Au Pair Handbook, Core Family Values & Rules

General Principles for Working with the Girls
(These are phrased in ways that you can simply repeat these ideas to the girls…)

1. Put everything back in its place. Take toys, activities, equipment, and so on from "a to z.”

2. Each job has a tool; each tool has its own job. If you need a tool that you can’t find, let me know.

3. Replace what is used up.

4. Treat objects with respect.

5. Clean up after yourself. ?“If you are responsible enough to be able to do it, you are responsible enough to clean up after it.”

6. Help other people take care of their toys & their space.

7. Teach the girls to do things "the right way".

8. Show lots of enthusiasm.

9. Anticipate the children’s needs, be respectful of your own needs.

10. Be gentle with criticism. Add a "yes" when saying no.

11. Laugh and have fun.

12. Asked the girls to be respectful to grown-ups & friends

13. Offer the girls choices between two things that would be okay with you

14. Make sure you are in charge of the girls, not that they are in charge of you.

15. Guide the girls to pick up after themselves

16. Ask them "what can you do to contribute to a… clean room, happy dinner, tidy bathroom, etc.”

17. Increase what we do with the girls, decrease what we do for the girls.

18. Always leave a little bit of extra time so that the girls can help tidy their things up.

19. "Wrangle" the girls’ stuff back to its home place. Make the girls help you do that.

20. Remind the girls that everything has a place, and once they’re finished using it, it is their job to get it safely back to its home.

21. Remind the girls to clean their things out of the back of the car when you get home.

When you have questions about how to do something, especially about how to work with the girls, talk with me.

Using the family station wagons

  • Always use your seat belt, and put the girls in their car seats and seat belts
  • Do not use your cell phone while you are driving. Pull over and stop the car before picking up the phone. Breaking this rule has serious consequences.
  • Remind the girls to clean their things out of the back of the car when you get home.
  • Let us know if we need gasoline, or if you suspect the car needs maintenance.
  • Always put money in the parking meters. You will be responsible for any parking tickets you incur. There is a role of quarters (in the console and/or in the glove box) that you can use for parking meters and fees, so there is rarely a reason to get a ticket. Please let me know if the amount of quarters is getting low, so that I can get more.
  • Keep your CDs tidy; keep CDs in their cases and help us keep the CDs in the car tidy.

Food and the Girls

1. The girls are only permitted to eat in the kitchen and the dining room. They may not eat anything in the playroom unless it’s pizza night. Then, make a big deal of collecting all the paper plates and pizza crusts and throwing them away. There’s nothing more disgusting than an apple core hidden for several weeks behind the sofa in the playroom.

2. Ask the girls to sit down at the table or at the counter when they are eating a snack. Ask them to use a napkin.

3. No food or drink by the computer in the kitchen, for anyone.

4. If the girls ask you for a snack and then they eat only half of it, wrap up the other half and save it for another time.

5. If the girls want a snack to take in the car, good items include string cheese, apples, or small bags of crunchy snacks. Make sure that the girls gather up their food trash from the car and throw it away when they come back in the house.

6. To make lunch preparation a little bit easier, sometimes I separate a box or bag of snack food into many, individual-serving sized small plastic bags, and then put all the individual size portions in the blue plastic basket in the lunch cabinet.

7. We usually eat dinner at six o’clock, but we’re flexible and sometimes eat as early as 5:15 if we have the evening activities to attend.

8. The girls need to be reminded to wash their hands before dinner.

9. The girls need to sit at the dinner table until they are officially excused from the table.

10. Girl2 often needs to get up in the middle of dinner to go to bathroom, please remind her wash or hams when she comes back.

11. Whenever you put leftover food in the refrigerator make sure that it is wrapped in an airtight package or container. Use see-through plastic wrap, containers, or plastic bags. That way we know what’s actually hiding inside the package.

12. If you bring home special food for yourself and you don’t want other people to eat it, put a little note on it that says “yourname". If you see something chocolate in the refrigerator or freezer, or if you see something with Host Dad’s or Host Mom’s name on it, don’t eat it.


The Kitchen

1. The white china dishes cannot go in the microwave or the oven. The red china dishes can go in the microwave, but cannot go in the oven.

2. When you use the microwave, use either the kids’ soft plastic plates, the paper plates (in the cabinet above the knives) or the gladware storage containers.

3. The knives with black wooden handles are washed by hand, and left to dry by the drying rack. They do not go in the dishwasher. Knives with black plastic handles can go in the dishwasher, with a sharp point down.

4. Only Host Mom uses the two knives with the black wooden handles that have red dots of paint on the ends. These are her special, extra sharp knives.

5. Remember to wash the outside as well as the inside of pots and pans that you use. Occasionally, consider using the "Bon Ami" cleanser to clean gook off the outside of these pans.

6. With the nonstick frying pans, use only plastic utensils. The metal spoons, spatulas, and so forth scratch the nonstick coating.

7. When you are cooking on the stove, turn on the fan to help reduce cooking odors.

8. Before new, wet dishes in the dish drainer, empty it. That way, the dry dishes don’t get wet again. Remember to empty the dish drainer as well as the dishwasher.

9. Please be mindful of resources, and avoid wasting water and electricity by leaving the water running when you are not actively using it, or by leaving the door of the refrigerator open while you walk around the kitchen.

10. There are five or six "treasures" in the house that only Host Mom MOM and Host Dad are allowed to use. Remind me and I’ll show you what these are — most of them are breakable items.

11. Perform "the sweep" each time just before you go off duty. "The sweep" is a walk through the girls areas to put away or pick up whatever has been left behind.

Places in the House That the Au Pair Is in Charge of Keeping Organized

o The girls bedroom, including closet, drawers, nightstands, and bookcase

o The playroom & arts room

o The kitchen window seat, the bookcases under the window seat, and the girls work table

o The breakfast and lunch cabinet (to the right of the stove)

o Shoe mats at the front door

o Bicycle area and toy shelves in garage

o The girls’ bathroom

o The corner closet by the piano

o The backseat of the station wagons

o The toy area on the back patio

For all of these areas, the au pair is in charge of keeping them organized, and encouraging the girls to keep them tidy. For example, the au pair should remind the girls to clean their things out of the backseat of the car. The au pair should tell the girls how to hang their coats and backpacks in the closet, but she should occasionally organize things to keep the space tidy.

Perform "the sweep" each time just before you go off duty. "The sweep" is a walk through the girls areas to put away or pick up whatever has been left behind.

