Some au pairs report that their host families expect much more of them than only child care. They say that they are expected to clean the house, do the laundry, cook for the whole family and babysit at night. In most countries they are allowed to work 6 hours per day, in the USA an au pair is even allowed to work 10 hours per day. But what if the family uses the au pair and violates the rules?
Imagine a young au pair from some foreign country who just arrived at a host family's place with the dream to live in another country and the hope to stay with a nice family. The au pair gets up in the morning, gets the kids ready for school, prepares some breakfast, gives them a ride to school or kindergarten, comes back to the house and makes the childrens' beds. After that the au pair does the kids' laundry and vacuums their room. The work could be done for now and the au pair usually would be able to take a breath now until they have to pick up the kids.
Problems that can occur
Some host families disrespect the rules though and expect that the au pair cleans the whole house. They want them to clean the windows, swipe the floors, do the family's laundry, clean bathrooms and so on. And beside all that the au pair has to pick up the kids, prepare lunch, help with their homework, keep them busy and entertained. When the parents come back home their work the au pair is being controlled and they get critizised if the house doesn't look like the host parents expected it to. Unfortunately families like this exist and once the au pair notices that they are being used, they should seriously think about leaving the family as soon as possible.
As long as the au pair's work is only about tasks that an au pair is allowed to do it is fine. But once they have to take care of tasks that are far beyond their actual duties it becomes a problem.
Of course an au pair is a part of the family and should be involved in household chores just as any other family, yet an au pair is not responsible to do work in the garden, clean windows, swipe the whole house, clean cars.
The au pair program has certain rules that are valid for the au pair and the host family and everybody has to stick to them. Therefore it is necessary to have a contract, that contains every single point that both parties should have an agreement on during the stay. An au pair can work 30 hours a week and should have at least 1,5 days off a week and at least one whole weekend. An au pair also shouldn't work every evening but have evenings off too, so they can actually plan some free time with friends.
Sometimes living with the host family really isn't possible for the au pair. Then it is an option to look for a new family. The notice period is two weeks except the contract says any different. During the notice period the au pair has to stay with the family and keep doing the chores. The family has to keep paying the au pair until she/he moves to the new family.
The au pair experience can surely be great. Unfortunately there are some black sheep upon host families who use their au pairs instead of making the experience as great as possible for everybody. But it is important to know that there are way more nice families.
If you want to find your family and go somewhere you can visit AuPair.com and create a profile to find a host family in your dream destination.
This post is also available in: German