What Is An Au Pair & How Do I Find One?

For many people, an au pair and a live-in nanny amount to the same thing and they use the terms interchangeably.  However, there are differences between the two and if you’re considering hiring someone to care for your children, you may find the following discussion very useful.

A nanny (or as the male version is referred to, a manny) describes any individual—whether professionally trained or not—who cares for children in their own home.

An au pair is typically a young person who comes from overseas to live with an Australian family for a cross-cultural experience.  They aren’t generally trained as professional nannies or childcare workers but rather come to Australia as domestic assistants with the aim of improving their English and discovering more about the culture and the country.

Most of them come from a wide variety of foreign countries and require a visa – with the exception of New Zealanders who are allowed to live and work in Australia lawfully.

An au pair is provided with accommodation and meals and paid pocket money for looking after the children and doing some light domestic tasks.

Let’s look in more detail at some of the things that an au pair does.

Their primary responsibility is taking care of the children – but having said that, an au pair shouldn’t be put in sole charge of babies under a year old unless they have the appropriate training and experience.   Obviously as time goes on and their confidence improves and the family’s confidence in them strengthens, they can be given greater independence in terms of their childcare responsibilities.

Their daily tasks could be anything from waking children in the morning and helping them get ready for school or day care.  They may prepare meals, drive children around, do light housework like laundry or vacuuming, take children to extramural activities, play dates and outings, supervise homework and play activities, bath them and get them ready for bed – but they do need to be given time off during the day to study, take time out or pursue their own interests.

An au pair is part of the family.  After all, they live with you.  And they’re entrusted with caring for your children.  That’s why it’s so crucially important to make the right choice of au pair.  Which brings us to another question – how do you go about finding an au pair?

To find the right host family or au pair in Australia, you need to search in the right places.  Websites.  Facebook.  Gumtree.  Backpacker job sites.  Employment marketplaces.   There are many different resources which bring aspirant au pairs and host families together but finding the perfect fit isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Your au pair will be living in your home and caring for your children.  It’s a deeply personal relationship and finding one whose personality suits your family’s dynamic and who shares your parenting approach can be quite a challenge – especially when there are so many different places to look.

The phrase ‘au pair’ comes from French and literally means ‘on equal terms’.  Whilst it’s now commonly used as a noun, its original meaning goes to the heart of why making the right choice of au pair is so crucial.  They’re part of the family and in many ways, they’re sharing the parenting.

Going through a professional au pair agency like Smart Au Pairs can save an enormous amount of time and hassle because they have the experience and the resources to find the best match possible for both the host family and the au pair.

Whether you’re looking for au pairs in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane – or anywhere in Australia for that matter – Smart Au Pairs is a trusted au pair agency with a reputation for gold standard screening and professional support.  If you are considering hiring an au pair or are interested in learning more about becoming one, visit their website, www.smartaupairs.com.au or call  their friendly team on 02 9451 3888.

 

Why Use An Au Pair Agency?

What have swooping magpies got to do with au pairs?

Magpies get a bad rap for being dangerous menaces during their breeding season, but aren’t they just protecting their young?

It’s a natural instinct for these birds, just as it is deeply instinctive for us humans.  When we have children, we do everything we can to protect them.  We take every possible precaution, anticipate risk and put things in place to avoid or at least, lessen any possible hazards.

Which brings us to the subject of au pairs.

An au pair is a young person, generally a foreigner, who comes into the lives of a family for up to a year, shares their home, eats meals with them and is also given the responsibility of looking after the children.

But like the humble magpie, parents are fiercely protective of their young.  So why trust a complete stranger to look after their precious family?  Doesn’t that go against our natural instincts?

Here’s the thing.  If you use an au pair agency, the person who comes into your home and your family’s life isn’t actually a stranger.

The person is carefully screened and chosen so that their qualities and character match those of your family.  The agency gets to know the au pairs very well before making any recommendations to the family and they get to know your family beforehand too, so that there’s a personal touch and the best matches are put forward.