The Playroom and the Art Room

  • In the playroom and the art room in general, the goal is to keep these rooms neat enough that the girls always know where things should be put away. It’s the au pair’s job to keep the general framework of organization up-to-date. For example, it’s up to the au pair to make sure that there is a container for every kind of toy, and that there is a place for every toy container.
  • The girls should play with one toy or kind of toy at a time. If they have been playing with dolls and then they want to play with sculpting clay, they need to put the dolls away. Remind them that this is the "Montessori Way", where we put away toys when were finished with them so that we have fresh room to play with the new toys.
  • On Monday or Tuesday evenings, the girls are responsible for cleaning up the playroom and the art room entirely. This means especially to pick things up off the playroom and art room floor. This way, the two rooms are tidy enough that the cleaning team can vacuum and dust in there on Wednesday morning.
  • The girls should also tidy the playroom and the art room on Friday afternoons — especially after any play date. That way the playroom is reasonably tidy for the weekend.
  • In towards the end of each play date, about 10 minutes before the friends are supposed to leave, ask the girls and their friends to begin to clean up the playroom. The goal here is to make sure that all of the children participate in tidying the room up. It doesn’t need to get perfect, but everyone needs to pitch in and do their share.
  • When the children are tidying up on a daily basis, they can use the"miscellaneous box" located at the foot of the stairs. We use the miscellaneous box as a temporary way station for small items and things we don’t know where they belong. When we find toys and other items upstairs, and don’t want to put them away ourselves, we put them in the miscellaneous box, to be put away by the girls once a week. The girls are responsible for emptying the miscellaneous box and putting everything away in its home each Friday or Saturday before movie night. The miscellaneous box makes it more convenient for grownups because it gives grownups a place to put all the little pieces and toys that get left about during the week. And, then the girls are ultimately responsible for putting it all away themselves.
  • In the closets and on the shelves, the same kind of toys go together in the same bin or container. For example, the Little House dolls go in their bin, the American girls stuff in their own bins, the dinosaurs in their bin, the puzzles and games on a shelf, and so on.
  • The drawers of the art room are labeled so that you know where the children should put things. Inside the drawers doesn’t need to be particularly neat, what is more important is that all the same kinds of things get into the right place.
  • Be especially careful with poster paint. Girls should where art smocks as when they use poster paint, and only an adult should pour the paint from the big containers into the small containers. Paint brushes should be washed the same day they are use and left to dry standing up in a cup by the utility sink. The girls should use a splat mat underneath their painting easel.
  • If you find that you need new baskets or additional baskets for organizing the toys, let Host Mom know.
  • Consider coming up with a "playroom cleanup song". Sometimes it helps to put on a CD and playing music while cleaning up.

Principles of Play Dates

We enjoy arranging play dates for the girls with their friends. Usually we alternate with each friend, where once we play at their house and then the next time they play at our house.

  • The au pair is in charge of arranging play dates with friends’ parents, caregivers, or au pairs. If you arrange a play date with another friend, write the play date and the friend on the family calendar in the kitchen.
  • When you are calling to arrange a play date, be clear about: the time of the play date, what time, what location, and by whom the visiting child will be picked up, and where the play date will be held. Also, confirm the end time of the play date, and who will pick up the visitor. Always leave the home phone number when you leave a message so that the other adult can confirm the play date.
  • Don’t leave our children with another adult during a play date unless it is explicitly OK with that other adult. For example, don’t assume that you can drop the children at a play date and go off and do other errands. Plan to stay at the play date and participate in watching the kids unless you make other arrangements in advance with the other adult. This is also true when children come here for play dates. Some of Girl1’s friends can come without an adult, and so can some of Girl2’s, but occasionally with some children it’s important to have their personal adult stay for the play date.
  • I try to remember to tell children, when they come for play date, that you — the au pair — is in charge and that you are to be obeyed and respected. If you find that a certain child is not respecting you or not listening to you, I can talk to that child’s parent, and we can also just stop inviting the child over.
  • On play dates, all toys are to be shared. If one of the girls does not want to share a toy (which sometimes happens and is okay), she must put that toy away and not play with it while her friends are here.
  • Girl1 and Girl2 must be kind to their plate dates; all of the children must agree on what they’re going to play. If necessary, help the girls negotiate their plans together.
  • When we are planning ahead for play date, keep in mind some activities that we can recommend for the girls. Although they’re very good about coming up with their own play ideas, every now and then they need some suggestions.
  • Usually, we have play dates on Friday, and occasionally on Monday. We less often have a play date on the same day that the girls have an afterschool activity, because they rarely have enough time to practice their music, complete their homework, and have a play date.
  • When children are at play dates at our house they must follow our rules. When our children are play dates at other people’s houses, they follow their rules (or our rules if our rules are safer). If Girl1 & Girl2 go to a friend’s house for a play date they can eat whatever that friend eats for a snack, except they’re not allowed to have cola or soda. Here, at our house, the children eat what Girl2 and Girl1 normally eat.
  • At the start of a play date, it’s often fun to have a snack together.
  • Stay obviously available and present when you’re in the playroom with the girls and especially during their play dates. Use this time to fold laundry, sort toys, or other activities. If you go upstairs to cook, keep the door open, and check on them often. You’d be surprised how quickly they can get into trouble or an argument with each other. Do not chat on the phone, use the computer, or hang out in another room when you’re on duty.
  • The girls are not permitted to play in the au pair’s bedroom.

Video and Television Watching

In general, we discourage the girls from watching television and from watching videos. Videos are a privilege that the girls can earn.

  • The girls make each play on the computer for 15 minutes per day. An additional 10 minutes of computer play time can be earned through really good behavior. We do not play on the computer when we have friends over, because you should be playing with the friends themselves.
  • Videos should be a rare privilege and used as a nonfood treat in explicit response to terrific behavior
  • The girls may watch up to two videos per week. The video segments (total watching time) should be no longer than 30 minutes. 15 minutes is better (excluding movie night). It is extremely rare during the school week for the girls to watch any video
  • No videos are allowed when friends are over (the girls are supposed to be playing with their friends) or when the weather is nice (then they should be outdoors).
  • The yoga video, the "how it works" videos, and nonfiction educational videos are preferred over cartoons. Of course, the girls’ favorite is Scooby Do, which I don’t particularly like. The girls may not rent or borrow Sponge Bob, Power Rangers, Bratz, and other cartoons.
  • All video and television watching occurs in the playroom. There is to be no television on the third-floor, unless it is an evening pajama party that the girls have arranged with their au pair.
  • When the girls are watching television, stay nearby. You might be doing laundry, organizing the closet, or some other maintenance chore in the playroom and laundry room. Or, consider just sitting next to the girls as they watch. If you step away, do so briefly and stay within earshot.
  • Please not use their television time for personal phone calls. It’s important to be near the girls so that you can talk with them about the television show or video, especially if they get scared or there are commercials on.

