February 6, 2019

How does an au pair work?

Learn how to make life easier with au pair childcare.

4 minutes
About au pairs


Hosting an au pair is a flexible and trustworthy solution to your childcare needs! The truth is, having an au pair at home can help you and your family focus on the things that truly matter—spending time together, enriching the lives of your loved ones, and living in the now.

This is so hard for parents across the country, who are juggling multiple children, full-time jobs, housework, and more! That’s why more and more families are choosing to welcome an au pair into their homes and their hearts.

How does an au pair work? It’s quite simple, actually! And as the largest and most trusted au pair organization in the world, Cultural Care Au Pair is here to help you understand every detail as easily as possible. Here we’ll provide a brief overview of the program, what an au pair is, what an au pair’s responsibilities are, and why they’re so special to have.



Hosting an au pair: A brief overview

Making the exciting decision to bring an au pair into your home means choosing excellent childcare for your little ones. It’s choosing to participate in a government-regulated cultural exchange program that will bring a foreign woman or man (aged 18-26) to the USA on a J1 visa to live in your home, care for your children, and experience the American way of life.


As a host family, you enjoy the lasting benefits of an in-home caregiver that will love your children as if they were little brothers and sisters. You will also experience the magic of another culture, as your au pair will bring with them a new way of life—including new foods, new traditions, and new words (or an entirely new language)!


You will also be expected, as a host family, to participate in the “spirit of the program”—which means keeping in mind that an au pair is in the USA to care for your children first and foremost, but also to experience life in America. They will be eager to make new friends, explore new places and learn from your family and community. You are there to help them!



What is an au pair?

The term “au pair” is French for “on par.” It is named to reflect the type of relationship a host family is expected to have with their au pair—one of equal standing, trust, and mutual respect. An au pair is a young, educated and culturally-curious person who comes to the USA to develop themselves and their career, find a second home (and family!), travel to new places, and—in many cases—improve their English.

An au pair is different from a nanny or daycare provider in that they are in the country as a participant of a U.S. Department of State regulated program. Therefore, there are rules and regulations they must follow to maintain their visa status—such as earning college course credits, working within their limits and following other program guidelines set forth.


What are an au pair’s responsibilities?

The responsibilities of an au pair can vary from day to day, week to week, but one thing is always constant: Their responsibilities must be directly related to the children they’re caring for. For example, an au pair can wash and dry laundry as long as it is the host children’s laundry. They cannot, under the program rules, wash and dry their host parent’s laundry.


Au pairs are available to work up to 45 hours per week (maximum of 10 hours per day) on a schedule you decide. The schedule can vary depending on the parents’ needs, the kids’ school vacations, new jobs, travel, etc.—but it is always in the family and au pair’s best interest to discuss changes in advance, the same way you would with any other childcare or service provider. The more you and your au pair communicate, the easier it is to get along and have a successful program year together!


What makes an au pair special?

An au pair is so much more than simply a childcare provider—they become a trusted friend and an extended member of the family, bringing a new energy and dynamic to life at home. Because an au pair lives in the home with your family, a sense of trust develops much quicker than it would with a typical daycare provider or out-of-home nanny. This trust helps you feel closer to your au pair, and means you will soon revel in their focused attention and love for your little ones.


Of course, an au pair is extra special because of the culture she or he brings with him to your home. The chance to learn about a new corner of the world can be enriching for both parents and children! And many of our families become so enamored with their au pairs (and their home cultures) that they remain in contact for many, many years after—even planning family vacations and reunions with one another around the world.


The beauty of the question “how does an au pair work?” is that the answer really is “however you want it to!” Within program regulations, you can make an au pair work for your family on whatever schedule and in whatever manner you need. Whether your kids are school-aged or infants, there’s an au pair out there waiting to meet them and care for them lovingly.