Five years ago, life was great! I was a stay-at-home Mum with 3 healthy children. My daughter had commenced Prep and I had 2 boys at home, a 3-year-old and a 5-month-old. Having previous careers
However, I was also very lucky. My amazing mother would travel an hour from her home and spend several nights a week with my family helping me conquer these babies, as my husband worked very long hours.
One day I got a call and this all changed overnight.
My beautiful, adoring, angelic and my-one-hero, my mother, was diagnosed with terminal Stage 4 lung cancer and was given a diagnosis of only weeks to live. From the grace of God, this turned into a year.
Without hesitation, my twin sister and I decided between us we would give our mother palliative care at home until she passed. Our father passed away when we were young girls and my mother’s current husband was not
Hence, very unexpectedly and very swiftly I entered the Au Pair world. I have now since had six Au Pairs and have had a lot of learns on the way as well as some rich and wonderful experiences.
An Au Pair is typically a foreign person who lives in your home,
Families will typically consider Au Pairs for their flexibility and for their cost effectiveness! Au Pairs are popular with dual-working families, families with 3+ children, with those that find themselves in stressful family situations and with families who desire a carer to look after their child/children in their own home.
Having a great Au Pair can make such a difference to the happiness of your home and also your wallet. If you can secure a loving secondary care-taker for your children, the stability
Some Au Pairs really relish and want to become part of your family. Others are keen to be more independent and social outside of the family unit in their downtime. However, in my experience, they are all keen to engage with another culture and desire the knowledge that you genuinely care for them.
In a thriving Au Pair relationship, this is rewarded in spades with love shown to your children and a genuine effort to be helpful in your home.
Without a doubt, the huge
The Au Pair industry in Australia is largely unregulated, therefore there are no formal contracts, and the payment is an informal agreement which is made between the Host Family and the Au Pair. It is up to you to make a mutually acceptable financial arrangement with your Au Pair. Personally, I would always offer a fair amount straight away, as a working relationship needs to start on a good footing. If you try and hire an Au Pair with minimal pocket money, he/she may not feel valued from the outset and this could foster resentment and/or have the Au Pair putting in minimal effort.
An Au Pair’s total package will consist of, but is not limited to:
An Au Pair’s “pocket money” in my experience is typically between $6.50 to $7.50 per work hour.
30 hours of work a week: pocket money would range from $195 to $225 per week
35 hours of work per week: pocket money would range from $225 to $260 per week
40 hours of work per week: pocket money would range from $260 to $300 per week
This is by no means a set
I would throw caution to getting your Au Pair to work more hours outside of this. The
In contrast, if you were to find a professional Nanny, you could be paying between $25 to $30 per hour, as well as other costs such as agency fees and so on. These can be substantial, with finding-fees sometimes inching close to $2,000! If money is no object to you, the upside is that using a Nanny agency will reduce the risk of hiring someone who is not suitable, the person will have had significant
As Au Pairs are living in your home there is typically a lot of flexibility in terms of their work hours.
You can have set hours per week, or as I did, set the hours for the week-ahead every week. As I am a stay-at-home Mum with three kids, my needs changed every week and where I saw gaps I would fill them. This was especially true when my sister and I were providing palliative care to my mother. At a drop of a
As the working arrangements are determined
An Au Pair is able to provide consistency of care. I desperately wanted my children not to be pulled from pillar to post, to be able to be in our home and be cared for primarily by one other
If you can get it right, the Au Pair and the Host Parents can become a formidable team–working off each other’s cues, seamlessly implementing the household routine, providing love in the home environment and executing discipline in a unified manner.
Such a positive.
We have learnt about different cultures and countries, from Canada, France, Italy, Germany and Holland. We have learnt about the Au Pairs’ families, their hobbies, their food and their language. We have learnt how to cook Dutch pancakes, how to count in different languages, and I even had a reinvigoration of my piano playing, after our Au Pair from Germany, made our house alive with “Elton John” piano playing skills.
We have even had Au Pairs accompany us successfully on holidays, both domestically and internationally. This proved wonderful for both the Au Pair and my husband and I (who doesn’t like another pair of hands on holidays!).
You can truly learn about different
As there are no contracts in place, there is theoretically nothing you can do if an Au Pair decides for some reason to leave without notice or for example doesn’t even show up for their start date with your family.
These are real risks and would be
The only way to minimise this risk is to do your best to hire an Au Pair that suits your family (read on below), that is respectful of these considerations and of course to communicate to the Au Pair a notice period you would like if they decided to leave before the agreed end date. Once again though, this all relies
It is really important to spend considerable time vetting your potential Au Pair. They will not be coming and going, they will be living with you, so it is very important that you enjoy their company and are aware of their living habits.
If they start and you decide you cannot live together, then this is an immediate problem and could mean that you need to start the process all over again.
It is important to know there is a risk that your Au Pair hire will not work out–maybe they have taken a position out of town but realise they miss the busyness of the city, perhaps they can’t handle 3 kids or lose confidence with a baby. These things can happen, but you can work hard on your end to make the best possible hire for your family so as to minimise these issues.
Au Pairs are not superhuman beings. They have their flat days and lethargic days, just as we do, they can become homesick, they can get sick... all of these things will happen under your roof and can occur at varying degrees. Are you ok with that?
This blog is a 1 of 3 part series. In the next two blogs, Vanessa will take us through 'Tips for a Successful Au Pair Hire' and 'How to Foster a Successful Working Au Pair Relationship'.
Vanessa Douglas is a stay at home mum with three beautiful children. She and her family live in Brisbane. Before children, Vanessa worked as a lawyer at a top-tier Family Law firm in Brisbane. When she and her husband relocated to London, Vanessa changed career paths and began working in Legal recruitment, specialising in the Corporate and Banking & Finance sector of Private Practice. She was one of the top billing recruiters in the UK during her time with her recruitment firm. She has placed many many successful clients, overseen hundreds of resumes and has a knack for picking the right person for the right job. Her professional experience combined with her practical experience of navigating the world of ‘au pairs’ makes her article a 'must’ read.