The 5 types of Au Pairs in South Africa – how we redefined the concept of an ‘au pair’
The 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 here in sunny South Africa we make our own rules. Au pairs in South Africa are local girls who are looking to make some extra money by assisting families with things like collecting children from school (most au pairs have their own cars), taking children to extramurals, assisting with homework, and facilitating fun and educational play- they even run the occasional errand or even cook for the family. We have created a whole new meaning for the word ‘au pair’, and as a result have launched a plethora of childcare jobs and opportunities. Below are some of the types or categories of au pairs we have in this country.
The part-time student au pair: This kind of au pair is usually available on a full or a part time basis- depending on the demands of their studies. They are very flexible and can change their schedules to fit the family’s needs at a drop of a hat. The part-time student au pair is almost always looking to find a family who needs them work for above 4 hours a day.
The full-time student au pair: These au pairs have to go to classes, so they are very limited in flexibility. The benefit of this kind of au pair is that they are very happy to work for a family that only needs an au pair for 1 or 2 hours a day, or for 2 or 3 days a week. The full-time student au pair will require a lower monthly salary than the part-time student au pair due to the fact that they can’t work as many hours.
The teacher au pair: There are many teachers that only teach in the mornings, and are available to work in the afternoons. The drawback is that they often cannot get to school to collect a child in time, and often end up taking positions with families who need an au pair from mid to late afternoons. There are also ‘trainee’ teacher au pairs – or au pairs who are studying to become teachers. This type is usually more flexible (if they are studying part-time). The teacher au pair is well versed in childhood development, and is fantastic for children who are struggling with schoolwork.
The PA/au pair: The kind of family that would hire an au pair like this either have their own business, or need a personal assistant (PA) for the home environment (running personal errands, managing household staff etc.). These families almost always have children that are in school in the mornings. The PA/au pair will work as a PA in the mornings- carrying out all office or household errands or tasks- and as an au pair in the afternoons. They work full time for 8-10 hours a day.
The professional au pair: This type of au pair has chosen au pairing as a profession. They often have many years’ experience working with different families, and almost always have excellent experience with babies. The professional au pair works full time (8-10 hours a day) and often has some form of early childhood development training or diploma. They have excellent staying power (they look for families that they can commit to for a few years), and have an advanced working knowledge of developmental milestones. This type of au pair is by far the superior type in terms of experience, competence and dependability – and are excellent for families with babies or toddlers.
Whatever the family’s childcare needs, here in South Africa we always have someone for the job. We have very creatively changed the au pair profession and redefined it to make it work for us, thus opening a whole new job market. We are Africans, we are magnificently diverse, we embody the ‘ubuntu spirit’ and embrace the idea that it takes a village to raise a child. Our au pairs become a part of the family, and new, lifelong relationships are formed. What a privilege to live in a country where this is possible.