to do heavy garden work such as digging or pruning, but may be expected to weed, water, and harvest fruit from the garden.
- Vacuuming. An au pair should not be expected to vacuum the house but may be asked to clean up after the children. They might be asked to do one-off vacuuming tasks such as cleaning up after a party or preparing for guests, but this should not be expected in their regular duties.
The host family should respect the au pair’s personal boundaries and rights, and not expect them to do tasks beyond their contracted agreement. The au pair should also be clear about what their time off is expected to be. For example, if the au pair is to be available from 6am to 6pm Monday through Friday, then this should be made clear during the interview process. It is advisable that working hours are agreed from the very outset and that expectations are set for example on whether weekend hours are required, or if an au pair is expected to support the family while on holiday. The working hours agreed in the contract must be respected thereafter with ample opportunity and flexibility given for au pair free time, participation in cultural activities, and study (if participating in a study visa).
Au pairing is a unique opportunity for both the host family and the au pair. It allows parents the freedom to pursue their goals and ambitions, while their children are cared for in a safe and nurturing environment, thus allowing them to feel less stressed about caring for their children’s daily needs. For an au pair, is an opportunity to live abroad, experience a new culture, learn a language and make lasting friendships with host family members, while receiving a fair monthly wage. It also provides au pairs with the opportunity to gain valuable experience that will help them in their career.
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