Au pairs and household help: what and how much is ok?

March 31, 2014

One great part about the au pair program is that au pairs can help with household duties related to the kids, and as any busy parent knows, even a little bit of help goes a long way. Returning home to a (relatively) clean and organized household at the end of the day is hugely satisfying. It also allows you to spend more quality time with your children because you’re not worrying about what to feed them for dinner or trying to get in a load of their laundry before bedtime.

Cultural Care Au Pair defines “household duties related to the children” as doing the kids’ laundry, helping to keep their rooms tidy and preparing their meals. The U.S. Department of State agrees: “While the primary responsibility of the au pair is to care for the children, au pairs can perform some household duties that are child related (meal preparation, light housekeeping, etc.).” It goes without saying that if you ask your au pair for help with household chores, she must complete them within the 45-hour per week and 10-hour per day work limit.

While most families and au pairs figure out a successful balance of childcare and household help on their own, sometimes the lack of specifics leaves parents confused as to what is and what isn’t acceptable to ask of an au pair. To get a better idea of how our families interpret the rules on household duties, we polled families on the subject. About 2/3 of host families ask their au pair to perform 1-4 hours of light housekeeping per week while 24% of families require 5-9 hours of household help. 5% of host families ask au pairs to dedicate 10+ hours to household chores while an additional 5% don’t ask for any household help at all.

We asked what kinds of chores au pairs were doing and the responses included:

  • Kids dishes and meals
  • Children’s laundry
  • Running kid-errands like returning their books to the library
  • Preparing the children’s lunches
  • Every once in a while vacuuming or mopping up after kids
  • Cleaning out the back seat of car about 1x a month
  • Making kids’ beds and changing their sheets
  • Picking up/organizing toys
  • All things everyone does in our house

The results of our informal poll show that most families and au pairs are doing it right when it comes to household chores. The majority of families ask for a reasonable 1-9 hours of help related to the kids and all of the duties listed above are reasonable expectations.

If you still wonder if you’re asking too much of your au pair, run the situation by your LCC or program director. They can provide perspective on your to-do list. If you feel your household requests are within the boundaries of the program but your au pair has trouble fulfilling them, aupairmom.com has some great tips for families in this position which include:

  • Provide the au pair with an explicit list of the chores for her children
  • Teach the au pair how to do each of these chores
  • Add these chores to the list of daily and weekly tasks on deck
  • Give the au pair a few strategies for mingling interaction with the kids and working on these tasks
  • Discuss with the au pair that this work needs to be done, if the au pair fails to get it done

In the end, families should be able to rely on au pairs for household help related to the kids as it’s one very attractive benefit to the program. If you keep your requests reasonable and make sure you give clear expectations and instructions, you can be sure you are completing your end of the bargain!

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