Au pairs may be one of the most misunderstood jobs out there. For some reason – perhaps thanks to Hollywood movies – a lot of people have a very different idea of what having an au pair is really like in real life. We bust some of the more popular myths about au pairs:
Myth One – Au Pairs are just for the rich
“I’d love some help with the children, but an au pair is expensive and only the super rich are able to afford them!”
Au pairs are actually far cheaper than what you may think. Unlike a nanny, who is on a salary, an au pair is paid mostly in food and board. All you need to provide is a private room, all meals and some pocket money. The amount you might pay for pocket money varies but a rough idea is usually around $250 per week.
There is also a one-off agency fee for placing the au pair. This is worth every penny as the agency will pre-screen the au pair, interview them and match you up with the perfect person. This will save you hours of time and hassle, and will ensure that once your au pair starts you will be happy with the placement from the start.
Myth Two – an au pair won’t be able to speak English
“I’d hire an au pair but I don’t want to spend all my time trying to communicate with someone who can’t understand English.”
Au pairs will be screened and interviewed by an agency before they are bought to Australia, or before they are sent to your home. If having impeccable English is a requirement, then that is what you will get. Most au pairs that come to Australia are from countries that either speak English as a first language, or teach English in their schooling system. This includes places like: England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Korea and South America.
Myth Three – an au pair is just a fancy name for a babysitter
“I could just call my babysitter an au pair, couldn’t I?”
A casual babysitter is just that – someone who comes in for an allocated amount of time to watch the children, and then leaves. But an au pair is someone who lives with you, and will get to know the children personally. They will be involved in their lives and understand where each child is up to in their learning and activities, and they will help develop that. They will also help with some light housework, especially any housework revolving around the children such as washing their clothes.
Myth Four – having a ‘live-in’ will mean we lose all of our privacy as a family
“I can’t stand the idea of having someone else living in my house – what if I don’t feel like hanging out and talking to someone when I’m at home?”
When you hire an au pair, you are going to be hiring someone who either comes from Australia, or someone who is travelling from another country. This means they will either already have established friends and family nearby that they will want to see on their days off, or they will be keen to go out and meet new people and explore their surroundings. It is very unlikely that you’ll find an au pair just hanging around the house in your space in their time off. They are just regular people, usually with a full social life outside of your home. When they are at home, they will likely enjoy having a bit of privacy as well. Although they will be friendly and easy-going, after a day with the kids they might often wish to retire to their rooms for some much needed down-time. So you definitely don’t have to worry that you will be spending your days feeling like you have no personal space left in your own home.
Myth Five – au pairs are party animals
“Au pairs are all young travellers who are just interested in having a good time, not in looking after my children.”
While it is true that most au pairs are in fact young (in their twenties), and are often travellers from another country, it does not mean they are only interested in going out and partying. Everyone needs a social life outside of their job – it makes them a more balanced person – just like you do with your job! But you don’t have to be concerned about them being out of control. Au pairs are well screened and interviewed before being sent out to jobs and they generally adhere to a code of conduct. If they don’t, and you have any problems with the behaviour of your au pair, you can take it up with the agency who assigned the person to you, and they will replace the au pair and waive the placement fee. Also, like with most jobs, the au pair will be under trial for the first month so you should have a good indication on whether the au pair is going to work well for you within this time frame.