What is an Au Pair?

/What is an Au Pair?

Au Pair Meaning / Definition

While each host family will have a different experience and their own version of what an Au Pair means to them, let’s look at a general definition. An Au Pair is a young person from another country, between the ages of 18-26, who lives with a family for one to two years on a J-1 exchange visa while providing childcare in exchange for a stipend, education contribution, and room-and-board. It is an amazing cultural exchange opportunity for both the Host Family and the Au Pair, as the time spent together allows families and Au Pairs to share culture through food, language, hobbies, celebrations, and more.

What Au Pair duties are acceptable?

What does Au Pair mean in a day-to-day sense? Au Pairs become part of the family, and not just a hired hand, through caring for the children and cooking for them, cleaning up after them, helping them with homework, taking them to and from school and other activities, and so much more. Most Host Families tend to think of their Au Pairs as a brother or sister, and get to know the Au Pair’s family back in their native country. Host families can help Au Pairs adjust to living in a new country by supporting their goals, educational and otherwise, and inviting them on vacations with the family.

What Is the Au Pair Program?

If you’re a student or young adult with an interest in child care and looking to have a meaningful experience in a foreign country, the Au Pair job description may appeal to you. These opportunities are important because they can create a cultural understanding and global awareness among all participants. Au Pairs gain valuable international experience and linguistic skills, while families benefit from flexible, culturally enriched child care and the opportunity to introduce global perspectives to their children.

So what does an Au Pair do? The Au Pair definition will vary from one host country to another, but the job usually includes responsibilities surrounding live-in childcare and light housework. In order to get connected with a host family and become an au pair, you’ll have to sign up for the official Au Pair program.

These programs help interested young people apply for different positions and define the Au Pair experience for themselves. Potential Au Pairs can create online profiles, write host families letters, and present themselves in a positive way to find the right host family. These Au Pair programs will also help these individuals improve the language skills of their host country, preparing them for their Au Pair duties. To find the best options, work with an Au Pair agency to find the right opportunity for you. 

How Can an Au Pair’s Responsibilities Help My Family?

What is an Au Pair expected to do?

Specific Au Pair responsibilities vary between Host Families, but can include a huge range of direct childcare and childcare-related duties and tasks.

If you have kids, you could probably use some help with childcare tasks. When it comes to Au Pair duties, the true value of this cultural childcare experience is immeasurable. First, Au Pairs and the tasks they can perform go above and beyond any regular sitter or nanny, all for one price! Whether you are a new parent with just one baby or a veteran parent with a brood of all ages, another set of eyes, ears, and hands is likely welcome! Au Pairs can help with all kinds of tasks.

Who are Au Pairs? Can they handle the responsibility of caring for your kids? They are:

  • EAGER to engage and learn
  • ABLE to see situations with new eyes
  • READY to please you, the Host Family
  • TRAINED and have the skills you need
  • EXTENSIONS of your family unit

Before we go further, here are a few things Au Pairs ARE NOT:

  • Housekeepers and can only do kid-related cleaning
  • Pet-sitters and should only supervise kids’ animal-related chores
  • Mind-readers and sometimes need direction or instruction
  • Personal chefs and can prepare kids’ meals, not full family meals, as a regular duty

How does an Au Pair work from an official employment perspective? Au Pair duties are regulated by the U.S. Department of State in general. But, specific tasks and duties are determined by each Host Family. Go Au Pair wants to provide you with the very best candidates and the resources and tools for a successful experience!

Which Au Pair Duties Are Allowed?

Hosting an Au Pair is more than just hiring a babysitter from another country. For the variety of duties Au Pairs can do, there is no more affordable option for American families. This is because, in addition to the affordability of the program itself, Au Pairs often provide far more value than just childcare.

Host Families can assign Au Pair tasks and duties based on their unique lifestyles. You can embed cultural exchange in the things you ask your Au Pair to do with your children. Au Pairs can do so much more than just take care of your kids!

With flexible scheduling, Au Pairs can also perform duties while kids are at school and Host Parents are at work. You can customize the responsibilities of your Au Pair, meaning it can include different tasks depending on the family’s needs.

“[Desiree] drives the children to and from activities when needed, allowing us more flexibility in our scheduling.” –Amanda, Host Mom

Appropriate Au Pair Duties Include:

What is an Au Pair job like in the day-to-day? Duties often include: 

  • Playing with kids, helping parents limit screen time, taking kids out to do interesting things;
  • helping with potty training, teaching kids to clean their messes, and supporting disciplinary needs;
  • simple household tasks related to childcare, such as the kids’ laundry or vacuuming play areas;
  • providing healthy meals to children, helping prepare school lunches;
  • monitoring children’s hygienic needs like bathing and brushing teeth;
  • supervising the children’s pet-related responsibilities;
  • language and reading practice, homework help;
  • driving children to and from school or activities.

Tasks that are Inappropriate for Au Pairs:

The dos and don'ts for Au Pair duties.

