6 Ways to Limit the Au Pair Car to Protect Your Au Pair

by cv harquail on August 14, 2012

Next to having safety rules for our children, the au pair’s personal driving is usually the activity that is most “regulated” by host parents.

Whether this car is for the sole use of the au pair or whether it is shared with the host parents, most host parents put some kind of limitations on the au pair’s off-duty use of the car.

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We limit the use of the car to keep our au pairs out of dangerous situations (e.g., driving home from a club at 2 am), to keep the expenses of the car in check, to keep our au pair from becoming everyone else’s chauffeur, and to extend the life of the car.

Cars are expensive to buy, to maintain and to insure, which seems to be the most important reasons to limit the use of the car.

But actually, while it’s the car that you limit, it’s the au pair whom you protect.

Au pairs are usually relatively inexperienced drivers who find that driving behavior in the US can be pretty crazy. So, consider these limitations, below, as different tools to keep your au pair in safer situations when s/he’s driving.

Common Ways To Limit the Au Pair Car

  • Car Curfew  The car, (though, not the au pair) has to be home at a certain time at night. Curfews prevent the car from being parked overnight in a strange area, and from being driven at night when conditions are more dangerous.
  • Weather Rules   No driving in the snow unless otherwise cleared by a host parent. (This constraint was critical for us with our South African au pairs, but was something we relaxed for our au pair from Sweden).
  • Monthly Mileage Budget   Some au pair cars have a monthly limit to the number of miles that the car can be driven. This limit keeps the total number of miles in check, but allows the au pair to set his or her own priorities about to use the mileage. S/he may choose to drive on many short excursions, or to save up for a longer trip.The mileage budget is one straightforward way to prevent your car from being used for every long group trip, and is also a way to hedge against your au pair being treated like the cluster taxi. In either case, your au pair can blame you and your rules as a way to get out of a situation where s/he is being taken advantage of.
  • Range Restrictions   Au Pair cars can be required to stay within a certain radius of the host family home, say 5 miles (plenty in New Jersey) or 20 miles (more appropriate in the country).
  • Excluded Roads   Our au pair car cannot be driven on the Garden State Parkway or the New Jersey Turnpike. Even though there are other highways with 55 mile/hr speed limits where our au pair cars could go, these two big ones seem the scariest for a relatively inexperienced driver. Also, they are hard to maneuver even if you are a sane and safe driver!
  • Excluded Locations   There are some places you just. don’t. want. your car to go. Case in point? New York City.

In most situations, driving for personal use is a privilege and not a right. Au pairs generally understand the limitations when host parents share the reasoning behind them.

Relaxing Car Limitations Can Be A Reward 

One bonus of car limitations is that they give you an easy way to reward your au pair when s/he has been doing a great job.

When au pairs demonstrate that they are careful drivers, and when you want to give your au pair an extra privilege or two, you can consider relaxing the car limitations for a specific event (like going ‘down the shore’) or even doing away with a limitation.

We’ve come up with these car limitations after years of minor accidents, late night phone calls, suspiciously low gas mileage, and au pairs with a range of driving sense. We know that as a family we’re big on ‘guidelines’ and rules, but we’ve found that this clarity has worked well for us and for our relationships with our au pairs.

What other Au Pair car limitations should we all consider? Please share!


See also:

Using Your Car is a Privilege, not an Entitlement: Best practices
The 3rd Car: Avoiding a sense of entitlement
Advice Wanted: How to manage too much “personal” use of family car
Providing Your Au Pair With Safe, Affordable, Convenient Transportation



Taking a Computer Lunch August 14, 2012 at 11:08 am

I know I’m on the liberal end of car use. DH gives each AP a driving test at the beginning of their stay to determine how they handle “the au pair car” which has a manual transmission (shift) and the minivan which is automatic. The steepest learning curve is usually with the minivan because it is so big. The more experience the au pair has in driving the car and the more sensible she is about not drinking, the more likely we are to relax rules immediately. We have a huge atlas for our metro area, which covers several counties but not the next major cities. That is generally the limit for APs who have not earned our state license. (For those who have, I am okay with them taking the car anyway – some have even made 200+ mile treks.)

I would say most of my APS (and #8 in 11 years is coming next week) self-regulate their car use:
– Most APs quickly figure out that it’s cheaper to take public transportation than to park the car in a pay parking lot in our area.
– Most APs quickly tire of being the taxi and either charge their friends money or make them take buses to get to our home before heading out on a trip.
– Some of my APs quickly learned that being the designated driver meant free cokes all evening.
– Some of my APs decided that they wanted to drink with their friends – everyone met at my house and they hired a taxi.
– I would say that since Megabus started operating, ALL of my au pairs use it for long trips unless they have to fly to get to their destination (even I use it when the Camel is not in tow).

I would say that the only AP with whom we limited car use was the AP that failed DH’s driving test. She did not drive alone for her first 3 months, and then she did not drive the au pair car alone for another month after that. And then it snowed and we stopped her driving for the winter. In reviewing emails, I saw that we had issues into month 8 with her. Never again. (Remember, I stuck it out ONLY because the venn diagram of special needs willing APs in rematch who could drive was nil, which was a smidge below where I was.)

However, with the exception of the AP who could not drive, all have been fantastic drivers within a few weeks of their arrival. It’s trial by fire in our household – we’re an on-the-go family. We resisted having a GPS for the Au Pair Car – figuring that having a mental map was the best means to learn the area, but AP #7 bought one, which we will buy from her.

Should be working August 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Ok, the GPS is a big topic for me. We don’t have one. I don’t want to get one. I guess I’m old-fashioned, but I think the AP should practice reading a map and figuring out where she is and how to get elsewhere. And I want to be able to show her on a PAPER map where something is and she can navigate there.

And part of learning an area is getting lost, finding your way back, looking at the map a bunch of times. Am I wrong that GPS limits the AP’s development of a sense of orientation and navigation??

All 4 of our APs until now have insisted that they “don’t understand maps”. I am thinking of setting up map-reading as a skill that we want them to practice after matching and before arrival (when they are still enthusiastic about doing things just to please us).

When I try to show them something on a map, they glaze over and just say they’ll look up directions on mapquest.

For HPs who use GPS: am I being too rigid about this, or is it not a matter of learning orientation with PAPER (or laminate) maps?

Seattle Mom August 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I don’t use GPS, because I know if I did I would be dependant on it. I have a lousy sense of direction, but I think that getting lost and finding the right way are part of learning to drive and navigate. I like using maps. But when I’m going somewhere new, I almost always use a combination of google maps and a regular paper map.

It was clear from day 1 that my AP has a better sense of direction than me. I was very happy to learn this. I think we went to the mall together her first weekend, to buy her a winter jacket, and remembered where the car was parked and which way to turn out of the parking lot better than I did.

If my next AP has a poor sense of direction I will be sympathetic, but I will insist that they learn some map reading skills.

Mila August 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm

I think making your au pair reading a map is dangerous!!! She is driving, reading the map at the same time with your kids in the car?? It’s like text and drive. And don’t expect them to stop and read the map, they won’t. I think a gps is a lot safer!

Should be working August 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Of course she can’t read the map WHILE driving. She prepares the trip with the map. She thinks ahead, studies the routes, maybe asks me for some tips as to how to remember the way (“Turn left at the diner; remember that big plaza where we stopped to buy strawberries?”) If necessary, she PULLS OVER to read the map.

It sounds like you are an AP. Please tell me WHY they won’t stop and read the map? I really don’t understand the resistance to this.

Mila August 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Because au pairs want to get there as fast as possible. Yes, i was an au pair. For 2 years. In my group there were lots of au pair who didn’t have a gps, and sometimes i would drive with them. They had the map out, tried to look onto the street etc. I was like, oh my gosh, this is like text and drive. My hostmom gave me a gps right when i arrived with the comment, you are in a new city, don’t know where things are, i don’t want to make you read a map, because the gps is a lot safer especially with kids in car. So yes. Maps can be ok, but not safe at all.

Seattle Mom August 14, 2012 at 8:25 pm

If you were in the car with them why wouldn’t you (or whoever wasn’t driving) look at the map? That’s the navigator’s job, it’s common sense. The driver needs to look at the map before, and then hand it to the person in the front passenger seat. If there is no passenger, then yeah, they need to pull over if they are confused about the route.

There’s nothing unsafe about maps, that’s how people have gotten around for centuries, long before GPS was invented. What is unsafe is the attitude that getting there fast is the most important thing, no matter what the consequences. I can tell you that my AP is not like that- she’s probably a safer driver than I am.

BoysMama August 15, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I’m totally with Mila on this one. I think it’s time to embrace that maps are very old school. If you used a good GPS you would understand why it’s actually so much more efficient and less dangerous – the good ones talk to you and tell you where to go without having to look away from the road. And there’s no reason they won’t learn their way around just as well as they would by looking at a map. This (like Skype, which totally weirds me out) is one of those places I think host parents need to wake up and smell the coffee… times and technology have changed the world these Au Pairs and our children will grow up in.

Seattle Mom August 16, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Sorry hon, but there’s nothing wrong with old school! Technology doesn’t make everything better.

davep August 14, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Insisting on not using a GPS is practically Amish these days. At the very least, as long as “home” is programmed in correctly, the au pair can get home if she gets lost. It’s just life in the US, not an Army Ranger survival course.

hOstCDmom August 15, 2012 at 12:29 am

In our family we prefer the (made up) appellation “neo-Mennonite”. ;)
(We don’t have a TV in our home, which some find similarly “Amish” or not with the times, as is mentioned below….)

You say it’s “just life”….but “just life” = a constant series if choices about how you want to live. It certainly would be easier for me if my 6 young children watched TV while I cooked dinner, or talked on the phone, or did various life management activities. But I’ve made the determination that the easier way isnt the way I want to live and doesn’t instill the skills I want my children to have.

Folks here are saying that they value learning to and the ability to get places without a little screen and computer voice calling out directions to them/their family. (And modeling the same to their children.) It isn’t that they eschew technology on principle.

davep August 15, 2012 at 8:54 am

You can, of course, have your kids do whatever you like, but that’s not the point, is it?

Expecting, no, requiring the au pair to acquire map reading skills to your satisfaction is just one more hidden requirement. People here have mentioned 40 page host manuals. Along with black belt child care, impeccable table manners, top notch cleaning and army ranger orienteering skills, it seems that many host families would be better off with a robot. Except they don’t exist yet…

As for the gps itself, most have an “avoid highways” option, but even then it would be unlikely to match your favorite route. Humans have an uncanny knack for picking a non-optimum route and end up preferring it because it’s what they know.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 15, 2012 at 11:31 am

davep, child #2 is about to start school 30 minutes from our house. There are two good routes to the school, but if the AP relies only on the gps, then she will find herself cutting across 3 lanes of traffic without a light to make a left turn. If she goes .10 in another direction, then she has lights for all her turns. We will, of course, make both treks several times, to show her how the seemingly direct route will take many more minutes to wait for a safe time to cross the road during rush hour.

“Avoiding highways” brings you to a major thoroughfare offer, but it does not give one smaller side roads. During rush hour in congested cities, some of those smaller side roads can save 20 minutes on a trip (I get bored, so I time my return from The Camel’s therapy via multiple routes).

9 times out of 10, I have found that APs prefer the highway route because it is easiest to follow, even if it means going 5-20 mph during rush hour.

Map reading is an essential skill – it’s not asking for a robot. Learning where you are in a place gives you the ability to explore and not wear a rut in one road you know. Developing a mental map of the place in which you live allows one to recognize multiple routes in clogged traffic suitations, even ones that the gps might not pose as alternatives. I would even argue that developing a mental map makes APs safer, because they learn where the safe areas in their new communities are.

Should be working August 15, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Davep, the 40-page (26, in my case) manual is precisely about being sure there are NO hidden requirements. I tell our prospective APs that while it may look like a ridiculously detailed document, they are better off than other APs who join a family with no manual and only later find out about a lot of rules that they can’t live with happily.

