No-Gos for Au Pairs
Here are our tips on what au pair’s should not do and pointers for a harmonious living experience with a host family.
The role of an au pair can sometimes be complex and challenging. But the rewards of this line of work can quickly evaporate when caution and care aren’t exercised.
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Au pair, which can literally be translated as “at the same level,” describes a line of work typically involving the services of young foreign workers. The live-in individual, typically a student, performs temporary duties, which generally involve housework and childcare.
Here's 7 things you should never do when you're an au pair:
1. Never forget boundaries
Spending months living with a new family can start out challenging, but soon your hosts may grow to become like an extended family. Never forget you are a guest, and that you should respect any personal and familial boundaries within the family.
Conversely, a host family should also respect your own personal boundaries while you’re boarding with them. Establishing and maintaining an open dialog with your hosts can ensure no statements or actions are ever misunderstood.
2. Never be inflexible, especially with children
Au pairs tasked with childcare duties require patience and adaptability to match the energy of your company. Children, by nature, are a finicky, fickle lot, so be prepared for surprises and better adapt to the mood the child is in.
3. Never shrug off the law
If your host country requires you obtain a work visa to perform your au pair duties, get one. Working without the proper legal documentation, such as a visa, can leave you with less legal recourse if you experience mistreatment.
The reality of the matter is that there are many au pairs who, without proper visas, are helpless in the face of abuses.
4. Never ignore your contract terms
Establishing a clearly-defined work contract is also crucial to a flawless au pair experience. Ask about working hours, but get specific. Will the parents want date nights? How often? What happens if the family goes on holiday? What if the parents have a day off from work? In addition to firmly establishing a stipend, find out how much money will be allotted for child play dates.
5. Never dwell on hot-button issues
Differences in opinion are bound to arise when living in a new land, but they shouldn’t get in the way of your job. Avoiding heated discussions about religious or political issues can ensure no lasting resentments linger during your time as an au pair.
It can be tempting to open up, particularly as you get to know your au pair employer or client. But it's difficult to overcome differences on these topics later on.
6. Never get distracted for too long
It’s true that life can catch up with you when you least expect it, but try not to let it affect your au pair responsibilities too greatly, especially if you work extensively with children.
It's going to be impossible to show that you genuinely care for the child if you're more preoccupied with your own issues and are too much in your own mind. Five minutes of mindful meditation can help to refocus listless minds and bring au pairs fully into the present.
7. Never have a closed mind
Au pairs have the opportunity to experience new cultures and experiences, so don’t apply to become an au pair without a curiosity about the world. Get a decent handle of the language of your chosen country before you arrive, and extrapolate what you can from every interaction.
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