The word "Au Pair" is a French term, which means "on par" or "equal to", denoting living on an equal basis in a reciprocal, caring relationship between the host family and the children. An au pair will typically be a young woman and sometimes a young man from a foreign country who chooses to help look after the children of a host family and provide light housekeeping related to the children. The au pair is given room and board and is typically paid a weekly "pocket-money" salary called a stipend. Au pairs generally stay with their host family for one year.
In the US an au pair must be between the ages of 18 and 26 years old, yet some countries allow younger and older au pairs. If you want to hire an international au pair, rather than someone from your home country, be sure to see all of the country-dependent program requirements in the AuPair Visa section.
Au pairs are typically in search of a new cultural experience while also desiring to serve as an integral part of a parenting team. This experience usually draws au pairs to a new country and often times involves improving their foreign language skills.
An au pair is not considered a domestic employee and therefore employment taxes need not be paid as such. An au pair is not a nanny. Please see AuPair & Nanny Differences.
In Europe, there are three different categories of Au Pair:
Au Pair - See Au Pair in Europe under Au Pair & Nanny Salary
Au Pair Plus - See Au Pair Plus in Europe under Au Pair & Nanny Salary
Mothers' Help - See Mother's Help in Europe under Au Pair & Nanny Salary
While the specific duties and responsibilities of an au pair will vary depending on the age of the children and the family's requirements, below is a good starting point for most families and au pairs.
Click Host Family Expectations for more detailed information on what to expect as a Host Family.
Click AuPair Expectations for more detailed information on what to expect as a First Time AuPair.