Other Random Thoughts

  • You are in charge of keeping track of when library books are due, and getting the girls to the library to return them. The girls are in change of finding their books—we like to keep library books in bedroom, in the canvas “library” bag. Put the charge slip (that lists books checked out and when they are due) on the bulletin board.
  • You are in charge of making sure that CDs get put back into their appropriate cases and that DVDs and videos are rewound and put away. The girls are not able to do this themselves, and that CDs and DVDs need to be taking care of so they don’t get ruined.

{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous February 18, 2009 at 2:37 pm

as i totally agree that it is a good thing to know what your expectations are, i honestly think all of this is TOO MUCH.. i would personally be very worried if my hostfamily sent me this,, they did send me a handbook, but not this detailed, and as i wanted to make a good impression, i tried very hard to memorize everything in it but i was pretty stressed out trying to remember everything.

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Felybee April 26, 2009 at 11:24 pm

I agree with Anonymous, this is really too much. So much that I didn’t take the time to read it all. I also had a handbook with my first host family, and this was not so complete, and already too much. For example they gave me a schedule of activities. But the kids are never tired or able to do things the same way every days. We have to listen to them, to know, and understand what are their needs. Some days they may need to go out and run everywhere because they have a lot of energy to spend. And some other days, they may need to rest. And I have to say by experience, that a kid after school will more likely need to rest than to go out and play. We can find activities for them to have fun, without need to be runing. You don’t want your kids to watch TV, or if they do so, they have to wach educatives stuffs. But did you ever think that sponge bob, the bratz and others cartoons are part of the General Culture. They need to know about them, not because they like it or because their friends are watching it, but because some day if they have friends speaking about this stuffs, if they don’t know what this is about, (specially with teens), they are going to be treated like nuts !

Think about it, and think that sometimes, your au pair can be more tired by trying to folow your whishes than by taking care of the kids, who will want other stuffs than the ones you ask your au pair to propose. And your au pair is going to be the one who will have to assume your choices, so don’t make her work even harder by trying to avoid a part of the fun she may have with them.

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Anna April 26, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Felybee,
that is why we have an adult (au pair) take care of our kids, and not our kids take care of themselfves – so that they don’t do what THEY want all day!

It is a sign of an incompetent caregiver, when she doesn’t follow your specific instructions and in her defense says “but the kids wanted to do that!”

Example: a mother leaves a dinner for everybody, comes home to empty ice cream bowls and the au pair says “but the kids wanted to eat that!”

did I get my point across?

And yes, we as parents, decide what kind of popular culture and at what age we want our kids exposed to, if at all. And if an au pair has problems understanding that, maybe she lacks maturity for the job.

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MTR April 27, 2009 at 4:15 am

Felybee

I have just had an au pair leave my house after 4 months here. To tell you the truth, I have no idea why I did not rematch this girl after her first 2 weeks here. She was absolutely and completely incompetent. And as a result, she let my children do what they wanted to do – summer shoes in the winter when there was 5 inches of snow, no hats and sweaters in the winter, eat all the crap they want instead of the food I cooked and specifically told her to feed the children. She was so bad that she could not put together puzzles we bought for our kids. She took my kids to the museum and lost my 4 year old in there because my kid ‘wanted’ to go look at something. Then she left my 6 year old alone to go look for a 4 year old. God forbid I ever have an au pair like her ever again.

And as a lesson learned, if au pair is not doing what parents, meaning my husband and I, want, she will be out of here faster then she can tell me that she thinks it is better for the kids.

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Busy Mom April 27, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Detailed handbooks are a necessity. With our previous nannies, I have always reviewed the handbook (including 22 pages on our childrearing guidlines!), house rules, contract, weekly schedule, checklists, etc. during the interview process. I know that I scared off some potential candidates. But I ended up with fantastic nannies who wanted/thrived on that level of organization. I was hesitant to provide too much information up front to an au pair candidate because I didn’t want to overwhelm them, but given Felybee’s comments, I will share more next time. Felybee, we would not have been a good family for you and it’s best to know that before one matches. We did end up with a good au pair, but I feel like I lucked out and see now how we should change our interviewing process to make it more certain next time. Given Anonymous’ comments about trying to memorize everything, I think I’d create a packet with examples of schedules, a summary of guidelines, etc. so that the candidate gets a good sense of the type of family we are (I mean, just telling someone we have a 22-page document on how to handle our kids says a lot) , but doesn’t feel that she has to memorize everything before she arrives.

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English AuPair January 23, 2010 at 9:12 pm

As an Au Pair myself… i would love to recieve this before i arrived. I mean okay its very detailed and a bit scary but i’d rather recieve this and know exactly what was expected of me than to recieve a paragraph of pointless information.

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LookingFowardToBeAP June 21, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Totally agree!

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2nd time au pair August 26, 2010 at 11:16 pm

A handbook is a good idea – if I had received a detailed handbook before I started my current au pair job I would not have accepted the position.

I did receive a schedule but the more detailed schedule I received on arrival shows me what this family really want. I think they are entitled to get what they want; it’s their money and I am in their home. However I sincerely wish I wasn’t the one attempting to provide it for them. I have no idea what I am going to get out of a year as a broke housekeeper.

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AtlantaHostMom February 24, 2012 at 8:40 pm

