What can au pairs do – can they help with chores?

May 16, 2013

One of the really great things about having an au pair is that she can help with chores related to your children—duties you would otherwise have to tackle in your own free time. Of course, au pairs should clean up after themselves as well. And because au pairs are considered “family members” you can expect they will chip in sometimes when extra household help is needed. However, the rules which govern this program do provide some limitations on what is appropriate and acceptable.

What can au pairs do
Au pairs can help with household chores related to the children.  According to Cultural Care Au Pair’s policy, 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 clean up after herself. This means tidying her room, cleaning her bathroom (if she has her own), putting her dirty dishes in the dishwasher and keeping her car clean (if she has use of her own). To learn more about what can an au pair do, tune into our previous blog post from Au Pair Answer Mom.

What au pairs can’t 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 her own from time to time, but to require her to fulfill these duties is not okay. It’s also not okay to offer your au pair additional money to complete any of these duties, no matter how willing she may be.

The “extra household help” you can expect 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 getting household help from your au pair
Regardless of what household help you expect from your au pair, it’s helpful to consider the following:

  • 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 her own
  • Write down what household help you expect from your au pair each week; don’t assume she 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; it’s hard to do both at the same time

Host families, what household chores do you require of your au pair? Are there strategies that you use to balance an au pair’s contribution to the household versus her childcare duties? What do you think is appropriate or not appropriate to ask an au pair to do?

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