When you are still in your home country, thinking about signing up as an au pair, you can’t even begin to imagine what being an au pair is actually like. Some agencies, like mine, will have former au pairs speaking. We got a presentation. All of our questions were answered. But in that stage, you don’t even know what questions to ask. And unless you already know someone, who currently is an au pair or used to be an au pair not too long ago, it’s hard to really find out. Being an au pair can be amazing. But there are some unexpected sides to it as well.
Some families ask their au pairs to work more
… but also pay them for it. It’s not as uncommon as you might think. Some host families ask their au pairs to ask longer hours. Maybe the au pair will work more than 10 hours a day, or just more than the total 45 hour week. Some ask you to sit the kids while they have a date night. But they usually will also pay for it. If they do pay the au pair more to work more, both the au pair and host family keep it a secret. Obviously, because if they get caught, they could be kicked off the program. If both the au pair and the host family are okay with this agreement, no harm done. If the au pair doesn’t want this, it can get a little difficult. Saying “no” can be hard, and we au pairs also need the money.
200 $ is not a lot of money
Most au pairs haven’t worked a job before they come to the US. Most just come out of school and jump into the adventure of being an au pair. Those that have worked, are aware that 200 $ a week is not a lot of money. Those who haven’t worked a “real” job before, will think it’s a lot. I did too. I thought it would be enough. But between almost weekly excursions into the city, musicals and Broadway shows, eating out with friends and buying a few clothes, the not even 200 $ will be gone faster than you think. It’s wise to try to save up at least 50 $ to 100 $ every week. Not only is it important that you have the money when tax season rolls around, but what if you want to travel somewhere? It never hurts to have some money on the side.
Some host families will not give you off on the weekends
Even though it is a requirement in the program, some families will not give you the one and a half days per week off. Some might give their au pairs off on Sunday and Monday instead of Saturday and Sunday. This is technically against the rules. Again though, if neither the au pair nor host families says something, no one will ask. If the au pair is however not okay with this, she/he should definitely talk to their host family and/or LCC.
It is a real fulltime job
Some of us forget that being an au pair is not only the cultural exchange with America. It is a fulltime 45 hours job. You have to do a lot of work, the days can be long and there will be some bad days. Then there is also the fact that you live at your job and that your host parents are your bosses. Some au pairs can handle it well and they separate job and private life. For others it is a bit more difficult. But you can only find out what works for you when you’re an au pair yourself.