The handbook is a must, and I did not have one with my first AP, and I believe this has some account to why it failed. The relationship blew up a little over a week ago, and I am emotionally drained! We have not even started the rematch process as of yet and from what I was told by the agency, our former AP most likely is going home due to no interest from new host families. To the ones who said the detail is unnecessary and overwhelming, please let me say this: as a Host Mom who did everything she could think of to create an amazing cultural experience for her and my children, what I failed to do is be explicit on driving privileges, cell phone privileges, dress code on and off duty, behavior expectations on and off duty, how to conduct self with other moms/nannies when waiting on our children to complete an activity, grocery store privileges, holiday traveling with family, and a host of other expectations and simple rules. Every household has a certain decorem and set of rules… Rules everyone in the home must follow. The AP is no exception. It is unfortunate that it needs to be so detailed, but I believe it’s just like an employee handbook! Every company has one. We purposely did not write one for this first one (but can assure you we will for a future one IF we decide to try again). We didn’t because I wanted her to be a part of the family. Big mistake!!!!! It is great to have a warm family environment, but a detaild family handbook will remind the AP that texting is not allowed during working hours. Studying for school is not to be done during child care hours. During children’s nap times , playing on Facebook is NOT an option. Staying up all night SKYPING with buddies back home is frowned upon if the next day you are dragging… It needs to be STRESSED that she needs to sleep at night so she can function the next day….. ALL OBVIOUS STUFF, right?????? Yes, it is to me, but everything I just listed (and then some) was an issue, and had to be discussed in a meeting, which always aggravated her. I believe if all of these expectations had been SPELLED out, I truly believe things would have been different! As obvious as they are and seemingly normal and customary, I am confident that it has to be in writing AND updated monthly because things change! A family handbook needs to be a living document and presented to AP prior to offering her the job! And signed as accepted before hired!!!! As one of the comments in this thread from an AP stated she would not accept her AP assignment if she had received anything like this then that’s fine. That within itself spells out that it would not be a good match. I can assure you I will have a very detailed family handbook the next time! I will still create a warm environment for her, but just like everyone in our home has rules, she will know before she arrives what the guidelines and rules are so that she can know what to expect. If she is turned off then we have done everyone a favor. A rematch is emotional, expensive, and very disheartening!

I am interested in learning more about Family Handbooks so any info would be appreciated. I wish I had created one for this AP who most likely will be returning to SA this time next week… And it should not be happening, but the AP was not willing to follow our rules. We do have some good memories and maybe in time we can communicate and her always know the children….but for those APs who frown on the detailed family handbook, please be reminded that the rules exist whether they are on paper or not. Wouldn’t you like to at least see and know them before you accept?

And for you current or potential Host Families, it’s like cooking a new dish without a recipe! You are taking MORE of a chance of not finding the right AP for your family!

I have definitely learned a lesson!!!!!!

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Emily August 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Sorry AtlantaHostMom I think you need a reality check!

Being an au pair is not just like an office job where it would be frowned upon to text/go on facebook etc. (In fact, in my last office job at a FTSE 50 multinational company, these things were accepted and normal in moderation – i.e. 5-10 mins on FB or making a personal phone call while waiting for something was just fine.) When you’re an au pair you’re in a relaxed home environment and giving your au pair a bit of a break will make her happier and nicer to the family.

But if those are your expectations, then yes, I absolutely agree with you that you should lay them out in a handbook first.

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hm2 August 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Emily, childcare is about being with children, it’s not an office job! Of course, paperwork can wait while you check things on fb or make a personal phone call. Children should not have to wait because their AuPair is chatting away on fb or making a personal phone call!

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TiredMama November 16, 2012 at 10:24 pm

While I agree with most of what you said, I am curious as to why the following is not allowed?

“During children’s nap times , playing on Facebook is NOT an option.”

This time is downtime for the AP and why shouldn’t she/he be allowed to unwind for a bit if the children are sleeping?

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hOstCDmom November 16, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Speaking for myself, nap time is on duty time (I.e. hours count toward her daily total/weekly max), not “free time”, so no computer, no phone calls, no Facebook, no Skype. I expect our Au pair to do child related duties during nap time (especially those duties that aren’t compatible with having littles ones up and about; e.g. prep work for dinner, or school lunches for the next day, children’s laundry, tidying playroom or other kid items). In my view, I’m not paying her to be on Facebook; she may be on Facebook when off duty.

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EU.AP November 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm

I’m able to get my chores done while my toddler sleeps, with time to spare. A rule like that, in my situation, wouldn’t sit well with me.

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hOstCDmom November 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm

I guess it is a difference in perspective; I am paying the AP to *work* 45 hrs/ week (subject to all program rules which we adhere to), and thus I want the AP to be occupied with either Childcare or child related tasks for 45 hrs per week. If she finishes a “chore” or “chores” while on duty, then I expect that other tasks that need to be done are undertaken during work hours. I provide a list of regular chores and one-offs that are to be done when there is time.

In most jobs, in the USA and the European country in which I grew up, and the other Euro countries in which I lived and worked, when at work, and “on the clock” one is expected to be working. In my job if I finish a project at 4pm, but my workday/working hours go until 6pm, I can’t use these 2 hours as freetime ( can’t surf the Internet, can’t go on Facebook, can’t make personal calls)–I am expected to work, start aother project, tend to paperwork etc.

But before anyone flames me for being unreasonable, I make this very clear in matching. Full disclosure is my motto- I have a 20+ page handbook, shared in advance, and make clear the job requirement that there is no Internet use, no TV, no personal phone calls, no texting when on duty. So EU AP you wouldn’t have chosen to match with me, nor I with you, and we both would have been happy :)

exaupair June 23, 2015 at 7:04 pm

Both off duty dress code and code of conduct should be left out of your handbook. You may not agree with how your AP dresses and how they spend their time off, but in reality you can only set rules for when they are actually working.
It’s better, easier and healthier to look for a person who will behave and dress in the way you tolerate/ accept WITHOUT having it written down :-)

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Toni September 24, 2012 at 5:26 am

I was liking the rule book/handbook thingy, but I was a bit overwhelmed because I wanna be the best Au Pair I can be and all I could think about was what if I forget one of these rules. Most of them were common sense but some of them had alot of merit, I was freaking out about the vast amount of it. But then I realized I could always check back to it if I needed to. *whew*

I have a question, Do all families do this? Or is it just some, I’m still pretty new to this but willing to learn all that I can

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newhostmom September 25, 2012 at 9:31 am

Tough one, Toni! We approach the handbook as more of a set of guidelines for a good year (and it’s 6 pages total). There’s safety stuff, how to get around on public transit, what we expect from our au pair and what she can expect from us, guest rules, etc. There are very few hard-and-fast RULES that she MUST follow (actually I can’t think of anything explicit). It sounds like you’ll do great since you reallly want to be a great au pair. If the family recognizes that in you, they will give you a break and realize that you’re trustworthy and have common sense. But always always ask if you’re unsure – that’s a great tactic I think. Best of luck!

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CA Host Mom September 25, 2012 at 1:46 am

Need to weigh in on the ‘FB during work hours’ issue.

We have a new-ish AP (week 8) and have been having regular issues with her burying her nose in her iPhone while my rather self sufficient 3 y/o plays by himself. After noticing this, we explained ( first HD, then me – twice) that this was not OK. Then, removed access to the router b/c she was still going against our wishes. I hate doing that because I feel that she should be able to control herself and stay focused, but it is something about this generation (she is 19 – never again will I go with someone so young!!) and the social networks. They CRAVE the perceived attention.

