I need advice about car usage for our au pair. Our au pair has been with us for a little over 7 weeks now. She is doing a great job and has really blended well with our family. Part of her duties (driving) are to drop-off/pick-up our children from school 3 days a week & take them to a set weekly playdate. She is a good driver and we haven’t had any problems.
We have been completely flexible with personal usage of either of our cars, but I feel like this privilege is being a bit over used and need some advice.
A few details:
Our au pair is currently taking her first class ( to fulfill her education requirement), so of course she has usage of a car for this. She needs to travel 112 miles (roundtrip) for her class once a week, but also goes to some local churches 4 nights a week for ESOL classes (about 20 miles roundtrip for each), used a car to go to the gym every day on her break (about 6 miles roundtrip), and also uses a car several times a week to visit with friends, go to the mall, etc. on her days off.
Here is my dilemma:
- She is putting a lot of miles on the car weekly for personal/social usage. I am constantly getting in the car with a 1/4 to almost empty tank each time (I fill the car up at the beginning of every week). We want her to feel comfortable and be able to socialize, etc., but every single day of using a car is getting to be a bit much.
- Also, my husband travels a lot for his job, so there are many times when there is just one car here and if she is using it, I am homebound with the children.
- I’m also concerned about the wear & tear on our cars.
Can anyone help me with some “fair” limits for car usage? I really want to be fair and don’t want to be a monster about it, but I feel like I have a teenager in the house! :)
I think the simplest thing to start with, is to have her ask your permission every time she wants to take a car. It makes sense especially because there is no specially designated “au pair car”, but you only have two cars, yours and your husband’s. So, the rule is – if the car is home, you can’t take it and go.
The usage priority is the parent’s, and you have to first ask if they need it and if they mind you taking it, and you have a full right to give conditional permissions – i.e. she can use it but has to bring it home by hour X.
As to gas, asking her to pay for personal gas usage is normal. You are not obligated to pay for that. You might want to help out if you live in the boonies, but its totally optional and is a perk. I don’t ask my au pair to pay for personal gas usage, but she uses the car very little, and never has to go very far (we live in a very lively and well -connected area). We also just have to cars – mine and my husband’s, and she always asks.
i’m with anna, you should talk to your ap about the car use. especially when you need the car as well. if you establish an “ask before use” policy i think all sides should be clear about each other’s plans and needs.
if she is so busy socially (which is great to some extent) then maybe she can be picked up by one of her friends from time to time.
We’re having a similar issue with car use right now…our au pair has been with us for a few weeks and is behaving as if the car is hers.
We’ve asked her to ask us first before using the car, but will need to reinforce this. We found with previous au pairs that if you don’t control the car use right away it becomes an entitlement and then correcting the behavior becomes a “big issue.”
We also ask our au pair to keep a log of miles driven and then to put in gas when she goes a certain number of miles. Worked ok with an organized au pair, but I’m not sure our current au pair has even written anything down.
Thank you for your responses, it really helps!
I sat down with our au pair tonight and discussed the car usage. We went over her current routine of car usage and discussed mileage, etc.
She was a little defensive in the beginning because two of the girls she has befriended in our cluster have their own cars and two of her friends from her country who arrived when she did (also au pairs in the area) also have their own cars. She is under the impression that they don’t have any limits, etc. I have no idea! She also told me that ALL au pairs that she knows are given their own car.
Anyway, instead of having to keep track of all of her mileage, we came to the agreement that she can just pay x amount of money each week for gas based on her current usage, and when/if that changes we can definitely revisit the issue.
We also decided that if there is only one car here, she needs to find another mode of transportation (i.e. friend, etc.) so there is always a car here for emergencies or for me or my husband to be able to take the children out.
I talked to our LCC to brainstorm about it. She is going to chat with our au pair about how car usage iIs a priviledge and not a given.
We don’t live in the boony’s, but you do need a car to get to places in our area. All of the shopping malls, YMCA, etc. are within 3 to 8 miles from our house, so nothing is very far.
We have also established an “ask before you use the car” rule, so hopefully, that will help. I did ask her to try to give us some notice if she is going to want to use the car for a special outing, etc. because she is currently just coming down the stairs when she’s about to leave and asking for car keys without any notice. I had to say no today and she got really frustrated.
I don’t think she has any concept of how expensive cars are (we have an SUV & a minivan because we have 4 kids) or how expensive car insurance is, especially when you add a foreign driver. She doesn’t come from a poor family and had her own car in her country, so I think the having to have rules about car usage is annoying to her.
Anyway, wish us luck and thank you again for all of your responses!! :)
… Regarding the car. All host families should set the rules for the use of the car and everything else in advance and present a list of rules to the Au Pair in the beginning, or better during the matching process already. This sort of thing that happened to Mom of 4 and E2 is common. Au Pairs easily get the sense of entitlement if you don’t set the rules in advance.
You don’t need to feel bad about not having a designed Au Pair car. Around 50% of my host families don’t. The other 50% of Au Pairs get access to host mom or dad’s car.
Mom of 4 and E2: it is true that setting up rules for the car after the au pair has been in the home for some time and had freedom of use will put some strain on the relationship.
Yes, having a car is a privilege not a given, however, if there were no rules before, the circumstance of having such easy access to a car can easily be taken as given.
From the point of view of an au pair it might feel like being “lured” into a match, (if the car was offered as …) with the car dangling as a carrot, and suddenly, there are rules and limits.
For your next match, i would already make the rules clear during the matching process. if you don’t want to seem too strict, explain why you set these rules. for example, my first family had a curfew on the car (not for me though). They explained this with the over-usage of the previous au pair who took the car over night without letting the family know where the car would be parked etc. that makes it easier for the future au pair to understand where your limits are regarding car usage.
Once the AP is in your family and proves to be reliable, rules might change. As for now, making the rules clear is all you can do, i think.