And when the right person is chosen as an au pair, the benefits to the family are enormous.  Many of them establish very close bonds with the family, becoming a big ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ to the younger members and playing a vital role in helping parents maintain a balanced, organised and well-run home.

When you go through an au pair agency, you have total peace-of-mind that everything will be done by the book.   And that applies to both the applicant and the host family.

They follow thorough screening processes and procedures.  They do medical and police checks.   They have an extensive database and a global network to source the most suitable candidates.   They offer a comprehensive support and mediation service.  They know how important it is for families to get someone who fits their family dynamic and who shares their parenting approach.

They also provide the appropriate resources like step-by-step guides, au pair invitations and handbooks to help parents with the interview process and to help au pairs assimilate into their new community.

Of course, it is possible to find an au pair without going through an agency.  Places like Gumtree, Facebook and newspapers are full of posts from young people looking to au pair in Australia and discover our unique lifestyle and culture.  But that process may not always be hassle-free.  Or stress-free.  Or even risk-free.

Going through a registered au pair agency in Australia is best for both the au pair and the host family and it means:

  • Thoroughly screened candidates and host families
  • Medical and police checks
  • Verified documents
  • Personal touch through telephone chats and Skype calls
  • Hand-picked matches
  • Comprehensive support
  • Understanding of Australian regulations

Hiring an au pair is an affordable and viable solution for many Australian parents and demand is increasing all the time.  Wherever you live, whether you need au pairs in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, using a reputable, registered and award-winning au pair agency like Smart Au Pairs could be the best thing you can do for your family.

Don’t leave anything to chance.  Just as the magpies will do anything to protect their young, making an informed choice when it comes to au pairs will soothe your protective instincts too.  To find out more about hiring an au pair in Australia or becoming one, have a chat to the friendly team at Smartaupairs on 02 9451 3888 or visit www.smartaupairs.com.au.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Expanded Family

A couple years ago we interviewed and selected Miss Chelsey Hart to be an au pair with our small family in a country town in regional NSW. Little did we know at the time that this Minnesotan native from a small country town herself would become a close family member and life long friend.

Chelsey spent seven months with us and we treasured every minute of it. After a few weeks of settling in she proved to be invaluable and really became a perfect fit for our family and the hectic schedule we live day to day. Through the highs and lows of daily family life, she was in the thick of it from day one.

It was obvious that she had come from a great home with loving parents and nothing seemed too hard for her. Chelsey was mature, hard working, honest and loving and came with an unusually high amount of common sense. She was very practical and always managed to get the job done. It was just a pleasure to have her stay with us and when it came time to farewell her we all cried when she left us at Sydney airport to return home. We thank her parents, Debbie and Pete Hart, for loaningus their wonderful daughter for those seven months.

Since that time, our families have grown quite close and we have enjoyed family holidays together in Europe, Australia and more recently in America where we were invited to celebrate Chelsey’s older brother’s wedding and stay with the family for a couple weeks. We could not have been more warmly welcomed by the entire Hart family. We enjoyed 4th of July celebrations, large family dinners, BBQs and water skiing and so much more. The whole Hart family treated us like their own and our bond has grown even stronger. So much so, Chelsey and her family are planning another trip out to Australia again early next year. We cannot wait to see them all again.

When we engaged Chelsey through Smart Au Pairs we could not have expected to have enjoyed such a wonderful and ongoing relationship with an au pair. We also have a very similar relationship with another Smart Au Pair applicant, Hannah Pinnekamp from Germany. Her family visited us in Australia too and we are now lucky to have an extended family in Germany. Whilst these two girls are not our daughters, they became so close with us that how we effectively view them as extensions of our family. Not a week goes by where we don’t text or Facetime each other to catch up.

We could not have asked for a better experience with both these young ladies. We asked for an au pair for six months and received a wonderful new family member for life!

