10 Days of Work that Might Surprise Your Au Pair

by cv harquail on June 7, 2010

What’s most surprising thing for Au Pairs to learn about Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day?

A. They mark the beginning, middle and end of “summer”.
B. They are celebrated with barbecues and maybe some nice cold beer.
C. They are days when most Americans have “off” but most Au Pairs do not.

Answer? C

These three days are ‘bank holidays’, when many Americans get 201006071128.jpg official ‘holidays’ off but when Au Pairs can be expected to work.

Along with Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day, the other 7 US Bank Holidays (listed below) are not automatic holidays for Au Pairs.  Au Pairs can be scheduled to be on duty any of these days.

  • January 1, New Year’s Day
  • January 18, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • February 15, Presidents Day
  • October 11, Columbus Day
  • November 11, Veterans’ Day
  • November 25, Thanksgiving Day
  • December 25, Christmas Day

Au Pairs do not get US Bank Holidays as automatic vacation days.

It comes as a surprise to many Au Pairs that they don’t get US Bank Holidays as vacation days, along with their two weeks of vacation. After all, they are ’employees’, so why don’t they also get these holidays?

201006071129.jpg

[I don’t have an official answer, but I suspect that this is when the legal status of au pairs as ‘students’ on a student visa comes into play here.]

Most au pairs who come to the US through an agency are told about US Bank Holidays at orientation, but it still often comes as a surprise to an au pair when s/he is scheduled to work on a holiday. It seems to me that this would be an easy point to miss, given all the other information (often in a second language) that au pairs are trying to absorb at orientation.

Cultural Differences re: Bank Holidays & Vacations

In addition, being expected to work on bank holidays goes against many deep seated assumption and expectations that non-Americans may have about holidays in general.

Most countries have more bank holidays than the US (for example, there are 11 in France, 8 in the UK, 13 in Sweden, 15 in Malaysia and 19 in Brazil ).

And, in most other countries employees get more than double the two weeks of vacation that are the norm for Americans. Put together the smaller amount of ‘vacation’ and the lack of bank holidays, and au pairs are available to work many more days in the USA than in similar jobs in their home countries.

If I were 19 and visiting the US for a year, discovering that I had to work on a bank holiday would feel like a bummer. I am too interested in barbecue and nice cold beer to want to have to work on Memorial Day.

Au Pairs and Bank Holidays, in Practice

One of the important advantages of au pair childcare is the flexibility to schedule our au pairs to work when we need childcare, whether that is a bank holiday or not, within the guidelines of the au pair program.

As a practical matter, many host families still need to have their au pairs be on duty. Not all of us who work get those days off. Even if we do have these days off ourselves, we still may need childcare, and so au pairs can often expect to be scheduled to work on these days.

However, many of us try to make exceptions when we can. We often want our au pairs celebrate the holidays with us or to celebrate holidays that are important personally to them. 201006071130.jpg

For example, I really like our au pairs to be on duty on 4th of July, so that I can make them get up at 8 am can get them to come to the parade and the fireworks as part of the family. Plus, it helps to have another adult there to watch the girls on the playground while I wait in line for lukewarm Diet Cokes and soggy hot dogs at the after-parade festival.

We also will bend over backwards to make sure that our au pairs are off duty for whatever church services they want to attend around Christmas, Easter, and All Souls’ Day.

When possible, we’ll also schedule our au pairs to be off duty so that they can celebrate some holidays with other au pairs. If they really want to go to Times Square on New Years Eve, we won’t schedule them for New Years Day even if we have having neighbors over and could use the help.

As for ‘unofficial holidays’?

Don’t even get me started on St. Patrick’s Day…. You just can’t keep ’em out of NYC for St. Patrick’s Day.  I have learned to anticipate a hung-over au pair on March 18th, and plan ahead to slog through that day on my own.

What do you and your au pair do on these 10 US holidays?

Images:  04072005 from mmatins
Stars and Stripes for … oh,…from Wuertele
The top from fille_de_photo

{ 91 comments }

My 2 cents June 7, 2010 at 12:32 pm

We give off all major holidays — the ones where almost everyone non-retail is closed. We do not give off the lesser holidays like Columbus Day and President’s Day where many businesses and offices are still open.

Dorsi June 7, 2010 at 12:43 pm

I think of holidays like weekends — nice to have off, but not assured. It is the attitude my own workplace has. While I generally work half the days that other people have off, (I usually work Thanksgiving OR Christmas, I work 2 weekends a month) my husband works a more standard schedule. We could, in theory, give the AP all of those days off, with DH in charge of the children. I emphasize heavily during matching that we expect a lot of weekend work, and in exchange, offer a lot of flexibility. We have not run into the bank holiday expectation (though our APs have been Westeren European) — but I think that is due to the fact that our APs already expect to be working an odd schedule.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 7, 2010 at 12:59 pm

I tend to give my APs the federal holidays off, except for Veteran’s Day, when they work a couple of hours (the kids have a half-day of school then there are parent/teacher conferences, so DH and I give the AP the morning off, and then ask her to work in the afternoon/early evening). While we give our AP Jan. 1 off, it is The Camel’s birthday, so in general there is a party scheduled (this year my AP, a non-swimmer at the time, skipped the birthday party – an all-day event in a waterpark in lieu of gifts – which The Camel did not miss). We encourage our APs to celebrate the 4th of July – it’s very big in our city. We encourage our APs to invite stranded friends and join us at the Thanksgiving table. And of course we make a big deal over the AP for Christmas. We also give the AP her birthday off – or she gets to pick an “in lieu” day.

I actually enjoy spending time with my kids, finding something special to do with them on a holiday, and don’t see the point in making an AP work just because I can. If I had to to to work, it would be a different story.

The bonus for giving a holiday off – not having to worry about an extra-long date night on the following Saturday!

Dorsi June 8, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Just to be clear, I am not trying to wring every last drop of work out of my APs. However, I try to underpromise/overdeliver; we do not guarantee them holidays, but we don’t end up sitting on the back patio, drinking wine, snapping “Get those kids out of here!” to the AP on our holidays.

What those three weekends are like this year for our AP:
Mem Day — AP has friend in town, I am working. She works, but is doing tourist stuff during the day with her friend and the toddler.
4th of July — AP will have weekend off, work Monday morning because I will need to sleep (because of the shift I am scheduled for). Monday afternoon we will all go to a picnic/pool party with friends the AP enjoys.
Labor Day — AP and I will be traveling to NYC for a family event.

And last year:
Mem Day — AP off traveling with friends, we traveled by ourselves.
4th July — Family Day watching fireworks,
Labor Day — I worked, AP worked

TX Mom June 8, 2010 at 5:35 pm

You have a mature AP if she can juggle touristing with a friend while keeping focused on your toddler. As a general guideline we no longer allow AP friends/family staying at our house while the AP works. We found that even the best AP’s were distracted and we now ask that they take vacation days or limit the visits to weekends (which they rarely work.)

CS Nanny June 8, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Wow. Guess I take it for granted to be able to get together with whomever I like during my work hours. Granted, the kiddos are aways my number 1 priority anyways, and are so cute that they are always the center of attention no matter who I’m with. I’ve never had any restriction placed on me while being an AP or nanny regarding other people. If nothing else, it’s encouraged.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 8, 2010 at 9:18 pm

I agree with you CS Nanny. I encourage my APs to have friends over, especially those caring for children my kids’ ages or those to whom my kids feel like big cousins. I certainly encourage cultural activities like visiting museums with my kids.

