Living as an au pair grants you the opportunity to leave the world you have known and to see new perspectives. This is how I viewed my change in scenery; however, it also means fulfilling my contractual duties as an au pair.
What those duties are, for the most part, is written in stone by the country you travel to, but don’t be fooled. There are still several points that can be smoothed or fine-tuned to your needs, such as pay, holiday and transportation. It becomes good practice to know how to ask for them and provides needed skills for when the next family comes along.
Here's what to consider before you sign a contract with your new family.
First, go to the country’s government website and research organizations that are involved with au pairs. For example, in the United Kingdom they have the British Au Pair Agencies Association (BAPAA).
These types of organizations are based around keeping everyone legally in the clear by explaining what is expected and required from both parties, plus they have pre-written contracts. Your value to a family (and what you'll be paid) may be affected by any experience you already have with children, or any education you've received in childcare, psychology/sociology or medicine. Finally take into a look at the cost of living for the country and city that you will be in or around, as this will determines what kind of life you can have outside of the home.
With recharged batteries, an au pair can give their best every day, even when the children are being a little unruly.
The most valuable time for any au pair, and their host family, is the amount spent away from the job. Make sure to give yourself plenty of recovery days from the kids and demands of the family.
Setting your work capability to maximum is nice for the bottom line, since au pairs don’t make a lot, but getting away for a chance to explore the city, or a public environment, helps keep the stress from building on your shoulders. Also remember, you are in a new landscape and being able to view the gifts it can give you will only build on the experience.
Let the family know this will be as vital to you as it will be to them. With recharged batteries, an au pair can give their best every day, even when the children are being a little unruly.
Something crucial, but not always talked in depth, is the way you travel from place to place. Your host family may live within walking distance of schools and parks, but what about sports or lessons? Many visa programs require au pairs to take language lessons (if you are not already bilingual), so ask your family how they will support you in getting to your classes. For example, will they buy you a bus pass pass, raise your wage, or reimburse you for transportation expenses?
In the case that you're provided with a second car for your use, ask about contingency plans. If the vehicle breaks down, is there a bus route or cab service that you can rely on? Or are there relatives close by, as a last resort?
At the beginning of every au pair's journey, there is a simple willingness to just jump and see where you land. With a little help, and foresight, that jump can be guaranteed a parachute so the ride down is smooth sailing and the view is memorable. Never forget that, while you may be there to make someone else’s life easier, it doesn’t mean you must sacrifice your own. This is your contract’s fullest capability and the right preparation gives you the most exciting experience anyone could hope for.Add this article to your reading list