If you are a working parent, or are considering having children in the near future, you will no doubt have thought “How am I going to balance my career when I have children?”

There seem to be a multitude of options when it comes to childcare, such as long day care and family day care, but when you start investigating the associated costs of childcare, it can be extremely costly.

Nicole Kofkin from Smart Au Pairs Australia believes that international au pairs hold the key to affordable childcare in Australia.

An au pair is a young person from a foreign country who lives with your family in exchange for helping out with looking after the children.

Generally they work from 25 to 35 hours a week in exchange for accommodation, meals and a weekly allowance which is currently recommended to start from $170 per week.

While an au pair is in no way meant to provide full time childcare for very young children (as they are not supposed to be the sole carer of children younger than 12 months), Nicole says they are an excellent option if you have more than one child, or require before or after school care in order to maintain your working hours.

Instead of rushing to and from school and work for what seems like most of your day, an au pair could get the children ready for school, make their lunches and take them to school while you get to work. Then when the school day ends, your au pair can be there when the bell rings and get the children home, whether that’s by walking, using public transport or with use of a family car.

Before and after school care can significantly lengthen the school day for children, and is yet another change of environment for the day.

By hosting an au pair who can take care of school pick up and drop off, you can help to maintain a stable routine and shorter school day for your child.

Nicole recognises that some people think that hosting an au pair to help with childcare is exploitative but this is often just a case of misinformation – au pairs receive free accommodation and all meals while they are hosted by a family and often get extra perks like use of a family car or a contribution towards travel costs and some even get a mobile phone to use.

They are also meant to be treated as one of the family, as that is literally what au pair means – equal to or on par – and they are not meant to be treated like ‘the help’.

Pocket money is also based on the number of hours they agree to work per week, so can be negotiable with the family depending on their needs and the number of hours the au pair wants to work.

A reputable au pair agency can help to guide you on what rate of pocket money would be suitable for the agreed hours. Most au pairs care for school aged children, so after the children have been dropped at school, they usually have the rest of the day at leisure until it’s time to collect the kids in the afternoon.

Working hours are spread across the week as well, and can include some evening babysitting.

Have you ever used an Au Pair? Please share your experiences below in the comments.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com
  • I know an Au Pair who cared for 2 pre-school aged children overseas. She took the youngest to and from therapy most days as she had a disability. Apart from that she cared for both of them during working hours – sometimes longer – 5 1/2 days a week. She loved her job and was asked to stay with another family but her visa was about to expire and the contract she had made things with an agency that got her the job was rather complicated. Apart from doing some cheap 1/2 day and 1 day tours a couple of times during the year she could afford to do much else. It was very difficult to save any money. She made the odd very short phone call home about once a month.


  • I love child care for the social interaction with other kids but if I was unable to access child care an au pair would be a great alternative.


  • One of the mums from my mums group has an au pair and she loves her but she did go through a few to get the one she has now. So she did have some frustrations to begin with.


  • yes i think that this is a great idea if you need to use some form of childcare.


  • I’ve never used one, but it could be an effective way to replace child care facility.


  • I imagine people would just assume an Au Pair is for the rich and wealthy, and not affordable for the rest of us.

    • Yes, many people still have the idea that an au pair is only for wealthier families, but with the cost of child care these days across Australia, hosting an au pair can often work out as a far more affordable option, especially if you have more than one child. Pocket money for au pairs in Australia starts from $170 a week, compared to day care costs or before and after school costs which can run to hundreds depending on how many children you have and how much care you need. You can read more about hosting an au pair here – http://www.smartaupairs.com.au/faq/


  • My children have used au pairs – biggest problem I see is that just when the grandchildren get used to them, they are off and a new au pair arrives. The parents are happy – but what about the stability for the grandchildren – all these people coming and going, plus school and then add another sibling – I foresee trouble ahead!!!!

    • Thanks for your comment. This is indeed something that many families have been wanting for years and after much campaigning from the industry and the International Au Pair Association, visas for au pairs coming to Australia now allow them to work for up to 12 months instead of the previous limit of just 6 months. This will have a huge impact on many host families and will allow for a much greater continuity of care for the children and parents who choose to host an au pair. You can read more about this change here – http://www.smartaupairs.com.au/working-rights-for-au-pairs-in-australia-extended-to-12-months/


  • A close friend was a Au Pair while at Uni and it worked out very well for both her and the family. I also know mums who use Au Pairs and have only heard positive stories. I don’t require an Au Pair, but would look at using one if I worked full time.


  • I think it’s a wonderful idea! :-)


  • Lke da


  • Sounds like a great deal for all concerned. My only hesitation would be how much you trust that person with your children.

    • Of course! That is why we feel going through an au pair agency is a more reliable option then finding an au pair on your own as you know the au pairs have been vetted before they even become a candidate for any host family.


  • A horses for courses thing. This could well be good for some parents/kids but not right for others.

    • Absolutely! It’s all about finding the right solution for your family.


  • Where we live, there is an extreme childcare shortage and the government is looking into providing nannies for those who work and can’t get adequate childcare. It’s still in its baby stage where families are applying for it. I’ll get back to you with feedback as it comes in. Will be interesting, I can’t wait to see the cost!


  • I have never used one but I’m sure it would be great for some families


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