The Cons of Being an au pair was updated on February 6th, 2024.
Living and working abroad is an experience that I think everyone should have. Not only is it an opportunity to travel, but it’s also a great way to change your mindset. Being in a different country and truly immersing yourself in the culture is an education in the world like no other.
When we travel we often only see certain parts of a destination, like the most touristy parts. If you’re coming to visit Vancouver you’ll likely come to see the aquarium, or Stanley Park, or the nature you’ll hike through. But you won’t see the homelessness, the mental health crisis, or the insane cost of living.
When you choose to work as an au pair you’re throwing yourself in to that country and culture, and seeing a destination for what it truly is. You get to have a chance at a different way of thinking. I think everyone should live and work abroad at least once in their lives to give themselves the best chance at rewiring the way of life they were taught as children.
While I think working as an au pair is one of the best ways to immerse yourself into a new culture, there are still quite a few cons of being an au pair, just like at any job.
Table of Contents
The Cons of Being An Au Pair
Being Away From Friends & Family
This isn’t a con for everyone admittedly, but for some it’s one of the biggest cons of working as an au pair.
Not being able to see your friends and family on demand can be a big adjustment, especially for those who have never left home before. Since you can begin working as an au pair once you turn 18, this may be the first time some people are leaving home.
I missed those in my life while I was away, but as someone who loves to travel it was such an exciting time in my life that I did just fine, but I did witness the struggle that some of my au pair friends had when it came to missing home. I knew a few people who left early due to missing home.
Having To Live Under Somebody Else’s House Rules
We all grow up having to live under the rules of our parents or guardians, this is nothing new. But what is new is living under the rules of a stranger.
It’s strange to become an adult and get used to being on your own, to becoming an au pair and now having to learn a new set of house rules to abide by. Some host families are more strict than others, which I saw from my own personal experience as an au pair.
When I lived and worked as an au pair I didn’t have many rules to abide by, mostly just don’t invite strangers over to spend the night without getting to know them first. I had use of a car, and was welcome to do whatever I pleased when not working. The one thing was I was living with a Jewish family who ate kosher, so I wasn’t able to bring my leftovers home to put in their fridge.
I knew other au pairs who had no rules to follow, but I also knew of a few au pairs who had strict rules to follow, such as not inviting anybody over, being back in the house by a certain time at night, and not eating certain foods. I was once planning a weekend trip with an au pair friend but her host family made it clear they didn’t want her to go as they felt responsible for her. It was nice of them, but would have drove me nuts. Why move to work in a different country if you aren’t going to explore?
You’re Never Truly Off Duty
While you have your own room, I think it’s safe to say that you’re never truly off duty living where you work.
I would get woken up by the kids running into my room in the middle of the night when they had a nightmare more often than I can say. It is so sweet to know that the kids love you and feel comfortable with you, but technically you’re not on the clock. Or on weekends I would have to leave the house, otherwise the kids would keep coming into my room wanting me to take them out somewhere.
It’s a tough situation – on one hand you love the kids and want to spend time with them, but on the other hand you deserve your time off as well. And if you constantly let the kids in your room to play or take them out on weekends, you’re working a lot of extra hours unpaid.
It’s hard for children to understand why the au pair can’t constantly be with them.
Little Privacy, Depending On Where Your Room Is
Some au pairs get their own suites, some their own apartments, some even live on boats in front of the main house, but for many au pairs we live in a room in the house. Not every au pair room will be on its own floor.
My room was smack dab between the kids rooms. This was convenient for working hours, but once I was off I felt like I never left work, since even with my door closed I could still hear the kids fighting constantly, or they would run into my room unannounced.
I felt like I never had any time off, which can lead to burnout. By the time I left the job I was very ready to go from being so tired.
But I will say that my experience as an au pair I was lucky with the room I was given. I had an au pair friend whose room was literally the front entrance closet…it fit the smallest bed I’ve ever seen and gave her absolutely no privacy whatsoever. Having little to no privacy can be a huge con of being an au pair for a lot of people, myself included.
You Earn Little Pocket Money
Do not, I repeat, do NOT become an au pair if you’re hoping to earn a lot of money. The pay is terrible truthfully. Just enough to fill your pockets so you can spend it on your weekends off. If you can negotiate higher pay for yourself so you can save up a bit that’s great, but since your food and accommodations are covered, the pay as an au pair is really just a bit of pocket money each week.
I think it’s better if you look at working as an au pair as an experience rather than a job.
If you want to live and work abroad and have the opportunity to save up money I would suggest possibly teaching English in South Korea. I had looked into this myself, since I knew of several friends who did this and was able to pay off their student loans!
Becoming Attached To The Kids, Then Leaving
This has always been the hardest part for me in my childcare journey. It’s heartbreaking to have to leave the kids you’ve spent so much time with. Especially when you’re working as an au pair, you’re living in the same house as the kids and you become really accustomed to being around them all the time, not to mention the pain the kids feel when their au pairs leave.
One of the first things that my host family said to me was that children are resilient. Yes this is true, but it also is a bit sad to me that the kids have learned quickly that those they love, the ones that take care of them, will leave and they’ll have someone new. The oldest of the kids that I was an au pair for told me once “why should I listen to you? You’ll be gone in 6 months, so it doesn’t matter”, and that just broke my heart.
In Conclusion for the Cons of Being an Au Pair
I’ve made it very clear from my personal experience that working as an au pair is such a rewarding job. Getting to travel on weekends or holidays makes the cons of being an au pair well worth it in my mind, but I understand this won’t be the case for everyone.
Leaving the kids is the hardest part I believe, but while I think the positives far outweigh the negatives, there will always be cons of being an au pair.
Which do you think is the biggest con of being an au pair?
Would you want to work as an au pair?