An Au Pair is somebody who lives with a host family and teaches a language to their children.
And yes, that is totally me cooking in a Spanish restaurant, the chef didn’t just give me the things for the photo… honest.
Here is what to expect:
- Living with a family
You will generally find a family on Au Pair websites to live with, if you do not know someone who knows someone. You are given your own room within their home. You essentially become a part of their family. You have your meals with the family and live like them. It is important to tell the family any dietary requirements you have, and to make sure you have a knowledge of the type of food they eat in their country. You also get to live like a local. You will not get this experience on a weekend visit, while staying in a hotel.
- Teach English
Or any other native language that is required. I also taught mathematics. A three month summer school break can be a lot for some children, and so it is essential to make sure they keep their knowledge they have acquired throughout the school year. This involves using work books, playing word games with them, using flash cards, and just chatting to them. It can even be as simple as correcting them when they say a sentence, and encouraging them when they speak well.
- Looking after children
You are expected to take care of the children. It is more like being an auntie or a big sister. Some contracts can be from one month to a year or two years. It is entirely up to you. Some families look for a long term Au Pair, but offer a few months in order to see if you are compatible with them. You can take them to the park, take them out, play games with them, watch TV with them, or even go to the swimming pool with them.
- Bath time and toilet
In some cases you may be required to assist with the children’s bath time, and if they are very young they may ask you to help them in the bathroom. It is also essential to make sure children wash their hands. If you are not comfortable with this, then other arrangements can be made. But, it is a common request for someone in the position of a nanny. Make sure that you discuss this before you agree to taking on the role.
- Reading stories
This was one of my absolute favourite thing to do. It allows you to connect with the children. Little ones love to sit close to you and follow the words. Especially since you are reading in another language. It is also a good opportunity to see if they can also read the story.
If you are as lucky as I was, Au Pair work means free holidays with the family. Although you will be still essentially working, it is a great experience. The first family I worked for in Madrid took me to four different parts of Spain with them. Through this, you are given the unique opportunity to get to know the culture from a native point of view. This cannot be beaten.
- Morning routine
Routines are essential for children. Lessons, playtime, and meal times are all scheduled. Arguably, the most important routines to take note of are the morning and bedtime routines. The morning routine will include a shower or bath, breakfast, dressing them, and getting them ready for the day ahead. There is a lot of work involved in these tasks. The most important thing to remember in a hot country is to make sure you put sun cream on the children.
- Bedtime routine
The bedtime routine can be tricky, as some children do not want to go to bed when they are told to. Therefore, you need to know this before you move to the country to work for the family. You need to know what you are getting yourself into. Generally, this routine is not very hard. It involves a bath or a shower, putting on their pyjamas, and getting them ready for sleep. It is all about being calm.
- Making friends
In a lot of places where you can be an Au Pair, 90% of the time the family will have decided to get one, because someone they know has had one or has one. This is how I got my first family, as my friend had worked for their cousin. Therefore, there will be plenty of Au Pairs that the family you work for will know of. I met one of my favourite people this way, and we are still friends six years later. There are also groups on Facebook where I met other Au Pairs, and arranged to meet up. It is well worth doing, because you are all in the same position.
- Days/nights out with friends
When you have made friends you will be able to arrange to go for dinner with them, or even to a club. It depends entirely on the family you work for. So long as you are sticking to the schedule to take care of the children the family will be fine with you being social in your free time.
Make sure that you Skype with the family you want to work for, and that you are fully aware of what they expect from you before you go over. Some Au Pairs I met were expected to clean the house and cook. Those jobs are not usually a requirement of an Au Pair. You are there to teach a foreign language. Make the most of the experience. Home sickness may be an issue, but there are plenty of ways to get over that. I will explain in another post in the future. I was eighteen years old when I first went out to Spain, and I had the best experience. The pay varies, but it is essentially more like pocket money than a living wage, since all your expenses are paid for by the family.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Photo credit: Chantal Elizabeth Speed