In fact what I was wondering is whether I should add a few lines about map-reading into my manual, so that au pairs would know in advance how I view that and what I expect. After this thread, I am more convinced that I should do this. Au pairs coming to me should know that I won’t give them a GPS and expect them to figure out maps. With my help and advance planning. And of course to CALL me (from a safe side of the road spot) if they have trouble.

Reading a suburban street map is not army-ranger orienteering (any military HPs here to back me up on that? Isn’t HRHM military?).

The point about how we stick with a non-optimum route is a good one. But as TACL says, the GPS does not always pick out the optimum route. I have had APs point out to me better routes after a few weeks on the job. That’s because they got lost, wandered around some, and realized that there is a better route (time, traffic avoidance, easier turns, different reasons).

Seattle Mom August 16, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I think the reason a lot of us don’t like gps is because we don’t want a robot taking care of our kids- we’d rather a human being think about which direction they are going in, and imprint it in their human brain, rather than depend on a robot. even if it means getting lost a couple of times.

Seattle Mom August 16, 2012 at 12:36 pm

amen to that, sister.

CW August 15, 2012 at 9:46 am

I get it! AP#4 became too dependent on the GPS. What does that mean? Driving back and forth between swim practice and the house is a 6 times a week activity. It is a 7 mile drive. I needed the GPS one day and it was not in the van the AP uses to drive the children. She called us and said she could not find the YMCA. She had been with us for 6 months.

How many times have you entered an address in your phone, computer, or GPS, and received directions to the place you did not intend on going? How did you know the directions were “wrong”?

GPS is a valuable and useful tool that makes live easier. I have no problem with our APs using GPS. However, we not teach them that it can be dangerous to be overly dependent on a GPS and have no sense of direction because you do not have a mental image of a map overview.

Seattle Mom August 16, 2012 at 12:43 pm

that’s a good point. i think it’s fine to rely on GPS when you’re visiting a new place and you’re just a tourist and really just need help getting from point a to point b.

But when you are LIVING somewhere for a year, you need to actually learn where stuff is, so that you can find it in your sleep and get to points x,y,z and sometimes avoiding m,n,o in between a and b. You need to put some effort in upfront, not take the easy way out, so that by the middle you’re an old pro and everything is much easier.

SingleHM August 23, 2012 at 5:32 pm

I agree. My current AP is very dependent on the GPS and can’t go somewhere without an address…even if she’s been there before. She has to have it with her. It irks me to no end that she asks me for an address to anything. She can’t look it up and can’t drive somewhere without it. Even after nearly a year, she can’t take my kids to school without using the GPS and I don’t think she could get somewhere without it.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 15, 2012 at 7:10 am

I would like to add, that if your AP relies only on GPS, cannot read a map, and has no sense of place, then she has no sense if she is wasting gas by going miles out of her way. Our GPS does not permit cutting thorugh the time-saving back roads, and so, when I travel places with an AP initially, I point out that to them. “The way the GPS wants to send me is 4 miles longer than the route I am taking. Yes it may be easier, but it’s cheaper to go this way.”

Our current minivan, a hand-me down from another family member, came equipped with a GPS. I don’t use it most of the time, but when I do, I often yell at it for sending me the long way. I must say, though, the times a major road has been closed due to an accident, it saves me a lot of time – I don’t have to pull over and figure out how I’m going to get where I am going – I just go.

cv harquail August 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm

I’m a big believer in teaching map-reading.

You’re absolutely right about maps and learning to orient oneself. Without knowing the two-dimensional location of where you are/are going, you can’t *ever* find your way home. Also, you can’t make connections between where you are (e.g., mall) and where you want to go (e.g. friend’s house) if you are without a gps.

Plus, I think the gps also makes people anxious about their next turn and next instruction, and diverts their attention. Havent seen any research on that, but…

Penn AP Mom August 16, 2012 at 2:51 pm

just have to chime in here. map reading is a critical skill, much like learning to estimate in math – if you rely on a calculator, you aren’t able to estimate how much a grocery bill will be OR realize if it is rung up incorrectly. in addition, learning new things (like map reading) helps your brain to create more circuits which will benefit you in the long run.
with a great-aunt recently diagnosed with dementia, i’ve been reading a lot about the concerns for humans living longer and relying on technology – thus not being as brain-healthy as we could!

hOstCDmom August 16, 2012 at 5:24 pm

To wit – read studies of the hippocampus (are of the brain which gives you sense if direction, soatial orientation, map memory etc) London cab drivers. They spend 1-3 years doing “the knowledge” (learning by memory the massive A-Z map of greater London) and use that knowledge every day; and show markedly larger/more developed hippocampuses than average folk. Similarly, studies have shown that folks who switch to GPS from maps/their memory if how to get places, show notably decreased size/development of their hippocampus.

hm2 August 17, 2012 at 12:48 pm

I wonder, though, if host parents are really the ones that need to worry about the APs map reading skills, resp. if we are in a position to require her to learn how to read a map. There are so many other things I want my AP to do the way I wish, it really doesn’t matter to me how she gets from a to b as long as she gets there safely…

hOstCDmom August 17, 2012 at 5:57 pm

It might matter to some HP, not to others. Some HP might care about which approach/skill an AP is modeling to their kids. (we dont have a TV; we dont want an AP watching TV in our home in her free time and modeling that for our kids(and we live in an area where one cannot get over aur signal, so an AP cant just buy a telly and plug it in in her room; we would need to connect it to cable in our family room. We thus make rhis SUPER CLEAR in matching). Others may live in an area of the country where the GPS is unreliable (there are quite a few pockets in which it diesnt work wrll.) I think if HP won’t allow GPS use, for whatever reason, it is incumbent upon them to let potential APs know this. Full disclosure — the secret to successful HP – AP matches.

Gianna August 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I am in total agreement about the importance of map reading. What I see happening is that APs go more places and have less geopgraphical understanding. I have also been told on occasion that an AP is afraid to drive without a GPS. Plotting out the trip is a great exercise – it allows people to see the big picture and take control of the situation. I see red flags whenever someone says ” they won’t “. On the other hand , local convenience stores no longer sell maps. The owner of my local store told me it just doesn’t pay to stock them. The big bookstores do have maps of every variety. I recently heard an aupair say that she could not attend a cluster meeting because the GPS could not provide an address. I looked at the map and what do you think – there it was clear as could be and easy to reach. Also, GPSs break down sometimes – maps may get old and fall apart but they do not break !

JJ Host Mom August 14, 2012 at 3:06 pm

I don’t think that reading a map can always be taught. I’ve been trying to learn for 40 years and still can’t make the link between what’s on the map and what’s on the road in front of me. Prior to the advent of online mapping systems, I would frequently call my mother, then my husband, and say “I’m at crossroads x and y. How do I get to where I’m going?” Then when there were online mapping systems, I’d create a map before leaving, but if I made a wrong turn, I’d be in trouble. Finally, with GPS, I still make wrong turns sometimes, but it will recalculate and get me back to where I’m going. I’ve been known to get lost on the way to work – after 3 years of driving the exact same route. And I’d say I’m a relatively intelligent person, except for with directions.

Getting lost stresses me out. I don’t drive as safely when I’m stressed out, and it’s not always practical or possible to pull over after every turn when consulting a paper map. I feel I’m a much, much safer driver with a GPS.

I’d venture to say that there’s probably more than one au pair with my nonexistent sense of direction who could really benefit from a GPS.

1st year HM August 14, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I have some administrative questions on car rules for veteran host parents:

If you have a car curfew, how do you enforce it? I wake up early and am accordingly in bed by 10pm. How would I know whether our au pair is honoring a car curfew of, say, midnight?

How do you know if your au pair is drinking and driving at night if you are not awake when she gets home? In my case, I know my au pair is driving to neighborhood bars many nights and coming home pretty late. I have asked her if she drinks when she goes out and she told me she does not. I know it is possible for her to be at bars not be drinking and I want to trust her, but I am having a tough time with this one.

Should be working August 14, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I can’t tell from your post whether you are asking this as a matter of information or because you feel like you are being deceived and cannot trust this AP. If it’s the latter, pay attention to your feelings, on all fronts, not just regarding the car. If you read around the blog you will notice that veteran HMs report that ignoring bad signals early on made for a longer road to rematch.

If you are truly suspicious about the curfew, I guess you have to bite the bullet and set an alarm for 12:05am to check on the presence of the car. I would do this a few times if I were suspicious. Or install surveillance cameras which I guess have some kind of timekeeping?

Not sure how to check for drinking. I am eagerly awaiting a low-cost, high-tech solution where you need to do a breathalyzer in order to start a car. I guess you could go the look-like-a-control-freak route and ‘stop in’ at one of the bars to see what she is drinking, but that won’t make for good feeling.

If you wait up for the car-curfew-check, try having a little conversation with the AP close up. If you smell alcohol, then you will know.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 14, 2012 at 10:52 pm

I would say that if you accuse your AP of drinking and driving and you are wrong, you will find that you have an AP that asks for rematch. If your AP is not up to snuff and rules are regularly being broken, you may have a problem. If she has her act together, does what you ask of her and the kids love her, don’t invent problems you don’t have.

1st year HM August 15, 2012 at 9:43 am

After bad experiences with our first two APs, I am finding that developing trust for our third AP is an uphill battle. There are a few little things that are making me uneasy, but I may be oversensitive because of the previous APs. I have very young children, and can’t tell how our AP is with them when I am not there. As for AP having her act together, it seems to be kind of a mixed bag (and maybe that’s normal for a 22 year-old?)

The car is just a big area of concern for me. We live close-in to a major city and accidents with cars, bicycles, and pedestrians happen all the time in our congested area. If our AP is out drinking and driving and she hurts herself or someone else, it would be disastrous for her and us. I have expressed my concerns to our AP, and would certainly not accuse her of drinking and driving after she has told me that she does not do this. What would be the point? I am considering the possibility of instituting a car curfew as a prophylactic measure, and was just looking for feedback from other host parents on how these work in practice.

JBLV August 18, 2012 at 2:59 am

It sounds like you have more issues than just the driving. I would sit down with your AP and be honest. Explain that you have had issues with former au pairs, and this makes you a little more worried than you might normally be. Bring up the issues you have questions about with regards to childcare. Ask her again if she drinks when she is out, and explain that the reason you ask is because, “We live close-in to a major city and accidents with cars, bicycles, and pedestrians happen all the time in our congested area.” Being honest with your concerns is, I think, a healthy way to approach the HP-AP relationship.


*ask if she would write down the activities she does with the children. Tell her this would add to your peace of mind. I keep a log book, and get a run-down of what the kids have done every day.

*can you keep track of her phone usage? This may be a way of knowing if she is keeping her attention on the kids. I make it clear in my AP handbook that personal phone usage is a big no-no. I can also look at our bill to see when and who she is calling or texting.

*take the t.v. out of the children’s play area, and limit access to videos.

On a different note, I also have two small children (1 and 3), and, after having so-so AP’s, I’ve learned to become very selective. During our first year of hosting AP’s, my husband was able to work at home most of the time. So we experimented to learn what we wanted and didn’t want. Since my husband can no longer stay at home, we keep to a much stricter criteria:

* Must have formal experience in childcare (daycare)
* Must have childcare as a career interest
* Must drive and come from a culture with similar driving standards as our own (many Euro AP’s are scared to death of drinking and driving because of the strict DUI laws in the EU *love*)
* Must be 21 or older – and the older the better. There is no guarantee, but it is more likely you will get a more mature person the older he or she is.
*Added bonus: a university degree in child development

Needless to say, we start looking for a replacement au pair as soon as we can. It took us three months of intensive searching to find the au pair we just welcomed. Our last au pair, who just left, was really, really wonderful, and will be our life-long friend. She was from the Netherlands, worked in a Daycare, and had the equivalent of a Master’s Degree in Child Development and Family Dynamics (she was trained to help families who had children with autism). Highly experienced au pairs are out there – you just have to keep your standards high, search early, be flexible with what agency you choose (we are on our third), and don’t panic!

