When I decided that I wanted to explore Australia, I knew that I wanted to do more than a couple weeks of vacation. So, I decided that I would au pair – it would be a way for me to stay in Australia for at least a few months without incurring outrageous travel expenses as I would be living with a family and making a little bit of pocket money each week. I’d previously worked as an au pair in Italy for about 5 weeks and had a positive experience then.
Seems obvious, but I should add that I love kids - if you don’t enjoy kids, then being an au pair is not the job for you.
I was 23 years old when I worked as an au pair in Italy - this was after I finished grad school and before I started my clinical fellowship year. I was 28 when I worked as an au pair in Australia - this was after I’d worked as an SLP for over four years. When I thought about au pairing for the second time, there was a little voice in my head that said I was too old to quit my full-time SLP job to go au pair, but I pushed the voice aside because I knew it’s what I wanted to do [who cares if other people think it’s crazy].
I found that family that I would au pair for through the AuPairWorld website. There’s also lots of Facebook groups around Australia [and I’m sure other countries as well]. I know it sounds a bit sketchy to find a family on the Internet that you’re going to live with across the world, which is why I would suggest you put some time, effort, and research into it.
Basically, I made a profile (you can choose which ages of children you’re willing to look after, etc.) and the family makes a profile and you can contact families or vice versa. A family in Darwin, Australia contacted me and they seemed like a great fit – they had two school-aged girls, who were into sports including gymnastics. I Skyped with them a couple times before I made the journey out to Australia.
I’ve had 2 good experiences working as an au pair. You also hear of horror stories as well. My suggestions are to do a bit of research and make sure you and the family/children seem like a good fit for each other.
Things to consider when working as an au pair:
- Ages of children
- What ages do you feel comfortable looking after?
- If they’re school age, are they in school all day?
- Interests and lifestyle
- Interests of the children, general lifestyle of the family [e.g. are they an active family, do they travel, etc.]
- Will you have a set schedule?
- What is the parents’ work schedule like?
- In the time not spent looking after the children/with the family, are you free to explore/travel/etc?
- How long do they expect you to commit for?
- Some families only want au pairs who will commit for a certain length of time [e.g. a number of months or a year]
- Living space
- What is their house/apartment like? Will you have your own bedroom? Own bathroom? Shared living areas? Are you free to cook as you please in the kitchen?
- Expectations of the family
- Do they expect housework/cleaning, cooking, do they have pets, etc.
- Are you required to drive (do they have a manual car, automatic car, do they have a car for your use)
- Weekly pay
- Will they pay you weekly or fortnightly and how much?
- Do they take care of groceries, phone costs, etc? For meals out with the family, do they expect you to pay?
- Will you have a contract in writing?
- Skype or FaceTime
- I would definitely suggest doing this. Get a feel for the family and the kids if you can. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t feel obligated. Go with your gut feeling.
- If something isn’t working out – let them know and vice versa.
- Consider your/their proficiency in each other’s language if you’re going to be with a family that speaks another language
- Some families want you to be certified in First Aid, Police or Working With Children Checks, etc. – check with the family prior
- Other au pairs
- Are there other au pairs in the area? Will you be living in an area that is easy for you to make friends or find others with similar interests?
If you decide to work as an au pair and find a family that is a good fit for you, it can be a great experience and leave you with some of the best memories!
If you ever need encouragement to quit your full-time SLP job and move across the world to work as an au pair or other, I’m your girl!