My first LCC gave me advice, “Allow your AP to be happy, and part of that happiness comes in spending time with friends.” For a long time my son’s best friends were kids cared by other APs. I don’t think he felt slighted in the least, and in fact many of my AP’s friends — as well as their charges — came to his birthday parties. Yes, the AP was slightly distracted, but no more than I am with friends (and yet my son always manages to get his fair share of attention with me, too).

We have a swimming pool in our back garden, and my current AP is so shy that I think this will be the first summer I don’t come home to find lots of APs and kids swimming and making good use of the pool. (And it’s a loss for my son too, since The Camel and he don’t have a peer relationship, she’s severely retarded and no longer in the same developmental space as he.)

DarthaStewart June 8, 2010 at 10:19 pm

I try to not restrict who they are with, but I had my very first au-pair leave my daughter with her mom, and go off with her sister, without asking me first. It might have been okay if they had asked, but they didn’t. And mom didn’t speak any English. So, I exercise a bit of caution here.

OTOH, I have a former AP who’s back visiting just at the moment, and during her year here, her parents visited, and went on our family vacation with us. I’d leave my kids with any of them in a heartbeat.

Melissa June 24, 2010 at 5:55 pm

I think it depends on the au pair. Generally speaking, I don’t have a big concern with our AP working while having a friend stay with us. We’ve had this on a few occasions when an AP’s friend from home has stayed with us for a week or two and our AP has worked some of that time (which worked out ok all around – we didn’t have to come up with alternate childcare for a full week and our AP didn’t have to use up all her vacation time). I’m perfectly fine with it as long as I feel our AP has the maturity and good judgment to keep focused on the kids. And, my kids like having a ‘new’ person around to show their toys to and play with. However, I have had to make sure I check-in with them and give reminders to be interactive with the kids (i.e., not sitting there gossiping with one another while kids are glued to the tv).
Again, it all depends on the AP though, because I can see how it would be very easy to get distracted or involved in a conversation with a friend around.

LVMOM June 7, 2010 at 1:39 pm

I have personally found that I can get things done around my house that I normally can’t get done when I have the AP work the “lesser” holidays. I don’t make them them work Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc BUT I do have them work the others. I have 3 children (5,4,2) and a full time job, even though I work from home I still have a lot of stuff I can’t get done. These “holidays” are days I can get these items done without interference or feeling guilty. So, I am upfront in the hand book with which holiday’s they have off and am flexible with New Years and New Year’s Eve. As long I am up front about it I haven’t had any problems. My first au pair tried to tell me she got them all off and when I questioned her to “see her book”, her reply was “it’s in Spanish”, just so happens I can read Spanish, she then said she couldn’t find it. We went to the LCC and lo and behold I was right. Come to find out her friends were going to do something and she wanted to go. Had she just come out and asked me instead of trying to “lie” her way around it I would have told her to go . . . but I wasn’t born yesterday and she was infamous for trying to get around things :) I am VERY flexible and she just wanted to be sneaky . . . .

CS Nanny June 7, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I’m surprised that AP’s don’t have the major holidays off. I would think that the moms who work full time would enjoy having this time with their kids by themselves. But I guess I can see why you would want your AP there, even if you were given the day off.

DarthaStewart June 8, 2010 at 10:23 pm

I don’t get most of them off. I only have the ap work 2 that I do get a year, and I always use them for getting chores done while she’s working. (less so as the kids get older, but I do things like heavy duty yard work or the like)

AUPAIR Momma June 7, 2010 at 2:21 pm

If they have the holiday off ,isn’t it NOT OFF if you schedule them to make up the time on the weeekend? Vacation is OFF meaning instead of the 45 or whatever they’d work 32 or 36 hours that week.

Also – note on the handbook – many families are kinda of ‘liar’ about their handbook and don’t tell the aupair about all their houserules until after match. So when aupairs are considering multiple families it seems that the one with a handbook maybe not be chosen vs a family who does not have one and seems all ‘nice’. In matching w/ in country aupairs I have found that many refuse to work weekends and if you say – one or more weekends a mo they move on until they can find a fam that says no weekends, cell phone, car, no nights, no curfew ……….. basically shopping around.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 7, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Personally, I count it as a “full” day, which for my APs is 5 hours, split shift. However, if I’m giving an AP 1 1/2 days off a week, then I can only have 5 hours out on a Saturday night (even though I don’t come close to the 45-hour-limit, working a split shift means my APs don’t really get a half-day off — just a very long middle). However, I have no qualms about having a long, slow dinner-and-a-movie date with DH if the AP has had a holiday off. Believe me, she’s still working less than 30 hours per week.

However, when I had a small children and my APs worked 45 hour weeks, then I definitely used the Saturday as an “in lieu” day to score some private time with DH after the holiday. I do my best to give my APs a 3-day weekend when the Holiday falls on a Monday or Friday. (Bad luck for them, I work the day after Thanksgiving, so my colleagues may travel to be with family.)

Host Mommy Dearest June 7, 2010 at 2:48 pm

I say let ’em shop……….maybe she finds what she is looking for and maybe she doesn’t. She probably is not what I’m looking for anyway if she wants no handbook.

For those families that don’t share their handbook until after matching, maybe they will end up in nightmare rematch. Maybe not. It would be nice if there were some hard and fast statistics about rematches (overall %, % occurence for first time HFs, % occurence among families with a handbook and without, % occurence among HFs who share their handbook prior to finalizing a match vs those who don’t…..etc)

mel76 June 7, 2010 at 3:02 pm

In response to your note, I would love to know what the rematch rates are in my agency. Heck, even an industry-wide statistic would be very interesting.

I also think that when you are screening out of country au pairs, you could probably show some of them the strictest set of house rules ever, and they would accept it, either because they don’t truly understand the implications of the rules, or because they are just desperate to get here.

As for in country au pairs, mine in rematch was up against the clock to go home, and she was upset that every family she was matched with had stricter rules and curfews. She was finally in the position to chose a family or go home. She chose a family with no car, strict curfews, all kinds of restrictions, but had to, and now she is not happy, but she is still in the US.

Host Mommy Dearest June 7, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Exactly – she didn’t find what she was shopping for, and passed on reasonable rules to find she had to take stricter ones.

DarthaStewart June 7, 2010 at 3:26 pm

The agencies DO suggest handbooks and house rules. I’ve talked to some au-pairs that wish that their host families would write down their expectations. – They keep stepping into trouble, and don’t know until they’ve broken some unwritten rule. It’s not fun to work with someone and keep having that kind of tension.

NOVA June 8, 2010 at 9:54 am

Now that I have a handbook, I have au pairs that I’ve shared it with ahead of time and they still can’t seem to do what is asked of them. One au pair after 5 months in my house, wasn’t doing what she needed to do. So I decided to take out the book and go over it with her again. She stated that was a good idea since she hadn’t looked at it since I gave it to her originally. That would be over 6 months since she last looked at it. So even if you share it ahead of time, you can still match with someone who is not really interested in helping you out, doing whatever they can to earn their stipend. I realize this is off topic.

