Be careful, because you just might fall in love

love photo(photo courtesy of dreamstime stock photos)

When you take the chance and move abroad to work as an au pair, there is a pretty good chance that you will fall in love. And I don’t just mean with the adorably cute foreign guys and girls you will meet, although there will likely be plenty of them, with all the drama a foreign romance entails (more on that another day … ).

But a recent article about an au pair working in Rome reminded me how the loves you gain while living abroad can be many and life-long. The story was a short one about a New Zealand student wanting to travel abroad before beginning her university studies and moving to Rome to work as an au pair for one month.

She ended up falling in love with a new country and family. And although her experience is recent, I would be willing to bet that ten years out she will be just as fond of her experience as an au pair. Although no host family or host country is perfect, there is a good chance that your new home and family will become very dear to you. So consider yourselves warned!

Pending tax on Au Pairs working in the United States

US Congress

Although this news is a couple of weeks old, rumor has it that the U.S. Congress is considering levying a new tax on au pairs. The tax would be a 7.65% FICA tax that au pairs would be responsible to pay.

The programs that the tax revenues would support would be Social Security and Medicare, social programs for the aged and ill, neither of which the average au pair (who stays in the U.S. only temporarily), would ever benefit from. Of course, a tax on au pairs ultimately means an added expense for host families, as they will have to foot the bill in the long run.

Host families – you can oppose this tax by contacting your representative in Congress or by signing the petition on Alliance Exchange’s website. Be sure to tell them that you oppose any tax on au pairs or other holders of the J1 Visa.

Au pairs – make sure that your host families know about this pending legislation and act accordingly!

Getting an au pair job – do you have to love children?

children in snow (photo courtesy of dreamstime)

I was recently criticized by a host mom on a popular blog for host parents for saying that au pairs don’t have to be “kid people” to be good au pairs. After reading this person’s negative comments, I had to stop and think for a minute whether I should defend myself, ignore the comment as if I’d never read it, or take back what I had said. I don’t believe in senseless blog wars, so I didn’t respond to the comment there and then. But I do stand by the fact that you don’t have to be what is considered a “kid” person to be a good au pair. You don’t. 

When I applied for a job as an au pair, my host family knew that I was not a childcare professional and that I had no intentions of ever working with children again. I was very honest with them with my reasons for wanting to be an au pair: cultural experience and language learning. That was it. And they accepted me as their au pair and did not regret it. Of course, I worked hard and did a good job, which is what is important to most host families. I took good care of “my” kids, enjoyed my time with them, and actually grew to love the family’s children, despite myself. But am I a “kid” person? No way, man! And I know that I am not alone in this.

Most au pairs work as au pairs for the opportunity to live and experience a new country and culture cheaply. The au pairs I know aren’t in it because they adore children. In the case of the au pair job, children are a means to an end. That might sound crass and may be offensive to host parents who think their children are the reason the world turns round, but it’s the truth. Sure, some au pairs love kids, and that’s great. But those who don’t can also make good au pairs. It’s all in the motivation.

So if you don’t work as an au pair to be with kids, why work as an au pair? Check out this post for a few good reasons.

What host families want

family on steps

My family does not host an au pair, but it looks like we should!

What are host families really looking for? This is a question I am asked quite frequently. Although there are hundreds, if not thousands, of websites out there about being an au pair, sometimes the most basic information is overlooked. Potential au pairs aren’t exactly sure what qualities are needed to be good at au pairing.

So what do host families actually want in an au pair? I would say the two qualities host families are looking for in au pairs are reliability and flexibility. Families who hire au pairs are usually quite busy and need childcare they can rely on. They need someone who works when they say they will work and who gets the extra jobs done as well. Au pair families don’t have time for flaky.

Flexibility is also important because life in a family isn’t always predictable. At times, host parents need their au pairs to bend a bit. This may mean working extra hours occassionally or changing a schedule at the last minute. As long as host families don’t make a habit of changing an au pair’s work around, some changes are to be expected, and au pairs who can be accept change will do better than those who can’t.

Of course, host families also want au pairs who like children, or who at least can get along well enough with them to do a good job. As I have admitted before, I am not a huge kid person, and I was even less of one at age twenty-one. But I had years of babysitting experience and could work well with children, so not being a massive kids fan didn’t hold me back from having a great au pair experience.

Those are the top of my list of what host families look for in au pairs. What do you think? What are some of the qualities au pairs need to make the job work? I’d love to hear from current (or past) host families on this one …

Happy Halloween!

pumpkin picture (photo by dreamstime)

If you’re an au pair working in America, you are probably celebrating Halloween today. And if you’re an American working abroad, you might also be celebrating Halloween with your host family. Halloween is a great holiday for kids (as long as you keep the scary stuff at bay).

If you’re working this Halloween, be sure to enjoy it! Dress up with the kids, carve a pumpkin, and bake some yummy Halloween treats. This time of year the weather is still bearable (unless you happen to be on the East Coast in the snowstorm!), so enjoy the cool crisp fall air with the kids as well. It may be one of your last chances to be outdoors without freezing, so make sure you take advantage of it.

So what are you doing this Halloween? Are you trick-or-treating with the kids? Or heading to a party yourself?