It would be hard for most of us to live with our boss in any circumstance, let alone with the restriction of just one hour outside thanks to a global pandemic.
This is the reality for many au pairs working during the Covid-19 lockdown.
For 24-year-old Paige Harrington from Australia, the current situation was unimaginable when she boarded her first ever flight in November 2018 to au pair for Hattie and Dave Sheppard’s nine-year-old son Danny in Stoneleigh, Surrey.
Looking over her lockdown experience, she joked: “If you can be trapped inside a house with the same three other people for a long time with nothing bad to say after, well I think that’s something people should aim for.
“I’m definitely one of the lucky ones.”
Like most au pairs, she took the job as an opportunity to travel, seeing snow for the first time in Austria, and visiting ten countries in her first year.
That stopped though as movement was restricted globally and lockdowns were implemented because of Covid-19.
While many au pairs chose to return home, others were stuck due to borders closing, and some, like Paige, decided to stay.
Swapping jet setting for countryside walks with Lucy, an excitable 10-month-old Golden Retriever, Paige doesn’t think a pandemic should deter people from au pairing.
She reflected: “Nothing and nowhere right now is normal so no matter where you go it’s going to be strange.”
Her host mother Hattie works as an electrical engineering teacher and has hired au pairs for childcare since her son was three.
Having read horror stories on Mumsnet of au pairs going without pay due to hosts’ job uncertainty, she highlighted the importance of maintaining Paige’s full pay throughout lockdown.
Mrs Sheppard added: “Home schooling has been a challenge obviously but it’s not been world ending.
“We wanted to take it on because that isn’t what we hired Paige for.”
Although bittersweet, Mrs Sheppard confirmed that thanks to Covid-19 she and her husband could work from home, meaning Paige would be their last au pair as they plan to continue flexible working.
On why she chose au pairing originally, she said: “I think that you get much more of a personal experience, you get somebody who joins your family and they genuinely love your child.
“Quite a lot of people view it as some kind of upper class thing, it is absolutely not.
“It is just because you want some kind of continuity for your childcare.”
Mrs Sheppard did point out that for au pairs “a great experience makes you realise that family isn’t just the people you’re related to, but a bad experience can really shake your faith in humanity.”
Verónica Acuña, 27, found this as she au paired for two sets of twins during lockdown in County Meath, near Dublin.
Originally from Venezuela, she recalled: “When the lockdown started I remember two weeks after that I was crying in my bedroom because you couldn’t go out to anywhere.
“I felt like I was working all the time, even in my bedroom I could hear the children.”
Despite this she decided to stay and doesn’t regret it.
She realised: “It was pretty difficult but now I’m proud as because of this experience I improved my English so fast as I was with the family 24 hours a day.”
New video!!! 🎥👇😊 Veronica is an au pair in Ireland and had many plans for her stay there. But then Corona came up…— Aupair World (@Aupair_World) June 24, 2020
Full video on YouTube: https://t.co/wYCNyAZIy5 #aupair #aupairworld pic.twitter.com/IbiIGcxEHV
Ann-Kristin Cohrs, AuPairWorld managing director, has seen both of these sides to au pairing during the pandemic but remains positive.
She noted: “Hopefully people are even more interested in that cultural exchange after this long period of staying at home and being only in your home country.
“We’re optimistic but of course we have to see how it works with travel restrictions.”
Adapting to the changes, families and au pairs can now search for counterparts already in their country on the au pairing website.
For the UK though Covid-19 is not the only threat to au pairing, as the British Au Pair Agencies Association flagged as high as a 75% drop in EU au pairs in the UK since the 2016 EU referendum.
Ms Cohrs said: “There are so many parents who say I want to have an au pair to show my child that there are so many different aspects of the world.
“That is going to be dearly missed by families and au pairs if there is no au pair programme in the UK during Covid or after Brexit.”