Most families already know what they are looking for when the seek to find an au pair for their family. That is why it is important the you are also prepared when looking for your family! It is a two-way street and you need to be just as satisfied as they are for the relationship to work!
1) Money: Make sure you know how much you will by paid before you arrive. An au pair in Europe should get anywhere from 300 euros to 500 euros a month based on about 30-40 hours of work a week. Any less and I wouldn’t take the job. Working in Rome I had about 300 euros a month which barely made ends meet. On weekends I’d travel or go out with friends and that money really went fast! Don’t settle for less than you think is fair!
2) Accommodations: It is expected that you have your own private room inside the family’s house. There may be the rare situation that you arrange your own accommodations or that your family provides a private apartment for you (I was lucky enough to be this girl) but that is rare. One of my friends had her own room although the wall separating her room and her child’s room only went halfway so her little girl would come into her room at night and my friend would never get her alone time. That was not ideal. Know where you’ll be living – you need to have your alone time to recuperate!
2) Time Off/Hours: Make sure you know when you’re going to be working! I knew that I worked Monday to Friday and had weekends off. My hours working Monday to Friday were 7:20 AM to 9:00 AM and then 3:00 PM to whenever the parents came home. Although my family was great about letting me have time off on the weekends, they weren’t very clear about when I was free in the evenings during the week. Was I allowed to leave as soon as they got home (ie. sometimes 4 PM but mostly 9 PM or later)? I was never sure! If I ever became an au pair again I would make sure all of my working hours were clear! ALSO, try to get Saturday and Sunday off! I had some friends who had to work on Saturday and it was just exhausting for them! Finally, nail down babysitting evenings as well. Is it once a week, twice a week? It’s nice to know what evenings you’ll be free – especially on the weekends!
3) Holidays: If you want Christmas break off to go home for a bit, let the family know ahead of time. I always assumed that I’d get Christmas off so I could go to Germany to see my family – my au pair family thought otherwise. In the end I got my way but it was a struggle and slightly awkward. Outline your plans ahead of time. This way nothing is a surprise later on!
(P.S. And no, I did not just leave my family high and dry. They wanted me to be available to babysit just for a couple days during the break but I figured that since they had both sets of grandparents AND another nanny PLUS they weren’t going to be working, they’d be ok if I wasn’t there for 2 extra days.)
4) Extras: Do you get a bus pass compensated by the family? Will they give you a cell phone? Will they pay for your cell phone? Some families even pay for your flight to and from their house! Know what you’ll be getting ahead of time! My family provided my with a cell phone but I needed to pay for my own plan plus a bus pass and everything else. See why my 300 euros quickly evaporated every month?
Finding a family and asking a lot of questions is important! Make sure you’re prepared before jumping into everything!!