There are many benefits to working as an au pair. You get the opportunity to work with a loving family, care for the needs of children and experience a new culture. However, the job is demanding, prompting the need for you to think long and hard about what you are seeking in both a position and a family.
When searching for a position as a live-in au pair, it’s important to do your research. Carefully examine different agencies to determine if you would like professionals to work on your behalf, mediating agreements between yourself and a family and making a match that meets both your needs and the family’s needs. Having a third party involved and overseeing the initial contract can save you from both headache and heartache versus trying to find a family on your own.
Numerous networking sites can also offer leads to au pair positions. Seek out au pairs and soak in the advice they have for finding a host family and establishing a contract. Network with fellow au pairs and learn from the challenges they have faced.
If you are interested in working as an au pair, begin by making a list of what you hope to gain from the experience. What type of family or home environment would you prefer?
It may help to ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you want a family that is strictly professional or would you prefer to be treated as part of the family?
- What type of location do you prefer? Do you want to live in an area with access to nature and the great outdoors or would you rather soak in the city life?
- What are you looking for in a salary and compensation package?
- Will the live-in commitment afford you time for a social life? How do you plan to network with friends and family members while working as an au pair?
- What are your childcare strategies in terms of discipline? Outlining your preferences will help you to see if you are a good match for a particular family.
Read the Fine Print
Once you have located a family that you think will be a good match, it’s important to be vocal and ask questions about the position. Research the family and make sure the location is a good fit for you.
Inquire about the family’s parenting style, work obligations and religious preferences, as well as the likes and dislikes of the children. Schedule a Skype or video chat session so you can ask questions face to face and meet the family. During the initial chat session, don’t be afraid to ask questions about their expectations, too, such as your primary duties, lodging accommodations and responsibilities when it comes to transportation, meals and housekeeping.
Once you have determined that the family is a good fit and both parties would like to move forward, you should insist on a contract or binding agreement to protect your employment.
A contract or agreement may include the following:
- Weekly Schedule
- Expected Daily Tasks
- Room and Board
- Flight Compensation
- Vacation Time
- Continuing Education Opportunities, such as language courses
Having the agreement in print will help set expectations for you and the family and provide you with documentation to refer to if a conflict occurs during your employment.
Open Yourself to the Opportunity
As an au pair in a new family environment, you may feel nervous or vulnerable, but it is crucial for you to share details about yourself to help form a bond. Be honest about your interests, skills and abilities. If you are not the greatest cook, be sure to share this information. If you are a sewing enthusiast, let the host family know – they may be in need of your services or skills.
While adjusting to a new environment, many au pairs cope with culture shock. The Au Pair in America organization recommends seeking out hobbies or classes to help you adjust. In addition, incorporate relaxation and meditation into your daily routine. Communicate your struggles with your counselor or host family, too, so they can offer you the help you need.
The more you share about yourself, the more the family will share as well, helping to create a bond with you – a stranger who is about to reside within their home and take care of their children. Establish trust right away so the experience is beneficial for everyone.