There seems to be an upward trend across New Zealand and other countries for families to employ an au pair to support them in their busy modern lives, as dual working families with multiple children. Employing an au pair often represents a cost-effective way for families to juggle these multiple needs, and they come with the added benefit of offering cultural exchange, becoming part of the family, as well as the possibility of forming of close enduring relationships your family and children may enjoy well after the au pair has left. Au pairs are generally young woman (sometimes men, or “mannies”!), sometimes on their gap year, wanting to improve their English, experience a different culture, and to become part of a family overseas. Very commonly au pairs will want to combine work with a bit of travel and exploring. For many, this might represent the first time they have left home or travelled abroad.
So, what does a family need to know and be able to offer an au pair to ensure a successful stay? What does an au pair role typically looklike?
As a guiding thought, it is important to remember that these au pairs are often young, fresh out of school, and this experience will often be their first major step away from the comfort of home. These au pairs are someone’s daughter or sons, they could be yours – a valuable lens to approach this engagement.
First, it is expected that a family will be able to provide an au pair with a bedroom of their own and personal or shared bathroom. It is important this is a beautiful and welcoming space, as this will be your aupairs “home- away-from-home”! This space needs to be an inviting, relaxing, and private space where they can unwind.
Guidelines around expected hours of work are ideally no more than 30 or 40 hours per week. Respectfully, an au pair should have weekends or at least two consecutive days off, and most evenings free. Remember, an au pair is also entitled to a holiday/breaks away. Respect the au pair as a young human being that will need rest and recovery in order to offer the best quality of care and support to a family. It is important to discuss the expectations around hours and duties in detail prior to the au pair accepting the role with a family. The more detail discussed the better! Remember, an au pair is primarily there for your children, and yes, they can certainly help with household tasks, but it is unfair to expect them to be a full-time cleaner, or part-time farm worker. Clarity and communication around this at the beginning can prevent all sorts of problems. It is a great idea to offer the au pair a family “hand book” outlining tasks/duties/expectations that can be a point of discussion for both parties.
Remember, an au pair may not have great English and families will need to be patient and supportive around this. Simple daily written instructions are gold. Guidance and communication around your family values and childcare practices are also very important. Help them to get to know your family, your child, and what works for the children in terms of routines, food, behaviour guidance etc.,
Don’t forget, looking after children alone can be tiring and lonely at times. An au pair may feel isolated and vulnerable. It is valuable to help connect an au pair to a wider au pair network – there are many great social media sites that foster this. Supporting an au pair to connect with a wider network is part of the responsibility as a host family.
We would highly recommend that whether you are an au pair,or a family seeking an au pair, that you go through an agency. Apart from the assurance that an au pair sourced through and agency will be brought through a rigorous recruitment process including at least an interview, reference checks, and police vetting and visa requirements, both parties benefit from the ongoing on-call support of a qualified team. If an issue arises on either side, there is someone to talk to and provide guidance. Agencies, like Rockmybaby® can also facilitate in connecting an au pair to a network, minimising a sense of loneliness an isolation. Facilitated by an agency, neither party need feel totally alone and have the comfort and framework and agency provides.
This can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime! Good au pair- family relationships can endure well after the au pair leaves, and what a wonderful opportunity for children to be exposed to other languages and cultures!
If you are thinking about employing an au pair, please contact our friendly consultant team www.rockmybaby.co.nz or call 0800 762 569