Is An Au Pair Cheaper Than Childcare?

The cost of childcare is always the subject of debate and whether friends are discussing it over a coffee or politicians are campaigning on television, everyone has an opinion.

The recent introduction of the new Child Care Subsidy really put the subject in the spotlight and if you have young children or are planning on starting a family, no doubt you are curious to find out more about childcare choices and how much they cost.

One of the questions that crops up most frequently is whether an au pair is cheaper than childcare.

It’s important to remember that what’s right for one family isn’t necessarily right for another and deciding on a childcare option really does depend on your individual circumstances and needs.  These can also change over time, so it’s good to be aware of all options open to you.

In order to put the discussion about the costs of childcare versus those of hiring an au pair into context, it’s a good idea to first establish your needs.

  • What are your hourly/daily/weekly requirements for childcare?
  • Do you need childcare at home?
  • Do you need flexibility with regards to childcare, eg shift work?
  • Do you require a babysitter on a regular basis?
  • What’s your budget?
  • Does your child or children have any special needs?

Having a clear idea of what you want will help you make good, informed choices about childcare and will help you put the costs into perspective.

Some parents are lucky enough to have an affordable daycare centre close to their home or workplace.  Others may not be so fortunate and may find themselves paying up to $100 per child per day.  Currently, the average daily cost of childcare is estimated at around $112 before subsidies and costs will obviously increase when there is more than one child from the same family attending daycare.

Pocket money for an au pair starts from around $200 per week and if you go through an au pair agency, you’ll need to factor in the agency placement fee.  Other extras to consider may include a family police check, a completion bonus for your au pair and vehicle costs if your au pair will be driving your car.

When it comes to babysitting, au pairs are also often willing to go the extra mile and because they live in your home, they can offer greater flexibility and a more cost-effective solution (and no taxi fares!).

And talking of flexibility, an au pair means families don’t have to worry about paying late fees at daycare centres because the children are looked after at home.  Erratic working hours or unexpected delays at the office don’t have to cost you extra because of the flexibility that an au pair allows.

Once all the costs are tallied up, hiring an au pair is cheaper than childcare.

However, in the end, it’s not all about money.  Deciding on the best option for childcare depends on many factors other than finances – and it’s important to spend time exploring all your options to see which suits your individual family circumstances best.

However, if you are curious to find out more about au pairs in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, have a look at what Smartaupairs does.  They’re a registered and highly respected au pair agency and they’ll give you an open and transparent overview of what you can expect if you hire an au pair.

Find out more at www.smartaupairs.com.au or give them a call on 02 9451 3888 and chat to one of their friendly and experienced team members about hiring an au pair in Australia.

 

Why is au pair Cultural Exchange?

Today I took some time out to talk to some of our loyal host families to get feedback on their ‘WHY’. At Smartaupairs we are passionate about protecting the au pair program as a Cultural Exchange experience and here are some of the reasons why:

  • AP talks to the kids about ‘their country’ –
  • AP teachers the kids a few words of their home language –
  • Ongoing friendships all over the world –
  • AP came to Son’s big rugby games –
  • APs introduced new foods and cooked traditional meals –
  • Host Family prepared Aussie food such as Moreton Bay Bugs –
  • Host Family organised big BBQ parties with friends and family –
  • Backyard cricket –
  • Aussie Christmas on the Beach
  • Au Pair takes their daughter to netball training and matches –
  • Family holidays to South Australia (where they are from originally) AP comes along and stays with family relatives and visits remote areas –
  • Every au pair brings new food ideas –
  • Bookshelf now holds Dutch Fairytales, Danish Fairytales and picture book of Canada,
  • Family and au pair always exchange gifts to reflect their country –
  • Family wants her children to be au pair when they grow up –
  • Au Pairs have brought toys or games from ‘home’, current au par is teaching the kids origami
  • Family invites the au pair to live AFL game –
  • Kids play soccer so au pair comes along to training and games, even on her ‘days-off’ –
  • Au Pair and kids share a passion for drawing and painting and making art –
  • Family + au pair went to Tulip Festival in Melbourne –
  • Family go to the beach at least once every weekend, the AP always wants to come along –
  • Family evolved from hosting exchange students to au pairs, so many similarities!
  • Always takes every au pair to see: – Blue Mountains – Newcastle and central coast – Zoo
  • Mum says: we would not be able to have full time jobs and 2 kids if it wasn’t for the amazing support we have received from our lovely au pairs over the years.
  • If you do not have relatives nearby to help, you have to bring in extra family member to help with care.