1st year HM August 20, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Thank you, JBLV, for the thoughtful tips. It’s encouraging to hear that you’ve had a really good au pair experience. We must be of a similar mindset, because I’ve already gone through 3 of your 4 action items :)

1) AP and I had a heart-to-heart about my specific late-night driving concerns. She is still driving home from bars at 3am and I am still worrying. The car curfew is my next step.

2) AP keeps a daily log of the children’s diet, nap times, and activities.

3) I had a conversation with AP about the texting a few months ago because yes, I can see the timing of all the incoming and outgoing texts on our bill. (Also because she was going way over our plan limit.)

4) We do not have TVs in the children’s play areas. AP usually takes the kids out in the afternoon, but that may be a little self-serving (suspect Starbucks/McDonald’s stops that do not appear on the log, based on cups & things left in the car).

I wish I had had the luxury of the intensive searching you described! After our first AP quickly bombed, our next two APs have come to us through rematch, which limited our selection quite a bit, even though we did not limit ourselves to one agency. I am focusing right now on things that I can do to effectively manage our current AP and get myself comfortable that she is not taking major risks with our kids or our cars. I’m not sure if there will be a next AP for us. Our current AP is a good person and I believe she wants to do a good job with the kids – I think she may just selectively follow our rules when she thinks that what we don’t know won’t hurt us. Again… maybe normal for a 22 year old?

Should be working August 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm

1st yr hm: I don’t think you should expect that all APs follow the ‘what they don’t know won’t hurt them’ rule. One of my newer criteria is ‘comes from a family with real rules’. I never thought before that ‘strict family’ is a good selection criterion but now with our new, compliant, rule-following au pair I think it is. The downside is that she has a little less initiative and autonomy.

JBLV August 23, 2012 at 10:43 pm

“Again… maybe normal for a 22 year old?” Perhaps, but drinking and driving is a serious concern. If she is not drinking, and is responsible to get enough rest on the nights before she is to care for children, then I would have no problem with a 22-year-old staying out late if she only does it on the weekends. Drinking-and-driving is a biggie. If you don’t have trust in your au pair to not do that, then you basically do not trust her. I would sit down with her and genuinely talk about your concerns: going to bars and perhaps drinking and driving; taking your children on side trips do McDonalds and Starbucks; and, texting while caring for the children. Tell her these are not things you can accept. Get your local coordinator involved. That’s also important.

And, last, if you really can’t build trust with this AP, consider braking ties with your agency when the year your year is up. If there are other agencies in town, you can move over (even if it is just for a year). Your current agency may balk (because they may try to claim you have a contract with your au pair and not with *them* and that you are required to either go in rematch or keep your current au pair for the rest of her contract, blah blah blah. Don’t let them bully you. If you go with another agency, you can start looking far in advanced for a highly qualified AP.

At any rate, it’s good to get your agency and your community counselor/area director/etc etc etc involved in with your concerns earlier rather than later. A good CC/AD/etc may be able to turn the tide in your AP’s behavior.

Dorsi August 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm

I am curious about the advice to break up with the agency, maybe only for a year. Why would you do that, especially when it seems like the AP is the problem?

JBLV August 25, 2012 at 11:03 am

Yeah, sorry, that wasn’t clear. If the goal is to get a highly qualified AP, and her current agency is sending her rematch AP’s (who may be in rematch for good reason!), then she can sign up with another agency and perhaps find an overseas AP faster than she can with her current agency. For example, our very first AP went back to Germany 2 weeks after her arrival here. She smoked like a chimney. They sent us a replacement AP right away (thankfully!). She was wonderful, but at the end of her second year, so we only had her for three months. Our next AP wasn’t great. She “fudged” her resume. We didn’t learn this until we were well things. After 9 months we were done. We just couldn’t host here anymore – for a variety of reasons. The agency said we had to host her to the end of her contract (and pay a little less than $2k for the privilege of doing so). Instead, a few months before our contract with the agency was up, we signed up w another agency to find a highly qualified AP.

Dorsi August 14, 2012 at 5:33 pm

We’re coming up on a awkward situation. We have never had APs drive (have live in an urban area, have small kids, etc.). We are making some big changes in the next month and will soon need a driver (preschool, a move, more). Current AP has been here 4 mos and seems pretty responsible AND drives all the time. She has a boyfriend, who lives 50 miles away and loans her his car. She drives it to our house, works, drives back. I think it will be hard realistically ask for certain behaviors (no freeways, 20 mile radius) when she clearly already does these things. I am also unsure how to budget for gas — she will need to drive the kids <100 miles/week, Also, for what it's worth, the boyfriend's car is bigger and fancier (and more valuable) than the car she will be driving here.

Seattle Mom August 14, 2012 at 8:30 pm

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with setting a curfew and radius limit for the AP to drive your car, even if those rules don’t apply for her boyfriend’s car. I don’t like too much mileage being put on my car, so I really don’t want it driven more than 10 miles or so on a regular basis. If there was a special occasion I would probably give permission. In this case it’s more about protecting your car than the AP, but that’s your right too.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 14, 2012 at 11:00 pm

We keep our minivan gassed up (DH works from home two days and week and uses it to run errands and tops off the tank). Now that child #2 is heading to a school 30 minutes from our house — surbanites measure distance in time not distance — we’ll have to gas up more than once a week, I’m sure.

On the other hand, in our home, keeping gas in the tank of the au pair car is the au pair’s responsibility (although, to be fair, because we are responsible for covering gas for travel to and from class and cluster meetings, whenever DH and I have a date night we take the AP car and top off the tank).

Once an AP shows us they can handle the roads (and DH does it all – roads, hills, four-lane highways – in his road test), we don’t restrict use of either vehicle (actually our AP has to take the highway to get to one therapist for The Camel).

I think you may limit where she goes, but if she’s already proven herself road-worthy, why limit how she gets there?

2nd Year Aupair August 14, 2012 at 7:35 pm

I am an Aupair in my second year with my second family. In HF 1 I was driving 2 different cars (both automatic both huge) sometimes with 4 kids under 7yrs in the car. You cannot believe how happy I was with a GPS in the car! My HM was also the worst Person to explain a way so it would always be: the adress is in the GPS which wasn’t easy either because it doesn’t say: “N°3s camp’ but just delivers street adresses. So anyway even WITH GPS it was hard to find my way around to all activities. I know I would have learned more about the area without it and I had my troubles with that thing but to be honest I think I would have not made it without it.
Now in my second HF I drive to different cars both big (again!) and both without a GPS. Oh how I miss it… I tend to print out my directions to soccer, skating and other new places I have to drive to and then tape them in the car. I can do it but even though I am OK with reading maps I don’t think I would be able to drive and pull to the side all the time because I have to check the map.
I know a lot of HP’s have IPhones or other smartphones with Internet and they tend to use that to check their way on google but most AuPairs don’t. So it can be really tricky to find a new place just with a map. And I never had a car curfew but I don’t like to be the taxi and I would never drink and drive. I think you shoud really see if you need one for your Aupair or not. I totally agree on driving in big cities, I rather take the train to NYC than commit suicide by driving there ;)

Anna August 14, 2012 at 9:49 pm

We don’t have many car rules; we need good drivers and I generally trust that if they choose to drive themselves somewhere, they are safe. We can’t give them many other perks, the cars themselves are far from fancy, so giving them a relatively free reign on car use is one of the perks we can provide.
They ask before they take a car, so for things like driving on a long distance trip I go on case by case basis. I don’t have a rule about not driving to NYC, but if an au pair asked me to, I would strongly discourage her to do it and tell her to take a bus. No au pair asked me to take a car to NYC – they all chose to take a bus so this never came up.
We live near DC, and I let them take a car there if they want; but most chose not to. The ones who did take the car to DC were probably better drivers than I am.

Mila August 14, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Seattle mom: don’t give me wrong, but in times like today, where evryone has a smartphone, gps etc ( at least almost everyone) people don’t learn how to read a map anymore. I understand what you are saying about that it is important for au pairs to find their way around with maps etc, BUT, just look at it that way. Gps got invented to make driving easier and safer for the driver. So imagine you come to a diffrent country, your 20 years old, you drive since 1 maybe 2 years, take care of 4 kids, all of them under 7 ( au pairs are not moms, we have to handle them diffrent than you do, we can’t just tell them what we would like too, because they are not ours etc. Au pairs should never yell at the kids, which i totally agree with, but parents can if they want, because they are your kids) so your driving, kids have tantrum, youtry looking at map, cant really tell them to be quiet like you would like too etc) but then there is this nice thing called a gps, who makes drivinga lot easier, so you can also give attention to the kids while driving, because you don’t have to focous so much on gps as you would to a map. What i am trying to say here is, it can be a lot at once for an au pair to handle everything perfect, and be there on time ( and if you say now i should just leave earlier, u can’t because i had an infant, and couldn’t just take here out of bed during her nap) a gps makes driving easier and safer for new drivers. I don’t say i want to be there as fast as i can,and maybe have a crash or whatever. I want them safe, bring them back home safe! Your saying people got around just fine without gps, people also got around just fine washing their close by hand, so why do we use a washingmashine? Because it makes your life easier:) we have to go with the time;)

Alex August 15, 2012 at 3:12 am

Mila, I think you are mixing things a bit. I was an Au Pair for 18 months, not ever I used a GPS. I used to have 2 kids under the age of 3 in my car and believe me, I had to deal with tantrums, little kicks on my back seat, babies crying, screaming, singing, everything you can imagine (and no you cannot scream back or tell them to shut up just because you are stressed out about driving and not knowing how to get there) I used to look up directions on Google Maps, read them well, ask my HM & HD for reference points such as restaurants, buildings and things alike, and drive.
Also, I don’t think any parent would send you off with their kids to a place you have absolutely no clue how to get. My hosts drove me and made me drive with them a few times (without the kids) to these destinations until I felt confident enough to have kids in the car, but they won’t drive you a thousand times to your friend’s house/bars/anywhere you want to go only because you can’t read a map.
I think one of the best things of being an Au Pair is the independence you acquire; yes you are in a different country, yes maybe the language is different and you’ve been driving for a year or even less, but if you don’t feel confident enough driving without a GPS “just because of the stress it might cause you” then maybe you shouldn’t drive at all. Some Au Pairs, not all of them, rely too much on such thing as a GPS instead of paying attention to the road and learn how to function without it. What if it breaks in the middle of a Highway? Would you just drive straight because you don’t know where the next turn is? ;)

Mila August 15, 2012 at 9:17 am

Alex: i had to laugh a bit about your comment;) well you had 2 kids under 3? Well i had 4 kids two of them under 3 plus a 5 and 7 year old. I don’t know how many activities you had to bring your kids too, but for under 3 there can’t be that many. I had to drive mine to soccer,baseball,swimming,choir,dance lesson, basketball,playdates and so on. I am glad you had the time to read maps;) well i did not;) i had To get to places in between 30 min. Of course we always kept maps in our cars for emergencies. But i think before you judge, you should know the whole story:) with only 2 kids, no biggy, i could have gone with the map too:) so for all the hostmoms who don’t know about buying a gps or not, if you think it is not nessesary, don’t buy it, au pair who really can’t read maps will buy one for themselves, but if you already have one, give it to them, just for your kids sake. ( how imberessing for your child, being late for soccer,just because au pair can’t read maps:)) good luck:)

Alex August 15, 2012 at 7:37 pm

There’s no need of being condescending. I was just offering my insight, now, to be fair I only said I had 2 kids under the age of 2 but I never said they were the only kids I had to care for. They were actually 3. An 8 year old with Choir, Kumon, Dance, Drama, and Hebrew school every week, a 2.5 year old with 4 days of pre-school (plus 3 extra activities) and a 1 year old who believe it or not, had two activities himself. This is not a contest to see who drove the most around a city for kids activities, all I was saying is that I get it: it is not easy not knowing the road, and having kids in the car adds extra stress but if you know your kids don’t like the car as much or won’t behave then you have more reasons to practice the road on your own. Follow me? I don’t see how can be ‘easier’ to follow a GPS’ instructions while being stressed, while having to pay attention to the road, WHILE having screaming kids on board. That’s all.

