I was an au pair for 1 year and six months in the US and I have seen many au pairs come and go. You can often tell straight away which au pair is going to stay for good, which one is going to extend, and which one will be gone by the end of the week. Thankfully, I was never a victim of the latter category.
Being an au pair isn’t all about living a fairy tale life in a luxurious home. It is hard work. It’s caring for kids on a daily basis for a long term commitment in a country that’s entirely unknown to you. Although there is the benefit of traveling, studying, and making new friends, being an au pair comes with a long list of responsibilities.
If you’re thinking of becoming an au pair, here are some of the qualities you should bear in mind:
Commitment and dedication are vital.
You need to be fully committed to the program. Whether you’re an au pair for 3 – 6 months or a year, you have to be willing to commit and dedicate your time in shaping the lives of someone else’s kids.
Packing your bags and moving half way across the world.
I’ve witnessed many au pairs leaving their host families because they feel homesick. This is a stage every au pair goes through but not everyone overcomes it. During the first few months with your host family are the hardest. Everything is strange and unfamiliar. You’re still learning to grasp the language, culture and on top of that, you’re trying to be a part of another family. It’s important to understand that sometimes being an au pair can be lonely but you can find support through your au pair agency. And of course, you can Skype your family back home!
An au pair is so much more than babysitting.
For 45 hours a week, you’re investing your time in taking care of someone else’s child. You have to remember that the main reason of being an au pair is to take care of children. I’ve known quite a few girls that wish to go the US to escape their life back home or find a US boyfriend and latch onto them for support. If you go with this attitude, you’ll face many problems. Make sure you have a selfless reason of becoming an au pair because you’re not the only one taking a huge risk, so are the host family and their children.
This goes without saying but you have to enjoy working with children of all ages.
You’ll be spending most of your time playing with kids, cooking for them and cleaning up after them. Be prepared to sacrifice your spare time for the sake of your host kids. You may have to make last minute changes to your plans because your host parents may need you to look after them last minute. But there are some excellent fun factors too! You get to be the most fun part of your host kids day! They will eventually look up to you as a role model, elder sister (or brother), and a friend. Most importantly, you can develop a long-term friendly relationship with these people and just like me, visit them again!