Managing Food Budgets With An Au Pair

When you welcome an au pair into your home, you will be responsible for giving them safe and secure board and accommodation. Naturally, your household expenses will rise and with that your grocery budget. Enough food is an integral part of feeling safe in a home and as with any members of the family you should ensure that your au pair will be well nourished and happy with the food they have access to.  But if you are managing a tight budget and have cost constraints, you also want to avoid spending more than is necessary or buying too many luxuries, and it may be essential to manage your food budget well from day one.

As you plan a food budget that includes your au pair, begin by considering your au pair’s food needs just as you would for any other member of your family. An au pair will want enough food, healthy and nutritious food, food that caters for any dietary restrictions or food allergies, not forgetting to food that they actually like!

You should also weigh this up against your concerns. These may include:

  • – Overspending on expensive and luxury items
  • – Wasting money on food that doesn’t get eaten
  • – Planning for meals, buying ahead of time and having food available as planned
  • – Combining their eating preferences, habits and culture with your family’s food culture.

Once you have considered these aspects you can start to calculate what it will cost extra to feed another adult in your home.  Look at your family’s weekly food spending and calculate how much of that is spent on each adult. For example, if you spend 25% of your weekly budget on each adult then you can expect to add at least 25% for the au pair. Leave some room in your budget to allow you to buy their favourite food and treats and for extra items like sauces or condiments which they may use regularly.

With a clear food budget and strategy in mind, the next step will be to communicate this clearly with your au pair and try to ensure that there are no misunderstandings regarding your or your au pair’s expectations toward food. The following suggestions can make the process easier.

  • – Communicate your expectations about food early on. Go through your food pantry and fridge with you au pair and discuss a typical week’s meals for your family.
  • – Let your au pair tell you their food preferences, routines, likes and dislikes.
  • – Buy weekly, especially in the beginning. This will help you avoid unnecessary waste.
  • – Plan your menu with your au pair. This will give them a better understanding of how you use each food item and if you will need anything for a specific meal.
  • – Give your au pair the option to buy some extras, within limits, just as you would allow extras and treats for your family.
  • – If your au pair has a very different food culture from your own, you can encourage them to try eating your food as part of their experience of getting to know a new country and its cultures.
  • – Speak to your au pair agency for advice. They may have very handy suggestions or figures available to assist you in managing a budget.

Smartaupairs is an au pair agency in Sydney that specialises in finding and placing au pairs with host families across Australia. Throughout their thorough process of au pair background checks and screening, their team aims to match au pairs perfectly with families. They also provide extensive training and preparation material, as well as continuous support to the host families and the au pairs to help make the au pair experience as happy as possible for all parties. If you are interested in finding the perfect au pair for your family, register on their website or call 02 9451 3888 for more information.

Top 5 Reasons To Be An Au Pair In Australia

Being an au pair in Australia is very popular and for good reason! There is so much to love about being an au pair in Australia from the sunny weather to the friendly people and the stunning landscapes. Here are our top 5 reasons to be an au pair in Australia.

The Climate

Even the winters in Australia are quite mild compared to a European winter. So no matter what the season, there will be plenty of opportunity to leave the house and enjoy the outdoors. Australians love being around the water, so ensure you pack your swim wear and enjoy many of the local pools and clean white beaches.

