Affordable childcare can be really difficult to find, especially when both parents are out at work or when there are two or three small children at home and additional assistance is required. Many parents dislike having to rouse their children from sleep early in the morning and drop them off at a childcare facility on their way to work, before collecting them again, exhausted, at the end of the day.

"Au pair" means "on par" or equal. The title comes from the French term, meaning "on a par" or "equal to", indicating that the relationship is intended to be one of equals. Au pairs are international visitors who travel to a new country to acquire a better understanding and appreciation of life in that country while living with a host family. The intention is that they become a member of the family, albeit a temporary one, rather than a traditional domestic worker.

Typically, they will take on a share of the family's responsibility for childcare as well as some housework, and receive a small monetary allowance for personal use. The type of housework that they will do includes tidying the children's toys, making beds, preparing the children's meals and ironing their clothes.

In Ireland au pairs receive a minimum of Euro 85 per week pocket- money for 35 hours of childcare and light housework. She will require a room of her own and meals. Usually they are entitled to 2 days off per week but this can be structured around times that suits the family, flexibility is one of the key benefits of this particular childcare solution.

Schemes are subject to government restrictions which specify an age range usually from late teens to mid to late twenties. In Europe, where the concept originated, au pairs are only supposed to work part-time, up to 35 hours per week and they often also study part-time, generally focusing on the language of the host country. In the USA they typically work and travel on a J1 Visa. The time period of the stay is generally from 3 months to one year and many schemes cover the summer period when children are on summer holidays and additional childcare is required.

Finding an au pair that is a good fit for your family can be difficult so using a reputable au pair agency is a good idea for both host families and potential au pairs travelling to foreign countries. Agencies offer additional support such as vetting, carrying out a police check and reference checks, medical checks, first aid training, and access to a network of other au pairs in the area, which will help her to settle in, make friends quickly and provide a social outlet, which is very important to make sure that her stay is enjoyable and well rounded.

Inviting an au pair into your home is a great way to expose your children to a new culture, possibly a new language and also means that she can care for your children at home in their own environment. It is a really affordable childcare solution. As this scheme is a type of cultural exchange where she experiences life in a different country as part of a family, she is totally immersed in a new way of life, which can be a very rewarding and enjoyable experience for all concerned.


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