The difference between a great Au Pair and an average Au Pair is the commitment they make to the experience. A great Au Pair commits to supporting the family and the children and fully engages with the experience and the country. An average Au Pair secretly counts down the days til they can escape, and so does the family. So make the commitment to enjoy the experience, to contribute as much as you can and to connect with the children and family members.
A great Au Pair will commit to:
1. Focus on the children: this may seems obvious, but committing to provide the best experience you can for the children you are caring for benefits both you and the family. If the children ask you to play a game with them – do it, even if it’s the tenth time you’ve played that game today! Sing songs, read stories, tell jokes, draw pictures together, be creative. Spending time with the children is the best way to build up a fantastic bond where you will be rewarded with random hugs, silly grins and heartfelt notes. Introduce them to fun aspects of your culture, share traditional stories, costumes and stories about your home town. Adapt your activities to the children’s personalities and be prepared to try different activities to build your relationship. And most of all, leave your phone alone and commit to being focussed on the children and what you are doing.
2. Focus on the family: Be genuinely interested in your host family, don’t hide away and don’t be distant. Share stories of what the children did during the day, or show them the wonderful things you have created. Engage in conversation, go to family activities, introduce your culture and customs to the family. Consider how you can help make family celebrations special, what can you do to enhance a special event, how can you help out? This also means committing to being “present” each day. It doesn’t mean coming home late after a night out and expecting to be a fully functioning member of the household the next day! A great Au Pair will enjoy time out with friends but will always be mindful of their responsibilities to their families.
3. Be flexible: you may be engaged for a certain number of hours or days per week, but life happens and changes need to be made to family schedules. Commit to being flexible and going with the flow. Family plans change and you will need to graciously change with them. By committing to being flexible you will easily adapt to change and will find the experience much easier. Remember the previous point: a great Au Pair focuses on the family not their social plans.
4. Have patience and be open minded: Things will be different to home. Be patient and open minded about the things you experience, we all do things in a different way, what can you learn from this family about life and the country? Be open minded to new experiences and go along to family events to continue to connect and learn. A great Au Pair doesn’t judge, but is patient and works with the family and children. A great Au Pair is patient when children are having a meltdown, throwing a tantrum or battling you over homework to be completed. Committing to be patient and have an open mind will make your experience easier to manage, as not everything goes according to plan when managing children.
5. Take charge and be organised! A great Au Pair takes charge, and commits to managing the children and is organised. Look around and act, do what needs to be done, don’t wait to be asked. It’s the reason you are a part of the household, so engage and get yourself organised. Great Au Pairs involve the children in getting organised using charts, diaries, games and other tools to help keep family schedules on track.
Committing to being a great Au Pair and committing to getting the most out of your experience helps both you and the family. This means arriving with an attitude that is mature and willing to fully engage for the time you are there.