Last week we find out that she spent a bunch of time texting on her cell phone (provided by us) making plans with a friend to attend a concert in Jan! So if it is not FB … She is in a texting tunnel. It frustrates me mostly because I can tell that my older son is not thriving like he was under the watch of our first amazingly wonderful AP.

I also seriously wonder if she is defiant because she does not respect us or if there is another reason. She makes half-hearted attempts to be enthusiastic, but it hardly makes up for the fact that we have such juvenile issues with her. It seems like she is so wrapped up in herself and what she wants all the time, that she may never really get it. I am just not sure I want to put up with it for a whole year.

I guess I am just wondering if I am expecting too much? My boys are easy! We provide all kinds of nice things and a very comfortable room for her. I went above and beyond while she sobbed daily thru her first couple weeks of homesickness and insecurity about looking after my 5 month old baby … (That part got better and she learned how to cope to some degree).

I just feel so disenchanted. I come here daily to look for advice and/or inspiration to take some kind of action … Just thought I would actually contribute instead of just reading all of your shared wisdom this time!

Any advice about how to manage Internet and phone use during the day will be greatly appreciated. It is a major pain to reset the password on the router twice a day! I think, as others have said, that I have learned a lesson about being more explicit in the handbook and interview process next time.

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CA Host Mom September 25, 2012 at 1:46 am

That should have said week eight … Not a smiley guy. :)

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Taking a Computer Lunch September 25, 2012 at 8:14 am

We’re in a similar mode with a too-immature au pair (ours has her nose buried in book, but still).

The reason your kids are so easy is that they’ve had a wonderful au pair. Sit her down and explain that if she ignores the 3-year-old while he plays that his behavior may change. Immature au pairs, in my experience, need to be told why to do something because they can’t see past the orders.

We limit phone time to 10 minutes while working. It’s okay to send a quick text, Yes I want to go to the concert in January, but then you’re done. Explain to your friends that you are working and you’ll contact them when you’re done.

I have had several APs, who when they were taking courses, would study on work time (and now that my kids are older, my APs work 2 hours in the AM and 3 hours in the PM on most days). I told them explicitly, “I am not paying you to study, I am paying you to look after my children.” You need to be equally blunt.

If you’re fed up and it’s not working, then ask your LCC for tips for a “Hang up the phone” conversation. And then, if you feel like you’ve had enough and want to enter the rematch process, then it’s time to say, “You need to change or move on to another family.”

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CA Host Mom September 25, 2012 at 9:51 am

Excellent advice about explaining it to her … I hadn’t thought of that! I’ll try it today! Another issue we have is that she often smiles and says, “yes, I completely understand.” And then later we find out that she didn’t OR just doesn’t want to. I decided to start asking her to repeat things back to me so I can be sure.

I also try very hard not to bring up the previous AP so as not to make this one feel bad, or like I am comparing (even though I am …). But I wish I could sometimes because maybe she would more clearly see what works and what doesn’t.

Thanks, TACL, I appreciate the advice!

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newhostmom September 25, 2012 at 10:09 am

CA Host Mom – is your au pair Asian? If not, nevermind, but I’ve heard that in some Asian cultures to say “I don’t understand” is shameful and they tend to just say yes even if they didn’t know what you said. I’m not sure how to handle that if that’s the case, but something to think about.

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CA Host Mom September 25, 2012 at 10:27 am

Ah, interesting! That’s something I hadn’t considered. She is Swedish actually – but I will keep that possibility in mind. Thank you!

Dorsi September 25, 2012 at 10:00 am

I had this AP and should have nipped this in the bud. At the time, there was just one child to take care of who was little, but very self-entertaining. AP was responsible and great in other respects, so I kept making excuses for her constant attention to electronics instead of my child. I really regret how I handled the situation and encourage you to continue to assert what you consider appropriate behavior.

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CA Host Mom September 25, 2012 at 10:20 am

Thank you! I am hearing the advice consistently … Absolutely going to stick to my guns on this issue.

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Tristatemom September 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm

CA mom, if you told her twice and husband told her and she still goes against your wishes, I would rematch. We had an AP that texted too much and when we told her to limit it, she just got a new cell phone in her name and continued as before. How can I built trust with a person like that??

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Ruth April 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm

CA Host Mom, ahh…just seeing that your reply is from last year. Well, if it can be of any help to anyone else, I will go ahead with my response! ;-) We thought getting our Au Pairs a cell phone with unlimited calling, texting and data plan would be so appreciated until we discovered it felt like they were entitled and then the usage was like nothing I have ever seen. We were grateful that our first Au Pair, without us needing to tell her, would leave her cell phone in the other room while playing with our son. I really appreciated this. With our current Au Pair the cell phone was a sincere show of gratitude and then within the same week she started, it was being used when playing with my son. That went on for about 2 weeks when I mentioned I would like for her to leave the phone in the other room (I do work from home) when playing with my son. She said she leaves it downstairs in her room. I said, “fine, but if I see it (because I think she was being sneaky with it in her jacket, etc.) while playing with my son, I will take it away and I don’t want to have to treat you like that. I also said we are setting the same example by the fact when we play with our son, we also leave the cell phone in the other room b/c, otherwise, it’s too tempting to check it and reply and I am trying to teach my son that he has our full attention when it is his time. If I want my son to listen to me when he is a teenager, I have to show him he has my full attention. I think it helps that we are abiding by our own rules. She has been mindful of our requests, thankfully, but if I worked outside the home, I can almost guarantee she would be a bit defiant, which makes me sad I can’t fully trust her.

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Taking a Computer Lunch April 20, 2013 at 8:03 pm

We used to check the cell phone log. Our rules say no calls longer than 10 minutes. AP #3 abused this by talking in 10-minute spurts most of the day. But then she ran up a $150 phone bill (back when one could do such a thing on calls just outside the local area on a land line). The fee, plus our log showing the number of calls received and dialed, plus pressure from us to honor the spirit of the rule, not just the letter, caused her to back off on phone usage during work hours (both kids were in school full-time, so there really was no excuse).

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newhostmom September 25, 2012 at 9:40 am

We’re a family who is really lenient in most respects, but we do have a no lengthy computer or texting during work hours rule. We say no longer than a quick – “talk to you about it later!” text if our au pair is on duty and the kids are awake. I personally don’t care if she’s on the computer the whole time the kids are napping, but I agree that with young children particularly, texting or being on the computer is not ok when they are awake. It’s dangerous (kids can get into something fast – I particularly worry about looking at the phone rather than the kids when on the playground or other outdoor activity). It’s also rude – it’s telling my kid that you’re bored with him and you’d rather be anywhere else.