The Homes

Many host families live in lovely homes – some will have large gardens or pools and some host families live near the beach or the bush. Australians love being in the outdoors, so many homes feature outdoor kitchens and relaxing indoor/outdoor rooms or alfresco areas – giving an au pair a very different experience to European living.

The People

Australians have a reputation for being welcoming, friendly people. The Australian culture has a strong social focus – so there will be opportunities to expand your social circle beyond just your host family. Join a team sport or social club and enjoy the famous Australian hospitality.

The Food

Australia is famous for its fresh produce (including seasonal fruits and vegetables, seafood and wine) so au pairs are encouraged to make the most of the fresh local produce on the doorstep. Check out the local food markets and ask your host family for local restaurant recommendations or food and wine tours in your area.

The Opportunity To Explore

Australians love to travel and explore and it is likely your host family will want to show you the tourist hotspots in their area. Throughout Australia there are many campsites and visitor centres, so going on day trips and exploring your host state is easy to organise – and a great idea to do with fellow au pairs on a weekend or during some time off. Some au pairs in Australia are lucky enough to also accompany their host family on holidays around the country or internationally, so will have the opportunity to see even more of Australia and possibly even other countries too..

Smart Au Pairs is an au pair agency in Sydney that specialises in finding and placing au pairs with host families across Australia.  Many of the Smart Au Pairs team have themselves been an au pair or nanny and/or spent time living, working and studying overseas, so they understand au pairs and strive to achieve the best match possible for both host family and au pair. If you are interested in becoming an au pair, register on their website or call 02 9451 3888 for more information.

 

Vivian will organise au pair orientation

In July we welcome back our beloved Vivian from the Netherlands. Vivian previously completed work experience with Travel Active in The Netherlands as well as with Smartaupairs Australia during her course of Tourism and Leisure Management.

As she is now studying International Tourism Management and Consultancy, she has another opportunity to join Smartaupairs and help us to provide au pair support during the busiest arrival months.

Vivian’s CV is an impressive collection of activities, travel and adventure including volunteering in the Netherlands as a swimming instructor and youth scout leader and further afield teaching English to children in China as a volunteer and an internship in Argentina with a sustainable Tourism company.

As soon as Vivian arrives in Sydney, she will be looking after our au pairs and make it easier for them to get settled quickly and find friends nearby. We know this is a very important part of our au pair program and we offer regular Meet & Greet opportunities in collaboration with our travel agency Backpackers World Travel.

Top 10 Experiences Not To Miss In Australia On Your Gap Year

Every day in Australia will be a day very different to the European lifestyle – the weather is fantastic and the Australian people easy-going and friendly – but there is so much more for au pairs to experience. Add these top experiences to your not-to-miss list during your Au Pair Australia adventure.

1. Learn How To Surf

Australians love the beach – the clear waters and clean white sand really make the Australian beaches something special. So why not make the most of the location and learn how to surf? Surfing lessons are held at many beaches throughout Australia and even if you don’t master the skill, it’s still a fun experience not to be missed.

2. Do A Food Or Wine Tour

The fresh produce in Australia is amazing, so whether you love fruit, chocolate, cheese or wine, you are sure to be delighted. A food or wine tour is a great day experience, allowing you to taste all of the local delights and is also a great way to spend a day with friends or fellow au pairs (and the best part is you can enjoy responsibly without worrying about who is going to drive). Popular areas for food and wine tours include the Hunter Valley for au pairs in New South Wales, the Barossa Valley in South Australia or the Swan Valley and Margaret River region in Western Australia.

3. Visit Sydney

If you can organise even a weekend trip to Sydney in New South Wales, you can cross off a number of popular tourist hot spots. Climb the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, walk up the stairs of the world famous Sydney Opera House and soak up some sun on one of Australia’s most famous beaches, Bondi Beach.