Aupairgal June 9, 2010 at 5:22 pm

On this topic I would like to add a tip to prospective Aupairs. The families with the “strictest” rules that you have access to before matching with the family, tend to be the most flexible and just plain honest with very little surprises. First family I looked seemed so laid back and really cool and didn’t seem to have any rules. Personally, I don’t like that unsure feeling so I starting grilling them about the weekly schedule and because of their situation(long story) would they pay for my transportation to my language course(which legally they are supposed to). I also talked to their current aupair and it turns out they pay for nothing and not only didn’t have a set weekly plan, they were working the aupair about 50 hours a week and what was claimed on their application as the “occasional” work on the weekend was really the parents going out of town on business and leaving the aupair the whole weekend with the kids(illegal). Anyways, the family I ended up choosing seemed what some might consider as “rude on paper” but are always consistent with how they made themselves out to be. On top of that, what originally was “the monthly Friday baby-sitting” has so far been only 1 time in 8 months. Basically, I am trying to say, these theoretical “Dream Families” don’t exist so definitely consider the applications that are realistic.

cv harquail June 7, 2010 at 5:29 pm

HM Dearest– I’ll poll for some of these questions (like about when people share the handbooks) so we can know, at least among apm readers– all parents who really care– what the most common practices are.
And I’m with you– I’d like real data about rematches, and reasons for rematches… alas, when I’ve asked I’ve been told it’s proprietary. But even an industry average (and not specific to any one agency) would be great to know! cv

PA AP mom June 7, 2010 at 6:36 pm

A host family asked on the CCAP website for families for info on rematch rates (in % of all matches) and Natalie Jordan responded that she would like to give out info but in essence it was “confidential” business information.

would be nice to know though.

DarthaStewart June 7, 2010 at 8:18 pm

I’d guess that it’s pretty high. It’s probably highest among First time host parents.

anonmom June 8, 2010 at 8:49 am

I remember my first year as HM, I was shocked at how common re-matching was, when I learned through AP’s friends how many families and AP’s were in rematch! The little secret the agencies never tell you!! After 6 AP’s I have seen my fair share of bad matches- thankfully we never had to go that route. As an aside, I think some families really do not consider excatly what they need their au pair for until it is too late- and they really do not spend enough time getting to know about an au pair before matching.

Jan June 8, 2010 at 8:11 am

We just went through this – looking at in-county au pair’s because the au pair we had matched with couldn’t get her visa. I agree about rematch au pair’s going for easy. I think the pool of in country is very low, and I got the impression that the au pair’s were looking for the least amount of work, rules, restrictions, etc. The first question one au pair asked was about curfew. When I told her no curfew, she immediately said she’d match with us. I was so surprised because she didn’t know much about my family, and after the interview with her I decided to give up on the in-country au pair’s. We went without an au pair for three weeks so we could host an out of country au pair.

DarthaStewart June 7, 2010 at 3:19 pm

We give off Thursday/Friday of Thanksgiving, Christmas day (and try for Christmas Eve, although we usually don’t have it off), New Year’s Eve (night), and New Year’s day. We also tend to give them off July 4.
But we do ask them to work the other days, because we typically use them to do chores, chores, and more chores.

Au Pair in CO June 7, 2010 at 3:24 pm

I worked on President’s Day, and for a couple of hours during the morning on Memorial Day. I also got the morning off after St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo, but only because both of the kids were at school, and cleaning the kitchen could wait until later. 4th of July will be during one of my vacation week, and the rest of the holidays we haven’t discussed yet:)

NJMom June 7, 2010 at 3:39 pm

My husband and I have different days off so my rule of thumb is that any day that both my hubby and I have off I try to give the au pair off too. That way, we’ll have some quality family time. However, if I’m home alone and he’s at work then I’m more likely to want to “get things done” around the house and let AP take them to the movies or the park/pool whatever since we won’t be having family time in any case. Usually I would start her late and end her early so I could still have time with the kids. I did ask her to work several hours on Christmas Eve so I could get wrapping done but certianly not a full day. The big holidays I always give off (Christmas, T’Giving, Easter, etc.)

West Coast Mom June 7, 2010 at 4:53 pm

We do the same … if we both have the day off, it’s most likely a day off for AP, and if only one of us is off, she is likely working for at least a few hours that day. As a practical matter, it’s more of a time shifting mechanism than a true day off. We would very likely use any extra hours to have a friday or saturday night babysitting.

TX Mom June 8, 2010 at 10:48 am

We have the exact same routine (and how I LOVE MLK day. :) ) HD and I compare work holiday calendars at the start of each AP year and decide which are the AP’s “official days off” on top of the 2 week vacation we will give. I put the holidays in the handbook. Then the AP can schedule a long weekend or a holiday event around those days. I see it as one perk that we can give the AP and we are very upfront during matching.

We usually plan family activities during the Holidays and invite the AP but it is clearly her choice to join us and it is not a work day. I encourage the AP to do something more “age appropriate” on those days. For example, on the 4th of July I suggest she go downtown to watch the fireworks and listen to the symphony with her friends because we are not dragging the kiddos there.

Aupairgal June 9, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Just to add some positive reinforcement, we aupairs really really appreciate this. Having those random days off is just so pleasant for anyone who works no matter what kind of work.
I would also like to add, while I would completely understand if I didn’t get those little days off because my HP had to work(my host father and actual father both own business and simply have to go in even when all their employees have off), I would definitely get a bit ticked if every holiday my HP took the day for themselves and left me with the kids. I gotta say, I have way more respect for parents (like my HP) that consider their time off as a wonderful chance to be with their kids. They also don’t care if they get their full amount of hours from me for the week.

PA AP mom June 7, 2010 at 3:50 pm

I am a NP so I don’t have a lot of bank holidays off. My husband works in Canada during the week so he doesn’t have a lot of them off either. Because of these factors, our AP works a lot of those holidays when school is closed but we still have to work.

We state in our handbook which holidays are “Free” days (meaning AP can travel), which are “family” days and which are “work” days.

Sofia, Future Au Pair June 7, 2010 at 4:11 pm

About the bank holidays, I think that one of the most interesting thing you can do while living in the US is spending them the “american way”, I mean, by being with your family and experiencing the true spirit of the holiday. Going out with AP friends during those holidays is something I can do here on my home country (with our bank holidays). In fact, that’s one of the reasons i want to be an AP, to live July 4th, Christmas, T’Giving, with a family, and get the whole experience, if that means i have to watch the kids during the parade or that I have to dress up like a witch and go trick or treat with them, I’m more than happy!

About the hand book and the shopping thing, I would prefer a family who is willing to send me their handbook and to make things clear from the very start than a family who is anxious enough to get an AP that is willing to say anything to get her/him there, I don’t like that kind of surprises, anyway, I would be suspicious if the HF tells me that everything is going to be fun and rainbows.

Stephanie Braun June 7, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Sofia, you are very wise and will be a fantastic au pair, with an attitude like that, you’ll be very happy in the au pair program and your host family will be eternally grateful to have you!

Sofia, Future Au Pair June 9, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Thank you Stephanie,
I’m really looking foward to having that great year, I haven’t start my HF “search” yet, I wont be able to be in the States till late February, so I think it is a bit early.
I’m afraid that there are lots of wonderfull APs looking for a great HF, so it gets a bit difficult to match in time anyway, so it may not be such a bad idea to start my applicantion right now, anyway, I dont think HF start looking for AP this early…:S
Difficult situation, lol.

edina stone June 7, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Hi CV,
Love this post! So many au pairs assume they get these American holidays off and it can cause a lot of confusion and bad vibes all around when host parents need them during these busy American celebrations while au pairs make plans to go off and “play” since they are on holiday!
Nicely done too with your photos of decorative Americana cakes – your posts are always a good read!
Best,
Edina Stone
AuPairClearinghouse.com

Chev June 8, 2010 at 12:23 am

I generally work for a few hours on the minor bank holidays if both my host parents have them off. It’s generally just so they can escape and go see a movie or have time just to themselves. I worked a few hours on Thanksgiving, but that was mostly just keeping the kids out of the kitchen while the cooking was going on, and i have a wonderful host mum who gave me a late start on Black friday so i could go to the super early sales and have a nap before work :)

E2 June 8, 2010 at 1:18 am

We’ve always had our au pairs work on New Year’s Eve. The other holidays are off, but we like to go out on New Year’s Eve and have a good time. We always figure the au pair will go out after we get home (we turn into pumkins a little after midnight).

