It just so happens that a number of aspiring au pairs
seem to find childcare surprisingly difficult.
Hey, wasn’t this au pair deal all about childcare? Well, yes. At least, this is what most host families would like to think. However, it's quite uncommon for an au pair to be a childcare professional with lots of hands-on experience (although there are some), and even the preparatory courses mandated by some au pair agencies don't solve the problem entirely.
In this day and age, many seem to live by the principle once promoted by Chinese Communist Party: “It is better to have one child only." Well, maybe two. Large families comprise a very modest percentage of country demographics; as a result, young people don’t know much about children until they start having their own. So it often happens that, instead of supplying the families with skilled childcare helpers, the au pair programs ending up providing young people the opportunity to learn much-needed childcare skills. This is a crucial factor for host parents to understand and prepare accordingly (unless they’re making sure their au pair is a childcare pro -- but these are few).
Now, it is not a big deal to teach the basic childcare to an au pair student, providing they are willing to learn. Most au pairs are bright and smart already (it does take some brain power to learn the language and enter the program in the first place); the problems here stem from underestimation of what childcare really means. Unless an au pair took care of their younger siblings, has been a nanny, or worked in a nursery or a kindergarten, they can’t possibly understand the rigors of childcare. Even few nights a month of babysitting don’t help much -- it’s one thing to babysit for a few hours and leave, and quite another to live with the children day in and day out for months at a time. Thus, sometime an au pair gets burned out pretty quickly and says they don't think they like childcare so much after all.
So, how to escape such situation? Well, for one, is it highly advisable to all would-be au pair participants to test their childcare abilities. Take a job in the kindergarten, babysit at your relatives', try to work as a nanny -- anything to test your abilities and to find out if you can do childcare at all. And if you feel you don't have real love for the children, it may very well be that au pair program is not for you. You won’t be happy, the children in your charge won’t be happy, and your host family won’t be happy either, so save yourself a trouble, because in almost every au pair situation childcare will take up most of your working hours. However, if the children are your forte, then read on.