May 1, 2013

Fact or Fiction? My au pair needs her own bathroom, car, cell phone, computer, etc.

3 minutes
About au pairs

You might think once you decide to host an au pair that you need to provide her with certain luxuries—things like her own bathroom, car, cell phone, computer, etc. The fact is, what an au pair actually requires is her own bedroom, love and respect from her host family—as well as some of the extra stuff to do her job and get to her classes, au pair meetings and social engagements.
Au pair requirements
The U.S. Department of State stipulates that an au pair needs to have her own bedroom with a door—for obvious reasons.  Au pairs are also entitled to up to a $500 payment towards their educational component, and transportation to and from their classes.  That can be in the form of use of the family car, or a fare to take public transit.
Au pairs also need love and respect from their host families in order to have a successful year—this is far more important to them than any material comforts you can provide. So what about all that other stuff? Well, here’s what some of our program participants have to say about that:
Although providing an au pair with her own bathroom is nice, many au pairs share a bathroom with the kids or even the whole family. Portland, OR host mom Krista Reitberg and her family share their home’s one bathroom with their au pairs. So, if you have an extra bathroom, it’s nice for an au pair to have her own, but it’s certainly not required.
Depending on where you live and what your schedule is like, you may or may not need your au pair to drive. For instance, if you live in a suburb just outside Boston with good public transportation, your future au pair won’t need a car for her childcare duties or personal engagements. If you need your au pair to drive as part of her childcare responsibilities and to get to classes and meetings, you’ll need to provide her with a car. But it doesn’t have to be a luxury vehicle. And sharing with one or both host parents is typical.
Cell phone
Do you have to provide your au pair with a cell phone? If you want to be able to keep in constant contact with her, then yes. But families have come up with several different ways to keep costs down and accountability in check.  According to contributors, one host mom puts everyone in her family on one plan—the extra cost for her au pair is only about $10 per month. She says, “A friend of mine uses a strict pay-as-you-go plan. She puts a certain amount she feels is reasonable into the account each month and the au pair pays the rest.” Another mom shares, “Several of my au pairs, including our current au pair, arranged their own cell phone and so I compensated them in other ways (i.e. Netflix subscription).” The bottom line: Au pairs do need cell phones but need neither fancy phones nor fancy phone plans.
An au pair does not need her own computer. Au pairs share computers with their host families all the time. But if you have an extra, it would be helpful to provide one for her in her room as skyping, emailing and keeping up-to-date with social media sites are important ways au pairs keep connected with friends and family. That being said, if having her own computer is very important to her, your au pair will likely bring her own with her when she first arrives.
Au pairs are reminded time and again—both throughout the screening process in an au pair’s home country and during her week at our Au Pair Training School in New York—that the amenities listed above are privileges, and not necessarily provided by every host family.