Mila August 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Becuase the gps talks to you:) you are funny;)

chloe August 16, 2012 at 11:36 am

oh, mila, can you stop trying to be the cleverest of all…

Seattle Mom August 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm

I don’t expect perfection of myself or my APs, and I also don’t expect my AP to get to places “on time,” especially not the first time she goes somewhere new. Where do a 3 1/2 year old and a 1 1/2 year old need to be on time? The doctor’s office? I tend to do those trips myself- and I’m rarely on time for them, anyway. Preschool… sure.. but you don’t need GPS for a trip you do 3x per week.

German Au-Pair August 15, 2012 at 7:55 am

Not to be rude or anything but those rules are not REALLY for the au pair’s safety, right?
I get that host parents want their car to be safe and they have every right to limit its use in whatever way they need but those rules are absolutely not for the au pair’s sake and I would feel like they think I’m stupid if my host parents would try to sell them that way.
Limiting the milage for your car does not help your au pair, it helps your car. That’s totally fine but trying to put it in a way that you do that for the au pair’s safety is a little…weird.

Many of the other things would mean to me that my host parents do not trust my judgement. I am very free about the car usage but I still don’t take advantage of it or let others take advantage of me. When we carpool, I make sure that I don’t play taxi all the time and I don’t have to blame my host parents’ rules -I simply say that it would not be fair for me to play taxi all the time.
I live in an area were a car curfew would mean a curfew for me because you cannot get ANYwhere without a car. And again, instead of giving the car a curfew, I’d just inform my au pair about areas where I do NOT want my car to be parked.
I would feel offended if I was told that the car eeds to be home because they don’t trust my judgement about driving at night. (I don’t see how driving at 3am is more dangerous than driving at 2 am…in normal areas the streets are almost completely empty at both times. I’d rather drive at 3 am than in rush hour…)

Don’t get me wrong, you host parents pay for the car you can do whatever you want with it. But trying to sell things as “This is for YOUR best” would just really offend me.

Emerald City HM August 15, 2012 at 10:40 am

I want to address one thing on the safety issue. While I can’t directly say anything about mileage, car curfew is very much a safety issue. While there may not be a large difference between 2 and 3 in the morning, there is a HUGE difference between those times and 10 PM. We have a large problem with drunk drivers around here. Also, from personal experience, I find there is a higher ratio of idiot drivers on the roads when they are empty as opposed to during rush hour.

TexasThreeTimeHostMom August 15, 2012 at 10:57 am

We have a car curfew of midnight specifically because of the drunk driving hazard around here. We have explained that to our fourth au pair now. We are not trying to offend her about her driving skills, but it is an unfortunate truth that most people driving around our town after midnight, especially on weekends, have been drinking. We are flexible and provide alternative ways to get to the party (we do drop off, she can take a taxi home, etc.). We take taxis home after nights out like this, so she can, too. We do not have a curfew for our au pair on weekend nights,
Sometimes the rules really are for safety.

The biggest challenge we’re seeing is that other host families do allow the car to be driven around at 3 am. I’ve heard from my other au pairs that some girls think it’s ok to have one or two beers then drive…we don’t want this to happen. We try to be helpful and flexible in finding alternative transportation.

How awful would it be to have your au pair in an accident with a drunk driver?

Cali AP August 15, 2012 at 2:39 pm

No offense, I think it’s nice to offer alternate solutions to the “issue” but at least for me, taxi is not an option. We earn 200 dollars a week, and at least where I live, taking a taxi would cost me no less than 40 dollars. That would really make a strand in out salary. I was in a HF that limited the mileage and a curfew even thou they were well aware I did not drink and did not club. I’ 24 so sometimes it fell silly to have to be back home at 12. The only thing I wanted was to catch up a late movie.
Now I am in my 2nd year and the reason why I accepted this family was because HM said I’d sometimes get the car. I’ve been here for 7 weeks and so far, no car. The other day I went to a concert at a museum and I waited 1 hour and 3 minutes for the bus. I had to take another bus to finally get home but I’d have had to wait another hour with 20 minutes so I decided to walk home 2 miles at 10 pm and was followed by a guy for 4 blocks. I got home past 10:40. I went to a really touristy area the other day. I took my bike but I knew I had to take the bus back home. It’s only 5 pm and super sunny but I witnessed how a guy tried to stab another man in the middle of the street with dozens of people and cars around.
I know those things happen and such is life but I feel like this situation is really stressing me. I’ve lived alone for 4 years and I’ve had my share of “scary” situations (guy masturbating outside my window, gardener drugged at my door, etc.) and here I even had to call 911 as I watched how some guys broke into my neighbors house. I just feel like the transport situation would be easily fixed. I know not all HF can afford a car for the AP but I know mine certainly could.
At the end I’m trying to be objective about it and I’s wondering if anyone know about an AP who has bought a car here.
HF: did you helped the AP in the process? To research, to buy it, etc? How was the aprox cost?
APs: anyone with first hand info about it?
It’s very very appreciated.

German Au-Pair August 15, 2012 at 4:53 pm

I know that drunk drivers are a real issue, especially in some areas. It’s totally legit to say “I don’t want my car to be in danger of being hit by a drunk driver”. But for the au pair’s safety it doesn’t really matter if the car is hit when she is driving or being driven around by a friend.

Taking a taxi is really expensive so that option is not really great. So in areas with public transportation you would have to take those. And honestly, I feel much safer driving at 3 am than taking a bus and walking around at this time.
I also feel much safer driving at this time than being in someone else’s car. I know that *I* wouldn’t drive unless I’m sure I’m up for it but I can never be certain about others. So keeping your car at home will keep the car safe but the au pair is likely to take a ride with a friend and then it’s not really about her safety.

I think we are grown ups and we can make choices about safety. I have been driving at all times of the days and I personally prefer late nights over rush hour. Of course in big cities that may be a totally different thing but that’s my experience from home and the area I live in here.
I would not be comfortable with a family who questions my judgement about my own safety. My host mum has asked me not to drive in snow unless absolutely necessary once, because she was worried about the car and that was fine. But if she had told me that she was worried about my safety I would have been offended because at home I always made choices about when it’s okay to drive myself.

Maybe my point of view is influenced by the fact that I am 22 and have been driving for 5 years in every possible weather condition and at all times of the day. I think I am perfectly capable of making a safe choice. That doesn’t mean I’, the perfect driver or that I’m immune to accidents, of course.

If it’s really about your au pair’s safety, talk to her about your concerns and let her make her own choices. If it’s about the car, be honest about it. That’s really much better than trying to “sell” restrictions with the words “It’s for your own good.”

Should be working August 15, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Fair enough. Some of the restrictions really are about the safety of the car itself. I would appreciate an AP who would respect that.

WestMom August 15, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Aside from drunk drivers concerns, I can also tell you from experience that my car is much more likely to get dented in any bar’s parking lot than the regular home>school usage. Nothing to do with my trust in my au pair, but more about the lack of trust of other people on the road late at night.

German Au-Pair August 15, 2012 at 9:01 pm

See, that is exactly my point. I think that is absolutely fair. Because if something happens, it will be YOU who is paying for it.
But I would just prefer if host parents would be upfront about those reasons. “It’s for your own good” is what you tell a child.

@Wrst Mom
So it would make a difference to you, WHERE the car was? I’m thinking about the same things Cali AP mentioned. Sometimes a movie runs late, sometimes you hang out at a friend’s house, watch movies and talk all night. I don’t ever go to bars or parties and still sometimes I come home at 3 at night on the weeked. But then my car is parked in a friend’s drive way and not at some bar’s parking lot.

Seattle Mom August 16, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I agree with you.. and I don’t pretend that my car rules are about the AP’s safety. I wouldn’t insult her intelligence that way. Actually I don’t really have car rules, my AP is so concientious and thoughtful that I don’t need them- she always tells me her weekend plans and asks if it is OK to take the car. She also tells me when she’s taking the bus if she’ll be home late (or gone overnight), just so that I know where she is. I’ve never asked her to do that.

PA AP mom August 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm

We live in a very rural area so there are no other options for AP travel other than using our AP designated car. We don’t really have any car rules because either we trust our AP to drive our car, or we don’t. They must past DH’s driving test and then they can go. Of course we have guidelines like not driving into NYC or Washington, D.C. but they can take the Metro to those places. We don’t have a car curfew either. Just haven’t ever needed it!

Aussie mum August 15, 2012 at 8:21 am

It might sound like its only about the car, but no on wants to have to call a young girls parents to say she’s had a serious car accident. Our last aupair i thought that was a possibility. Out of 6 aupairs, three have damaged the aupair car to the extent it couldn’t be driven till repaired and one was such a scary driver we didn’t like our kids being driven by her. You might think your a great driver, but good driving skills take experience, and that takes time and usually, making mistakes. Having had to arrange repairs on the car so many times, I think some of those ideas are quite good, as the privilege is given definition and isn’t open to abuse. People who drive at 3am have been known to fall asleep at the wheel too…

German Au-Pair August 15, 2012 at 4:54 pm

See, that’s a good point: you car has been totaled 3 times that’s why you restrict its usage. Perfectly good reason. But again, that is about the car, not th drive’s safety.

Seattle Mom August 16, 2012 at 1:00 pm

I don’t agree with this point.. if my AP totalled the car I would impose rules both for the car and her safety. No one wants their AP to get killed!

But if I had an AP who was not a safe driver I’d have to go into rematch, we need our AP to drive the kids to preschool.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 15, 2012 at 9:44 pm

What is interesting to me is the variety of responses on both sides. APs, if having late-night access to a vehicle is important to you, then that is a question to pose to your potential HF – and their former AP(s)! HP – it’s important to be up front about car usage. “The car will have a curfew but you won’t.”

I agree with German Au-Pair – if you are concerned that your car is likely to be involved in a late-night accident and want to reduce the risk, then say so.

Personally, my handbook says. “You are an adult in my household. You are expected to behave like an adult by starting on time, being energetic and positive with the kids. You don’t have a curfew and neither does the car because you know how much sleep you need to do your job well.” (That being said, my APs generally have 6 hours off in the middle of the day to sleep.) Most of my APs have taken better care of the AP car than DH and I do of the minivan. It’s usually very clean. They drive it like they own it.

I have been more fortunate than many HF. In the 11 years I have hosted there have been two “accidents” – an AP went off the road in a snowstorm coming back from her boyfriend’s one morning – the car wasn’t damaged and she paid for the tow truck to bring it back on to the road, and the AP-who-couldn’t-drive scraped the side of the car next to her backing out of a pull-in parking spot with DH by her side (that’s how we knew how much work was ahead of us).

I realize our good odds have given us a positive attitude about AP driving.

Melissa August 15, 2012 at 10:42 pm

German Au-Pair,
You make some very valid points and when you examine the topic at that level of detail, yes, a lot of the rules and rationales mentioned are “about the car.” And I can appreciate how it might sound like a host parent is trying to spin it or sell it if it’s presented to the AP as only about her safety. However, like with many of the topics on this site that involve an AP’s personal time and the idea of living where you work, there’s a mix of reasons involved.

HF’s do of course care about their AP’s safety, but unless it impacts my kids or our household somehow, I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting restrictions on my AP purely for her safety. She is an adult after all and like you said, that would seem like I’m treating her like a child. So the primary motivation for having car rules is for the safety and maintainence of our car, and that’s what HF’s can exercise some control over. But our APs safety plays a factor too, and they’re both intertwined. Most HF’s legitimately care about our APs and consider them part of our family for the year that they are living with us, and we want our APs to stay safe while they are in our care. While I guess it would seem like a ‘sell’ if a HF framed their car rules as completely due to their concern for an au pair’s safety, on the flip side it would seem pretty cold-hearted if a HF only talked about caring about the well-being of their car. So, although I think you’re technically right and I get where you’re coming from, I’m not sure it’s worth looking it at it that closely or in purely black and white terms, as most HFs are (hopefully) coming from a place of good intent with their car rules.

