An Au Pair isn’t just a nanny. The Au Pair Program provides a cultural exchange experience for both parties.

Hours and responsibilities vary not only by country but also by family. Applicants must know what to expect when considering this career option.

Our household guide helps both au pairs and host families understand each other’s expectations. The following will help you determine if being an au pair is right for you.


Your au pair is here to provide your children with a safe, loving environment. It is essential to discuss childcare responsibilities and expectations in detail, especially from the beginning of her stay with your family. Discussing the child’s routine and any special needs your au pair may need to meet is also a good idea.

Setting clear boundaries when communicating with your au pair via phone or email is also a good idea. It is widespread for au pairs to want to talk on the phone with family and friends back home, but this mustn’t become a substitute for a daily conversation about their experiences. If this becomes an issue, it is recommended that you speak with your Community Counselor for guidance.

By Department of State regulations, you are responsible for establishing an on-duty schedule for your au pair, which is at most ten hours per day (standard and Extraordinaire au pairs) or 45 hours per week. Au pairs are entitled to one free day per week, including a day for religious observance if requested. You must also give your au pair a minimum of two weeks’ vacation with pay during her 12-month stay. We recommend discussing vacation schedules with your au pair well in advance.

Cultural Education

The au pair is expected to provide cultural immersion through participation in family activities, community involvement, and educational opportunities. As part of their au pair duties, they must maintain regular dialogue with their Community Counselor throughout the program.

During her orientation, your au pair will receive a Household Guide designed to help you set household rules and establish expectations. This document is essential to review with her and revisit during weekly check-in meetings.

If you need clarification about a particular action or word your au pair uses, take the time to consider her reasoning. Remember, her culture has different assumptions that may have led to her behavior. For example, many people don’t realize that asking a question about the quality of food implies judgment, whereas most other languages do not.

It is important to remember that the primary purpose of an au pair’s year abroad is to care for your children. It cannot spend more than 10 hours a day or 45 hours a week on childcare duties, and her unused childcare hours cannot be banked for use in future weeks. Additionally, she cannot work for other families or assume extra childcare responsibilities to earn additional money. This is a violation of Department of State regulations.


Au pairs are required to attend a minimum of 15 hours of English classes per week. Host Families can offer additional tutoring if the au pair desires more English exposure. This is usually not a problem, but if the host family has an au pair who wants more instruction than what is offered through the Au Pair Program, paying for extra lessons or private tutoring may be necessary.

Generally, an au pair’s weekly work hours are between 20 and 45. However, an average day can differ from day to day and week to week, depending on the needs of each family.

It would help if you made your expectations clear from the start. Describe your home and set rules, such as when an au pair is on and off duty, what tasks you expect her to complete, and the level of supervision you wish for your children. If you have a rule that differs from what she was used to in her home country, explain the cultural differences.

Also, ensure that your au pair genuinely loves children and is interested in looking after them. Otherwise, getting the most out of her stay will not be possible, and you’ll both struggle. If you are concerned that an au pair has little interest in working with children, ask why she applied to the program and try to find a resolution.

Light Housekeeping

Your au pair may also help with light housework, laundry, and cooking (within reason). It is essential to discuss with your au pair any expectations you have about her work. It is common for an au pair’s job duties to evolve, so ensure you and your au pair are on the same page about their responsibilities.

It is essential to discuss with your au pair the rules you have about her use of the phone and computer for both on and off-duty hours. For example, some families have set specific rules about when she can answer the phone and how, how she should use online communication and any restrictions you have imposed on accessing sites that could contain inappropriate content.

If you have children with special needs, discussing travel plans in advance so your au pair is aware of any extra childcare responsibilities when you are out of the house is essential. It is also a good idea to make clear to your au pair if she will be in sole charge of the children when traveling or if you have arranged for someone else to care for them.

Many problems arise because minor incidents are not discussed openly and promptly. It is essential to talk to your au pair often and honestly about her concerns and to deal with issues promptly and fairly.

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