Although an au pair, nanny and babysitter all provide child care assistance and share some similar responsibilities, the terms are not interchangeable.
What is an Au Pair?
Au pair (French for “on par” or “equal”) is a term for a child care provider who lives with a host family as part of an international cultural exchange program. Au pairs are young people (typically women) between the ages of 18 and 26 who travel to the United States on a J-1 visa.
They live with their host family and help out with child care responsibilities while experiencing American life and taking college courses. Typically, au pairs live with their host families for one year, but they have the option of extending their stay for an additional year.
The Au Pair Difference: Au Pair vs. Nanny vs. Babysitter
Are you looking for more details on how an au pair differs from a nanny or babysitter? Here are more key differences between the child care provider types:
Most nannies and babysitters work a set schedule and may not be able to provide flexible child care. Au pairs, however, work a schedule set weekly by the host family. They can work up to 45 flexible hours per week, and up to 10 hours per day. Because of their flexible schedule and the fact that they live with the host family, au pairs are available to provide child care assistance during unforeseen events like snow days or children’s absences from school.
All au pairs have at least 200 hours of recent child care experience. In addition, au pairs must complete extensive and rigorous training via online courses before arrival. In contrast, nannies and babysitters have no required training.
Au Pair in America has an extensive, multi-tiered screening process. Candidates are interviewed by a trained interviewer. The au pair’s application must include three references, one of which must be a child care reference. Applicants must submit a medical report, pass a background check and personality evaluation. During the interview, the interviewer assesses the candidate’s suitability, ability to speak English and educational level.
With nannies and babysitters, however, parents are often left to run their own background checks (which usually are not as thorough and can be expensive), check references and conduct personal interviewers.
Selection and Search
With nannies and babysitters, families have a limited selection pool. Often, families are stuck putting “help wanted” ads in local groups. The responses are limited to their immediate geographical area, so it can be difficult to find the perfect match.
At Au Pair in America, we make it our mission to match you with the perfect au pair for your family. We have the largest online database of qualified child care providers. Our preference form allows families to set characteristics and criteria of candidates they would like to see. Families have the option of finding an au pair through their own self-selection, or with the help of our trained placement team.
Nannies and babysitters are sometimes able to provide assistance with basic chores or driving children, but their comfort level performing these tasks can vary by individual. Au pairs, however, can help with household duties pertaining to children. In addition to child care assistance, au pairs can help with children’s laundry, meals, homework, tidying playrooms and driving children to and from school and appointments.
Benefits of Cultural Exchange
The program is designed to encourage mutual benefits like developing strong cultural bonds between an au pair and her host family. Au pairs are more than employees and become full-fledged family members, sharing a cultural exchange experience that often leads to a lasting relationship with the host family.
While the au pair immerses herself in American culture, the host family benefits from learning more about the au pair’s home country. Children of all ages benefit from exposure to different cultures. Au pairs often introduce children (and host parents!) to new foods, language, traditions, holidays and songs.
Children with au pairs benefit from increased cross-cultural awareness and gain a global perspective at a young age. At Au Pair in America, we recruit au pairs from nearly 60 countries. so you can choose an au pair to connect with your family heritage or gain familiarity with a certain language or culture.
Learn more about the benefits of au pair child care assistance and how to find the right au pair for your family’s needs.