  • Doing the parents’ laundry, or being solely responsible for household trash and dishes;
  • cooking meals or grocery shopping for the entire household;
  • extensive, time-consuming chore lists and household duties;
  • cleaning messes the children left during the Au Pair’s off hours;
  • taking care of pets or cleaning up litter box/ dog poop;
  • caring for children alone while parents are on vacation;
  • working overtime (past 45 hours/ week) for any reason, even with additional pay.



These lists are in no way comprehensive. Each family will have their own needs, which is why Au Pair duties range so widely from family to family.

If you bear in mind that Au Pairs are here as students who want a cultural experience, appropriate and inappropriate duties for Au Pairs are pretty intuitive. The idea is for Au Pairs to assist with anything childcare-related, but to avoid placing so much of a burden on your Au Pair that they can’t enjoy their time here in the U.S.

However, if you have more specific questions about what Au Pairs can and cannot do, your Placement Coordinator would be happy to clarify.

Can Au Pairs Perform Skilled Tasks?

Au Pairs from Go Au Pair have the skills to perform the duties your family needs. You can search our database for candidates who have the skills you need.

au pair and host children at the park

Common Specialized Skills We See From Au Pairs:

  • Special needs experience;
  • CPR and First Aid certifications;
  • infant/ under 2 qualification;
  • experience with twins or multiples;
  • support for single parents.

Not every Au Pair will have these skills. However, you can search for these skills in our online database. Or, you can ask your Placement Coordinator to help you find someone who fits your family’s needs.

Please note that Au Pairs are not certified medical professionals. If you need your Au Pair to administer special medications or medical care, you are responsible for ensuring it’s done correctly.

Can Au Pairs Have Flexible Responsibilities Depending on Our Needs?

Host Families can assign Au Pair duties when it is convenient for them. Flexible scheduling, within the 10 hours per day, 45 hours per week maximum, makes Au Pair childcare so much better than daycare and other forms of childcare.

Families can plan for direct childcare duties like supervising and engaging the children, as well as childcare-related duties like laundry and meal or snack preparation and clean-up.

For families with flexible or rotating schedules, Au Pairs can work all of those odd hours when sitters won’t come and daycare centers are closed.

Keep in mind that if your Au Pair is alone in the house with the kids, they are considered “on duty.” This means if you leave your Au Pair with the kids overnight, they are still on duty the same way a babysitter would be.

Can the Average Family Budget for an Au Pair?

How much are you paying your current sitter? Do her duties include anything more than watching the kids?

Many childcare providers charge extra per child and charge a higher rate for babies. Others charge extra for enrichment activities or tutoring services.

Need transportation to and from school, lessons or sports? No matter what your Au Pair duties include, the cost to you remains the same.

On average, families pay about $366.81 per week or $8.15 an hour, for up to 45 hours of service. With a baby and even one other child needing care, an Au Pair is more affordable than most people think!

Can Au Pair Duties Match Your Lifestyle?

Host Family lifestyle will determine some Au Pair duties. The screening and interview process is vital to find a great match. Some families are home-bodies. Au Pair duties for that family may include lots of cleaning up after the kids, driving around town for events, and engaging the kids in daily routines. Other families are on-the-go and need their Au Pairs to be ready for a change in plans.

Au Pairs can be responsible for simple child-related chores and tasks.

Some American families are surrounded by extended family. But, others count on their Au Pair to be that extended family. Au Pairs need time to adjust to the am/pm of American time, refrigerated eggs, and standard instead of Metric.

Can Au Pairs Have Cultural Responsibilities?

Au Pairs are cultural treasure troves for your kids!

Have a specific language or culture in mind, or do you want your kids to learn about multiple different cultures and languages? Au Pairs can speak in their native language, share cultural traditions, or prepare cultural foods with your kids.

Other forms of childcare would charge extra for this level of enrichment.

Often, Host Kids are eager to share all they know about American culture and the English language, too. The experience can be beneficial for both the family and the Au Pair (this is what it’s all about!), and you’ll benefit from the cultural exchange experience all year long!

Check Out Our Au Pair Candidates Today!

Most importantly, in addition to the obvious Au Pair responsibilities, there are unwritten ones as well. Our most successful families build positive and loving relationships that form the basis for their success. Au Pairs often become an extension of their Host Family unit and a big brother or sister to the children in their care.

For example, they can help their Host Kids by offering academic and social support, being an interested and engaged adult, and by being a role model. Au Pairs often help Host Parents by being loving, responsible caregivers, safe drivers, and dedicated friends for life.

This happens with open, honest, and regular communication. It can be immediate, but it can also take time. In the end, sharing, learning on both sides, and purposeful time spent together is just as important as the duties you discuss and agree upon.

If hosting an Au Pair sounds like the right choice for you, check out our Au Pair candidates today!

By |2024-05-10T13:18:09+00:00May 10th, 2024|Best Practices, Host Families, Interviewing Au Pairs|

About the Author:

Joan is a mother of six and is a writer and Local Area Representative in Providence, RI for Go Au Pair. She earned her BS in Elementary & Special Education from RI College and her MEd from Providence College. She helps lead other LARs in writing content and growing their clusters.
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