As much as I haven’t enjoyed my experience as an au pair it has given me some time to think about things I could, would and should improve on if I were to consider being an au pair again in the future. Not only for me but just some things for other girls (and boys) who were thinking about becoming an au pair.
- Get to know your host family. It is vital that you become familiar with your host family and vice versa so at least you know that you will get along with each other because you will be living with them and their children for an extensive amount of time. (Between 1 and 12 months) You should e-mail them and or Skype them in order to maintain a good relationship before hand. I would avoid informal types of social media such as Facebook. It is important to keep things professional first. Nevertheless, you should bare in mind things can turn out very differently in real life. You will also want to get a feel for the children too. How old are they? What do they like to do? Are the active and lively? Because you will be spending the majority of your time working with (playing and entertaining) them.
- Research where you will be living. I didn’t do too much research on where my host family lived. Would it have made a difference if I did? I’m not too sure. What I am certain of is that I hate where I lived as an au pair. I would definitely consider myself to be a city girl and I was stuck deep in the countryside of Italy and that really didn’t sit well with me. I felt, trapped and isolated because there was absolutely nothing nearby for me do nor anywhere to go. Therefore, I think it’s important to consider the area you will be living. Is it in the city/countryside? Is there anywhere close-by for you to go in your spare time? What are the transport links like? etc. It’s one thing living with a family you do not know but it would be tough on top of that if you were living in place you did not want to be.
- Speak to your host family about your schedule. It is important to know what you will be doing as an au pair. Generally au pairs have set times that they work and what they are expected to do with the children. On the other hand, I was the rare case that didn’t and it made my life a little more difficult because I didn’t know what I was expected to do or when to do it. I wasn’t even sure when to get out of be in the mornings so I always ended up waking up earlier than I probably needed to.
- Are you learning the language of your host country? I wasn’t actually learning the language of my host country nor did I take language classes. This did make my life a little more difficult but I was up to the challenge of learning a new language I had never studied before.
- Make sure you have back up money! You may need it. You may not. I certainly did because I didn’t like where I was living and I generally wasn’t happy doing the job. So I booked an earlier ticket home. This is not the only reason you may need back up money though but it is important to have just in case of emergencies.
Au pairing is something very different and brave to do which comes with many benefits and some drawbacks but you should put a lot of thought into it beforehand.