German Au-Pair August 16, 2012 at 12:43 am

Yes, you are absolutely right, those two concers are interwined here and it would seem cold hearted to just talk about the car.
The reason why I wanted to get into the detail is that the headline and the whole post makes it seem like this is all for the au pair’s best when really, it’s about the car’s best (which, again, is fine).
When it comes to caring for your au pair’s safety what I would prefer is if a host family would take time to point out the dangers in the specific area and maybe even in general and really get the au pair thinking and encourage her to make wise choices rather than preventing her from being able to make any.

And even though 2nd year au pair’s post has a pretty harsh tone, she does have a point. Saying “You cannot use the car at night because it’s not safe for you but you might as well hang out at the bus stop in the middle of the night” is just weird. Saying “I really don’t want my car parked at a bar at 2am, please find another way of getting back” seems much more reasonable to me.

Seattle Mom August 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Yeah, good point..

Does anyone have a rule that the AP can’t go hang-gliding, or skiing on triple diamond slopes, or skate boarding, during her time off? I doubt it. We might say something like “hey, be careful, ok?” But we wouldn’t outright forbid it unless it was REALLY dangerous and maybe illegal too. So it’s not all about the AP. But we still don’t want her to get hurt, and will try to help her stay safe.

Still, we can have more car rules because it’s our car. The AP’s body belongs to herself.

Gianna August 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm

A point to consider: the insurance coverage provided by our agency excludes hang gliding, bungi jumping, parachuting, rock climbing, car racing and right now I cannot think what else. No one is forbidding it and I know several aupairs who have gone hang gliding while they were here. But it isn’t covered by their insurance. The AP can take whatever risks she wants but the insurance company won’t pay for it if things end badly. I know I sign a disclaimer when I go skiing or skate boarding. I consider it important to make sure the aupairs know that – I do not know how the agency stresses it. I don’t know anyone who has had an accident. Honestly, I think car accidents are more common

Should be working August 16, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Great point, Gianna. Never thought about this. We’ve had a few au pairs do parachuting.

German Au-Pair August 17, 2012 at 12:12 am

You don’t have to go as far as parachuting…what about horseback riding? One of the most dangerous sports -especially since it seems to be very common here not to use a helmet.
I sprained my ankle hiking and almost fell off the cliff in the river…

Taking a Computer Lunch August 17, 2012 at 7:02 am

Probably car accidents are more common because au pairs spend more time driving than they do engaging in high-risk sports. (And to be honest, so do it – although I managed to injure myself walking down a sidewalk more times than I’ve had fender-benders, but I think that says more about my own klutziness than my driving ability.)

DCAuPair August 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I’m actually looking at the insurance options at the moment. I can’t speak for other agencies, but APIA offers a travel/sports insurance upgrade which covers all sorts of injuries from sports, as well as insurance for your travel month. All the “regular” sports are included as well as more extreme ones such as horse riding, paragliding, rock climbing, you name it. If your future au pair seems like the sporty/adrenaline seeking type, it could save you (and her parents) a lot of worry if you suggest that she pays for the upgrade. Unfortunately, you can’t upgrade your insurance if you are already in the program.

DCAuPair August 17, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Just to correct myself – you cannot upgrade your insurance package once you are in the US, but you can buy additional sports insurance from the agency!

German Au-Pair August 19, 2012 at 1:23 am

I know that AuPairCare’s insurance covers all kinds of sports injuries as well. I’m not sure about jumping out of planes, but the normal stuff like skiing and riding and stuff like that ist covered.

2nd Year Aupair August 15, 2012 at 11:53 pm

I still it’s funny how it seems fine if the Aupairs use of the car is limited and we could take public transportation. I have absolutely no problem with public transportation but sometimes I wonder if the HPs would ever get to their destination without the car. I agree it’s your car and you can do with it whatever you want, but can you imagine (like Cali AP metioned) to wait hours somewhere alone in the dark because you have to wait for the bus? Right, you wouldn’t do it because it’s not safe! If I would be the hostparent I probably rather have my car damaged at 3 at night than feel bad my whole life because something happened to my Aupair while waiting for ome kind of transportation.
I also think I am a better driver at 3am than 8 am because I am just not a morning person or my HD driving and checking his emails at the same time…

Taking a Computer Lunch August 16, 2012 at 7:06 am

While you have some valid points, 2nd year AP, don’t make a blanket statement.

Personally, I take buses late at night all the time. It drives DH nuts that I will stand by an isolated bus stop at midnight to save $25 on a taxi home. I’ve even walked home 2 miles because I’ve missed the last bus. When DH and I meet in town after work for dinner, we slate our mealtime to make last bus. (And while it’s true that we use the car for weekend date nights – sadly we’re usually home before 9:30.)

The irony in our household is that the AP drives both cars more than we do (long trips to see family excluded). Of course, I don’t have a curfew for my car (although I have winced at a few of the nightclub locations when the AP car was brand new I didn’t say “No, you can’t take the car there.” Now that it’s 6 years old, I don’t worry as much – although it still looks relatively new because 6 APs have taken such good care of it.)

The APs do have a valid point – they are personally far safer in a car after clubs close than at a bus stop. They are far more likely to be victims of a crime, even in a group of friends, at 2 am at a bus stop than they are to be hit by a drunk driver. Yes, we don’t want them to the be hit – for their sake (and let’s be honest – ours – we want them home safe and sound to take care of our kids).

Some of the APs on this thread, on the other hand, seem to think they have to take a taxi alone. Ladies, if one of you cannot score a car – pool resources and fill a taxi! Even if the taxi driver has to drop you off at multiple locations, it’s far cheaper than four of you heading home alone! Or, ask your HF if you may be the sleepover destination for a night out (some will say yes, my guess is most will say no). My basement has been filled with APs who pooled resources and took a taxi because they all wanted to drink.

If you’re not happy about the car situation, then have an honest conversation with your HP after the kids go to bed. If you aren’t getting the car use you would like, realize that you might need to earn the right in some households (especially those HPs who have been scared off by APs who made bad choices).

Seattle Mom August 16, 2012 at 1:08 pm

If my AP is going to be out late, she will either spend the night with another AP, or have someone come home with her and spend the night at our house.

Another thing she does is drive the car to another AP’s house who lives closer in, and they bus/taxi together. Then she’ll drive home from the other AP’s house, or maybe spend the night there and drive home the next day (but usually if she’s spending the night she just takes the bus).

There are lots of middle-ground solutions. It doesn’t have to be either drive the car downtown at 2am or wait for the bus all alone at 2am.

Mom of 2 Cool Kids August 16, 2012 at 12:23 am

This has been a great discussion and many have made comments already that I agree with. Below are a couple of points that I wanted to add including what I have experienced with our 3 au pairs. We make a deliberate effort to communicate well and be flexible with our au pairs. Based on the feedback from our au pairs, we feel like we are doing a good job as a host family.

First, in our family the rules are communicated up front so that expectations are clearly set. At the same time, as we get to know an au pair we are flexible. For example, if our current au pair who is over 21 and has proven she is not a drinker or party girl says “I am going to a movie tonight and it doesn’t end until 12:15. Are you ok if I get the car home a little late tonight?” I will very quickly say no problem. When another au pair asked if she could take the car overnight to go to stay at her boyfriend’s house and I said yes, but we need the car back by 9am because we needed to use it like we do every Saturday morning. She was upset because she was a clubber and that was way too early in her eyes to have to wake up. It was not my problem that her boyfriend totaled his car and couldn’t provide transportation. She got the car back at 8:59am and sulked. I was apprehensive about future requests because of her obvious attitude of entitlement.

Second, it can be really exhausting for me to have an au pair who doesn’t have a good sense of direction. We live in a small / big city that is pretty easy to navigate (no windy roads, long north/south and east/west roads that are numbered and/or alphabetical). It is very reasonable for someone to come here and after looking at a map and be shown around a little bit to be able to find their way without a GPS. Our first au pair had no sense of direction. Even with her smartphone she could not find a park 1.5 miles due east from our house. She had to make two turns to get there. In her 10th month she graciously picked my husband and I up at the airport after a weekend trip alone. She couldn’t remember the last turn to get on to our street which she had driven countless times over the last 10 months. This was exhausting to me because if I wanted to suggest a fun place to take the kids or needed her to go somewhere, I wasn’t sure if she would make it, even with the GPS app she installed on her smartphone with voice capabilities. In casual conversation about what she did over the weekend, she couldn’t tell me where she met friends around town because she just listened to the GPS. I never trying to be noisy, but as part of building the relationship and making her comfortable in our city, it would have been nice to be able to say “Oh you went to coffee shop A? Well did you know coffee shop B is around the corner and much cooler?” From then on, I ask potential au pairs about their sense of direction because if she is going to be as bad as that au pair, I don’t need that kind of additional stress. It is important to me to know she is going to be able to do her job and allow us to build a relationship by sharing what she has experienced in our city.

There is my 2 cents. Everyone (au pairs and host families) have different needs, values, expectations, etc. But my experience has shaped what I know works best for me which includes bending the rules when I know they don’t matter and looking for an au pair who I don’t have to worry about navigating one of the easiest cities in the world to get around.

Seattle Mom August 16, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I need to move to your city. I have a terrible sense of direction. Although I have lived in Seattle for 3 1/2 years, and I can now get to most places without getting lost. I think GPS is a crutch, and I wouldn’t know Seattle as well as I do if I had it.

I still have to print out maps if I go outside my “comfort range,” but that’s much better than needing GPS for every little trip!

Emerald City HM August 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Seattle has some confusing streets. Though generally streets and avenues have a pattern all over King county, so it can be easy to figure out which direction you need to go. Though even after 7 years downtown gets the better of me and I have a crazy good sense of direction (too bad my 17 year old didn’t seem to get that…).

The worst part about the area is the hills and cities (Kent in particular) that cause name changes on roads. Oh and the construction… Sigh.

Back onto the driving thing. Honestly, with parking being $4 an hour downtown it’s a lot cheaper for our au pairs to take a bus or the light rail or have one of us drop them off.

Aussie mum August 16, 2012 at 4:01 am

The problem with not having fixed rules like the ones set out, is if you have said” the job comes with use of a car” and then you find out the girl using it is a terrible driver, or goes clubbing a lot, you look really unfair if you impose new rules. Which is where we were last aupair, who we rematched. I wish we had those rules then, and i will look at revised ones next time! Because if there is rules and the girl proves to be a great driver and is busy saving to travel, you can relax the rules because you feel that everything will be ok. And fixing cars is a hassle, but I can’t imagine how awful it would be to talk to the parents of an aupair who had died in a car accident while staying with us. One agency here asks the family’s to provide professional driving lessons in the first week because it is a constant issue.

Should be working August 16, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I have required and paid for a driving lesson/evaluation, and loved that. A professional instructor (not me taking my valuable time off work), two hours of her/him showing the AP around, going over our right-of-way conventions, different kinds of intersections, and then at the end an EVALUATION FOR ME so that I know what the professional thinks of the AP’s driving. $200 well spent, in my view. And this is for APs who have licenses for over 1 year from a home country with strict requirements and driver’s ed.

I recommend doing it.

Melissa August 17, 2012 at 8:44 pm

We started out being very liberal on car usage. For our 1st AP, we virtually had no car rules except that the AP had to pay for her own gas for personal use (we gave her a set $ amt each month for driving the kids and to class). She was super responsible and we had no issues at all. We let her take the car overnight and on long (300 mile) road trips. But over time and experience with different APs, we added car rules and now it takes up two pages in our handbook. The big rules for us are mainly the car curfew (11pm Sun-Thurs), limited overnights, and monthly mileage limit. Although to be honest, I rarely check the mileage unless I have a suspicion that our AP is driving all over the place. I also don’t want our car driven or parked in the city (you need a car for getting around our suburban area but can take a train/cab into the closest large city).

