Being an au pair is distinct from other babysitting, nannying, or homecare services because of its very nature: you’re not just working for the family, you are living with and sometimes becoming a part of the family.
As such, there are certain things to keep in mind that could be the difference between your au pair placement being decent or being exemplary.
Ultimately, your placement will be what you make it; that said, it is important to keep in mind that nobody is perfect, and neither your host family nor your agency expects you to be perfect. All anyone expects is that you try your best.
1. DO communicate.
Communication between families and their au pairs is often the most important factor of a placement.
That said, as important as it is to communicate with your host family (who is, lest we forget, your employer), it is also just as important to know when not to come to your family with a problem.
The important thing to remember here is to read the room; there is a chance that the last thing your host mom or dad wants to do when they first come home from work is to have a long-winded discussion about what their child did that day that needs to be addressed, or about that vacation you were hoping to take in a few weeks’ time.
Don’t assume that a given moment is a good time to talk; rather than bombard your host family with any number of questions at any given time during the week, first ask them when would be a good time to have a discussion.
2. DO participate in family activities.
For an au pair, the cultural exchange and family integration are significant factors in their decision to become an au pair in the first place.
The odds are that your family will invite you to participate in family activities, whether that be family dinners or family outings, and it is more than okay to go along with them! This will provide you with the opportunity to get to know your family better and get a better sense of who they are.
DON’T isolate yourself.
As positive as engaging in family activities can be, it is also important to have your own private and social life outside of your family’s home.
It can be rather uncomfortable for a host family when their au pair is always around. It is not that you are not welcome in their house, you do live there after all, but it can be uncomfortable for a family to feel like they’re the ones solely responsible for entertaining you.
Plus, we all want our privacy sometimes, which is why it’s good both for your family and for you if you engage in community or social activities outside the house.
3. DO be flexible.
While we encourage our host families to give their au pair a fixed schedule, it is also important to keep in mind that life happens, especially when it comes to children.
Be aware of this and do your best to adapt to your family’s needs.
DON’T let yourself be taken for granted.
That said, it is the responsibility of your host family to give you advance notice of any changes to the schedule.
Whether this be a sit-down to let you know that your hours on a particular day or week will be different, or a phone call to say they’re running late but will be home soon, you do have the right to ask your host parents to communicate those changes to you and with appropriate notice.
You are allowed to speak up if you feel your host parents aren’t being as communicative as you wish them to be! And if that doesn’t work, that’s what your placement coordinators are here for; never hesitate to contact them!
4. DO keep in touch with your family.
Being homesick during a placement is entirely natural! A good way to combat that is by staying in contact with your family and friends from your home country from time to time.
DON’T be glued to your devices.
This is common sense; we encourage both our nannies and our au pairs to not be on their phones during working hours. A check-in during lunch or during a break? Absolutely.
But in general, it is good practice in any job setting to keep your phone, laptop, and/or tablet away during your work hours and putting your full attention to the task at hand, in this case, caring for and ensuring the safety and happiness of the children.
5. DO experience Canada.
Take advantage of your time off and go places!
Canada has so much more to offer than you know, and the first step to experiencing it is to get out of the house and go explore your town or city.
Ask your host family for ideas! They’re probably the best reference for what to do in your area since they’ve lived and worked there for an extended period of time.
DON’T forget that you are here first and foremost to work.
Just as you should explore as much as you can, you also must honor your contract with your family; being an au pair is your job and should be your first priority.
As we always emphasize to incoming au pairs, use your common sense. If you get invited to a party that’s starting late on a Wednesday night but you know you start at 6:00 the following morning, you may want to reconsider going.
If you have a weekend off and there’s a chance weather conditions will affect your ability to get home in time for work on Monday? You may need to reconsider.
6. DO rely on your placement coordinator!
If you have any questions or clarifications about anything whatsoever during your placement, do not hesitate to contact your placement coordinator!
We are here for you. It is part of our job to make sure your placement goes as smoothly as possible.
DON’T rely solely on her.
It is our job to help you and guide you through your placement. That said, part of being a good au pair is to be proactive and use your own judgment to make decisions in a given situation.
You should not need to contact your coordinator for everything that comes up. We advise instead that you rely on your support system as a whole. This includes your host parents, your coordinator, other au pairss in your area, and even your friends and family back home!
You do have what it takes to be an exceptional au pair. You just have to believe in yourself 🙂