What is an Au pair?

When I was a young 18 year old, I decided to travel to Belgium and work as an Au pair for a year. It really was a great way of travelling, exploring another country, improving my language skills and best of all caring for children in a warm loving home.

The word ‘Au pair’ originates from France which means ‘Equal to’ .  Generally nowadays, an Au pair can be either male or female and typically between the ages of 17 and 30yrs and have no dependants whom they are responsible for. Au pairs can take the opportunity of living and exploring other countries, improve their language skills whilst living with a family and caring for their children.

The Au pair is regarded as part of the family-as an equal within the family home. Most Au pairs live with their host families 6-12 months. This is occasionally extended to 18-24 months upon mutual agreement. In return for caring for the children and perhaps some light housework duties, the Au pair will of course in return be entitled to free board and lodging preferably with a window, heating and access to either their own bathroom or shared with the children. The Host family will also pay the Au pair ‘pocket money’ rather than a salary. This is negotiated and should form part of the Au pair contract. The Au pair should not work more than 30-35 hrs per week as they are also entitled to study a language. They should also be entitled to up to 2 weeks paid holiday each year and periods of sickness also.

The word Au pair also refers to ‘equal cultural exploration’ so this means that it is the Au pair’s right to be able to be able to explore the culture, travel around, integrate and access language courses, study and be given the time away from the children in order to for-fill this. The host family must help the Au pair find a college that offers language courses to foreign speakers and ensure the Au pair can travel there with ease. Language courses are usually paid for by the host family but in some cases the Au pair and family agree to pay half each. This should be formulated as part of the Au pair contract.

Ideally the Au pair should have weekends free but if this is not possible and they have free time in the week then at least one Sunday per month should be granted in order for them to attend things like church service.

So lets look now a little more at the role of the Au pair.

Generally first and foremost your Au pair girl or boy is there to care for your children so it is important to remember this. Your Au pair should be treated as part of your family-‘with dignity and respect’. Remember they are away from home and may be missing their family, friends and some of their home comforts.

It is essential at time of informal interview, face time or skype that you talk freely about the daily routine allowing time for questions. It is important that they feel comfortable with what you are expecting from them and you want to avoid any hidden surprises as this will lead to resentment and feeling under valued.

Normal day to day children’s routines are part of every Au pairs expectations, anything from; getting children up, helping them get dressed, fed and out the door to school. At the end of the day: helping with homework, having fun playing games, maybe walking the dog together, bath time, getting ready for bed and maybe the odd extra babysitting which tends to be paid for as extra pocket money.

During the school holidays the Au pair will enjoy having that extra time with the children. Whether it be; going out to the park, visiting the library, swimming, baking, meeting other Au pairs and their children or even just cosying up inside watching movies and playing board games. This is an ideal time for them to bond and get to know each other better.

It is important that your children first of all like and trust your Au pair but secondly the children must do as the Au pair asks of them. It can be very difficult for a new member of the family to get the children to behave as required especially whilst on trips out, this often takes time and patience and sometimes the parents need to assist with this.

Light housework generally means: cleaning away dishes after children have eaten, children’s laundry only, keeping children’s bedrooms tidy and in order but ensuring the children understand the Au pair is not there to clear up after them, this is important role modelling. Your Au pair may be happy to clean other parts of your home but this should be negotiated separately and formed as part of the Au pair contract.

What should you pay your live in Au pair? All Au pairs should receive a weekly amount of pocket money, ideally this should be into a bank account which is set up in the host country they are staying. The host family can help assist with this. Different host countries have different regulations about pocket money specification but here in the UK most Au pairs expect a sum of around £90-150 per week dependant on where you live and how many or little hours you want your Au pair to work. In London the pocket money is typically paid at the higher end. In quieter suburbs, small towns and villages you can expect to pay less.

*Please look up our really useful host country A-Z page for more information regarding visas, age requirement, insurance, driving, language course requirements, pocket money etc

So To take away!!!

We had some very pleasant experiences of having an Au pair living with us whilst our children were small.

It was peace of mind for us that are children were at home being cared for by somebody we trusted and felt comfortable with. It helped us maintain our normal working routines, maintain some independence, enabled me to further my own personal and professional development and most of all significantly reduced down our child care costs.

If you have enjoyed reading this and would like to take the next step in either becoming a host family or a live- in Au pair then please visit our website at