Want to Nanny or Au Pair?

Heaps of people have been asking me about nannying or au pairing themselves. I think the line between the two is very blurry, people on the sites I used seem to use them interchangeably, but generally their are higher expectations for nannies and they therefore work more and get paid more. Au pairs generally do a 25-35 hour week and it's more about helping out and experiencing the culture, most au pair families will offer to pay for language lessons and au pair insurance as part of the deal, and most nanny and au pair families will pay for your plane or train ticket to your destination.

I set up profiles on three worldwide pages when I was looking, but there are also country-specific pages as well, you can google them.

The four websites I have used are listed below here:

Au Pair World - click here

This website seems to have the most people using it. It lets you add families as favourites, and then they can either say that their interested or not and you get this answer as an email, same works for when families add you as a favourite, you can say whether you are interested or not. You can send messages to families without paying. I would recommend this site the most highly. I found my Munich family via this site.

Great Au Pair - click here

This one seems to have almost as many people using it as the one above, and is the most sophisticated. It has the same 'favourites' feature. Beyond indications of interest, either you or the family has to actually register and pay a bit to be able to send an email to try and line things up, in the end I registered because it was frustrating that so many awesome families were saying they were interested but never emailing! I got my Luxembourg family via this site.

Giving Ollie in Luxembourg a train cake I made for his second birthday
Nanny Agency - click here

This one is much more about nannying, families seem to have higher expectations, like increased work hours, but in return they will pay a lot more. It's harder to learn how to use this site, it took me awhile to figure out how to search for families. It also has a similar system for adding families to a wish list, them adding you to one, and then someone having to register to send an email, however I think because of the nature of the site most families are actually registered. I also got an email everytime a new family registered with the site, it was quite easy to just get these emails and either delete if I wasn't interested or click through to their profile if I was. I found my family in Antwerp on this site.

New Au Pair - click here

This site is pretty basic and has a wish list system like the other two. I found a lot of families on this site were also on Great Au Pair. I think this site has the best information section, like what to expect from a family and the details on visas, etc.


Arin and Alice - My kids in Antwerp, Belgium
Log into your website profiles everyday, so you will be at the top of the list when families search for an au pair

Don't just make profiles and sit and wait, keep searching for families that you like and email them or add them as favourites.

Upload as many photos as you can, better ones of you with kids or your family, or alone, rather than with your friends.

Write as much as possible, you've got to convince families that you're a great person to live with and care for their kids, so try to think from the parent's perspective. Write it in the language of the country you want to go to, and any other languages you speak as well, because families often look for bilingual people,  or those who show enthusiasm for learning their language.

Pepi and I out for a day trip on the train in Luxembourg
Mention words like independent, responsible, mature, flexible, love of children, outgoing. Also, what separates you from other people? What are your hobbies, do you play a musical instrument or sport? What things do you like, like arts and crafts, that might be useful if you were looking after children. A lot of families want people who cook and clean, so you could mention that this is no problem for you.

Talk about any childcare experience you have, and if you have references say so. If you don't have childcare references, think about what other references you could give, like from an exchange host family or support volunteer, or a former teacher.

If you want help or you want to see what I wrote, flick me an email.

Then, the big question is, what family you agree to au pair for. Some things to ask the family about and think about what you would prefer:

  • Where do they live? In the countryside, you might struggle to find things to do in your spare time and feel isolated, but in a city you might find it harder to make friends. Ask about public transport, things to go and how many other au pairs there are in the area.
  • What are they offering? Not just payment each month, but some will pay for language courses, monthly cell phone credit, travel insurance, visa costs, getting to and from their country. I'd suggest you get this from them in writing, as many families seem to 'forget' what they agreed to pay for later on!
  • Are you looking after the kids alone, or just helping parents out? There are pros and cons to both, looking after kids alone means you have more freedom to plan the day, ie trips to the park and there is less confusion over who is in charge when it comes to disciplining kids. It also means you don't feel like there is someone watching over your shoulder all of the time. But depending on the family, if you're the main one looking after the kids, it might get quite depressing that the parents are never around for their children and might mean that the kids have issues because of this.
  • What schedule do they expect from an au pair? Normally you should expect to have two free days per week, and work under 30 hours per week. Would you rather work fewer days, but have them be really long days with no time at all to yourself, or work more days but do less hours? If you're doing before school and after school until bedtime, does this leave you with enough time to attend a language school and have a social life? Remember that during week days, most people are at work anyway and you might struggle to find people to hang out, whereas you will miss out on a lot if you are always working in the evenings.
  • What holidays will they give you, and can you take these anytime, or only when they specify? Who is available to cover you if you are sick or want to take a holiday?
  • What relationship do they expect from their au pair? Do they want an 'older sister' who really is part of the family, or an older and independent person who maintains their own life outside of the family? Do they want someone who will spend time with them in the evenings, or someone who will go out/to her room and leave them to have their own space? How do they feel about you staying out overnight?
  • What values are important to the family, and do they match with yours? This is a hard one, because its their family, and their children, and most families aren't open to criticism of their parenting. Can you cope living with a family that doesn't thinking doing things like giving the kids a bath and putting them to bed themselves is important, or one that physically punishes their kids? I'd ask each family how they deal with discipline, because arriving into a family that either excessively punishes their kids, or never punishes their kids at all probably isn't very fun!
Think about what is most important to you, like could you deal with sharing a bathroom if you never had to work weekends and could therefore go traveling a lot? Are you a person that prefers heaps of personal space or needs to be really close to the family she's living with? No family will be perfect, you just have to work out what is essential for you, and what you can learn to live with.

And then, really, really take your time to pick a family. I learnt that for me, how much they pay you, where you live, or how many hours you do is not the most important thing, because at the end of the day that can all seem perfect but if you don't like the family, you will be miserable.

And always ask for a reference, never just believe them when they say that their last au pair was happy. She will be able to give you the biggest insight into the pros and cons of each family.