by Holly Hadley
“Why are questions important?”
I agreed to au pair for a family that paid me too little, did not live up to their promises, and omitted to tell me the truth about their circumstances. They were actually quite kind at times, especially at the beginning, and I do think that they truly cared for my wellbeing. However if I’d known what I know now, I would not have chosen to work for this family.
I’ve made a list of questions that I think are necessary to be answered before agreeing to fly across the world and live with a family that you’ve never met before. Of course you should know how many children there are and their ages. These questions may need to be asked tactfully in order to avoiding sounding rude or nosy, but if a family didn’t answer any one of these questions, I might question choosing them as my hosts.
Questions for au pairs to ask host families:
- Do both parents work? My host mom stayed home with the kids and I every day. I felt uncomfortable when the children asked why they couldn’t stay with their mom, and this also posed problems with authority, but I’ll explain that in more detail in a later post.
- Will there be any pets? Having a puppy is cute, but when he is quite big, quite strong, and teething… having your feet and the kids feet bitten constantly is something you just don’t want to deal with.
- How far is the home from public transport/will they pay? Luckily I was a 10 minute walk from the train, however the cost to go in and out of Paris really added up. Many au pairs are given a Navigo pass that pays for their use of the busses and trains, which would’ve been well appreciated.
- Where will you be sleeping? I was in a room next to the kids and shared a bathroom with them. Having a separate apartment makes a world of difference and in Paris, many au pairs are given one. Just try to imagine finishing a hard day’s work, and not being able to leave and snuggle up at home. Working in your home is a whole new experience that I could’ve lived without.
- How will you be paid? I was paid 300 euros per month, which could be alright, however I cared for 3 young girls, and worked approx. 50 hours per week give or take a little, with no real extra perks except for food and accommodation. I was told that they would pay for French lessons from the university however that didn’t happen. I know au pairs who were paid 400-500 euros per month for 30 hours work per week, caring for just one child, given a phone and Navigo pass, money for food as well as a separate apartment. Also in what way will you be paid? I was given cash each month, which was fine with me.
- How is their level of your native language? I’d spoken with them by Skype, however in hindsight, I’d only really spoken with the dad, who has a good level of English. When I arrived, I realized that the mother was fairly limited with English, and therefore made some mistakes that ended up hurting our relationship. She would get Thursday and Tuesday confused, so she would get mad because I’d done something on the wrong day when in fact she had made a mistake with the language. Remember, it is most likely the mother who is your real boss, because personally I hardly saw the dad.
Article and images by Holly Hadley