Jan June 8, 2010 at 8:26 am

It depends on what plans we have and what plans the au pair has, but my husband usually works every holiday except for Christmas so we don’t do much for holidays. We give our au pair’s off most holidays. This Memorial Day I had the au pair work a little in the morning and then we took the kids to a late morning parade. She has been with us about a month and had made no plans for the long weekend anyway.

If a holiday falls on the weekend, we do not give her a day off during the week.

StephinBoston June 8, 2010 at 8:38 am

Like most, we give our au pairs the days we both have off, we don’t get any of the non major holidays in our jobs because those are considered floaters so I prefer to be able to use them when I need them, ie. when au pairs want to take vacation time that doesn’t coincide with time I can get off or coverage from family. We always give them New Years eve and New Years, I figure it’s part of the American experience :-) We try to spend as much as time as we can with our kids so when we are off, we give the au pair off too.

anonmom June 8, 2010 at 8:59 am

I find it interesting that many AP’s we hosted were used to much more time off, such as around Christmas and Easter, they are always shocked to learn that my husband and I ‘only’ get off for Christmas and we have to work Christmas Eve, likewise, they are surprised that we have to work the days after Easter, as well. Thankfully, none of our 6 AP’s have ever had an issue working any day they were expected and or needed. They all have been excited to join us on the holidays- and even though they weren’t ‘working’ the Saturday after Thanksgiving, all attended our holiday parade in the freezing cold- just to experience the American holidays. Our current AP is much more social than our prior AP’s, and we have extended our home to other AP’s who may wish to join us. I suppose we are quite fortunate not having AP’s who ‘expect’ to be off if my husband and I are- which sadly is very rare! That being said, however, I have to say Election Day is my favorite! I am off from work that day- so my AP is expected to work while I take a ‘ME’ day- getting early Christmas shopping done, hair cut, etc. Bummer this past year- as I was sitting in the colorist’s chair, the school called me to pick up my son from the nurses office, and the AP was out jogging- so she couldn’t be reached, alas I had to give up my Me day!

NOVA June 8, 2010 at 10:03 am

With our first au pairs, I almost always gave the holidays off. That was when my kids were not in school full time and I felt they earned those days off. I did not make them up on the weekend either. They are true days off. Now that my children are in school full time, I do not give them off. My au pair has a very easy job in my house since the kids are in school she probably only works 25 hrs a week and that is pushing it. If I felt she truly earned her stipend and did things child related around the house while the kids were in school to earn it, then I would be more willing to give the holidays off. I decide when the day approaches but with enough time that if my au pair wanted to do something she could plan accordingly. I also state this upfront with them that they do not have these days off. My LCC also puts out emails to parents and au pairs that they should not assume they have this holiday off unless the HP tells them so. I think in my cluster it is made clear and it has never been an issue with any of my au pairs as far as I am aware.

HRHM June 8, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Since we are both military, we both get all of these holidays off, although I may be on call for some of them. We try to “flex” the day somewhat so that both the AP and the HPs benefit from the holiday. On memorial day, we told her to sleep in but asked her to be available from 3pm on so that I could force HD to sort through some stuff I want to get rid of. LOL. Sometimes, we’ll ask her to watch DD2 so that HD and I can take DD5 to movie or some other kind of “date”. I put in my HHHB that NONE of these “bank holidays” is a day off for them, that way, when HD gets sent to Europe last minute and I’m on call, they’re not bitter about working. And when I tell them they have until 3 to sleep or go to the beach, they’re thrilled. Either way, our lives are too unpredictable to guarantee any time off besides the 2 weeks vacation. They always end up with more, but it’s a bonus along the way and not a sure thing up front.

I asked my current AP what the agency told her about holidays and she said “nothing”

Calif Mom June 8, 2010 at 2:15 pm

This is fascinating! I had no idea those holidays were “optional” and have always given them to our APs without bartering them for an extra date night. I’ll have to check with our new agency to see what they tell the incoming au pairs. An added benefit of an English speaking au pair this time will be she actually understands what they tell her in Orientation! I’m just sure that those first days, while most of them are acclimating to the English-only environment, are a total loss. (Maybe that’s why this issue of holidays has never come up before with any of our previous au pairs.)

Host Dad in NJ June 8, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Interesting post and replies. We don’t have set rules as to when our au Pair is off or on in terms of holidays – if we don’t need her around, she is off, if we do, she is on – isn’t this flexibility a key selling point for using an au pair in the first place?

In terms of trading a Monday off for a Saturday date night – I think any parent who does not take advantage of this (within the rules of course) is short changing themselves! I would never feel bad about that, though we try to give ample notice.

Dales June 8, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Is it normal for an au pair to not want to be with a host family for a holiday? I think she would much rather be with her friends – she is only 19!!!

anonmom June 8, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Dales- that may be so, about AP’s wanting to be with their friends for a holiday. HOwever, if the au pair wants to be treated as a family member and not just an ’employee’ then it cuts both ways- maybe this would be a nice time to enjoy time with the family- even though not working, this is the time that all can interact together. I go out of my way to do things culturally significant for our au pairs, especially around the holidays- big and small. They can certainly spend time with us as well as their friends. Just a thought!

Host Mommy Dearest June 8, 2010 at 10:35 pm

I think it depends on the holiday. Our 19 y/os have all wanted to take part in turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, and watching the kids open their stockings and opening her own on Christmas, and a few other “family” type holidays. I agree that MLK day or President’s Day and a bunch of other holidays would be like any other day off (if it is off for them) where they want to spend it with friends.

Calif Mom June 9, 2010 at 12:04 am

Dales, sure, it’s “normal”. At nineteen, it’s developmentally appropriate to focus on building your external social network more than your primary/family relationships. She’s tasting freedom. Some au pairs are more into the freedom, breaking out of their old life and creating a new persona for themselves, while others are more interested in family-type relationships. There’s a continuum, not clear categorical boxes. These preferences shift over time, too, with most newish au pairs (first 5-6 months) opting to do things with their host families but then as they find new friends and feel more comfortable–or maybe, gasp!, needing a little breathing room–they tend to opt out of the family events a bit more often.

Nothing to panic over. But if you do want your AP to participate in something, be clear about it. For example: “Our family tradition is to always go out on the boat on the 4th of July. We’ll be leaving at 4:00, we’ll have lots of food, and everyone has a great time. You can bring a friend if you would like to.” It’s friendly, but clear that she is expected to join you, and also clear that she is not “working”.

HRHM June 9, 2010 at 9:40 am

I don’t think you can require her to go with you if she’s not working… I understand wanting them to share family moments with you, but if she’s not on the clock, you can’t force her to go along. This past weekend we went to an indoor water park and told AP that we were going and she was welcome to join us. She did, but had she chosen not to, I don’t think there is anything I could have done besides express my dissapointment.

Calif Mom June 9, 2010 at 9:53 pm

oops. I stated that badly. My point was that she was not going to be in charge of anything per se.

Really, the only solution I’ve yet found to the disconnect between me wanting our au pairs to really get the most out of their time here by coming with us to museums, to the firefighters’ July 4th, or whatever, is to select an AP who really wants to do those things to start with. Totally agree that you can lead a horse to water….

