It can be challenging to decide on the right kind of childcare for your family. From babysitters to professional caregivers, there are many services provided by different childcare options. Au pairs are one of these professional caregivers, but what is an au pair? In this article, we'll break down what an au pair is, and what these caregivers can add to your household.
Raising kids is incomparably rewarding '” but it's also a highly demanding job. It's no wonder that almost half of parents with preschool-aged kids search for help with childcare. Of those parents, two-thirds sought childcare to meet their own needs, like freeing up time for work or school.
With more and more employers permanently moving towards working from home, the lines between family and work can start to blur. It can be challenging to balance the demands of work, family, and managing a household under one roof. Many families are seeking caregivers, such as au pairs, to make this balance easier.
An au pair is a young adult who travels from another country to live with and provide childcare to a host family. There are many factors that distinguish au pairs from other types of caregivers. Au pairs:
- Travel on a cultural exchange visa
- Typically stay for 1-2 years
- Live with their host family
- Provide childcare
- Can help with light housework duties
Au pairs are much more than just caregivers. During their time with their host families, au pairs become more like temporary family members.
Whether you're looking for live-in childcare or even considering becoming an au pair, we'll explain more about these incredible caregivers below.
How Are Au Pairs Different From Other Caregivers?
There are many options that a family might consider for childcare. Au pairs, nannies, and daycares are just a few of the most common, but there are important differences between these types of caregivers.
One of the key factors that set an au pair apart is that they live with their host family. That means no early-morning traffic jams on the way to daycare, and no waiting around when the sitter is running late. Some nannies live with their host families, but this is a benefit all au pairs bring.
This also enables au pairs to share their culture with their host family in deeply enriching ways. From cooking their favorite recipes to celebrating new traditions together, au pairs bring the rewards of cultural exchange directly to the households they become a part of.
Cost can also be an important consideration for choosing childcare. Nannies and daycares commonly charge a rate based on the number of children they're caring for. In contrast, the rate of an au pair is always per family. That means you pay the same rate regardless of how many kids are at home.
Since au pairs receive room and board, those costs are considered part of their compensation. In addition to room and board, au pairs receive a minimum weekly stipend. Caregivers like nannies typically receive a salary of at least minimum wage, which often makes them a more expensive childcare solution.
Additionally, there are different requirements for each type of caregiver. Daycare centers follow widely-varying state guidelines, with most being inspected annually. Independent nannies have no guidelines to follow, and nanny agencies are typically self-regulated.
Au pairs are required to follow strict guidelines set by the U.S. Department of State. Au pair agencies, such as AuPairCare, are responsible for ensuring that their au pairs meet all these guidelines. Each au pair in the United States must secure a visa and pass a background check. Other requirements for au pairs set by the Department of State include:
- At least a secondary school education
- English proficiency
- Between 18 to 26 years of age
At AuPairCare, we have additional program qualifications to ensure that our au pairs provide their host families with the highest standard of care. These qualifications are designed to prepare each au pair to thrive as soon as they arrive at their host family's home.
Prior to their arrival at their host family's home, AuPairCare au pairs receive training in topics that help prepare them for their new role with their family. This training includes child development, CPR and first aid, and even an introduction to life in the United States. We also offer ongoing training to help our au pairs continue to expand their skills and knowledge during their time with their host families.
Why Do People Become Au Pairs?
Every year, about 20,000 young people from around the world travel to the United States to live and work as au pairs. But what inspires a person to become an au pair, and what is an au pair in America's life like?
There are many reasons that a person may become an au pair. One of the most compelling is the unique cultural exchange opportunity it creates. Experiencing life in a new country has countless benefits, from gaining a broader perspective on the world to tackling the challenge of thriving in a new environment. Working as an au pair is a great way to get this experience, especially since room and board are taken care of.
The close connection that au pairs have to their host family helps to make the transition to life in a new country easier. Many au pairs find they can look to their host families for guidance. This supportive network takes a lot of the stress out of traveling and living abroad.
Au pair programs also give people across the world the incredible opportunity to live, learn, and work in the United States. Every day, au pairs are immersed in English, with constant new opportunities to practice their language skills.
Our AuPairCare au pairs also have the option to attend ongoing training throughout their placements. These training sessions don't just help them become better caregivers now '” they also help them learn valuable, lasting professional skills that will help their career in the future.
In fact, working as an au pair has many long-term career benefits. Experience as an au pair shows future employers that a candidate is flexible, patient, organized, communicative, responsible, adaptable, and so much more.
Traveling, learning, and gaining experience are all huge benefits to becoming an au pair. However, many people choose to become au pairs for a different reason: because they love the meaningful connections they make with the families they provide care for.
Many au pairs form relationships with their host families that last for a lifetime. We hear stories from many of our au pairs that their host family visited them in their home country, and even that they travel to attend special events in each others' lives, like weddings and graduations.
These connections can truly be like gaining a second family. One of our au pairs from Colombia, Arlis, says that as soon as she met her host family, the Lawals, she 'felt the warmth of a loving family.' Arlis believes her experience with her host family has changed her for the better. She says they helped her grow into a more confident person and created memories together that she cherishes.
