Typical Au Pair Job Responsibilities
As an au pair, your primary job is to care for the children, in many ways acting as a non-dysfunctional big sister (or big brother). You are there to play with them, get them ready at meals and bath times, prepare lunches, clean up after the children, and escort them to and from school. The best way to think of an au pair is as a babysitter and not as a nanny. You are not expected to take sole care of the children, especially for younger ones under the age of two.
You are there to provide an extra set of hands to help the parents and to take care of the children yourself for brief periods so that the parents have time to do other things.
You will also be expected to help out around the house doing some ‘light household chores’, but the majority of your chores should revolve around the children. This could be helping keep their rooms neat and toys put away, washing and ironing the children?s clothes, and helping to clean up after meals.
Generally, you will also be expected to do your share of the regular household cleaning such as the bathrooms, and vacuuming. You are not a maid, but simply doing your share of the chores as part of the family. Your host family should not be making you clean the oven or the cars, mow the lawn, or prepare meals for the whole family by yourself.
Au pairs generally work 25-30 hours a week plus two nights of babysitting for the agreed upon wage. An au pair plus will work 30-35 hours a week and be expected to babysit three or four nights a week. Your family is also to give you two complete days off each week as well as time to attend the language class that almost every European country requires you to be enrolled in while working on an au pair visa. In addition to your regular days off, the family is expected to give you a minimum of two weeks off if you are contracted for a year.
The pay as an au pair, often referred to as pocket money, is usually between 60 – 80 euros a week. The wage is low because the family you are helping is expected to cover all of your food and lodging requirements and your ‘pocket money’ is so that you can enjoy your new country.
Along with the wages, many families will provide some portion of your language class fees. As for transportation, you should expect to either get use of the family car if you do have a license, or a transit pass that the family purchases for you. The pocket money you are paid each month is not very much and if a quarter of it is going to transportation costs, you won’t have any money left to enjoy your days off.
The family is expected to provide you with a furnished bedroom for your own during the stay. Ideally it is something large and tastefully decorated, but usually it is the spare bedroom with all the leftover furniture. The point here is to not be too fussy. It won’t be the Hilton, but you should complain if they give you the Harry Potter suite under the stairs.
An au pair position does have some restrictions, especially in terms of scheduling.
Your schedule and available free time is very much dictated by the family and when they require you.This also means that you are tied to wherever they happen to be going and not where you would like to visit. Going to see Great Aunt Janine in Calais for two weeks may not be your idea of a vacation, but you won’t have much say in that. Of course, this does not apply to the two weeks paid vacation that the family must provide you in a one year contract; that vacation is yours to do with as you wish.
Fundamentally, being an au pair isn’t about being a live-in helper. The primary motivation is a cultural exchange of both language and information that is mostly governed by mutual respect and goodwill. There is a reason why there are no real strict laws for au pair employment; in most countries it is not considered a job but more as a shared responsibility and exchange of help between a family and a young traveler looking to expand their horizons.