SotaGal June 9, 2010 at 12:17 am

I think it depends on the holiday. We try to encourage spending holidays like Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving and 4th of July (parade/cook out during the day) and early evening of Halloween with us. We also open our home to any of the other AP’s in the area that will be alone for what ever reason for any holiday. Thanksgiving and Christmas can be crowded and lots of fun when other host families travel and leave their au pairs behind.

We try to make sure that our AP doesn’t work the night on 4th of July, Halloween, New Years, Memorial and Labor Day so that she can spend that time with her friends. We also try to point out where the “best” of a particular holiday’s events might be…4th on the lake or Capital Lawn, Halloween downtown etc. I also encourage shopping on Black Friday – though they are always working during the day for a few hours to help out my husband while I shop. In the past they have shopped from midnight to as late as 15 minutes before starting at 8 AM. This is the only time I allow for an all-nighter and my only requirement is that they are home in time to work; they can work in jammies for all I care so long as they can help care for the kiddies. One AP had a jammie day with all the kids – they made pancakes, ate in front of the TV and watched a movie. The AP got to experience the craziness of Black Friday with her friends and the kids loved it and AP wasn’t super stressed by running after kids.

Jane June 9, 2010 at 9:20 am

If both my husband and I have the bank holiday off, I give it to the au pair as well. Most have been very appreciative of this and know not to expect it. If only I’m off on a day like Columbus Day, I use it as a day for doctors appointments. We do not get all of these holidays off ourselves, so I make it clear up front that they are not automatic days off. Some girls take this better than others. One au pair I had simply could not believe I had work on Christmas Eve and needed to take my own vacation day if I wanted it off.

I try to let them know right away which holidays they can have off in addition to their 2 weeks so they can plan a long weekend if they want. It bugs me a little how guilty I’m made to feel for having an au pair work black Friday when it is not a day off for me either. Sometimes I take my own vacation day Black Friday to do my Christmas shopping because I have no other time without the kids, and I on a few occassions I’ve been made to feel pretty bad about it, even though the au pair had off Thanksgiving no questions asked. Some au pairs feel very entitled to the bank holidays, and I don’t think that’s right–our agency is clear to everyone that they are not automatic days off.

When I’ve given extra days off to our great au pairs, they have automatically reciprocated with an offered date night–those are the best relationships, where there is a give and take and you know both sides are trying to help each other have some much needed down time. Our best au pairs have gotten a lot of bonus days off from us, simply by virtue that they have worked harder and deserved it.

I’ve given our current, entitled, au pair off on July 5 as my husband and I are both off that day and we wish to spend it with our kids. Turns out she is the only au pair of our group who is getting that day off, and that is fine. I don’t want to make her work just because I can, and I know a lot of other families probably want that day to do chores they can’t do with the kids. I might use that day for a family activity all of us can do, optional for her and one in which she won’t have to lift a finger. I know this entitled au apair won’t feel compelled to give us a date night in return, and so I am going to schedule one as it will be as nice of a treat for us to go out to a movie after the kids are in bed as it will be for her to sleep in on Monday. I don’t like giving bonus time off to this au pair becuase she has been so unappreciative, but at the same time, I’m not going to have her work the full 45 hours just because of it. I want 99% of my free time with my kids. The other 1% is for things I can’t do with them, like my personal doctor appointments.

NoVA Host Mom June 9, 2010 at 9:33 am

Since our schedules are screwy, it is hit or miss if our AP gets even the major holidays off, much less bank ones. My husband and I might work both Thanksgiving and Christmas one year, but have it off the next two years after that. Generally it is a matter of “if we work, she works”, but we do our very best to let her know as far in advance of impending changes.

This does not always mean 2 weeks notice, as just yesterday I returned to work after the baby, and was notified that in 10 days my assignment will change, resulting in another change of schedule. My husband was moved temporarily with only 1 week notice. It’s the nature of our jobs, which we try very hard to explain in the matching process.

With that, we also try to make up for the loss of holidays in other ways. Our current AP has certain church events she wishes to travel for, so my husband is taking a day off from work to make sure she can go and have plenty of time to enjoy herself. She gets a 4-day weekend that does not count toward her vacation time (i.e. extra vacation days). It is the least we can do for someone who works hard to remain flexible for the work schedules. And hopefully it goes a little way towards the goodwill thing of having to work when her friends might not have to.

Should be working June 9, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Welcome back, NoVa!

NoVA Host Mom June 9, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Thanks! You guys were busy! There are a lot of great posts to try to catch up on.

Calif Mom June 9, 2010 at 9:56 pm

ditto! Hope things are going well! And yes, CV has more treats in store…

OnceAnAuPair June 9, 2010 at 3:00 pm

As an au pair (in France), I had most of the “bank holidays off”. The mom was really great about if she was off then she wanted to spend time with the kids so I would be off. It was a different story with the father, a few time he was off work for some reason or another but the mom wasn’t and the kids were out school, yet I would still work. He literally went to next door to his friend’s house, drank wine on the back porch, went skiing in the summer, one time he even said “ok I’ll take the kids now” after I worked 12 hours then 30 minutes the kids came running back downstairs to me and said “daddy’s asleep!”, so I had them for another two hours while he napped. The mum was very angry when she got home! And he usually barked orders at me throughout the day when he was home “read with the kids in their bedrooms, clean the kitchen better!”. He was a jerk, for lack of a better word.

NewAPMama June 9, 2010 at 5:46 pm

I am a teacher, and so I have all the holidays off, as well as a Christmas vacation, Spring Break, and a long summer. But I always have things I can get done. Grading papers, lesson plans, etc. So the way we do it is, our aupair can choose to work that day for hours off another time, or she can have it off. She usually just chooses to work, and save the hours for a rainy day.

Az. June 9, 2010 at 6:39 pm

I’m curious: how do you work it in the summer holidays when you’re free but you have your AP? I’m guessing she’ll still have to work, but does her schedule change? How do you balance spending time with your kid(s) with having some free time? :P

NewAPMama June 9, 2010 at 9:39 pm

I do private tutoring over the summer for 15-20 hours a week. Throughout the school year, she works with my oldest on her numbers, colors, ABC’s, etc. with homeschooling books that I have given her. Nothing hard, just 20 min here and there. And that will continue this summer. But I try to make a fair balance between having her work, and me taking over the kids. I have two little girls 3 and 1, and so I try to have one-on-one time with each. I would say the AP works about 30-35 hours during the school year and around 25-30 in the summer.

potential AP in match process June 10, 2010 at 3:05 am

Hi DHM&DHD! My name is Karelin & im a potencial au pair in the match process with 7120hours of childcare experience, I trully love kids so Im looking for a lovely family which would love to spend an incredible experience with me, Im with Au Pair In America & I did a page about me & my environment & my skills specially for you, dont hesitate in call me or ask me anything. Good day! http://karelinyourbestaupair.blogspot.com/

Pa Host mom of two Au-Pairs June 14, 2010 at 2:30 am

Comment for E2
My husband and I will also go out for New Years Eve,( we do not have family nearby) this was such a problem with the last au-pair she was so mad that she had to work even though she was only 19 and not of the legal age to drink. She even ask me to find another sitter so she could go out. Around this same time in Dec her boyfriend stayed for 3 weeks, they went to Florida (5 days) and NYC (2 days) during his time here. I explained to her previously that I would permit the vacation, boyfriend staying ect, but you will be working. She was not happy, but I am sorry I have compromised plenty of enough times for this AP. Needless to say she left after 6 months, the underage drinking and driving/ lying did it for us. If we are off our au-pairs are off if I do not have errands to run.

