The term "Au Pair" is the equivalent of the overseas version of English nanny, Nanny, Mother's helper or Governess depending on the family's needs. We apply the word Au Pair to be at times - Baby Specialist, Afternoon Au Pair, 'Big' Sister or 'Big' Brother, Professional Au pair or Au Pair / PA to the family.
The basis of all au pairing positions is to look after children of all ages in their respective home's and surroundings, whilst providing plenty of fun and learning opportunities in an environment safe for the children. A special bond and friendship develops between the au pair and children she takes care of.
Au Pairing, as a form of childcare has gained enormous popularity, fast being acknowledged as a needs-based necessity for the future of the children of busy families. Career-orientated families, single or busy parents see hiring an au pair as essential to sustain a well-balanced family life.
Many primary and high schools are in principle recommending the hiring of an au pair, particularly for families with working parents, as they have seen the positive impact the right au pair can have in a pupils' development and their scholastic achievements.
For the childcare giver and those with a passion for children, being an au pair in South Africa is becoming a recognised career choice as well as an option whilst studying.
There are different kinds of au pairs to match the varying types of childcare needed for different age groups - a professional au pair may be well qualified to care for newborns to 6 years old and have qualifications in childcare but she might not be the candidate for a 14 year old teenager with an enquiring mind and a desire to surf the net to source material for a school project or for a homework assignment. In this case a university student/au pair might be a better candidate, as would be the person with tertiary education who has chosen to work with children as opposed to being office bound.
Au Pairing has proved popular as a way of keeping children of working parents abreast with other children of the same age and strata - the accent being that an au pair aids a child's development by building the child's self esteem, spending one-on-one time in educating and exposing that child to interests and extra murals that are part of their discovering their world.
These professionals play a major role in supporting the family structure, enabling parents returning from a difficult day to concentrate on enjoying parenting.