Blog \ Tips you need to know before getting an au pair
8 Things I Wish I Knew Before Getting an Au Pair
To prevent you from being faced with surprises while having an au pair, we have written down some tips for you.
1. Start the process early
With Nanny Nina on your side, it can take as little as 8 weeks from finding an au pair to her arrival at your door. However, the best relationships are the ones that have been invested in long before they live with you. Interview a few candidates to get a better understanding of your expectations and non-negotiables. Match! Keep in touch with regular video calls so the whole family can transition well. All this needs time!
A quick video showing how it works
2. Be specific about everything
Your kids’ personalities:
How do your children play? Are they outdoorsy, bookish, constantly creating, energetic or struggle to get moving? How established are your kids’ routines? Do they respond well to instructions and boundaries?
Your kids’ activities:
Can one person realistically accomplish everything in a day and still be ‘on duty’ for a maximum of 30 hours a week?
How will the au pair get around? Is there a bike? Does she need a driver’s license?
How messy or clean do you like it? What specific household chores would you appreciate help with?
How will your family communicate with the au pair? What preparation would you like the au pair candidate to do before coming to live with you? What basic phrases do your kids need to know?
Your family rhythms:
Do you sit down to meals together, no phones allowed? Do you have a religious practice or does the au pair need time to attend a religious gathering? How often do you host friends or family? Would the au pair be invited to your social events?
How often can you expect to be home for dinner and bedtime? Do you need to wake up early? Does your au pair need to be home and the house quiet by a certain time? How often are you away overnight for work? Do you have holidays planned?
Register your preferences for free with Nanny Nina if you want us to connect to your future au pair. If you have already found your ideal candidate, we are approved by the Dutch government (IND) to take care of all the paperwork for you! Contact us anytime on
3. Au pairs are not childcare professionals. They’re on a cultural exchange
It would be unfair to expect them to have the perfect response to your kid’s tantrums or to have a long list of age-appropriate fun activities up their sleeve. Give them some pointers in the first few weeks and encourage them to reflect on what worked and what didn’t.
Au pairs are adults.
Don’t treat them as a child and on the other hand, they might not be a mature person who has experienced a lot of life’s hard lessons. They might not be as organised as you or as good at assessing risk or managing their time. Give them opportunities to develop and a clear structure to fit within.
You can find all the conditions applicable to au pairs in the Netherlands on the Dutch government website: https://ind.nl/en/exchange/Pages/Au-pair.aspx
4. Au pairs need privacy and a break from the kids too
Having a private bedroom is essential but one that they can lock from the inside is a bonus. The average kid doesn’t understand a grown-up’s need for privacy so make sure your au pair can relax in her bedroom in peace and use the bathroom undisturbed. It is more likely that your au pair will want to spend her free time with friends or watching something in her room but always make sure she feels welcome to join your family. This makes the most sustainable relationship. Your children will also get to see her ‘off-duty’ and that builds their connection even more.
5. Au pairs may not feel free or confident enough to address issues.
It’s a weird relationship. Part-family, part-employee, no matter what the official guidelines say. You are their friend and also their boss. Ask questions to get a difficult conversation going. Nanny Nina highly recommends taking 15-30 minutes every week to discuss the weekly plan with 3 simple questions:
- What went right last week?
- What can be better this week?
- How can I support you in this?
A lot of problems can be prevented by clear communication but often you might not know what is new to the au pair, what she might be confused by or unsure about. Even if you think something is too silly or obvious to bring up, just say it! For example, “The oven is also a microwave. Here, let me show you how it works.”.
Or “Yes, the 9-year old can cycle to this particular friend’s house on her own but she has to be back by 4 pm.”
Give compliments when things go right
We cannot say this enough, take time to appreciate your au pair. Thank her for doing something above and beyond the daily requirements. Value her time and effort by getting home when you said you would. Negative feedback is very useful but the change will be made much more cheerfully when there are positive words of encouragement too!
6. Personality is more important than experience.
A willingness to learn, a positive attitude and flexibility will make more of a difference than her employment history. At Nanny Nina, we screen au pair candidates based on both their psychological profile and their references from previous roles relating to children.
7. This will be one of the toughest years of their lives
Be patient and empathise. Every single aspect of their lives change. Being away from friends and family, missing milestones through the year. The newness of the environment itself is exhausting. Communicating simple things can be difficult. Directness may be considered rude in their culture. The food is unfamiliar. There are different cultural values to get accustomed to like allowing children the freedom to ride on public roads to school without a helmet!
8. You will never be able to live without an au pair again!
Many parents who have an au pair find it difficult to imagine their lives without the wealth of benefits that come with having an au pair. Your children gain a friend for life, a cool cousin of sorts! Someone they can talk to, be inspired by and feel safe around. You gain invaluable help with the daily grind, getting kids to school clean and dressed for the day with no more stress of forgotten homework and special lunches. The tornado of the mess that hits your house daily leaves almost no trace as the au pair helps to clean as they go along. You can actually have that glass of wine in peace, go for that run, read a book, go on a date or catch up with friends for a night out knowing your kids are happy and your home is not on a long list of weekend jobs.
What are you waiting for? Want to know more? Pop your email here to receive our shiny new info brochure with all the juicy details on money, timelines and the process.