Why... June 22, 2010 at 3:41 pm

I love that they push the AuPair Programs as CULTURAL EXCHANGES but then we usually find ourselves working on ‘AMERICAN HOLIDAYS’ where we could actually GO OUT and ENJOY the culture…. For some of the Girls it will be the ONLY TIME in their lives they get to experience American Holidays like 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving etc and enjoy others like NYE in the USA!

Host Mommy Dearest June 22, 2010 at 4:12 pm

I think for most of these American Holidays, there is a huge family aspect to them – so you wouldn’t go out and enjoy the culture, but spend them as part of the family to enjoy the culture. Hopefully your Host Parents are not leaving you at home with the kids while they go out trick or treating. ;)

NYE is definetely in a different category. My APs are lucky this has been a non issue because DH & I turn into pumpkins right at midnight so we usually like to enjoy that evening quietly at home (lame I know). I think what you are able to enjoy & get out of the holiday depends on the work schedule you are given and the type of work (is it a “normal” work day for you, or are you asked to help out with the kids to enable a smooth holiday celebration?). Hopefully your attitude going in to the holidays is not that any time required with the host family on a holiday ruins that holiday. Do they not treat you like part of the family, or do you prefer not to be part of the family?

Why... June 23, 2010 at 5:39 pm

I’m not treated as part of the family, im am ‘hired help’ if you will, it’s a sad situation. HPs head out and enjoy the holiday while i sit at home with the children. When i am involved in the ‘celebrations’ its cooking, cleaning and chasing the children…. 90% of my time is spent cleaning up after others. I am however very lucky to have wonderful frinds with FANTASTIC host families, who invite me to celebrate with them…. Unfortunatly i usualy have to turn them down to ‘help’ my host family.

Taking a Computer Lunch – Im in no way refering to ‘going out’ as bars/clubs/drinking and it’s a shame that thats your first thought. I can do this in my own country and get much more enjoyment out of it there! I’d rather do and see something here i cant do back home.

PA AP mom June 23, 2010 at 6:00 pm

If you are unhappy with your host family, I would suggest talking to your LCC. Maybe she could help. Maybe not and it would result in a rematch. If you are already miserable, it couldn’t hurt to bring it up.

Calif mom June 23, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Why….

English is tricky, and in writing we can’t see your non-verbal mood. I did not interpret HMD’s use of the phrase “going out” to mean that you were headed out for a pub crawl. I think her point is that even if you were heading for an art museum or a rodeo or something equally “cultural”, you would not be getting the ‘real American’ experience of the 4th of July. On that holiday we eat burned hamburgers/hot dogs/veggie burgers, potato salad, watermelon, and snow cones and listen to Sousa marches while waving at politicians and clowns and kids with streamers on their bicycles. Kids running around the backyard with glowing necklaces, fireworks that start too late because the sunset is later now, and everyone is absolutely exhausted and cranky while walking back to the car, sticky and grumpy — THAT’s an American 4th of July. And we sort of think you should be part of that experience if you really want to know what we’re about. :-)

Taking a Computer Lunch June 23, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Sorry, “Why…” but that’s what ‘going out’ means in the US. It doesn’t mean a quiet evening in a friend’s home, a 4th of July barbeque with someone else’s family, or a walk around a lake.

If you’re caring for the kids on a holiday, then why not stop at the local library and ask the librarian for some age appropriate books. If your HP aren’t making the holiday for you, then they aren’t making it for the kids either. There are often books with holiday appropriate crafts, recipes, etc. That way, you get a sense of what the holiday is about and so do the kids.

I do realize that not every AP has HP that actually want to be with their kids as much as some of us do, and I realize that some HPs want full value (i.e. 45 hours) for their money. However, raising children is 90% cooking, chasing and cleaning, especially when they’re little (later it’s cooking, cleaning and chauffering). If you’re feeling angry and bitter about being left out of holiday action, then you need to sit down and talk with your HP.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 22, 2010 at 8:44 pm

I agree with Host Mommy Dearest. While there are private aspects to many American holidays, while others seem only to exist to offer us yet another day to shop (and those are the ones that not every employee receives as a day off – ask your HP if they will). Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, Passover – are family holidays, while Memorial Day and Labor Day may be associated with family picnics. Halloween and the 4th of July tend to be mixed. We encourage our APs to help us take the kids Trick-or-Treating and hand out candy, but then they head out with friends because it’s a big deal for adults in our city. I don’t begrudge our APs walking away from our city’s parade on the 4th, because there are even bigger events in which to take part in the bigger city nearby, but we encourage them to participate in the family holidays. As for NYE, HD and I have a tradition of booking the first seating, enjoying a long dinner, and then returning home for champagne while our AP goes out. Our LCC encourages families to give APs the opportunity to ring in the New Year out of the home. Last year we celebrated New Year’s day at an indoor waterpark all day, and our then non-swimming AP did not join us.

American culture does not just exist out in bars – it also exists in the home!

NewAPMama June 22, 2010 at 4:10 pm

I would agree with that. Halloween especially is not celebrated in most parts of the world. I do not make our aupair work holidays. If she chooses to be a part of our family during those times, then that’s great. If she chooses to celebrate and experience the holiday in a different way, then that is fine too. Having read through a lot of this site, HF seem to push the “cultural exchange” and being part of the “family” when it suits them. But yet, if things are not going as they want them to, they insist that this is a job, etc. Not judging, simply making in an observation.

Host Mommy Dearest June 22, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Au Pairs do have a very complex role, but I think it is ok that HFs want an au pair who wants to be part of the family for things that are important to the family (like kids’ birthdays, Thanksgiving or Christmas) but who also is able to perform the childcare responsibilities that are part of the program. I agree it needs to be a two-way street, but HFs all engage in the give & take in different ways. Too much take on either side is not in the spirit of the program, but just because an AP is working on an American holiday does not mean the HF is taking too much.

NewAPMama June 22, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I never insinuated that it did. I was mostly agreeing with the above poster on the subject of Halloween and NYE. I do not think an aupair should have to work on NYE. And this is where most families will say “it’s part of the job.” And I am sure I’ll get flammed for this, but an aupair has made friends, and possibly a boyfriend. It is not fair of HF’s to ask them to stay in on that night so that the mom and dad can go out. I don’t care if they signed up for the “flexibility” of the program. For me, that’s another way of just saying taking advantage. This last NYE, I had a babysitter for my girls so that my aupair could also go out and enjoy this social and festive holiday. When it is convienient for the aupair to be part of the family, that’s what she is. But when the HF’s want something, then she is just an employee. And that’s not fair. Most of the HF’s on here are awesome. But there are a few that seem to just take what they can get.

Host Mommy Dearest June 22, 2010 at 11:16 pm

I think it is ok for HFs to require their AP to work NYE, and I don’t think that would be taking advantage at all. As I said, the relationship is about give and take, and there will always be HFs out there that take too much, just as there are some APs who only want to take. Just because an AP is working on NYE does not mean the HF is taking too much.

Dorsi June 22, 2010 at 5:25 pm

What if your sitter has friends or even a boyfriend? How could she sit on NYE? Or even worse, what if your AP, her friends and boyfriend want to go out of a Friday night? Is it taking advantage to make her work when clearly she could enjoy a social and festive evening out?