I don’t think it’s too harsh a rule. I’m totally 100% fine with a quick phone call, quick email, quick text – I do that at work too and I get that life goes on even during work hours. But at a job, you don’t get to be on the phone or on Facebook. That’s totally normal. You are being paid to do a job, you need to focus on the job, which to an au pair, is taking care of the children.

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CA Host Mom September 25, 2012 at 10:08 am

Yes, I really wish that I could trust our AP to stay off the computer and then just use it when the boys were sleeping. Unfortunately, every time we leave the router accessible, we find that she has been on FB, Google +, twitter, her blog, texting over the web. It’s out of control …

But like you, we are a super lenient family – I am starting to think that is part of my problem. We were just so lucky with our first AP. She never had to be micromanaged this way and if we had ever asked her to do, or not do something, she would absolutely respect our wishes. I did not care if she texted or checked FB while working b/c should would never have ignored the kids. They were her first priority.

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newhostmom September 25, 2012 at 10:11 am

Yikes, this scares me. We had a great first au pair too and now we’re welcoming our second with very few rules. I’m worried that the second won’t be as conscientious as the first!

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CA Host Mom September 25, 2012 at 10:24 am

My advice, based on my experience, is to start with more rules than even you think you will need and then relax them as you go if you feel it’s appropriate. I learned that lesson the hard way. My handbook doubled in size over the past 5 weeks. Good luck! I hope to have another great experience!

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Should be working September 25, 2012 at 12:49 pm

My handbook went from 5pp (before first au pair came) to 26pp. DH says it’s too much, and it is, but it is my alibi when she does something that is not ok–“I realize the handbook is really long, and you don’t have to memorize all of it, but if you look you’ll see that I want you to get kids’ laundry done before you go off for the weekend….”

CA Host Mom September 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Oops .. I meant I hope *you* have another great experience.

Busy Mom September 25, 2012 at 8:18 pm

SBW, the handbook we share prior to matching is 22 pages, so I don’t think yours is too long. I attribute our excellent au pair relationships to the handbook. If they read it and don’t like something in it, so be it. There are plenty of candidates, and those that have matched with us appreciate the organization and appreciate tenfold when they hear the stories of their friends who don’t know their schedules, are unclear on vacation dates and don’t have a clear understanding of family rules. We don’t expect it to be memorized, but it is helpful for reference.

newhostmom September 25, 2012 at 10:15 am

I just read the post that I’m posting on here (I had only read the last few comments) and I was really overwhelmed by this handbook! Is this what other host families have? Now I get Toni’s concern about remembering all the “rules.” There is no way I would expect an au pair (or anyone) to remember all these random things for a whole year.

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NederlandAuPair November 16, 2012 at 4:36 pm

While I can definitely understand that a lot of au pairs would find this handbook not only overwhelming but also somewhat intimidating, I would love to receive a handbook with such refined detail. I don’t look at this as a family being super anal-a lot of families have little idiosyncrasies, such as the HM’s “special knives”, and I would MUCH rather hear about them before I make a mistake and end up scolded and embarrassed for something I wasn’t aware of. Even though I feel I take a lot of initiative with kids, I appreciate very clear direction when dealing with the parent’s things and the rules they establish in order to maintain consistency.

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CA Host Mom November 16, 2012 at 5:52 pm

You sound like a great Au Pair!

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love being an au pair November 17, 2012 at 7:57 pm

hostcdmom; while i do understand that you pay your au pair to work, i don`t think that you can compare this with a real job in an office outside of the home. I am not saying that we being an au pair is not a real job, but because we work at home. I am just wondering, how do you do that? keep the au pair busy for 3h during nap time? or do you have older kids? because my kids nap 3h. even though i do laundry,kitchen,playroom etc, i have lots of spare time. so what other chores do your au pairs have to do? i mean they have to be kids related right?i am just wondering, because i would not know what else i could do? ( i clean the refrigerator every 2 weeks, even though this is not really kids related) i mean i do prepare activities for the kids, but i don’t do that for 365 days:) you can’t plan kids;) i am very curious what your au pairs have to do.

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HRHM November 19, 2012 at 9:06 am

Not all APs are as “speedy” as you are in getting household tasks done! LOL

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au pair November 19, 2012 at 9:30 am

Oh really? Well then thats my question, what if sh has a speedy au pair, how does she keep her busy??

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hOstCDmom November 19, 2012 at 11:11 am

Love being an au pair –
Thanks for your question – it is a very reasonable one to ask, and one I would like au pairs whom we are interviewing to ask me. Since my position is that I want the au pair engaged in 45 hours of work (direct childcare, indirect child related tasks, child cleaning related tasks, such as laundry), and not using on-duty time as “free time”, it is of course my responsibility to make sure that there is a clear plan of what the au pair is to do and what is to fill her time.

We give our au pair the schedule way in advance, the hours are very clear, we respect all program rules, etc. Our au pairs benefit in some senses from my treating the au pair job as a “real job” or like an “office job” — there on duty and off duty time is black and white clear.

In our family, there are 6 children. I work part time from home, so our au pair never has sole charge of all 6, but it still is a busy household. At this stage, some of them are of course older and do not nap — but we had this rule even back when we had fewer kids/younger kids who were all napping. (We have had au pairs for about 10 years).

