It’s a horrible reality: Even if you have your au pair work a full 45 hours a week, if you work 40 hours a week yourself, your au pair is not going to be able to cover all your childcare needs.
Every one of us full time working parents knows– that job is supposedly “40 hours”, plus lunch, plus commute, plus a traffic accident, plus a last minute meeting, plus someone else calling in sick, plus a deadline. Basically — even for hourly workers — that “4o hours” outside the home is almost always 45 hours. Or 46 hours. Or 48 hours.
And that’s before you need someone to mind the kid/s while you buy groceries, get a haircut, or go to the doctor yourself.
Au Pairs can only work 45 hours a week. As you’ll see elsewhere on the blog, even when your Au Pair is willing to do a little extra babysitting for $10/hour, you can really only take advantage of this rarely. You not only should not break the rules, but also you can’t expect an au pair to have the energy to work more than 9 or 10 hours a day, or more than 45 hours a week.
There are real, important, humane, safety, and kindness-oriented reasons why these hourly limits exist.
For the newly-single host mom of a toddler, who is preparing to head back into a full time out of the home job that includes a commute, there’s just no way one au pair can cover all that she needs.
This mom needs to find another 4-8 hours of help. If the child’s other parent (the soon-to-be-ex spouse) takes over some of the childcare on a weekend, or even one evening a week, that might help. The mom might also find a regular back up babysitter to take some late afternoons to give the au pair and the mom some flexibility. Scheduling in just one day of 4 hours of back-up babysitter then gives the host mom and au pair the flexibility should the mom get caught in traffic, etc. and unintentionally shift that au pair’s 9 hour day into a 10 hour day.
This mom might also look for a part-time PreK for her toddler. I know that the PreK at the church down the street from us was a lifesaver for us, even though they only did two mornings (3 hours) each week, because that “saved” us the 6 au pair hours that I needed to be covered for evening classes and events.
Being a single parent is difficult, and finding full time care — really full time care — means covering 45 to 50 hours a week.
An au pair can go over 45 hours in an emergency, and only rarely. You’ll need to put something additional in place.
I’m going through divorce and I will soon be a predominately single mom. I’ll be going back to work and I would like to get an au pair for my 2 year old daughter and me. My situation is this: since we live in a metropolitan area, I have to commute downtown to work about an hour total a day – plus my 40 hour work week, which basically takes up the whole 45 hours I can have an au pair work a week.
While I love the idea of an au pair and the ease in this new life of ours, I’m not totally sure 45 hours a week will be enough (while she’s not in school) to actually help me in the evenings and weekends.
Will an au pair work more hours if I pay her, say babysitter rates? What other options do I have for a young toddler to control the hour usage during the day so that there’s more availability in the evenings and weekends? She naps about 2 hours a day, but it’s my understanding that those hours still count since she is under her responsibility at that time.
Image: exhausted toddler by Jessica Lucia on Flickr