We’ve had a few occasions over the years where our AP car has become unavailable (taken in to get fixed, out-of-town relatives borrowed), and I have to say that it has really helped remind our AP not to take the car for granted.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 18, 2012 at 11:30 am

There are times, too, when we use the “au pair car.” With a ‘tween and a teen, there are many times when DH and I find ourselves going in opposite directions. I try to write our use of both cars into the monthly schedule, so the AP knows ahead of time that and can schedule her transportation during her down time accordingly. We also take the AP car out on date night and top off the tank (rather than give the AP extra money to cover gas for cluster meetings and classes).

Gianna August 18, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I am thinkning of an idea shared by a friend. My friend identifies all of the places that her aupair must go during the course of an normal day as well as some typical recreational spots. She prints these instructions out , copies them and adds them to her e-handbook as well as her old fashioned paper handbook in a three ring binder. Most people who travel the same routes day after day learn those routes pretty quickly and there really are very few places that the average aupair needs to go to: school , karate, library, pool, church, CVS. Although the aupair needs to go to a number of places on the same day, she usually goes to the same places day in and day out. It seems that we have some very strong feelings about this but is it really such a big issue in terms of the average aupair workday ? Recreational trips are a different matter. I am remembering a seminar I went to on safety for business women and the police officer told us that it is a wise precaution not only to tell a friend or family member where we are going but how we are getting there (i.e . I am going to Philadelphia and I will be taking the Garden State Parkway ). He told us that in the event of a problem, it makes it much easier for the police to locate us if they can limit the route.

Melissa August 18, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Something else that I think it is important to point out is that an au pair who has access to a car does not HAVE to stay out and be driving at 1, 2 or 3am. That is her choice to be out at that time. Granted, I realize that young women in their 20s sometimes like to go to clubs or bars, or parties with friends, and I certainly had my fair share of that too at that age. But we’ve had many au pairs whose nights out consisted mainly of going to the movies with friends, meeting at the mall, Starbucks, or for dinner and a drink, and were back at home by 11 or 12. There was the very occasional club night, but it was the exception for them and not the norm. So while we have fairly moderate car rules (no curfew on weekends, limited car overnights and no driving in the city at night), I don’t feel that it’s our responsibility to worry about our au pair’s transportation at 2am. If she is in the city at 2am and does not have someone who can drive her, and winds up waiting for the train, while I of course want her to be safe, ultimately it is her decision to be out at that time. There are plenty of things to do that do not involve a bar or nightclub after midnight.

I once had an issue with an AP who kept the car out overnight EVERY single weekend (this was before we had the “no overnight unless a special occasion” rule). When I told her that we do not want the car gone every Friday to Sunday she complained that all of her friends lived far away (which was true, our cluster was very spread out and you had to drive about 30 minutes to get to any decent bars/clubs) and that they always went to bars, so not being able to have the car out overnight (and therefore not be able to drink), greatly limited her social life. I told her that while I want to help her have a social life, it’s not my job to have to provide her with a means to get to bars or to be able to drink.

German Au-Pair August 19, 2012 at 1:36 am

Since I brought up the 2 or 3 am thing, I’ll tell you that I never go to bars and I hardly ever drink (which I couldn’t if I had the car, right?) and MOST of the times I’m not out at that time. Here in the US it hasn’t happened to me that much but back home I had movie-nights or just hung out with my friends until 2 or 3 am in the morning almost EVERY weekend. It was asolutely normal for me to hang out until late at night and drive home after.
My social life did not consist of drinking or partying but out of hanging out withmy friends, playing games, watching movies or just enjoying each other’s company until late at night. For me, not being able to use a car after 12 would have meant not having a social life.
Yes, choosing those times was by choice, of course we could have seperated earlier, but why would we? Everything regarding your social life is a choice.

While here in the US for me it’s mostly about going to late night movie showings, the whole problem is feeling like a child. I had to
watch what time I get home when I was 14.

That said, I DID discuss that issue with my host parents before I matched with them. In our area ther eis absolutely no way of getting around except by car and I would not have matched with a family with any kind of curfew.

Dorsi August 19, 2012 at 12:44 pm

German Au Pair, there are cultural differences between the US and Germany. When I was a high school student in Europe, I often stayed out until 2 or 3. When walking home at those hours, there were often many people on the streets. In the US (a year later) I had a 11p curfew. It most parts of the US, there is not a late night culture like there is in some other countries. Yes, there are some clubs and bars that are open late. However, most people in the US (including most 20-somethings) do not routinely stay out that late. Europe, in general, has much stricter drunk driving laws than the US; here, it is common to hear about people who are still driving after 5 or 6 DUIs. After midnight, our streets are littered with drunk drivers.

I am glad you found a host family whose rules and expectations were consistent with your desires. However, it is not realistic for most APs to come to the US and expect to have the same type of social life they had at home. Had I expected to stay out every night until 2a when I returned to the US, I could have founds ways to do it. However, that would have been unsafe and socially abnormal in a way that it never was in Europe.

For the record, I have never imposed a curfew on my APs. They have not had access to a car, however.

German Au-Pair August 20, 2012 at 12:36 am

I thinking you are making a valid point here. Drunk driving is not a big issue in Germany. It’s there but that that horrible. Under 23-year olds are not allowed to drink ANYTHING and while there are some people stupid enough to try anyway, most people don’t because if you get caught, you can kiss your license goodbye.

I think, things depend on the individual situation, though. If you live in an area where that is a problem, you should act accordingly. In my area here in the US (and at home, too) this is not an issue. There are no bars around (and for my specific area I actually mean 0!) and the next areas with bars have a couple, not a lot. I have driven at 2am here a couple of times and the streets are almost completely empty. I have no car restrictions because there is no public transportations at all. All my friends live at least a 20 minute drive away. Without a car you cannot go ANYwhere.
It also depends on where you are going, I assume. When I “stay out late” that translates into going into a residential neighborhood to a friend’s house. The biggest problem on my way there is kamikaze wildlife.

If you live in an area with a lot of bars and where drunk driving is a problem, that’s a totally different story. I didn’t realize that this was SUCH a big problem here in the US because I only know my area here and everything seems pretty sheltered around here (even in the worse parts of town).

That still doesn’t change that the request not to drive for those reasons should be about the car. If it’s such a huge problem in the area I live in, I expect people to trust me to make the right choice about my safety without having restrictions.
From my point of view, you can restrict if it’s about the car but you can ask and explain if it’s about the person. You don’t want a grown up family member to die in a car accident and still you don’t restrict -you ask and explain.
For me the act of restricting something for someone’s own safety shows a great distrust in their abilities and choices. And THAT is why I brought this subject up in the first place. I would feel offended. Not, because my host family cares about me, not cause I need to be home early -but because they seem to think I cannot handle myself.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 20, 2012 at 7:59 am

I will add, that while DUI (driving under the influence – legally not quite “drunk”) and DWI (driving while intoxicated – legally “drunk”) are more common here in the United States than in Europe, au pairs should not think that they are acceptable. They have real ramifications for insurance fees, even if there is no accident involved.

I think it is safe to say that any AP caught DUI or DWI would find herself in rematch if not on a quick flight home at her own expense. Underage drivers will may find themselves in even bigger trouble and may need a lawyer.

If you are driving out late at night to go clubbing or hit the bars, then you should know that almost any bartender in the United States will give you a non-alcoholic beverage free-of-charge if you tell him or her that you are the “designated driver.” Some issue special wristbands or mark the back of hands of designated drivers.

And finally – personally, I would rather that my AP rang me up at 2 am to ask for a lift home then get in a car of another AP who had been drinking. It’s in my handbook (in 11 years no one has ever called me, but I hope they’ve all known that I was serious).

Personally, I prefer not to drink and drive. There are have been times when DH and I have hired a taxi to go to a wine tasting or a party, so we don’t have to worry about it.

LuvCheetos August 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I have to be honest with you. I never would have mathced with you with that attitude about a car. We are really very liberal about car use (waived all car rules with our first AP because we could trust her), but an AP with that sense of entitlement before the match even occurred would be crossed right off my list.

Your host family does not owe you a car. You could go out earlier and come home earlier if you’re just hanging out with friends. You don’t NEED to be out until 3:00 am (especially if you’re not clubbing so you don’t need to be out when the clubs are really going). I get it that you prefer it, but you make it sound as if you could have no social life at all if you had to leave your friends at 2:00 am.

Our last AP went out at 10 or 11 and would get home at 5:00 am. Frankly, I hated it — especially the time she brought 5 drunk friends over to spend the night at 5:30 am and they made all kinds of noise clinking dishes in the kitchen, etc., waking everyone else in the house up. She slept all day on Saturdays and Sundays, setting a terrible example for my children. Somehow, she was able to manage going out clubbing every weekend with a 2:00 am car curfew.

You are very lucky you were able to find a host family with no car curfew. I think they are few and far between.

Au pair August 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I totally agree with you, luvcheetos.! I don’t know why a lot of au pairs always think they NEED a car? I mean yes, its nice to have one and also easier, but you should never take it for granted! I don’t know, maybe it’s because i grew up with going by train,bus,bike or walk…. I visit my friends here by bike. One way 30-45 min bikeride is a great workout;) i had a few carrules, but not anymore, since i don’t use the car very often. My hostfamily loaned the car to me for a 2 week roadtrip, because i couldn’t do it by bike:) jk:) i always have to laught about au pairs who take the car for 2-5 blocks:) i walk the kids every day to school, and mine are 2 and 5. We walk 30 min each way. I use the care in the winter, or on very rainy days..

Au pair August 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Au pairs: lets try to teach our hostkids that we don’t need a car, tv, cell phones to survive! They are nice and handy but we don’t have to depend on them! Kids start to feel how valuable things can be:) my 5 year old would say, hey lets take the bike to the lake, the car uses a lot of gas, and this is not good for our earth! Then i think, YES, you did it;)

German Au-Pair August 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Well, because a lot of au pairs DO need a car. In my whole area here there is NO public transportation. There is a bus between downtown and the airport. That’s it. The streets are not designed to walk on (meaning they are narrow and hilly and there is no space for pedestrians) and you couldn’t reach anything by foot anywhere.
Before I matched with my host parents they specifically said they needed a good driver and the au pair has free access to a car because there is no other way of getting around. And I do not live in a horribly rural area or something.

So while things may work out without a car for you, they wouldn’t for everyone.

German Au-Pair August 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm

I never had to ask about the car because they were very upfront with it.

But you don’t seem to get my point here at all. I’m not saying that the car curfew itself is a big thing but what really bothers me is the “selling it” as “It’s for your own good.” I have made it perfectly clear many times before that host parents are absolutely entilted to impose a car curfew -but then please don’t pretend it’s about the au pair’s safety. The au pair can make choices for herself and the host parents can make choices about the car. That has been my point all along and I have said so many times.
So when you talk about my attitude, please make sure to actually read what I wrote first. I never said they owe me a car or the usage of the car for as long as I want but they do owe me trust that I can care for my own safety.

Plus, we are talking about totally different times here. YOU have a 2 am car curfew, we were talking about how dangerous it is to drive at 2 am before, which was the reason for a 12 am curfew. No movie ends after 2am and even long evenings with friends hardly ever las longer than 2 am. So a 2 am curfew is absolutely reasonable; it doesn’t make you say “Sorry, I can’t go to that movie, it ends at 12:30.”. But still -even a late curfew should be about you wanting to have some control over your car and not about distrusting your au pair to make the right choices about her safety.

What I said was that I would have no social life without a car in general because you cannot get anywhere without it. I did NOT say that I would not have a social life if my host parents had a car curfew. Again, please actually read what someone writes before you judge him/her.

Au pair August 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm

I think this is not true. You can have a social life without a car. There are lots of au pairs who don’t have a car, and don’t live close to a city. Usually u don’t go out with 5 friends each in their own car, what about carpooling? I have a friend who does not have a car! I pick her up all the times, and she helps me to pay for gas. You don’t NEED a car:)

Should be working August 20, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I agree that some of what is of concern here is the safety and longevity of the car, rather than the au pair.

