Before we opened up our home to an au pair, my partner and I were nervous about having a stranger in the house. We didn’t want to upset the harmony in our family. Yes, we needed extra help at home, but the thought of awkward small talk at mealtimes made me hesitate. And I couldn’t help but worry about how our daughter would react. Would we be able to relax and be authentic with someone else in the house?
When our au pair arrived, I quickly realised that I had no need to worry. Our daughter adored having another person at home to care for her. I relaxed. And after a few weeks I realised that far from being awkward, having an au pair was in fact improving the way we interact as a family.
Here are five ways that hosting an au pair can enhance your family dynamic.
1. An au pair schedule keeps the whole family on schedule
Your au pair will need a schedule that defines work hours for the week. It’s a simple tool, but a schedule can also work to keep everyone in the family on track. While it might seem like you are simply defining work hours for your au pair, what you are really doing is providing a framework for the whole family. If you find yourself forgetting to take food out of the freezer for a family dinner on the weekend, or if your kids forget to put their sports clothes out for washing after football practice, having a schedule can help everyone stay on track.
- You will find a handy template in the Family Handbook from AuPairWorld. It’s useful for outlining a base schedule for your au pair, where you set out what a typical week will look like. From there each week might look a little different and require different hours depending on commitments.
When our au pair joined us, I put a schedule on the fridge each week with her hours and any appointments or commitments our family had that week. Putting your family’s key commitments down on paper along with your au pair’s work hours is going help you and your family stay organised.
2. Explaining family rules clarifies expectations for everyone
Explaining your family’s rules is fundamental in helping your au pair to supervise your children. Can the kids watch TV after school? Is your toddler allowed to eat candy? It’s fairly obvious that your au pair needs to know the boundaries so that he or she can act appropriately and with authority. But it goes further than that. Knowing the boundaries is also going to help your kids behave appropriately.
When we define rules together as a family in connection with an au pair stay, everybody knows what to expect, and all family members are more likely to follow the rules that have been made.
- The AuPairWorld Family Handbook includes a section where you can explain your family’s rules at home and outside the house. If your children are old enough, you can talk about your family rules together before you complete this section.
- Setting down these rules will help everyone understand what is acceptable and what isn’t. When those expectations are clear to all family members as well as your au pair, you can expect a lot more support from everyone in upholding your family’s standards.
3. Children learn from older role models
Au pairs make great role models. Your au pair will be living with you and often eating meals with you, and this provides a lot of opportunities for role modelling. You could think of an au pair as an older brother or sister for your children. There are plenty of daily activities that offer a chance for your children to see how others behave.
Perhaps you’ve asked your kids a million times to put their plates in the dishwasher with no success. Seeing someone else like an au pair actually do this can be a great incentive for kids to get on board. Children love to copy older role models. Taking their plates to the kitchen after dinner will seem obvious to your children when they see an older role model setting that example. And improved behaviour helps everyone to get along better.
4. Another perspective can enhance understanding
As parents we want to know that our children are doing well. We can find out a certain amount about how our children are developing from teachers or childcare providers, but an au pair is going to give even more insight. Your children and au pair see each other every day and will get to know each other much better than someone like a teacher who is supervising many children at the same time.
- As your au pair is living under your roof, there will naturally be lots of opportunities for him or her to share updates with you. That perspective is a helpful way to enhance your understanding of your children and to know better what’s going on in their world.
5. More help means more quality family time
When you invite an au pair into your home, you provide board and pocket money in exchange for their help. Picking up the children after school, organising a snack for the kids, getting the little ones ready for bed… Each family’s needs will be different.
- Finally, having more help around the house means more quality time for you as a family. If you can clean up the kitchen while your au pair helps the kids clean their teeth, it might mean fifteen extra minutes before bedtime that you can spend together as a family. That’s time well spent. Having the support of an au pair can go a long way in getting things done at home, leaving you with more time to enjoy as a family together.
The bottom line
I’m so happy that I didn’t let my worries stop me from taking the plunge to host an au pair. The benefits are so much greater than simply filling our need for childcare.
It’s easy to take the first step in finding an au pair who will support your family. Simply register on AuPairWorld. It’s free, and a no-commitment step that will bring you closer to finding the right au pair for you.
About the author:
Catherine Miller is a freelance writer who produces content for businesses, schools and other organisations. She lives in Belgium with her partner and two children. They have recently expanded their household to include an au pair from Switzerland.