I hadn’t thought about au pairing while I was in Australia, but when I moved to Coolangatta on the Gold Coast and could not get a job, I decided to give it a go. It was an experience to say the least, parts of it were amazing, parts of it weren’t great. You had good days and bad days; from spending Monday cleaning the car where a three year old had just projectile vomited in, to Tuesday holding crocodiles with a five year old at the zoo, it was hard work but good fun, most of the time.
I have lots of experience with kids, so finding an au pair job was pretty easy. I already had a place to live in Coolangatta with a friend, so I didn’t want to live in, but with no money left in the bank; I decided I would have to if I wanted to stay. Luckily for me, I found a great family who let me live out, which was good, but I still only just had enough money to cover rent. Would I do it again? In Australia no; because I would rather have worked in hospitality. However I would potentially do it in a country where getting a job would prove difficult, maybe if there was a language barrier. Here is the lowdown on my experience as an au pair.
The pay is pretty rubbish. I was on $250 per week and considering my rent was $140 per week, it didn’t leave me very much to live off. However if you are living in, it’s a pretty good deal. You usually get your food and accommodation for free, so $250 per week isn’t bad. I got a weekend job on the side eventually to get more money together and then I was okay. It will depend on your hours, if you’ll have time to get a part-time job as well.
The hours will vary depending on the age of the kids, how many etc. I looked after three children, all under the age of 5. The oldest went to prep and the younger ones went to day care three days a week too, which meant I would have 9am – 3pm off three days a week. However depending on the age of the kids and whether they go to day care or school etc. you could end up working more than that. You also need to make sure you have set hours, so you aren’t asked to work extra nights or days, as you are there anyway.
I would say this is the hardest part of au pairing. I was lucky because I lived out on the weekend and had friends in the area from my time living in Canada, so I already had a group of friends to hang out with. However I met a girl au pairing in the same town as me, and she said that she hardly saw anyone. She had been there about 8 months. If you have just moved to a new town and you are au pairing it can be difficult to meet people, you can’t meet people through work and you don’t have a lot of time to socialise, plus you are usually pretty shattered from running around after kids all day. You have to really work to make friends. There are often Facebook groups that you can meet other au pairs through, and in the cities there tends to be more au pairs around. Without your own space it can be difficult to socialise at home, as the family are always there, and then it can get expensive if you are going out to meet people. It’s not impossible, it’s just difficult.
Au Pairing does come with some perks! I was allowed to use the car when I was off (apart from weekends) which was incredibly convenient. You get free wifi, accommodation and food. My au pair family even had a pool which was awesome, in the hot Australian sun. You could also get to do some sightseeing for free; when the oldest child had school holidays I got to take him on some activities which the family paid for – for example a trip to the zoo.
Looking after children can be tiring, especially if they are really young and there is a lot of them. You don’t have a lot of personal space, unless you luck out and get an au pair job with your own guest house, you are living with a family, which ultimately means you are ‘on’ all the time. You don’t get a lot of money, which can make it difficult to meet people and actually see the place you have travelled too.
So would I do it again?
I enjoyed my time looking after the kids, however I don’t think I would ever do it again, unless I really had to. I am a very social person, and for me working on your own every day just isn’t for me. If I hadn’t already had a friendship group nearby I think it would have been incredibly difficult.
I would stay some nights through the week and I found it difficult. I like being able to finish work and go home and relax, or go out and see friends. I found it quite awkward sometimes, staying in the house, I felt like I couldn’t fully relax. Honestly it was a bit boring, there’s only so much netflix you can watch!
Maybe it would be the perfect job for you, but for me it wasn’t my favourite. It does give you time to go and see more of the town you are in, but without much money and not meeting people, it isn’t particularly easy to do. The kids were great and I enjoyed hanging out with them, but if I did do it again, I would try and work with slightly older kids too.
So if I haven’t put you off entirely and you are thinking about au pairing get on www.aupairworld.com and set up a profile. I had a lot of interest from this site and it’s incredibly easy to use. If you can, speak to a previous au pair before you take a job. I was lucky that I had a great family, but I have also heard some horror stories too, your family will really determine how your experience goes. There are also some great Facebook groups to find host families, so it is worthwhile joining those to look for suitable families.