An Au Pair in Boston, New York and LA
by Nikki Prin
23 years of age, living in London and working a 9-5 job. Although not a bad existence, I have always had an urge for new experiences, and a different existence. So I decided, I would take my first steps to a new adventure.
Being new to travelling, I decided to go away on an organised program, which allowed me to have adventure but also offered a buffer zone, of security and assistance if needed. So I went to the USA on an Au Pair government approved program. www.aupairinamerica.com My first stop was in New York for 3 days for an orientation, which gave me insight into the care and work involved in looking after children along with first aid techniques and cultural differences. Of course being in New York was a great experience, along with around 30 other first time Au Pairs from all over Europe who attended.
But we were all very excited and eager to get to our new Au Pair positions and meet our host families that we would be staying with. So after 3 days we all said our good-byes and swapped emails and addresses, and left for our prospective jobs.
I headed for the suburbs of Boston, and had 3 children to look after ages of 2, 5, and 7. The family were lovely, the father a doctor the mother a lawyer. And they welcomed me into their beautiful home and I felt very comfortable from the start. The program requires that you work 40 hours a week, which includes childcare and light housework, for this you are paid around $140* a week. Along with most of the other girls I was not prepared for the work which was involved, getting 3 children up in the morning, giving them breakfast, packing school lunch boxes and making sure the were dressed and ready for the school bus is not as easy as first though. Then having the rest of the day to do laundry, shopping, all whilst looking after a 2year old. And then from 3:00pm having the older children back home from school, driving them to swimming lessons, or friend's houses. Making dinner, getting them ready for bed.
What I learned from this experience was the amount of hard work it is to look after children. But there were many plus sides to this experience. Firstly the children can be so much fun to be around, I had the opportunity to visit another country and I met so many other Au Pairs who have stayed friends over the years.
Since this experience I have worked as an Au Pair for 3 other families all in the USA, but under very different experiences. I soon found out that although through an organised program you have the benefit of security you also get the minimum of wage. I found it much easier and more agreeable to arrange my positions by myself. (Although, these positions usually are for shorter periods of time, due to visa restrictions). I found that through local papers in the area is a good way to go, along with advertising your availability or asking in local schools, notice boards at the local colleges and universities. Going alone, gives you the advantage of negotiating your pay and working hours. There are many positions that are available for part time work, which is a good income if you want to study in the many universities and institutions in the USA. Another great place to look for au pair work is through www.aupairs.co.uk web site, which offers Au Pair positions around the states and other countries, all these positions are live in, but you can arrange and discuss the terms and pay with the family.
I have worked as a live out Au Pair in Boston for a single mum and her 5yr old son. In L.A as a live in Au Pair for the summer, working for 2 families. And New York for a family of 3, the pay has ranged from $200 per week to $350 per week. Depending on hours and area of where you work. Working as a live in Au Pair is a great way to save on costs of rent, and you have the security and comfort of a family atmosphere. Working as a live out Au Pair, the pay is higher and you have more independence.
Being an Au Pair is a great way to travel and earn some income along the way. Be prepared for hard work, and you need to have a flexible approach to the job. I am now 32 years of age and about to return to New York to work for 2 months in an Au Pair position. I have been very lucky with my experiences and have enjoyed the families I have worked for. I am in contact with most of them and have visited on holidays.
I feel that my good matches with the families have come from being totally honest and open with them. If I have had a bad day with the kids I will tell them, not ever day can be perfect. I establish good communication, and if I am unhappy about something or visa versa, I have always been in a position where the problem can be talked about. The families are always willing to be flexible on their end as well. Working as an Au Pair is like a partnership with the family, where both parties can gain so much from the experience. Be sure of what you want, do you wanted to be treated like a family member, or do you want more independence. Write a list of questions to ask the family ahead of time. Do I have a car to use out of work hours as well as during? Do I get any vacation time, am I expected to do all laundry of just the children's, will you pay me for additional babysitting. Am I able to take the children to the swimming pool or beach, how much decision-making and responsibility do I have for the children's care.
Try and gain some childcare experience beforehand. Babysitting for a neighbour of friend. Have at least 1 childcare reference and a personal one, (more the better), usually the family will want to telephone you and have an informal interview, this is a good time to ask all the questions that you need to, and it gives you and the family to get an impression of each other.
Not every experience or family may be a great match, you should not take a position on pay or location alone, remember first most your responsibility is for the care of young children, and this has to be taken with commitment and maturity.
For a position through an organised agency try www.aupairinamerica.com
If you are going to the Boston area check out the local paper called "The Tab" many Au Pair jobs are advertised here, most are live out and pay ranges from $250-400 per week.
If you want to find a job before you leave a good ref point is a web site called www.aupairs.co.uk there are many listings for jobs, you will have to register which is free, and then you can start to job hunt. I have found 3 jobs through this site, and have had a great experience with all of them.
Another web site to check out that sometimes have Au Pair listings is on www.craigslist.com
Directory > Childcare & Domestic
* Wage rates and some other details may have changed since this article was first published
Image courtesy M@rg