If you are thinking of traveling for a year abroad as an Au Pair, you definitely want to consider the pros and cons of #AuPairLife. It’s not as glamorous as some make it seem. You will probably be changing smelly diapers or cleaning snot from a child’s face most of the time.
Before I started my adventure as an Au Pair I gave
some consideration as to what the job actually entails. But there were many things that I didn’t really think of until actually being here.
After having spent the last 7 months with a wonderful host family, I have to tell you that not everything turns out *exactly* how you may want it, but that’s not bad at all!
As in everything in life, there are good and bad outcomes from any choice we make, so I’m here to mentally prepare you for those outcomes as you venture into Au Pair Land.
First of all, I would like to state that being an Au Pair is not for everyone. Just like not everyone is born to be a Beyoncé or an Astrophysicist. Ok, I know I’m comparing Au Pairing to incredible talents, and it might seem exaggerated, but there is some truth to it. Just know that it isn’t easy, and you should really ask yourself if it’s something you can handle. It’s definitely worth it if you have the right mindset!
Here are 6 pros and 6 cons of being an Au Pair!
Cheap way to live abroad
By living at home with a local family, you won’t have to worry about paying rent or other services (except maybe your cell phone). An Au Pair receives a monthly “pocket money” that differs depending on the country. Check out Au Pair World for detailed information regarding being an Au Pair in a specific country. All your pocket money goes to things you actually want to do in your free time. Granted it isn’t a considerable amount, but you’d be surprised how far you can make your money stretch!
Learn or perfect a new language
Have you ever wanted to learn a new language or did you start learning one in school and want to continue learning it? Learning a new language is easiest when you are fully immersed in the culture. Being in Germany has greatly improved my language abilities because I am exposed to the language wherever I go. If I’m at home, I watch German TV shows or news channels. On the bus, I
eavesdrop hear people’s daily conversations. At the bakery, I have to learn how to order bread and coffee – and fast!
Live like a local with a family
The thing I love most about the Au Pair program is that it allows you to experience first hand the real day-to-day experiences of a “local”. You essentially get to experience a city and country as a native. Living like a local is honestly the best way to learn about a culture. It will allow you to reach into their way of thinking of doing things, making you a more empathetic person. This experience will make you appreciate the good and bad aspects of their culture as well as your own.
Make new friends
This is my favorite part of being an Au Pair and a Constant Foreigner! I get to meet extraordinarily wonderful people wherever I go. You will meet people from all backgrounds and beliefs and expand your worldview. The best way to make friends is through language and/or other courses, language meetups, Couchsurfing events, or at your local bar.
Try out “Parenthood”
You will get a glimpse into the responsibility of Parenthood and all it entails. A parent has the most difficult job in the world – to raise a decent human being with good values. And how do they do it?
By setting a good example. As an Au Pair, you share the responsibility with the parents to be a good role model and to uphold the family’s values (and rules). This isn’t easy, but I promise you will feel so proud of yourself for helping bring up a well-educated child.
P.S.: Nobody wants to deal with toddler tantrums – but it’s part of the job!
Travel (on a budget) to nearby places
One of the reasons I decided to become an Au Pair in Germany was to be able to travel within Europe. Although I touch on this subject on my “cons” list, I want to tell you that it is possible to travel on a budget! Read more about my travels to Brussels, Munich, and Dusseldorf for tips on how to do so.Altstadt Dusseldorf, Germany
Nobody is immune to Homesickness
Although living abroad is an amazing opportunity, let me tell you one thing: I guarantee you will miss your home/family/friends/pets! Don’t worry, this is completely normal. And it’s perfectly okay to cry alone in your room – or to your host family. In fact, I encourage you to cry! Shortly after you cry, start to think about all the great things you have already accomplished or want to accomplish during your time abroad. Now chin up, everything will be fantastic! You just need to believe that it will.
The biggest reason why some Au Pairs have a bad experience with their family is that they simply do not communicate properly! This is the cornerstone of ANY relationship and is particularly crucial in a host family/Au Pair relationship. Having a constant, open and honest channel of communication is the surefire way to avoid miscommunication problems. People, TALK to each other!
Adapting to a family’s lifestyle and rules can be challenging
Even after you’ve had good communication and have understood each other, it can still be challenging to live within a family that is not like your own. Sometimes you will have to put up with situations that you don’t particularly like and that’s that. Remember that even though you live with the family, you are a guest, and are expected to behave like one. Just be respectful and professional at all times, and I assure you it will be a lot easier to get along with the family.
Meeting locals is harder than you think
Making friends isn’t so hard, but what I’ve encountered during my time here is that most of them are foreigners like me! It hasn’t been easy to meet local German people because I go to my language course (with international folk) in the morning, and then take care of the kids in the afternoon. The friends I have made are either Au Pairs from my family’s friends, or from my language school. However, there are meet-ups for locals that I will be trying soon – I will post later about that!
Children will test your patience all the time
This is related to testing our “Parenthood”. Although a rewarding experience, it will really challenge your tolerance. There’s no way around it – kids are
annoying not always adorable. Especially when they start saying “toilet-related” words 100 times in a row and you have already politely asked them 99 times to please stop. If you have never dealt with young children before, take time to research normal child behavior for a specific age range. This way you can prepare yourself for difficult situations.
Host Family comes first (you won’t get to travel all the time)
I know I said traveling as an Au Pair is possible, but please keep in mind that the Host Family’s plans are a priority. That being said, you should work around your host family’s schedule and make plans way in advance to travel. Sorry for those of you who like spontaneous trips! But I promise you it will make it easier for everyone when a clear vacation schedule is laid out.
So there you have it, my pros and cons of being an Au Pair!
Overall, I highly recommend the Au Pair program to anyone who has either traveled for an extended period of time before or someone who already has some experience in childcare.
Like I stated earlier, the Au Pair life isn’t for everyone – and that’s okay! Just be honest with yourself and make sure you are prepared to handle this new lifestyle.