Top Tips for Working as an Au Pair in America
Working as an au pair in America is a fun adventure. You get to stay in the US for a whole year and live with a local family, get to know their culture and improve your English skills. You also get the chance to travel quite a bit – there's so much to see in this beautiful country. If you really enjoy your year in America you'll have the possibility to extend your au pair stay for another year.
I was an au pair in Arlington, VA for two years with Cultural Care. I stayed with two different host families because my first family moved away. I was lucky to find a new host family in the same town, as I had already made many friends and loved the area so much that I didn't want to leave.
Throughout my two years of being an au pair, I learned quite a bit about how to be a good au pair and also a few things that I wish I had done differently.
Here are my top tips for working as an au pair in America:
1. Be aware of expectations
Before you start working for your host family, make sure you know their expectations. Ask tons of questions before you match with a family. Ask about what your work days will look like, how they would like to integrate you into their family, what kind of housework you are supposed to do and also about any rules concerning your free time, like a curfew, the use of a car, etc. Only match with them if you completely agree with their conditions. If you're not quite sure which questions to ask in the matching process, check articles online to help you out.
2. Spend time with your host family
Show your interest in your new family, their life and culture. Especially when you begin, it is important that you and your host family get to know each other very well. You will spend a whole year together and they will trust you taking care of their most precious gift: their children. Show them that you're genuinely interested in the kids, their family life and their culture. And of course also share your culture with them – explain to them how things in your home country are similar or different from what they may think or know.
3. Always be honest with your host family
This one should be obvious, but just to make sure: Always tell your host family the truth and be honest with them. Having a new au pair in their house and leaving their children with a stranger involves a lot of trust. Make sure not to break this trust, even if it might get uncomfortable at times. It's easier to deal with an issue or argument right away than making up a story that gets uncovered later and blows up right in your face.
4. Plan your days with the kids
There are so many fun games and art projects. In order for your host kids and yourself to stay entertained, plan your work days ahead. Research fun games and art projects online. Preparing yourself costs you only a few minutes but it can make a huge difference!
5. Look for playgrounds and parks in your local area
When I was an au pair I made an effort to leave the house every day, even if it was just for 20 minutes. Find out where the public library, playgrounds and parks are in your area. There are so many options and usually everyone enjoys a little change of environment from time to time – being out and about is so much more exciting than to hang out inside the house all day.
6. Make the most of your time off
Go on weekend trips every chance you can get. Explore the town you live in and all the other towns that are easily accessible for you. Join your host family on trips if they ask you to go with them. Hang out in coffee shops and libraries. Spend lots of time with the new friends you are making. A year might seem like a long time, but it will be over before you know it. Make sure to live your year to the fullest and experience as much of the country as possible – no regrets!
7. Have realistic expectations
Remember, you're there to work and not on vacation. Make sure you realize that you will work up to 45 hours per week – that's more than most of us do in our home countries. To me, watching the kids did not really feel like work, because I love spending time with children. But if you're not fully into this, 45 hours per week can feel like a very long time!
8. Save a little bit of money each month
Now that we have all the important stuff out of the way, it's time to focus on the fun part - your travel month! If you put just a little bit of your weekly salary in your savings account, you will have a nice chunk of cash saved up by the end of your year. I believe you should take full advantage of your travel month and that will cost you quite a bit. Have you been dreaming of doing a road trip along the West Coast, visiting Alaska or Hawaii? It will be no problem after saving up all year round! You might like to view USA tours.
And now it's up to you to make this the year of your life!