4. Learn About The Indigenous Culture

Take part in an activity or tour to learn about the Aboriginal people and their vibrant culture. Discover the beauty of Aboriginal art and sample ‘bush tucker’ or traditional Aboriginal food. Ask your local visitor centre or go to the Tourism Australia website for information on available experiences near you.

5. Go Camping

Many Australians go for weekend getaways and camping is an affordable, fun way to really experience the great outdoors. There are many campsites all over Australia and many have facilities such as powered sites and showers to make camping more appealing to those who do not want to rough it. The brightness of the stars in an Australian sky away from the lights of the city is truly something worth seeing.

6. Meet The Local Wildlife

You cannot come to Australia without meeting a kangaroo! There are many amazing wildlife parks and animal farms that allow visitors to get up-close-and-personal to some of Australia’s friendliest wildlife. Australian zoos are also great to visit and will have many species of Australian wildlife to see.

7. See A Show

Australia has bred some impressive talent (think Hugh Jackman and Chris Hemsworth), so ensure you experience some of Australia’s awesome entertainment industry. Go see a musical or live show at one of the many theatres or take in an Australian movie or two.

8. Visit The Great Barrier Reef

It is one of the wonders of the natural world and stretches 2300 kilometres – if you get a chance to visit the Great Barrier Reef, take it! With over 3000 individual reef systems and hundreds of tiny tropical islands, it will be an experience you will never forget.

9. Get The Adrenaline Pumping

Australians love adventure so if you want to do something a bit different, the options are endless – from bungee jumping to skydiving, horse riding to jet boating, Australia has it all.

10. Go To A Sporting Event

Australians love their sport –and the atmosphere at a big game can be just as exciting as the game itself! AFL (Australian Football League), basketball, rugby and cricket all attract big crowds, so find out from your host family what sports are on during your stay, adopt a local team to support and enjoy the experience.

Smart Au Pairs is an au pair agency in Sydney that specialises in finding and placing au pairs with host families across Australia.  Many of the Smart Au Pairs team have themselves been an au pair or nanny and/or spent time living, working and studying overseas, so are able to offer support to ensure your au pair experience is fun, rewarding and memorable. For further details on becoming an au pair, register on their website or call 02 9451 3888 for more information.

 

Can An Au Pair Be A Great Alternative To Out Of School Hours Care?

 

As any working parent will know, trying to arrange care for your children outside of normal school hours can be a nightmare, especially if you work full time. The cost of these services can also be prohibitive for some families, particularly if you have more than one child. But are there any alternatives for before and after school care?

One of the most affordable alternatives to before and after school care is hosting an au pair. An au pair is a usually a young person from a foreign country who lives with your family for a few months (3 to 6 months mostly) to experience a different culture, country and often language. In return for accommodation and meals in your home, they can provide around 25-35 hours of child care support and light housework. Their duties can include dropping the children at school in the mornings and picking them up in the afternoons – and this is where your family can benefit from not having to resort to often expensive out of school hours care.

Using before and after school care may work well during term time, but what about during the school holidays? Not all schools offer vacation care so you may be forced to make alternative arrangements. These changes of environments can sometimes be stressful for children, and choosing to hire an au pair can go a long way to ensuring continuity of care during both the school term and periods of holidays.

A great time of the year to get an au pair is around the school holidays. Most working parents need to use vacation care during the holidays but if you have an au pair, you may be able to use it less or perhaps not at all. An au pair may be able to work during the day as per the agreement you decide upon with them before the start of their placement. Of course au pairs are not meant to work full time, unless they are appropriately financially compensated – a reputable au pair agency can help you to iron out the details before you decide to welcome an au pair into your home.

Smart Au Pairs are able to help you find an au pair that will blend seamlessly into your family and offer your children (and you!) a culturally enriching experience that they will value for a lifetime. All au pairs are fully screened to ensure your children are in safe hands while you are away from them. Get started on your au pair search with Smart Au Pairs and say goodbye to high childcare costs today.