The Difference Between an Au Pair and a Babysitter

“What is an au pair really?”

Is this the right option for me? What does an Au Pair really do?” These are some of the most common questions that come up when you decide you need to hire some extra help for your children. In South Africa, we have adopted the term Au Pair and redefined it. The global definition of an Au Pair is ‘a young foreign person, typically a woman, who helps with housework or childcare in exchange for food, a room, and some pocket money’, but in South Africa, an Au Pair is, although similar in some respects, quite different.

So, what is an Au Pair in South Africa? Au Pairs can assist with homework, drive children to and from school and extra-murals, and manage children’s schedules. They will become the parent’s representative while the parent is not there e.g. by liaising with teachers, coaches, therapists etc. Au Pairs are associated with the middle class, have at least a matric and are often furthering their education while au pairing.


Below are 5 key aspects of a South African Au Pair:

They handle all the kids’ schooling responsibilities

  • What is an Au Pair able to do for my children with regards to all their school related responsibilities? It goes without saying that an Au Pair needs to have some formal childcare or childcare related experience, we need to be able to check their references and see how they have worked with other people’s children before we can trust them to work with ours! Over and above an Au Pairs natural ability to developmentally stimulate and care for our kids, Au Pairs are also able to assist with schoolwork. Let’s be honest, our kids are getting inundated with homework these days and we wonder how on earth they are going to get it all done. Too often do we feel overwhelmed by the pressure our schools are putting on our children and have no idea how to keep up with it all! Au Pairs solve this problem, they will tutor your children in subjects they are struggling with, keep up to date and communicate with their teachers, facilitate project completion (from buying all the materials, to the research, to conceptualising the idea), they will prepare kids for tests and exams, teach them study techniques etc. Au Pairs will handle your children’s school schedules, academic and extra-curricular, and ensure that they keep up to date and are on top of EVERYTHING.

They have a similar cultural background to your family

  • Contrary to our international Au Pairs, where families hire them for their cultural diversity, in South Africa we are often looking for a childcare provider who shares the same values, has a similar upbringing and has similar cultural beliefs as we do. Au Pairs in South Africa are local girls (even guys!) aged between 19-40, well-spoken and educated (or busy with a tertiary education).

They work part time

  • South African Au Pairs are more than willing, and often are only available to work part time. Families can hire an au pair for the afternoons only, and since most Au Pairs are studying, it gives them the time to focus on their tertiary education while working for a family. This makes the role very flexible, and families can hire an Au Pair who fits in with their children’s specific and ever changing schedules.

They don’t tend to live in

  • Although the live-in option is available, most families will hire Au Pairs who live in and around their area, so there is no need to arrange a place for the Au Pair to sleep in.

They have their own cars

  • It is becoming increasingly difficult to ditch work for a couple of hours to cart our kids to soccer, then back home, then to piano at 4pm etc. Au Pairs have their own reliable cars and will do all the driving for your children, over and above their other Au Pairing duties.
  • An Au Pair stands in for you while you are at work- they manage schedules, lifting, appointments, homework and test prep and facilitate fun developmentally stimulating play. Everything related to your children is being handled so that you can focus on your daily work responsibilities 100%- knowing that your children are being fully supported in the most capable of hands. The time that working parents have with their children is precious, and an Au Pair who is there as your daily support ensures that the valuable time you do have with your little ones is uninterrupted and of the highest quality. What is an Au Pair if not one of the most valuable helping hands in a working parent’s daily juggle.


Ok, now you know your family needs an Au pair, but what do they earn?

Determining an Au Pair’s salary can be quite the conundrum! This is because each family has such different needs, especially when it comes to working hours, so there really is no conclusive rule of thumb. There are so many factors that come into play…click here for the full version.


Are you looking for an Au Pair? We can most certainly assist! Register for free via our online questionnaire and one of our agents will contact you within 12 hours to discuss your needs. We’ll send you pre-screened CV’s matching your needs for you to review. Choose who you’d like to interview and we will take care of the rest.