When you host an au pair, family life becomes a whole lot easier. An au pair is a trusted and loving source of childcare for your little ones; they’re another safe driver for morning drop-offs and afternoon pick-ups from school; and best of all, they’re an extra set of helping hands around the house.
One of the biggest ways au pairs make a difference for host families is by helping with chores that are related to your children – tasks that take up all that precious free time before and after work. While au pairs can’t be expected to tackle any chores that are related to host parents, they can be responsible for a variety of household tasks from laundry to cooking as long as it benefits the host children they care for.
Au pairs are often considered “extended family members” – if you treat them with care and respect, it’s common for them to chip in and help out around the house without being asked. This is, of course, perfectly okay! Anything the au pair does of their own volition is a kind and generous gesture for the host family from a place of love.
However, because we are a U.S. State Department regulated program, there are clear rules and limitations on what responsibilities au pairs can be expected to manage. Here is a breakdown of what their role includes:
What au pairs CAN do:
Au pairs can assist with any household chores related to the children. According to the policies enforced by Cultural Care Au Pair, this includes:
- Doing the children’s laundry
- Picking up their rooms
- Preparing their meals
As long as these duties are performed within their 45-hour a week and 10-hour per day limit, they are all reasonable tasks. An au pair should also be expected to clean up after themselves. This means tidying their room, cleaning their bathroom (if they have their own), putting their dirty dishes in the dishwasher and keeping their car clean (if they have use of their own).
What au pairs CANNOT do:
Au pairs should not be asked to do anything you wouldn’t expect your own teenage daughter or son to do on a regular basis (without compensation in the form of an allowance) or tasks that would be performed by outsourced cleaning people or a handyman. This includes:
- Cleaning the entire house
- Preparing meals for the whole family
- Doing laundry for the whole family
- Cleaning out the basement/garage
- Doing yard work
- Feeding and walking the pets
Your au pair may surprise you by taking on one of these projects on their own from time to time, but to require them to fulfill these duties is not allowed. It’s also not appropriate to offer your au pair additional money to complete any of these tasks.
Reasonable “extra household help” from your au pair:
You can also expect that your au pair will contribute to the household in ways that a family member would. If everyone in the family is expected to participate in a certain activity related to upkeep of the home, the au pair can be included as well. On occasion or when asked your au pair could help out by:
- Loading and emptying dishwasher
- Wiping down kitchen counters
- Taking out the trash
- Vacuuming common areas
- Grocery shopping
- If doing own laundry and there are clothes in the dryer, helping to fold them
This being said, your au pair should not be expected to fulfill these duties regularly; rather these are common tasks that should be shared by all adults living in the household.
Tips on household help from your au pair:
Regardless of what household help you expect from your au pair, it’s helpful to consider the following points when communicating and setting expectations:
- If you are a particularly neat (or messy) family, be sure to share this with potential au pairs during the matching process; it’s not easy for au pairs to function in an environment that requires habits vastly different than their own.
- Write down what household help you expect from your au pair each week; don’t assume they will know what to do.
- Take the time to walk through these tasks together so that your au pair understands what the task is, how you prefer that it be completed and how to use the appliances in your home.
- Weigh the importance of your au pair completing household chores versus spending quality time with your kids; as you know, it’s hard to do both at the same time!