What is an Au Pair? (with picture)

Cassie L. Damewood
Cassie L. Damewood
An au pair may do housework related to care of the child.
An au pair may do housework related to care of the child.

An au pair is a person who helps a family with childcare, light housekeeping and other domestic tasks in exchange for room, board and a small salary. He is commonly a young person from a country other than the one in which the host family resides. The position generally requires residing in the family home although he may sometimes live in a separate residence nearby.

Childcare is normally presumed to be the job focus of an au pair. Light housework can also be part of the job description, but the children’s care is customarily the focal point of the job. Most of the care is normally provided during daylight hours while occasional evening babysitting may be required. The average number of hours worked in this position is generally between 25 and 30 hours a week.

Although the terms of the contract may vary greatly based on the needs and desires of the involved parties, the au pair traditionally works for the family for a maximum of two years. His hours are usually scheduled to meet the needs of the parents and children. Most jobs include two days off work per week.

The daily job requirements for this position normally differ significantly by family. They are affected by the careers of the parents and how much time they spend with their children. Other factors such as child rearing philosophies and the ages of the children may influence the job duties as well. His responsibilities often fluctuate depending on the time of year, as the children attend school or are on school breaks or vacations. He is often expected to accompany the family on domestic or international outings or trips.

Though duties may vary, a typical au pair’s day often begins with bathing and feeding the child or children. If appropriate, the au pair may also be required to safely transport the children to and from school. It is typically the job of the au pair to plan activities for the children that are fun as well as intellectually stimulating. Other duties such as cleaning the children’s room and washing and ironing their clothes may also be required.

The job title derives from the French term au pair, which translates to “equal to” or “on a par.” Unlike a typical domestic servant, the au pair is intended to be treated the same as family members instead of hired help. All involved parties are typically expected to show respect for one another. Ideally, he and the family both reap rewards from sharing their cultural backgrounds and forge a relationship worthy of cultivating.

Agencies that cater to the needs of au pairs and host families are found in most industrialized nations throughout the world. These agencies generally attempt to match the needs of families and au pairs for mutual satisfaction and harmony. Some placement groups represent specific countries, but the majority cater to the needs of families and au pairs in many nations.

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    • An au pair may do housework related to care of the child.
      An au pair may do housework related to care of the child.