But why should a host family trust an AP’s choices before they get to know her well? Doesn’t that trust take time to be built and developed?

Why should the host parents trust the AP’s ability to keep herself safe under all conditions when they don’t know her well yet? They hope that they made a good choice in matching, but it might take a few weeks or months before they know that good judgment exists on the au pair’s part.

German Au-Pair August 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Oh, that being said, of COURSE I am very grateful for the liberty I have with the car and a lot of other stuff. Which is why I offered my hos parents to take the kids over night whenever they want to get a way for a weekend or something right in the beginning of my stay.
I realize that I am lucky and I appreciate that and have told them before.

Like I said, that was totaly not what my posts were about.

LuvCheetos August 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm

I read your post and note that you said you like to hang out with your friends until 2 or 3 (although, in fairness, you did say you don’t do that here). I get your point that you think it’s basically being sold as for the AP’s safety when it’s really the car the host families care about. I think that has a kernel of truth but it pretty cynical. I will say very truthfully that I DO care about my car. After 4 AP accients in one year, I truly understand the effect of careless AP driving on my insurance rates and my bank account. Also, if an AP gets in an accident while driving my car under the influence of alcohol, I could lose my house and all of my savings (assuming my insurance isn’t enough to cover the loss). Driving is serious business. It is not something to be taken lightly, which in our experience, some of our APs have done. So yes, I DO care about my car and preserving my assets. But I also care a lot about my AP’s safety.

I do not love it when our AP is out late in parts of the city that I’m not comfortable with. But she’s an adult, so I certainly can’t forbid it. Honestly, I do worry when she’s out late, which is why I always ask my AP’s to text if they are not going to be home at all so I can relax a little (knowing they intend to be out all night and not that they are not home because something happened). We had a hard partying AP (who was young and naive). I really worried about her. For her, the car rules were in large part for her safety. I did NOT trust her not to drink and drive so I discouraged driving and made it somewhat difficult for her to use the car. I could never prove that she was doing excessive drinking until the end of her stay when other HF began to complain about her or I probably would have taken car privileges altogether.

So, I agree, it is a bit of a sales job but don’t doubt for a minute that your HF cares about your personal safety. We care very much, but it’s difficult to regulate that because you are an adult. The one way to regulate it is by regulating car use.

German Au-Pair August 20, 2012 at 8:43 pm

@au pair
Apparently you are not capable of recocgnizing that other people’s situations differ from yours. But saying “it is not true” after I explained how it is in my area is just plain rude.
In my are there are not other options. Picking up a friend is something that can be done as an exception (like when one’s car is broken or something) but we all live very far away from each other and pickung someone up usually means an extra half hours drive each way.
I recently was dependant on other people to pick me up because I injured myself and couldn’t drive and hardly at a social life at all. Sometimes you can ask other’s and your REAL friends will do it for you (which still leaves you feeling very bad even when you oitch in with gas. Because it’s just a very time consuming issue) but you cannot ask people you just know casually to pick you up when they live far away from you.
So I do know what I am talking about first hand. I got my social life back when I was able to drive again. I couldn’t even
by my own shampoo before!

And I will say it again because you do not seem to understand other people’s words: it depends on the situation you are in. HERE in my area you NEED a car. All host families I know see that and give their au pairs access to one because it is just a fact.
So please don’t say something is not true when you know nothing about the situation (or choose to ignore what other people say)

German Au-Pair August 20, 2012 at 8:49 pm

You have a point and I do understand why some people have rules in the beginning and losen them up later.
On the other hand…you do have to trust your au pair with your CHILDREN right from the beginning and not after weeks and months. Her personal safety is her business in the end (yes, I do realize that hos parents care about their au pairs) but your children are the most important thing. So if you cannot trust her with not getting drunk and wrecking the car, how can you trust her with the safety of your children?

I personally get where you are coming from which is why I would never get an au pair. Trusting someone who, essentially, is a stranger in the beginning in your house, with your stuff and in your lives would be really hard for me.
But if I choose to trust someone with my children, for me that says I trust that she is able to make a reasonable choice about things like no drinking and driving.

I’m not trying to provoke, I’m actually trying to figure out how one differs from the other for you. I assume you care more about your children than about your au pair and yet the trust in her ability to take care of herself takes longer to built than the one in her ability to take care of your children?

PA AP mom August 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Au Pair:

I understand what you’re saying, but for our AP it would be a 30 minute drive for anyone to pick her up to go on any kind of social event. It would be 30 minutes the opposite way.

We don’t have a bus or taxi in our area so without a car our AP would be totally stuck. Our AP NEEDS a car. I know a lot probably don’t, but to say that none do is just not correct.

kat August 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm

@ But why should a host family trust an AP’s choices before they get to know her well? Doesn’t that trust take time to be built and developed?
Why should the host parents trust the AP’s ability to keep herself safe under all conditions when they don’t know her well yet?

am i the only one thinking there is something utterly wrong with this attitude? it is understandable that you need to build a relationship with your ap, build the trust that she cares for your children the way you like her to. but trusting her that she can look after herself?! shall we just assume all aps are thiefs until we learn to know them well? seems odd to me.

anon August 20, 2012 at 6:01 pm

We have a rule that you must be home before 4.00….or after 7.00 am. An AP arriving home between 4.00 and 7.00 always wakes us up, and our small children up, and then that means that our Saturday or Sunday starts at 5.00am (when our children would otherwise sleep until 6.30-7.00)….and the AP gets to sleep in all day! All but one of our APs have understood this rule and the reasoning behind it (which in practice means get home before 4.00 or plan to spend the night at a friends, not that the AP has to sit on a park bench until 7.00am!!). The one who didn’t get it, I finally said, if you come home before 4.00 and 7.00 on a Saturday or Sunday AM and wake any of the kids up, you will be on duty until noon that day..while DH and I sleep in….!!

Taking a Computer Lunch August 20, 2012 at 8:34 pm

In my house we will tiptoe around a sleepy AP until 11 am. That’s when The Camel is allowed back into her room – which is right above the AP’s room. The Camel has a mild hearing loss and loves to be loud. Depending on my needs, I start laundry between 7:00 and 8:00 – the laundryroom, while it is separated from the AP room by a 12″ wall (used to be an exterior wall), is not silent in the AP room. I don’t do this to be mean, I do this because of my need to have clean clothing and the Camel’s desire to play her keyboard.

So while the AP and the car don’t have a curfew in my house, they do have a built-in alarm clock. I would say that relatively few sleep the day away. And yes, I agree with anon, I’d rather have an AP show up at 7:00 than 4:00!

anon August 20, 2012 at 9:30 pm

should have been:
*if you come home AFTER 4.00 and BEFORE 7.00 on a Saturday or Sunday AM and wake any of the kids up, you will be on duty until noon that day..while DH and I sleep in….!!

Dorsi August 19, 2012 at 12:50 pm

It is estimated, in the US, that 40% of people driving after midnight are drunk. In German, there are around 400 drunk driving fatalities per year (with a population of 80 million) — or 5 per million. In the US, there are 11,000 drunk driving fatalities per year (with a population of 310 million) or 35 per million. Things are different here.

LuvCheetos August 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm

We have been all over the map with APs and cars. Our first AP was a fabulous driver and very responsible. She had virtually no car rules. The next two were terrible. Between the two of them, we had 4 accidents in 12 months (one of which involved texting while driving, which was forbidden). Our new AP is a very good driver and seems very responsible and does not take the car as an entitlement (even though we now have 3 cars). She has relatively few restrictions. The car is supposed to be back by 2:00, but she can keep it out all night (so she can stay at her friend’s house that is closer to town so they can cab or metro). So either she comes home before all of the crazy drivers or she takes a cab or spends the night somewhere safe. She also may not drive into DC except with permission. She seems fine with these rules and happy that we allow liberal use of the car.

We have a GPS for her use. Frankly, I get the virtue of mapreading and I happen to be a very good mapreader, but I’ve lived and had to drive abroad. It is so much more stressful without a GPS (I’ve done both). It’s in my best interest for her to be more relaxed while driving herself, my children and my car around and not worried about trying to read directions or a map while driving. Would it be better for her to learn her way around without GPS? Sure. But teaching her mapreading skills is not my responsibility and not something I care to sepnd my time doing. We take our APs on a little orientation drive (with them driving) when they arrive. We don’t use a GPS for that, so they learn their way around. Also, we often explain generally where things are without GPS. We’ve not had an AP that couldn’t find her way around generally without the GPS (and one of our APs was not particularly bright). Honestly, when we had an AP we couldn’t trust, we looked at the GPS history to figure out where she had been going (there was somewhere she wasn’t supposed to be driving), so the GPS was pretty handy in that instance.

I have to say that the car tends to be one of the big sticking points between APs and HFs. As a HP, I find that when the AP decides that she is entitled to use the car as a right rather than a privilege, the problems start. I’m not sure how to strike the proper balance. We want our AP to have a social life, which means she will need regular access to a car (we live by metro but not everyone in our cluster does). However, we also want our AP to understand that the car is a substantial expense for us and a source of stress. Our current AP seems to get this balance. She always asks before she takes it and always checks before decidng to keep it overnight at a friend’s. She has been very considerate about gas usage, etc. I realy hope it stays that way becuase the last 2 APs were terrible about the car. They considered it a right and then they didn’t take good care of it, violated the rules and left it on empty (literally – DH got in one day and it said “— miles to empty tank”).

Amelie August 21, 2012 at 5:34 pm

I read all the posts about car usage, car rules, problems with accidents, gas, and so on, and I’m very happy that I decided not to drive a car during my au pair year.

I don’t like driving, specially someone else’s car, and I specifically looked for families who didn’t need a driver and who lived in a big city, where I could get around using public transportation. It was a great choice. I never needed anyone to drive me anywhere, and there was always a bus or train to take me where I wanted to go. If I happened to stay out passed midnight, I would just take a cab (yes, it’s a bit expensive for an au pair, but I’d do it only eventually, so no big deal). My first week at my host family, my host mom told me that if anything happened, I shouldn’t hesitate: I should take a cab, go home, and they’d pay for it. I never had to do it, but it made me feel save and cared for (that really felt like my HF was thinking about MY safety).

I felt very independent, and also felt that I got too know my area much better.

I think having a car make people too dependent on it, and they simply don’t know what to do when they don’t have access to one. I understand that having a car is very important in suburban and rural areas, and that’s specifically why I decided not to live in such places.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 25, 2012 at 6:58 am

While DH and I do not limit use of the car, once the AP has passed DH’s road test, we do ask for some limitations when driving. In the past, I have permitted APs to drive with their cell phones using a hands-free device. DH re-read the handbook, as he does every year for the incoming AP, and asked me to change the wording to no cell phone use while the car is in motion. Why? Because studies have shown it’s still distracting. So yesterday, when I was driving the new AP at a time when I was expecting my son or DH to ring me, and my phone rang, I handed it to the AP to answer. I strongly believe in setting an example (I usually ignore my phone if it rings while I’m driving, but then again, I hate talking on the phone). And if all goes well, the new AP will be setting an example for my new-phone-bearing middle schooler.

EU.AP August 25, 2012 at 8:46 am

I agree with setting a good example for au pairs. There is nothing more annoying than mimicking how HM does something, only to later learn it’s actually not how they regularly want things done. Especially when HM and HD are sometimes on different pages with some things.

I sometimes miss the days when you had a land line, and that was it. If you didn’t pick up it meant you weren’t currently available to talk. Now if a text or call goes unanswered, for some people it is the end of the world. Gah, pet peeve is people who *must* text while they are in an otherwise social setting (e.g. Out to dinner). Using a phone in any capacity while driving is uncalled for — excuse the pun. However, I still feel the anxiety of letting a call go to voicemail because I’ve been driving, so I will get back to my initial statement: I miss the days of only having a landline.

