“Au pairs are s**t,” announces a friend.
“Sam has one who doesn’t speak a word of English.” And there it is. The universal conversation on au pairs. As bad as birth, everyone has a horror story. Au pairs nicking valuables, leaving kids at school gates, weeping hysterically and running off in the middle of the night.
Meanwhile au pairs have their own Facebook pages dedicated to slagging off their host families detailing our appalling behaviour. Dreadful food, filthy houses, locked fridges, vile Von Trappish children (pre Maria), mothers hitting the fathers and worse.
The Guardian is also on it. Outraged that middle-class families are paying people £3 an hour to look after their children. Which does sound appalling. Until you consider how many people might quite like £100-plus a week of totally disposable income after every bill (rent, food, phone, travel, Wi-Fi) has been paid. While they are young, leaning English and having a whole new life experience.
So I’m challenging the normal chat and going out in favour of au pairs.
Firstly, if you have a spare room it makes financial sense. The system is outside of the tax system because it is based on the idea of a cultural exchange: your au pair must be from another country and learning English.
They live in your house and eat most meals with you. They are expected to work reasonable hours – the government cites 30 hours a week – in exchange for pocket money. Which might be anything from £75 to £150-plus a week. If you have a spare room and you rent it and use the money to pay a nanny, you will potentially pay tax on both. An au pair could be a good option.
We’ve had a few. Half utter gems. Half who weren’t a great fit.
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