8+ Questions I Ask BEFORE Au Pairing
Living abroad as an au pair can be a great way to support yourself while traveling. I have been an au pair in Germany and Turkey through AuPairWorld.com. Both experiences were vastly different from each other and I learned a lot in the process of what to do and not do as an au pair. I asked all the right questions before Germany, but didn't ask many questions before Turkey. I had an overall good experience in Germany but had to leave my job as an au pair early in Turkey because of difficulties.
BEFORE accepting a job as an au pair, make sure you ask the following questions of your adopted family. Ask the hard questions beforehand and you'll have a wonderful experience. (Trust me!!!)
1. Will I have my own space (ie. room and bathroom)?
The dynamics of being both a family member and an employee can be tough. You absolutely need your own space to help you adjust to living with a new family with a new culture. Plus, this will help keep a professional feel and help you protect your time. [See the next question.]
My Recommendation? DO NOT accept jobs that do not give you your own room.
2. How many hours do you anticipate me working?
Sister questions to this include:
When will we set the weekly schedule?
What is the policy for when you give me the rest of the day off? (Will I be expected to make up those hours later? I recommend making clear that they are more than welcomg to make a last minute change and give you the rest of the day off, but you will not change your schedule to make up the hours.)
What is the policy for when I need to take the rest of the day off? (Will I be expected to make up those hours later or pay you back?)
When would it be best for me to let you know when I need time off?
My Recommendation? DO NOT accept jobs that do not guarantee a set number of hours and that do not respect your time enough to set a schedule.
I understand that some people may feel like they can't set a schedule, but as a professional you must be able to anticipate when and how long you will be working. Frankly, very few jobs in the world (over the table) are so open-ended that there are no schedules. Make sure they know that either you sit down every Saturday to set the schedule for the following week or you will not be able to accept the job.
Be prepared for your first meeting with how many hours you are willing to work and make sure you communicate that your time off is YOUR time - even if you are hanging out at home. You will need to protect your time-off from the very first day you are in the country. It's easier to set a precedence at the beginning than after a month or two.
My Other Recommendation? PUSH for no more than 20-30 hours per week and a couple weeks break in the middle of your stay. Caring for children can be wonderfully tiring!
3. When and how much will I be paid?
Families will rarely list the amount on the au pair websites, so it never hurts to be prepared to negotiate your "salary" - especially after talking about how many hours will be expected of you. If they want to pay you less than my recommendation below, you may want to push back and lessen the hours they expect of you.
My Recommendation? DO NOT accept a job for less than $300/month for 20-25 hours/week.
It is true that they are paying for your housing, but they also need to know that you are not going to work for nothing. You may want to have the following questions answered before you commit to a job:
Will food be included?
Will I be paid extra for hours above the amount agreed on? (Be careful on agreeing to this as it will be hard to protect your time off.)
When will I be paid? (I recommend at the beginning of each month.)
Will you provide a bus or train ticket/bike/car for getting around?
Will vacation time be factored into that amount?
Will transportation be included? (If committing to over 6 months, I recommend asking that they help with your flight.)
4. Do you feel comfortable with the standards I listed on my profile?
Your profile is the best way to communicate your standards from the get-go. I put on my profile that I must have Sundays off for my religious meetings, I do not smoke or drink, and that I do not cuss. I was nervous that this would limit my chances as an au pair, but I found it to be the exact opposite. Think about it, these parents are trying to find the safest options for their children. They don't want partiers, they want a trustworthy nanny.
My Recommendation? BE BOLD on your profile - that sets the precidence for the conversations you have in the future. And hold to those standards! It's a wonderful missionary opportunity! :)
Before committing to a family, find out how far the nearest church is and make sure you can travel there on Sunday. Reach out via LDS Facebook groups or MormonExplorer.com to find a member friend BEFORE going abroad.
5. How do you discipline your children? How do you prefer me to discipline your children?
The NUMBER ONE most important thing to being an au pair is that the parents trust you with their children. One of the ways you can gauge that trust prior to moving abroad is to see if they will allow you to discipline their children.
My Recommendation? DO NOT accept a job that does not allow you to discipline.
There is nothing worse than having a sassy child under your care and not being able to do anything about it. That child will quickly lose their respect for you and walk all over you if you have no way to prevent bad behavior. But worse, if the parent can't trust you - there is no guarantee that you will be safe in that work environment.
6. Can we Skype often before I come?
As an LDS member, I believe in the Spirit's ability to help us discern true intentions. One of the highest recommendations I can give is to video chat with your adopted family every week or two prior to traveling. You will be more likely to sense the spirit of the home, notice the ways the parents treat the children, and get a feel for how they will treat you, the more often you speak to them.
My Recommendation? Video chat AT LEAST 5 times before you travel abroad.
7. What will be my responsibilities?
Just make clear ahead of time what you will be expected to do while caring for the children. It never hurts to ask beforehand! (Again, the more times you video chat, the easier it is to ask all of these questions.)
Will I be expected to do any housework during my shift?
Will I change diapers, potty train, or give baths?
Who will I be caring for? (Make clear that you will not care for other children or neighbors' children.)
Will I teach them or help them with their schoolwork?
Will I drive them (or walk them) to school?
My Recommendation? Get specific. The more you know ahead of time, the less uncomfortable conversations have to happen later.
8. Would you like me to write up the contract?
Make sure that you and parents create a contract. If they write up the contract, make sure you can make adjustments and have a say in what you are agreeing to. There is a lot of safety in making sure everyone is on the same page before you commit to a job.
My Recommendation? MAKE SURE to include the following in your contract.
Start and finish dates
Number of hours expected to work per week
Amount you will be paid each week
When you will get paid
Days-off and vacation weeks
What will happen if you or the family has to back out or finish early
Know that if you find yourself in a tough situation, you are ALWAYS able to leave. It's good to have an "out" option in your contract but remember that your safety is first, and you can just leave, no matter if you get paid or not. This is another good reason to reach out to LDS members prior to going abroad - they are your safety people in case a situation turns sour. When I had to leave my Turkish family, the branch members in Istanbul took me in and helped me find a place to live until my flight. And I had the best time with them!
With all that said, au pairing is an incredible experience and a wonderful way to live abroad, live with a native family, and pay your way. I highly recommend putting in the effort and asking the tough questions ahead of time so that your time is fun and safe! HAVE FUN and let me know if you have any other recommendations for future LDS au pairs. :)
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