In all seriousness, I think NYE is not the Holy Grail of holidays, and for most APs (and probably most HFs) it is not the most important night of the year to go out –especially for the under 21 crowd. There are no great American traditions associated with this holiday. I think you cross a line to say that keeping an AP in on a night when you want to go out is “taking advantage.” It is not unfair to expect the AP to shape her schedule around your needs. My employer expects the same of me. “Taking advantage” happens when you go outside the limits of the program, you stop taking the APs needs into consideration, or you schedule in a way that removes the cultural experiences of the year (i.e. working on the 4th of July/Thanksgiving while the HPs do traditional activities and AP stays home with children and no holiday experience).

There is nuance here that is not well communicated by the internet; Good HFs clearly communicate expectations and negotiate schedules (to the best of their abilities) to allow the AP to get the fullest experience available. My AP works weekends and holidays. When she had an important event, in another city, that she wanted to attend, we arranged our schedule to make it happen — though it was fairly inconvenient for us. However, I am not buying that her plans Saturday night are always more important than my plans, that her NYE is more important than mine, that her enjoyment of Thanksgiving precludes her spending some time caring for children while we make the holiday run smoothly (and we fairly consider that as work and schedule it as such).

Flexibility is one of the reasons we chose the program. Also, is value. However, it becomes less affordable if I restrict myself only to those hours that I absolutely need. I need the AP 30 hours per week to cover my work time. I use the additional hours, partly, because I spend a substantial amount of money for 45 hours of childcare. Roughly $12/hr. I don’t have $180/week (the 15 hours I could not have her work x 12/hr) to spend for an AP that doesn’t want to work Saturdays and Holidays.

Calif Mom June 22, 2010 at 7:53 pm

In my metro area, a sitter is going to add 150 bucks onto the cost of our date. (I’m not even sure how I would find a sitter for New Year’s Eve! )

Agree with Dorsi that this situation should be talked about in advance, but it surely isn’t an unreasonable request. Invite the AP to have a friend over at your house while the kids sleep and they get ready for the “evening”. In my experience, by the time the parents get home, the AP can still go out, and the parties will still be rolling. They can watch the ball drop on TV — Dick, too, is an American experience. ;-)

We usually don’t have NYE plans ourselves, but we ARE experienced enough to know how hard it is to find an NYE babysitter, and how important it is to plan that night well in advance. Even me, the queen of last-minute arrangements, wouldn’t spring this on an au pair even a couple days before the big night.

I also hire babysitters/college students to give our APs a break during the weeks of summer when there is no camp available, because it’s a looong week otherwise, and in addition to the need for more hours, there’s such a thing as too much togetherness about the middle of August. That’s hardly taking advantage when it suits (though I know a lot of moms–and even a counselor–who just tell the APs to suck it up during those 50 hour weeks in summer and stop complaining).

As for Halloween, I always feel sad when the APs don’t *want* to go trick or treating with the kids. There’s plenty of time for a spin around the block at dusk before the APs’ parties start. Seriously, it’s not an either/or scheduling issue.

Rant alert: Halloween has become so freaking *scary* instead of fun and creative that I am very conflicted about that holiday, and cringe about taking the kids around any more. Has anyone heard of making your block a “fear-free zone” with trick or treating for the littler kids, or ones who just don’t like horror and moulage? Because the trick-or-treating of our youth is not what we are sharing with au pairs, even if that’s what we are fond of reminiscing about.

MommyMia June 23, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Hey, Calif Mom, I agree with you about Halloween becoming too scary. Our little town has a family-friendly festival where kids can parade around the shopping center in costume collecting candy from the merchants, then there’s a costume-judging contest, food booths, crafts, hayrides, pumpkin decorating competition, optional photographs that can be purchased as a memento, etc. Mainly it’s fun just to go see everyone and their costumes. It’s usually the day before Halloween, and it ends early enough in case there’s school the next day. Other places we’ve lived have had parties in a community center with limited trick-or-treating, and another had a potluck dinner in a neighborhood park. These are all ways the kids get to enjoy the holiday without all the dangers that have become associated with it (sadly) in recent years. It’s funny that all our APs are more into their costume and what they want to dress as than our kids – guess because it’s such a novelty!

Melissa June 24, 2010 at 6:17 pm

I completely agree that having your AP work NYE is not at all unreasonable and certainly not taking advantage. Like other holidays (and many other topics), it all comes down to finding that balance, if possible, between meeting the HF needs while also taking the APs wants into consideration. HD and I typically celebrate NYE with friends and bring the kids along or host something at our house, so we have never required our AP to work that night. However, if HD and I did want to go out and celebrate one year, I find the suggestion of hiring a babysitter for that night so that my AP can go out absolutely ridiculous, to be honest. For one, as others mentioned, it is difficult and probably expensive, but mainly, the whole point of having an AP is that she IS my primary caregiver. Of course, I would discuss it with her well in advance and take into consideration any ‘special’ situations (e.g., her 10 AP friends are all planning a special trip to NYC or something), and also would certainly ‘compensate’ by accomodating her preferences for other holidays or vacation plans, but otherwise, I think it’s perfectly reasonable.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 22, 2010 at 9:23 pm

It strikes me, on reading the latest round on this topic, that holidays are something that should go into a handbook. I’m up front with AP candidates – in addition to the 2 weeks required by the State Department, I’m going to give them most of the 10 federal days off (11 in inauguration year). But if you are going to require an AP to work on holidays, especially if you’re going to be home, maybe it’s worthy of a line in your handbook, so there’s no hard feelings.

That being said, while I don’t make them work, no AP has skipped out on Thanksgiving – most invite friends who have been abandoned by their HF – and this year we started a new tradition of inviting our AP to cook a special dish (to mitigate the table of new foods factor).

APs have skipped out on Christmas, but only in their 2nd year with us. [A trick to you European APs – it is possible in the post 9/11 world to fly back home and get a 2nd visa which will permit you to leave the US in your 2nd year – sorry APs from the rest of the world. We had one AP who extended on the condition that she could spend her 2nd Christmas at home.]

I do advise APs on holidays. For the upcoming 4th of July holiday, I’ll offer an old blanket to mark territory for watching the evening fireworks in a nearby city. We talk about the bargains available between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we always offer our tent and camping equipment for heading to the beach. For New Year’s Eve, I talk about cover charges, tips and fees.

PA AP mom June 22, 2010 at 9:42 pm

My boys are so bummed that our AP has decided to go away for the weekend to visit another AP friend over the 4th of July holiday. They wanted to share the “American” traditions with her. Had I known they would be that upset, I would have scheduled her to work.

In my mind, the AP is a part of the family. As such, holidays are often spent with family. We schedule time on Xmas, Thanksgiving, kids’ birthdays, etc. We NEVER ask them to work beyond maybe keeping an eye on the kids while I prepare dinner, or helping run games at a party, but scheduling it helps to eliminate hurt feelings and sets the expectations well in advance.

That said, we give NYE as a free weekend and buy a train ticket to NYC and a hotel room in NYC for the AP and a friend. We have done it for both APs and both have had a blast.

We aren’t trying to take advantage of anyone, but being part of the family sometimes means pitching in when it would be more fun to do something else.

Calif Mom June 23, 2010 at 8:34 pm

I hear ya! I really wanted our AP to come with us to watch the firefighter competition a couple years ago. I figured some AP pals would want to come along too, because it’s such a blast, but maybe I didn’t sell it right. Maybe it sounded too nerdy. But I was pretty clear that there would be (ahem) hunky firefighters playing with hoses in the middle of the street. Who wouldn’t want to spend a hot afternoon with a snow cone and that floor show? ;-)

We’re such foodies that Thanksgiving is absolutely a must-attend. It would break my heart if our AP wasn’t there. We always invite AP’s other friends whose hosts have traveled but left them behind like inconvenient baggage, and those are great meals indeed!

