One of the most common questions we get asked as au pair specialists is: “What, exactly, is an au pair?” With all the different kinds of information out there about childcare today, there’s definitely some confusion on what makes an au pair different from a nanny or a babysitter – and what specific kinds of duties an au pair can have. Allow us to give you the definition of an au pair, including the word origin, what differentiates them from other forms of childcare, and what it means to welcome an au pair into your home and your heart.
Au Pair Definition
An au pair is a young woman or man from overseas who lives with your family on a legal, J-1 Visitor Exchange Visa for up to two years and cares for your children. In exchange for childcare and household duties, an au pair is given free room and board in your home and the unique opportunity to become part of an American family. The spirit of the au pair program revolves around cultural exchange – families who wish to introduce their children to new languages, people and traditions at a young age often find that an au pair is a perfect solution for their childcare needs. In return, the au pair is given a chance to study, travel the USA and experience authentic American culture the way a local would.
Au Pair Word Origin
The word “au pair” means “on par” in French. It reflects the kind of relationship a host family is meant to have with an au pair: One that equal, mutually enriching and caring. Because an au pair lives with you as a member of your family, a relationship develops between you much faster than it would with a daycare provider or live-out nanny. The trust that forms creates a mutual respect that helps everyone feel “on par” with one another in their childcare efforts.
Au Pair Duties
One of the greatest benefits of hosting an au pair is their flexibility and adaptability. An au pair can care for your children on a schedule that works for your family’s ever-changing personal needs. They can help with long summertime stretches of time when your kids aren’t in camp just as they can help with morning and afternoon pick-up/drop-offs during the hustle and bustle of the school season. As long as they don’t exceed 45 hours of childcare coverage per week (10 hours per day), they’re there to be a loving and trustworthy caregiver.
Aside from keeping your children happy and safe, an au pair can help with household duties that are related to the kids – that includes laundry, cooking and room clean-up. The extra set of hands an au pair provides around the house helps make life for busy families more manageable – and more fun!
Au Pair Experience
The most successful host family and au pair experiences occur when a family embraces the chance to welcome someone from a foreign country into their home and show them the American way of life. Cultural Care encourages host families to consider their au pairs to be members of their extended family – and therefore, include them in family dinners, holidays, vacations, etc. The more you share your culture with your visitor from abroad, the more likely they’ll be to incorporate their culture into your daily lives. Even better, most host families and au pairs develop such a strong bond that they stay in touch for the rest of their lives, often visiting one another in the USA or overseas. The spirit of the au pair program centers around cultural exchange and building lasting relationships – and lasting memories!