Almostformeraupair September 2, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Well, it’s pretty obvious that aupairs in some areas NEED a car. I live (almost moving!) in the Morris County in NJ, with NO public transportation and NO sidewalks in the streets. Now tell me how can go and do something simple like getting some coffee without a car? Some families claim, like some people above, that is not their responsability to give the girls a transportation to go out at night or do nice things in their free time. Some aupairs around do not have a car for themselves or have restrictions and they can tell you guys how horrible is to be stuck in the house in their free mornings or have to rely on friends everytime they go out at night.
I had a curfew with the car everyday at 12AM. It never bothered me, because my boyfriend (now husband) lives in Manhattan and I used to go there every single weekend. That would have been a huge problem if I was single and wanted to go to a bar in Morristown, that is 15min from my town. However, my host family is very open minded and I know they trust me very very much, so I could have had a conversation with them to set an agreement. They never controlled my mileage and never asked me where I drove; anytime I was driving further than I used to (more than 1h30m away) I let them know.
About the GPS, it should be up to the aupair whether getting one or not. I’m ok with maps, but imagine yourself arriving in a unknown country, a different town, driving a new car, dealing with some changes in the traffic rules, speaking a different language… a gps can help so much! In my town all the ways look the same – just houses and trees, houses and trees – it’s really difficult to recognize a street where you should make a turn, for example. I was very attached with my dear gps for 3 or 4 months, now I don’t needed anymore, I got GREAT skills driving in the area. But I still keep it in the car, just in case.

And I agree with the German Aupair. Those rules are for the car safety. Do not think it’s wrong to say that, but it’s ridiculous to say that 5 miles radious is ok to drive in NJ… with 5 miles I can’t even go to the closest movies theather!

Dorsi September 3, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Most places in America have bus service — not to the level that one gets in Europe but something that can be worked with. (Certainly there are vast areas of the rural mountain west and midwest that don’t — but Au Pairs can’t live there, as there is no LCC close enough.)

Morris County is only 15 miles x 15 miles. There are 8 local buses with routes than run 6 days a week in that area. There are multiple other bus services to get you to NYC. I think a lot of APs who live in areas where there “are no buses” just haven’t looked.


JJ Host Mom September 3, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Google maps can help find public transportation in most places. Go to maps dot google dot com and enter an address. Click Directions. Enter a starting address, and click on the icon of the bus. There are four icons – car by default, bus, walking, and biking. The advantage of using Google is that it tells you the best routes where you are, even if you live in a place that has different options (bus, train, metro etc) run by different companies with different schedules.

German Au-Pair September 5, 2012 at 10:18 pm

I live in a suburb of Nashville and there are no buses. When you use the google maps thing for buses from where I live to dowtown Nashville, it tells you to drive to the bus stop 5 miles away and take the bus. I’d say Nashville is not exactly a rural mountain area. Still- I’d sit at home all day long if I didn’t have a car.

Davep September 5, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Basically, unless you live right in an urban area, public transportation in the US is not a viable option. Even in many suburban neighborhoods where people commute into a city you still need to drive to a train o bus station to take public transportation into town.

Ther is almost nowhere in the US with public transportation like European cities, so it’s inevitably going to be a surprise to european APs.

LuvCheetos September 6, 2012 at 9:58 am

But your family allows you to use a car, right?

I can’t imagine that a reasonable family who lived somewhere with no viable public transportation would not allow use of a car. Also, I would suggest that APs get on line and figure things like this out before they accept a match. There are unreasonable families out there, so I would advise potential APs to do some checking before they accept a match. With the internet, it’s pretty easy to get the flavor for an area before you decide to accept an employment offer there.

We previously lived in a couple different countries in Europe. We were able to asses the housing situation, transportation options and general life culture in those particular areas before we moved there. You have to do your homework and not acept an offer form a family that you think will be unreasonable, which you should be able to tell form the interview. You should be assessingthe family the same way that the family is assessing you.

Almostformeraupair September 4, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Well, I think pretty much everyone knows how to use Google Maps. I do. In two weeks I’m moving to NYC (just waiting for the new aupair to arrive in my family) and I’m so happy to use the public transportation there! Google maps really helps a lot. I was not talking about going to the city, I’m talking about living around in the Morris County. I go from to NYC by NJ Transit (after getting rides to the train station in Morristown), not driving.
But telling me that in the Morris County there is public transportation I could use is almost offending me. It seems that I have different alternatives of using the car my dear host family provides me – and I definetely don’t. Those buses run in areas considered “low income areas”, because people sometimes can’t afford cars, like conecting Dover or Rockaway (where people live) to Morristown (where they work).No one I know (not only aupairs, but everyone around) has never taken those buses because there is no utility for us. Basically all the aupairs in the area live in wealthy towns. In my town, Randolph (and in many others like Mendham, Chester, Chatham, Madison, Long Valley), there are not even SIDEWALKS, imagine buses. Besides, those buses take routes in the main avenues of the towns, but they don’t go to Walmart, Target, Starbucks, groceries, drugstores, movies or my friends’ houses, for example. It’s pretty easy to go online and say that the aupairs are “lazy”and do not search for public transportation around and the buses “can be worked with”. Maybe I should just walk around in the 481 sq mi in the Morris County not to use a car anymore. Sad.

Almostformeraupair September 4, 2012 at 8:57 pm

I’m sorry if some of you could find my comment somehow mean or agressive. It was just frustrating reading that people think that the aupairs in my area, including me, do not know how to use Google Maps or just haven’t gotten any information about public transportation around. Come on guys, do not underestimate us!

JJ Host Mom September 5, 2012 at 1:32 am

Wow. That was just an honest offer to help in general, wasn’t directed at you. I’ve talked to plenty of people who didn’t know that Google Maps had a public transport option – it’s not obvious on the UI. All of my au pairs have been happy to learn about that trick. I was in no way attempting to judge you or your familiarity with public transportation. I hope you don’t get this defensive with everyone who tries to help you…

Almostformeraupair September 5, 2012 at 9:05 am

That was a reply for my comment… I apologized already for my assertiveness. And anyway, thanks for your help!

LuvCheetos September 5, 2012 at 9:56 am

What country are you from Almostformer aupair?

Almostformeraupair September 5, 2012 at 12:08 pm

I’m Brazilian.

Mid-A Liz September 5, 2012 at 10:26 am

I’d like to point out to host parents who are depending (or thinking of depending) on their AP’s use of public transportation to get around a suburban area that many suburban buses stop running in the evening. We’re currently in a city, so we have plenty of options here, but previously, the bus route in my suburban town stopped running at 6 pm. If you depend on her taking the bus, double check the schedule to make sure the buses are still running well after her shift ends for the day.

I personally don’t think it’s healthy for an au pair to fail to get adequate social time in, and I think it’s the host family’s obligation to provide the means for her to meet with her friends. (The obligation stops there, of course. The onus is on her to actually use what you provide.) This means that if your AP is off work at 5 pm and the bus system stops running at 6, you should provide alternative transportation at least a few nights a week after that time. It’s required in the AP program rules, but IMO, it’s very important to your AP’s mental health, and that — in turn — helps your children.

If you ask her to travel by bus, fine! When I’m traveling on my own, I turn down the car and travel by bus all the time, myself — it’s so much better for the environment. (But again, I do live in a city, so it’s very easy here.) If your AP is nervous about taking the bus, perhaps you can go with her by bus to a favorite AP hangout, a drugstore, the bank, or a grocery store — places she will want to go — and show her how the bus system works. Systems can vary from city to city, and I can imagine a young woman who doesn’t know landmarks and is not fluent in English might have trouble figuring out when to get off (or how to ask the driver whether they’re traveling in a certain direction). I have no sympathy, though, for host parents who ask their APs to ride the bus around their area when they themselves are not familiar with the system. I feel like that’s just asking for a) a lost AP who needs bus help and HPs who have to go fetch her because they can’t answer her questions, and b) potential resentment.

Just my two cents, though.

Almostformeraupair September 5, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Great points you made!
And I really enjoy sitting on subways or buses and not having to drive in chaotic traffic jam. My husband was raised in London and he doesn’t even know how to drive. And back in Brazil I always dealt with buses, so I am very happy to use the public transportation in NYC or whenever I can, as an ap or not.

Gianna September 5, 2012 at 9:40 pm

I think that every part of the country has its pros and cons. In many of the wealthier neighborhoods it is true that there are no sidewalks and minimal public transportation during non-rush hours. But many of the permanent residents of those neighborhoods do compute to NYC by public transportation everyday. I know people who offer their aupairs the use of a train pass on weekends as a perk. Lots of candidates are attracted to the idea of living close to NYC but there are disadvantages , too. Some aupairs live in rural areas with access to a car but limited opportunities for places to go for what they consider fun … Lots of aupairs are keen to live near NYC but do not realize the realities of public transportation. I find it interesting that in previous posts there was discussion about families worrying about their cars going to certain areas although the aupairs were not concerned about traveling to clubs in those places. Now, an aupair is expressing her honest fear about using public transportation in those areas . If an area is perceived to be dangerous, maybe an aupair should avoid going there with or without the car.

EU.AP September 6, 2012 at 7:21 am

When host parents are making up car rules, in the back of your mind are you also thinking what kind of car rules you will have when your kids are teens? What about the car rules when your kids are home from college for Christmas or summer break?

I grew up in a fairly “well-connected, transat friendly” suburb. I have no qualms against spending lots of time on a bus or train, but waiting for a bus late at night that only comes once an hour — for lack of a better word — sucks (especially winter…) Add to that that NOTHING is ever just ONE bus ride away.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 6, 2012 at 7:35 am

While I have generally provided unlimited use of a car in my greater metro area for APs who have 1) demonstrated that they have a more-than-basic capacity to drive an automobile and 2) pass DH’s driving test (stricter than our state’s motor vehicle’s requirements), I do not permit APs to just drive anywhere until they have a state license. Why? Because it forces them to take some time and get used to the roads in our area, the way Americans drive, and have a basic sense of where they live before they start motoring to different cities. I personally don’t put a curfew on the car and have been more fortunate than most in that the AP car is still fairly pristine after 6 years (the minivan, on the other hand, DH wrapped around a gas station stantion so it looks like a suburban pin cushion).

While I understand that access to a car is desirable, I in no way think it is mandatory for APs who cannot demonstrate basic driving skills (had one of those and if it hand not been for her great skills with The Camel and the lack of rematching special needs willing APs with driving skills I would have ended our relationship with her). The one AP I hosted with intolerably weak driving skills had to spent weeks on driving lessons and practicing until she could prove to DH that she had the capacity to drive safely before we permitted her to drive to her temple 20 miles away. (She could get there by subway and bus, even at the weekend, but it took 3 hours.)

LuvCheetos September 6, 2012 at 9:48 am


I tend to think my car rules will be stricter with my own children when they are teens (especially now that we’ve had a couple APs to show us why the rules need to be somewhat strict). The AP is not my child, so I cannot “parent” her in the way that I would one of my children. There were many times I would have like to parent a couple of my APs, but I did not consider it appropriate.

Our APs have liberal use of the car. they are not permitted to drive it to DC (which is about 8 miles away) or to the “German Party House,” which is 30 miles away and a very popular AP destination. We pay for a tank of gas every 2 weeks that is both for driving the children and for their personal use. Our child related driving is very few miles per week (under 20 generally). If the child driving is excessive, we fill the tank every week so the AP is not “punished” for that. The car must be home at midnight during the week and 2:00 am on the weekends (but can be out all night on the weekends if the AP plans to sleep somewhere else and lets us know in advance).

I honestly don’t think that’s too onerous. For my own kids, I’d probably make them pay for their own car insurance and their own gas. Before college for my kids, I would probably not allow the car out past 12 or 1 on the weekends. In college, it would probably be 2:00.

EU.AP September 6, 2012 at 10:42 am

I wasn’t suggesting you parent the AP. My parents’ cars have rules (still) not because I require parenting in any way, but because it is their car, and for most of the reasons listed above.

Plus there seems to be a lot of the same challenges, e.g. more drivers than cars (especially true over Christmas when we are all back home).

Most rules people have posted don’t seem too onerous.

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