Becoming an Au Pair in a different country sounds quite exciting. Looking after the kids, attending some English courses, spending free time traveling the country and meeting new friends, these are usually the typical things which come to your mind when you imagine how it is to be an Au Pair.
As soon as reality kicks in, several Au Pairs realise that the Au Pair life they imagined and reality do not have a lot of things in common.
To be honest, the life of an Au Pair is not always this easy and exciting because au pairing means real work. You are responsible for somebody else’s children and you have to make sure that you take good care of them.
In order to prevent disappointment, we tried to give you a overview, which tasks and duties the Au Pair life brings along.
We are aware of the fact, that every Au Pair has to do different tasks because this highly depends on the Host Family you live with, as well as on the age of your Host Children. Make sure that you sign a contract with an attachment about your tasks in advance, so you will know by heart which tasks you are responsible for.
How does the morning routine of the Au Pair life looks like?
As the Au Pair life may begin early in the morning, make sure that you are willed to get up early – in some families even before the kids, so you can organise everything right on time.
You could be ask to be the person who is preparing the breakfast for the Host Children. You have to set the table, put the food on the table or, in case you do already know what your children want to eat in the morning, you can already make their sandwiches, cereals etc.
If your Host Children don’t eat school lunch, you may be asked to prepare packed lunches for them also..
If the kids are still sleeping, you may have to wake up the sleeping children. Make sure that they eat something for breakfast, and – depending on their age – help them to get ready for school/ nursery school. You will probably have to assist younger children with brushing the teeth, putting on appropriate clothes (in the UK school uniform in most of the schools) and brushing the hair. As children sometimes need more time to get ready, always keep an eye on the time. As soon as everybody is neat and clean, please check that every child has its lunch box properly packed away in the school bag.
When the Au Pair does do the morning school run
Next, you need to bring the children to school/ nursery school. It depends on what kind of transport you will have to use to get to the school, but always take good care of the children. Traffic might be heavy in the cities during rush hour! As soon as the children were safely dropped off at school, you often head back to your Host Familie’s house because there are a few things to do before you will have you first free time of the day, if there are no younger children with you all day.
You could be responsible for the room of the Host Children, which means that you have to make the bed, clean up after the kids and perhaps have to wash the children’s clothes or do some ironing. An Au Pair is normally allowed to have enough free time to enjoy the Au Pair life and not only work all the time.
Please keep in mind that you are only responsible for the kids, so cleaning the whole house or washing everyone’s clothes clearly is not your job. Surely, from time to time it is possible that your are asked to run a favour like buying food for a family dinner or drop off something somewhere on your way. But you mustn’t be treated like a housecleaner or servant!
The children are at school, the rooms are tidied up – what are you going to do now?
If you did everything you had to do for this morning, you normally have some free time for you until the children have to be picked up at school.
As the majority of Au Pairs want to improve their language skills, many Au Pairs attend English courses in the morning. Depending on which language school you are going to, you may have 1 to 3 classes per week. If you do visit a language school or meet friend, explore your closer or further areas: You should simply enjoy your leisure time.
No matter what you are doing in your free time, do not forget to be back at the school to pick up the Host Children in the afternoon.
What does the Au Pair have to do with the children after school?
After having picked up the children, you and the children usually go home or have some after school activities like sports classes or play dates. You will often be the person to also prepare the dinner for the children at night.
After the dinner, try not to leave the kitchen all messed up.
As you are normally responsible for the kids as long as the parents are away or at work, you will have to take care of them and entertain them until a parent comes home.
In case, they come home pretty late, you may have to assist the children putting their pyjamas on, brushing the teeth and help them with everything which has to be done before they go to bed.
What about the Au Pair life on a weekend?
The weekends are usually free for Au Pairs. so it is completely up to you what you are doing the whole day. Due to the fact that you are paid some pocket money you can go out have a drink or do some sightseeing If you want to. From time to time, your Host Family could have planned a trip and you, hopefully seen as a full member of their family, should be asked to join on most of the trops. Sometimes the Host Family may struggle to bring you along or simply may want to have a bit of time for themselves and their kids, which should be accepted by Au Pairs as well.
It is even possible, that the Host Parents would like you to join them for at least one family meal on one day of the weekend, but this once again, depends on the rules and lifestyle of your Host Family.
Your Host Parents can ask you to take care of the children once in a while on a saturday or sunday evening, but this should be announced in advance and normally not turn out as a weekend routine. Once again, make sure that you ask to sign a contract before definitely you arrive.
And where is the fun of being an Au Pair?
The daily routine of an Au Pair might sound a bit stressful, but taking care of the children usually means fun too. As soon as you are used to your daily routine, and the children have stopped testing or revolting against you, which is quite typical for many children in the first couple of weeks, you will probably already have found other Au Pairs to hang out with and enjoy your Au Pair life.
According to several regulations, every Au Pair has the right to have two to four weeks off within one year in order to see their family or go on holidays themselves. Furthermore, the government of the Uk clearly says that every Au Pair should not work more than 30 hours a week, including babysitting a couple of evenings. Everything above 30 hours is an Au Pair plus and treated a bit differently.
Which are typical Au Pair duties?
Below, we provide a short overview listing the duties which dominate the life of an Au Pair
- taking care of the children every time they are with you
- preparing meals (lunch box, breakfast, snacks, lunch…)
- helping them to get dressed/ready for school
- bringing them to school
- tidying up, do light household work
- picking up children from school (about 3 pm)
- providing snack/lunch
- helping with homework
- entertaining the children until parents are back home
- bringing them to the local sports club/ hobbies etc.
- doing the kids laundry
You should not be supposed to
- clean the whole house
- prepare meals for the whole Host Family
- go shopping for food (especially not with your money)
- take sole care of the animals (walk the dog three times/day)
- stay at home even when you are free
- babysit every evening/weekend
According to the UK government, the Au Pair has the right to
- get some pocket money
- have free meals
- have a own room free of charge
- is allowed to attend English classes
- to travel home from time to time to see the family
- ask for a contract before moving in
If you feel like being exploited by the Host Family, please try to talk to them first. Clearly point out what kind of duties seem inappropriate to you and try to find a long term solution. In order to prevent disappointment, carefully read the contract and only sign it when you agree on every task.
It’s also good to talk to other Au Pairs and describe your issues and find out, if others would also react like you or if you are a little bit over-reacting.