Taking on your first Au Pair is a big decision. In our house, we had the advantage of seeing the relationship work well for other families we knew and spending time with the girls and so once we decided to go ahead with trialing the process ourselves, it didn’t seem like that big of an issue.
The hardest thing was deciding if we really wanted another person living with us. For us it meant a bit of shuffle around, our kids having to share a room and us wondering if we would get used to someone new and not feeling like we had to tiptoe around in our own home. Would I feel strange if I had an argument with my husband? Would they look at me funny if I yelled at my kids? At first, things like this can seem to be big issues however I am here to tell you it really isn’t! Taking the time to find the right person, someone you all feel comfortable with is really important. It will minimise the uneasiness and ensures that everyone settles into the idea quickly.
Finding an Au Pair can seem a little daunting if you have not done it before, as there are many different options available to you. It can take a few weeks to go through the process, find someone you like, handle reference checks and Skype sessions before you decide. Your first port of call should be the Internet. You can find links to websites, agencies and info sites such as Aussie Au Pair Mum, which can help you research and decide how best you want to more forward.
The concept of Au Pairing has been around for many years especially in Europe and so a good proportion of the candidates will be from that area. Due to this, during July/August, you may find a much greater number of Au Pairs looking for positions, as the Northern Hemisphere school year has just ended.
There are many Au Pair Agencies in Australia who can look after the whole process of scouring an Au Pair for you. If you are short on time then having someone doing all the legwork is really helpful. Obviously you will be charged a fee for this service, but you can be sure to get a list of potential Au Pairs who have been checked, screened and have shown an interest in your family and role responsibilities.
Websites such as Au Pair World are also a good option, especially if you have the time and like doing the work yourself. I always joke that they operate a little like a dating site for Au Pairs, as both the Au Pair and the Family create a profile, which is displayed on the site. You can then search for an Au Pair dependant on things like age, country of origin, driving licence etc. The sites offer the ability to email back and forth and even though there is a fee incurred, it is generally not as high as an Agency Fee.
Social Media is also an option and there are many groups specific to Au Pairs. I have found personally it is a great way of finding short term Au Pairs – perhaps someone who has already been an Au Pair with one family and are looking for a short 3-month position before leaving for travel or to head home. This can work well if you are looking to test out the process before deciding if it will work for your family long-term.
An Au Pair requires their own room. They should not have to share with kids or be sleeping on a pull out lounge in your rumpus room. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily and transport to and from the airport at the start and end of their stay are necessary. You also need to provide the basic necessities of home like simple furniture in the room, linen and towels, use of the washing machine etc. Most of our Au Pairs have all preferred to purchase their own toiletries however I have always just provided extra for them as part of my regular household items. You also need to ensure the Au Pair has 2 days off per week and pocket money as agreed.
Ensuring the Au Pair is included as part of the family is also a big deal. Taking them with you on each and every family holiday may not be necessary (although I am sure it would be appreciated!) but including them in dinners out, family functions and trips to the beach or other family time definitely is. They are here as part of a cultural exchange as well as to help you in your home so make sure they get to see the top tourist spots, visit the zoo and similar things. Top Tip – they all want to cuddle a Koala!
Having an Au Pair is normally a great deal cheaper than full time day care, after school care and holiday care, however there are always extra costs associated, such as:
Finding your Au Pair
Website fees can be as little as $60 for a 3-month period and an Agency’s Fees could be anywhere from $600 – $1000 or more per placement. Each place has their own fee structure so cost really does change whichever option or business you choose.
Furnishing a Room
You may have extra costs if you need to purchase items for the Au Pair Room, perhaps an extra bed, quilt covers and such things, however by utilising second hand stores, eBay or cheap furniture stores such as IKEA, this can be done with minimal cost.
Obviously, having another person in your home will mean your bills will rise. Mainly things like water, utilities and the grocery bill. Giving an approximate cost for this is almost impossible as each home is different. As a guide, in my home of 2A&2K, adding on one more adult didn’t really do that much damage. The extra utilities we didn’t even notice and the grocery bill probably went up $15/week on average.
Pocket Money needs to be worked out and agreed in writing. Since there is no Au Pair agreement in place in Australia as yet – there are many different views on what should be included and how much pocket money is fair. You may find this article helpful when working out pocket money.
Expectations and Responsibilities
The role of the Au Pair needs to be agreed in writing before commencement. It should list all expectations of the family (things like honesty, reliability, open communication etc) and well as a detailed list of the role and responsibilities. Obviously, Murphy and his mates have a way of making our lives difficult at times, however each party having a detailed, written understanding of what’s expected makes for a much easier Au Pair journey.
Our family had had many Au Pairs and we stay great friends with them (our WhatsApp list is very long!). The experience has been amazing and not only have we found a flexible form of childcare that works for our family, but we have a whole crowd of extra daughters who have brought joy to our lives and smiles to the faces of our children. Should you decide to host an Au Pair now or sometime in the future – I wish you the same good fortune!
Danni Hanson is a mum, employee and business owner. She’s one half of the popular parenting website Honey, You Baked! and also runs Aussie Au Pair Mum . She loves wine and shoes, talks too much and always has an opinion on everything. If you dare, you can ask her via Twitter or Email.