There is NO PROBLEM filling 45 hours of au pair work in our house! :) Here is an outline of the responsibilities my au pair has, including the times when she is directly responsible for the kids and supervising them which is the majority of her time (and to be clear, this work only fills her 45 hours — it isn’t that she has to do all of this no matter how long it takes, rather I schedule so that her time is filled, and elimiate or add tasks as appropriate, AND I am also doing much of this as well — it isn’t that all of this is solely something the AP does):

Play with children, take to park, play games inside outside etc.
supervise homework
read to children
make children’s lunch (for those at home) and school lunches the day before (for those who attend school)
walk kids to various schools/preschools, pick up
walk or drive kids to activities, wait there if needed, pick up kids from activities
take children to library

tidy children’s rooms
make younger children’s beds and tidy rooms, supervise older children making beds and tidying their rooms
ensure all children brush teeth after all meals
children’s laundry – wash, dry, fold, put away. This = about 6 loads of clothes per week, plus 2 loads of sheets, plus one load of towels. There is *always* kid laundry in our house!
clean au pair bathroom once/week
clean kids’ bathroom once/week
tidy playroom, vacuum, dust, wipe furniture, once per week
tidy homework room, wipe down chairs and tables, vacuum once/week
keep track of and return library books (kids check out over 100 per week, so this actually something that takes time)
ensure children do their pet related chores and help the younger ones to do so (we have about a dozen pets, so, again, this is more than a 5 minute task)
ensure *kids* do their daily household chores (such as wiping out sinks, sweeping kitchen floor after meals, cleaning up toys, books etc.)
ensure each child practices piano each day, sitting in room with younger ones while they do so
vacuum kids rooms once per week
launder 3 beds’ worth of sheets each week
keep tidy and cleaned children’s lockers in mudroom
ensure older children load their breakfast dishes in diswasher, do so for the toddlers who cannot
keep bookshelves organized – books organized by series, author, subject etc.
shop for kid related supplies as needed, with $ from HM
occasional grocery or drugstore shopping/errands for kids, with $ from HM
keep suburban and station wagon cleaned out with respect to kid stuff, toys, books, litter
lay out clothes and equipment for next days sports practices (or directo older ones to do so and ensure that they do)
plan and review language lessons with children in au pair’s and HM’s native language
take children to sports practices
take children swimming 1-2 times per week
clean out cabinets with art supplies, make lists and purchase any needed supplies

and the list goes on….

Trust me, my pair EASILY fills 45 hrs/week with “work”. Of course, when she is on duty and it is meal time, she takes a break and eats with kids/us. ALso, I am not draconian — if she needs to make a call to make a dr appt or or some other such admin that needs to happen that day and during business hours when she is on duty, she does so. She also takes classes during the day 3x/week and I schedule around that. But, in principle, for our family, on duty time = working time, and does not mean free time — thus, no facebook, no skpye, no personal chat phone calls, no TV or Internet, no reading magazines etc.

Does this better illustrate how things work and answer your question, LBanAP?

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Should be working November 19, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Great list!!

Dorsi November 19, 2012 at 8:35 pm

I ask this in a totally sincere way — don’t you have trouble finding people to match with you? Do you offer perks outside of what the program requires (extra vacation, money etc.)? We have 3 kids (none of them in full time school) and have had terrific difficulty finding anyone who is not overwhelmed by the idea.

hOstCDmom November 19, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Nope, truly we haven’t had trouble matching. We have had 7 Au pairs, 3 of whom have extended for a second year, including our current AP.

We pay the standard stipend ($195.75), Au pair has a pretty small, but reasonably cute/cozy room, on same floor as all other bedrooms. We don’t provide a computer. AP doesn’t have her own bathroom, she shares with kids. We offer a standard mobile (unlimited texting but not smartphone). AP shares a car with HM (2 cars for AP+ HM & HD). We start out with a curfew for every AP. We do allow friends to sleep over, subject to notice/ok from HP. We live in the center of a village, so much is walkable. Our children dont watch any TV, we have only 1TV which only plays video/Internet , and a TV/DVD player in AP’s room. We don’t take fancy vacations, we offer the standard 2 weeks vacation each year, not more. We use 40-45 hours each week.

I’m biased, :) but I think we are pretty good HP, we communicate well with APs, we treat them how we would like to be treated in our jobs, we treat them like adults, and members if our family, respect all program rules, welcome their friends in our home, and there are often several APs here socializing on weekday and weekend evenings. Almost every weekend our AP has one or another friend sleeping over.

I think APs have fun with our family – there is a lot going on ALWAYS, it is social, fun and never lonely. We have all the neighborhood kids over all the time – our house is like Grand Central Station – play dates, movie nights, kids hanging out. Our family walks everywhere, always. Our kids are independent and we expect much from them in the way of chores, daily — the AP is not their maid!! More like their companion, supervisir and facilitator. I think the APs that choose our family want to live with a large, active family. Maybe they have always wanted to live with the Brady Bunch? Or Eight is Enough? ;-)

But seriously, other than the fact that we don’t expect our AP to pay for her gas when using the shared cars for her personal use, I don’t think we offer any tangible perqs! Maybe some intangibles….but not money/cars/travel/tech toys/material things.

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

I think that there’s a myth that a family with exceptional circumstances – special needs kids and large families included – cannot match. As I have said elsewhere, I have found that my special needs child weeds out the good-time party girls. My advice to parents who don’t have exceptional families – think about rephrasing your introductory emails and family letters to describe your families as realistically as possible – you won’t be chasing good APs away.

Our first AP had to work really hard. The Camel was very intense as an infant/toddler – hard to wake and hard to feed. She also had 5 teachers and therapists who came to our home once a week to provide early intervention services. They trained the AP (who had been a PICU nurse in her native country and was up to the challenge). Child #2 also had early intervention services because he had had a life-threatening illness that caused developmental delays. Because she worked hard with the kids, I didn’t ask her to clean their space or do their laundry. The little down time she had needed to be used for relaxation and recovery. (She also studied full time for most of her years with us.)

However, now that my AP works about 30 hours a week for us, I do ask that she does a load of laundry and some light cleaning in her time and count it toward the 45 overall hours she might have worked. My guess is that she spends less than 3 hours a week on all the tasks I ask her to do (and that includes waiting for the load of wash to finish).

westcoastaupair November 21, 2012 at 2:38 pm

wow 6 kids! well yes, now i understand how you get them to work 45 h:) good for you getting your money worth! i do understand now. but mostly families have 3 kids on avarage.

hOstCDmom November 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Another thing that may be a strike against us in some ways and cause some (many?) candidates to rule us out, but I think actually works for us in terms of making good matches with the APs that we do finally match with, is that I am a PT WAHM/SAHM, so I’m always around.

I have seen lots of comments on this site that many APs consider that a minus, if indeed not a huge CON/red flag. But, because I will be around our au pair all the time, I REALLY screen for attitude, personality compatibility, world view, life experience, absence of potentially noncompatible factors (such as very religious (we are not)), liberal views on social issues (it matters to us that our AP not be presenting strongly conflicting views on the social issues of the day). Like someone else on the site said, we screen for attitude and train for skill. (We don’t need infant qualilfied, but we do need a driver and screen for a particular language and expect our AP to work with our children on this language).

My sense is that this helps us because we end up with APs we like (and who like us) and that is a good baseline from which to start. I think our APs end up feeling like they are on a “team” with HD and me, especially because they are on a literal tag-team every day with me.