SotaGal June 22, 2010 at 9:52 pm

We do our best to advise early on holidays but never in our handbook – family plans during holiday seasons and holidays when our AP’s will be working, etc. Once we are able to suss out our au pairs connection with the family we determine if we need to schedule her for certain holidays. On Thanksgiving my DH can’t watch kids, entertain guests and help cook. If our AP doesn’t willingly jump in on other hectic times, you can bet I’m going to schedule him/her for a few hours in the AM to pitch in. It may be to help cook or play with the kids. Only once have I had to schedule an au pair like that, I learned the hard way after running around on a holiday with one more “guest” to wait on.

We have our au pair so that we can divide and conquer with our kids and there are some holidays where my DH must work. The NYSE is only closed for 9 holidays and 2 of those are Christmas and Thanksgiving. Obviously there are more school/national holidays than that, though not much happens on some of those holidays other than all of the kids are rattling around at home. We’ll try to do something fun on those days and make it a short day if possible. We also try to encourage a balance of family time and friend time – especially for say halloween. Lots of fun for big kids in our city, but not until later at night. All have dressed up with the family, gone to the block party and hayrides, usually with some of their au pair friends tagging along too, then go out on their own after they have done the family thing. I really want to make sure our au pairs experience the true American holidays and sometimes that means family, others I feel its more important for them to go out on their own.

Pa host mom of two au-pairs June 23, 2010 at 1:47 am

Thank you Dorsi!! I appreciate your feedback… I had our au-pair work the NYE and of course I felt sorry about it and even try to find other means so she didn’t have to stay home. I have no parents or in- law to even ask to stay with my children. Plus, HD and I are still young and enjoy going out for this holiday. I think it’s unfair to say, that fun can be had without going to a bar, as we have stayed home on many occassions. If anything this au-pair has taking advantage of my family! ( she was our 2nd AP,) she walked all over us like a doormat.. She had the sister & boyfriend stay in my home for 2 weeks, had the boyfriend stay for 3 weeks, visited Florida for her vacation, visited many other cities over the 5 months of her stay. I have allowed her to drive to and from the airport in Phila. which is not permitted, bought beautiful gifts for x-mas, trips and provided many request off’s even though she was scheduled to work. For the 5 weeks that the guest stayed in our home they paid nothing! Her AP friend & boyfriend even stayed here, because the BF was not allow to stay in their home. We have went above and beyond for this AP.
When it came to our family x-mas party she wouldn’t even bend over to pick up something that I dropped while preparing food or offer to help me prepare for the 25+ guests and her 3 friends to join this holiday celebration. This AP wanted to be part of everything trips, dining etc, But didn’t want to do anything extra but stand there with her hand out all the time. She wanted, wanted and wanted more.. Until she was caught drinking/ driving and lying. We have always treated all of our au-pairs as part of the family, we have never treated them as just an “employee” Sometime, I feel like we are here to cater to them for the experience in America.

Jane June 23, 2010 at 9:25 am

Oh my goodness PA host mom of two au pairs–you just described the au pair we sent home Saturday EXACTLY! If it wasn’t for the fact that she was not a rematch au pair, I would have thought they were the same person. Sad to be so taken advantage of, isn’t it? In a way, catching her underage drinking and lying was the best thing as it guaranteed she was going home at last.

Cailf Mom June 23, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Ah, the Princess Tales! So sad that so many of us have been caught in the snare of a good application and all the right answers during the interview, only to discover Entitlement looming large right beneath the surface of a new au pair…Thank goodness they are not all like this, and that we hosts can get better at interviewing!

Jane June 24, 2010 at 11:20 am

You said it, Calif Mom. Entitlement is exactly the word we and our area director have been using to describe many of this year’s girls, and it’s really a shame. My first two au pairs were not princesses at all, quite the opposite, and we gave them plenty of bonus days off and extra perks in return.

I feared mid-year that my latest au pair was a princess, and by then I didn’t know what to do about it. All the things she had agreed to on paper and through the interview process, she now questioned. We took her to the airport at 4 am, let her friends stay with us for extended periods, gave her all the bank holidays as extra days off–all in the name of being “family.” Well, we don’t even do all that for our family, so why did we do it for her? I’m sad I was such a doormat.

Every au pair in our area is reminded by the area director that bank holidays are not days off for them, so I am surprised how many girls think they have an automatic right to them lately.

OnceAnAuPair June 24, 2010 at 2:55 am

Reading the comments from the some of the mom’s here makes me so jealous! I like the idea of having the au pair “work” on a holiday. As long as it’s reasonable. It would make the au pair’s experience the holiday. Especially a holiday such as fourth of july. What’s more American than a backyard bbq and fireworks? But “working” should be limited, maybe just helping out with food prep (w/the parents) and food clean up (w/the parents) or maybe during these times keeping an eye on the kiddos. But then after let her be free to watch the fireworks w/o the responsiblity of watching the kids or whatever.

As an au pair, I didn’t experience any holidays with my HF. Christmas and New Year’s, I flew back home for an unexpected death in the family. Though, right before I flew the parents told me about a traditional holiday in Geneva (Switz) called Escalade. They didn’t invite me to go with them, but did tell me about it. This was generally the case for all holidays. I was never invited, but always off. It would have been nice to experience some holidays with them, such as skiing in Easter (very normal in switzerland/france).

Hula Gal June 24, 2010 at 10:28 am

I get 13 days of state holidays off each year. The au pair does not automatically get these days off. I decide as the day approaches whether my husband, daughter and I will travel for a long weekend or if I need to run errands or do something for myself on those days. I rarely do anything for myself on the weekends since I work a full-time job during the week. I prefer to spend as much of the weekends with my daughter. So these holidays are for me. Although I often end up spending time with my daughter or traveling with my family. But my au pair gets many freebie days off throughout the year so I have no guilt about this. Early on she asked if she would get an upcoming holiday off and I was surprised she would have expected it. But – we do not go out on NYE and she definitely gets Dec. 24 – 26 off. We do have her “work” on Thanksgiving if we are home but that is very light duty since we are home and parenting as well as cooking. It is a joint effort. Overall my au pair gets just about the right amount of perks, not too many and not too few. You try to get the right balance but an au pair will always think there is someone who has it better and someone who has it worse. Maybe that is about the right place to be.

Pa Host mom of Two Au-pairs June 24, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Hi Jane, Lucky for the next family that they didn’t get your au-pair. This au-pair that we had was placed with another family, I am still wondering if the agency ever told the next HF that she was caught drinking/driving and underage.( I bet not) The first family that contact her she went with, she did not want to go back to Germany. It’s funny how you learn from the experience. I will not be a doormat again, and I am glad to hear that other HF have been in my situation.

Chev June 25, 2010 at 1:42 am

I can’t believe that your company placed her with another family rather than just send her straight home. I had a friend from training school get caught underage drinking and instead of rematch the company put her on a flight back home within a couple days.

Pa Host mom of Two Au-pairs June 26, 2010 at 12:00 am

Chev,
I kid you not, they placed her… when I found out I suspended her driving and within 12 hours she call the agency asking to be moved, her reason was that she was not happy, I guess not when your caught lying and drinking and driving ( pics were posted on facebook) they matched her within 3 days. I was so ticked off, that I switched agencies. They took forever to start the matching process for the next au-pair. I currently am still with the same agency because they would not refund. However, I am also with another agency. When this contract is up, I will not use this agency again.

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