There is a lot that our au pairs love about their work, including:
- The chance to make a difference in a child's life
- Forming new bonds and connections with people from around the world
- Learning new skills that last a lifetime
What Does An Au Pair Do?
Au pairs generally stay with your family for a year, but this can be extended for an additional 6, 9, or 12 months. During this time, their main responsibility is to provide high-quality childcare from the comfort and convenience of your own home.
An au pair can work 45 hours per week, up to 10 hours each day. These professional caregivers have training in child development and a passion for helping kids thrive and learn. As such, they can help support your kids' development as they play together.
Providing a high standard of care is the main focus of an au pair. However, that doesn't mean watching the kids is all they do. They can also help your family with essentially any task related to this, like:
- Helping kids with homework
- Bathing and dressing kids
- Helping with light housework
- Preparing food for kids
- Driving children to and from school
- Taking kids on outings
By taking these tasks on, au pairs lessen the load of parenting. They make it easier to get work done, stay on top of household chores, and even spend quality time with your kids.
Cultural Exchange With an Au Pair
When an au pair stays with your family, they bring more than an extra set of hands. They also bring the benefits of their language, culture, and experience into your household.
Our au pairs are from many countries around the world. Hosting an au pair is a powerful way to bring a unique cultural exchange experience directly to your family.
Au pairs infuse their culture into their caregiving in many ways. Ana, an au pair from Spain, taught her host family how to cook several traditional Spanish dishes, and is helping the child she cares for learn words in Spanish. Selay, an au pair from Turkey, has taught the kids she looks after Turkish dances and inspired them to visit her home country one day.
The cultural exposure that an au pair can provide has incredible impacts on kids. Experiencing new cultures at a young age can make kids more inclusive of others and more respectful of diversity. It can also help them develop a foundational level of empathy, as cultural exposure helps kids understand and accept the differences between people.
Kids have a remarkable ability to learn languages, and doing so has many intrinsic benefits. A study published in the International Journal of Bilingualism showed that kids who learned a second language had larger vocabularies, better working language skills, and improved brain function.
Au pairs organically create language-learning opportunities for children throughout their time together. Many parents were pleasantly surprised at how much of a new language their children picked up after spending a year or more with an au pair.
In addition to becoming like an older siblings to the kids they care for, au pairs give their host families immersive cultural and linguistic experiences. These caregivers can enrich the lives of their host families in many unique, rewarding ways.
How Can I Start Hosting an Au Pair?
Between securing a visa, finding a candidate, conducting interviews, booking flights, and more, the process of adding an au pair to your household might seem stressful. AuPairCare can help make this process seamless and stress-free, so your family can focus on enjoying the benefits your new au pair will bring to your household.
At AuPairCare, our team is made of tenured industry professionals, many of whom have been or hosted au pairs themselves. We know how important it is that each family finds the right caregiver for their children, and we're committed to ensuring that every match is a resounding success.
The process we follow to place an au pair with a host family includes:
- Screening applicants
- Ensuring all Department of State guidelines are met
- Helping the au pair secure a visa
- Curating candidates for your family's specific needs
- Facilitating interviews
- Training the au pair
- Organizing the au pair's transportation
- Supporting au pairs and their host families after they arrive
We recruit our au pairs from 40 countries. Potential au pairs are first required to meet regulations set by the United States Department of State, including background checks, educational requirements, language abilities, and personal references.
Then, we screen potential au pairs to learn more about their personality, skills, and what made them want to become an au pair. With all AuPairCare and Department of State requirements met, we handle the behind-the-scenes work of helping au pairs secure their J-1 visas.
Families looking for an AuPairCare au pair can access our award-winning database to search through potential candidates. This helps ensure that every family is matched with an au pair that meets their unique needs, like driving ability, language skills, experience, and more.
Our team also helps set up interviews so that each family can ensure their au pair is the right fit for their household. Once an au pair and host family have a mutual match, they set a date for their exciting new chapter together to begin.
AuPairCare takes care of last-minute details, like scheduling the au pair's flights to get them to their new host family. Once they arrive, we also continue to support them throughout their stay. We check in within two days of each au pair's arrival to ensure their first days are going smoothly. Our local Area Directors stay in regular contact with each family and their au pair during their entire placement.
At AuPairCare, our staff supports families through every step of finding the perfect au pair. We play an active role in helping place each au pair with a host family.
Au Pairs Are More Than Caregivers
So: what is an au pair? Over the year or more they spend with their host family, au pairs become much more than just caregivers. An au pair is a temporary family member, an older sibling to your kids, an extra set of hands, a partner in parenting, and a lifelong friend.
Au pairs can enrich the households they join in countless ways, including:
Immersing their host family in their culture Sharing their language with their host family Developing lifelong relationships with their host family Lightening the workload of raising kids
At AuPairCare, we're committed to making the process of finding an au pair as easy as possible. We support our au pairs and host families from their first interview until they return home. Partnering with AuPairCare makes it stress-free to find the perfect au pair to add to your family's household.
Contact us today to learn more about our program details, and about the remarkable young people from around the world who become au pairs.