I end up getting to know our APs rather well, and consequently get to know their friends/boyfriends/families (albeit second hand) and the girls we have matched with seem to like this companionable relationship. (To be clear, it isn’t anything like a peer friendship – I’m 40, they are 15-18 years younger, and I don’t expect them to “be friends with me”, but we do chat quite a bit through the course of the days).

I am speculating, but I think that the combo of our large family, and a companionable relationship between AP- HM, works for a certain type of personality and also perhaps avoids an AP feeling as lonely, isolated, bored, tedious as she might if she had sole charge of kids 45hrs per week?

hOstCDmom November 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm

whooops- realized that it sounded like I screen out liberal views on social issues — which is not the case! I screen FOR liberal views on social issues (homosexuality, gay rights/marriage, race issues, ecumenical religious views, abortion/sex ed, roles of women etc.) I ask EXPLICIT questions in this regard – i.e., “In our state gay marriage has recently become legal. I know it isn’t legal/the norm in your country, but what do you think about this? How will you feel about our having neighbors that are two dads? Will you be comfortable arranging playdates with the children of our friends who are in same sex partnerships?” And “What do you think of interracial dating”; “do you have friends that are purple, orange, green?” That sort of thing. Sometimes this flusters a candidate, but I have found that the ones that have thoughtful answers, including even “I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it much because homosexual relations are illegal in my country, but I don’t think I would have a problem with it”, have the potential to be a good match with us.

Dorsi November 21, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I don’t know if it is my off-cycle matching (we have always had a winter arrival), or the fact that I have always needed an infant qualified au pair, but I have very few choices for Au Pairs (and I have looked at various agencies). We have made a commitment to Spanish education for our kids, so that does substantially limit the pool. However, my pool is remarkably small. I try to give a realistic and positive view of our family life (irregulary hours, occas weekends, great city), as well as the things that we offer Au Pairs (flexibility, travel), but probably have a less than 50% reponse rate to my intial email. If I screened out Au Pairs for the things that people here routinely exclude them for (length of time with driver’s license, full day work experience, meaningful child care experience), I would have almost no options.

To be specific, this cycle had a rotating cast of 10-15 applicants that were infant qualified, spanish speaking, and willing to work with more than two kids. If I excluded the ones who had gotten their driver’s license in the past month, that was 1/3 of the pool. Every day there was a new one or two, and one or two would disappear. Through the six weeks I vetted applicants, there was one extraordinaire (which would have been my preference), who was matched with a family the day after she was available to me on the computer.

While I try to hit the high points of our family policies (curfew, chores, etc.), and I honestly answer any questions from an AP, I would never send out my whole handbook. I worry it would overwhelm and the process seems so fragile. This is in very sharp contrast to what I hear on this site about “dare to match” and strict house rules.

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Taking a Computer Lunch November 21, 2012 at 2:42 pm

I don’t recommend sending out a handbook in an initial email – it’s simply too much information.

We, too, have a limited pool because we want actual special needs experience not just the willingness to work with special needs. DH and I tend to send out emails to 100 candidates over a several week period (we start the process in month 8 and it usually takes us 6 weeks to match). I’d say we usually interview 5-6 potential candidates and don’t necessarily match with our first choice, but rarely have we felt that we settled for less.

We are very up front in our initial email that we need someone willing to change diapers and feed our teenager. We also ask that the potential candidate reply, even if it is to say “No.” I’d say about 75% do reply. Obviously most say no.

Over the years I’ve changed my strategy with my agency. I haven’t switched agencies, and so they’ve collected almost $100,000 in fees from me. I use that to my advantage, and often receive applications the day they clear the home office. I push my LCC to vet applications, and use the search engine to find more. Because I start the process at month 8, I don’t get to take advantage of extending APs. We’ve usually matched before those applications clear. DH and I dread the annual quest for a new AP (in the early years we found women who wanted to extend, now we only find women who later regretted that they didn’t extend) because we invest hours in the process.

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Dorsi November 21, 2012 at 3:13 pm

To be clear – I don’t send out the handbook at all (I would, if someone were savvy enough to request it). The first email is a few lines about why I liked their application, a few pictures and our 2-page family letter.

I could never send out 100 emails — even before I had the spanish language requirement, I have never had 100 applicants that met my (fairly low compared to others on this board) standards. Specifically, I have very low English requirements and (until this year) did not want a driver.

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newhostmom November 21, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Hi Dorsi – We’re only on our second au pair, so this might all just be coincidence. But for what it’s worth, I think your lack of candidates is almost certainly just because there are very few Spanish-speaking, infant-qualified, available-to-come-in-the-winter au pairs.

We tried to find a Spanish-speaking au pair as well this time and found very very few who had the experience, English-speaking ability, driving experience, and personality we were look for. Actually, we didn’t find a single one in the month we looked that was a perfect fit. And we weren’t even looking for infant-qualified and this was for a September arrival. I don’t know if it’s our agency or just something about the cultures we were looking at that don’t allow for the driving and childcare experience we needed, but we had to abandon the Spanish-speaking requirement.

Incidentally, as soon as we did, we found tons of au pairs that fit our qualifications and that responded to us quickly. And we don’t offer a great “package” on paper – small house, frequently use the whole 45 hours, bedroom on the same floor as the kids and parents with a shared bathroom for all five of us, shared car with the host parents, no extra pay or perks like that, no fancy vacations or other extras.

We do live right in a great city, have a pretty consistent schedule, don’t ask for any chores, don’t have curfews or other restrictions on free time, and – and I think this is what gets ’em – really and truly welcome our au pair as part of the family. I get the feeling that the girls who really want to have fun and experience life with a real American family love us even though we don’t offer a whole lot else.

But I didn’t even get to express that when we were looking for Spanish-speaking au pairs because I couldn’t find any that met our (admittedly high) experience requirements. Not that they’re not out there (and we’ll definitely look again next year!), but it just seems like it’s a hard thing to find with our agency at least.

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SandyKassia November 22, 2012 at 6:00 am

HostCDmom
I have a question directly for you!

I also have chosen an au pair by language requirement (our first au pair ever). Day care was cheaper for us, and actually gave us more perks in some ways (in all honesty). But I really wanted someone speaking to my children in my native language because I have an older teen who was adopted from a third country (different language) and can’t myself speak in other language than English in the house.

So I thought that au pair mainly work during the day/week when the older teen is in school/sports. So if she spoke to kids in our native language only, they’d learn it.
She is an extension au pair and speak my home language. My kids are fairly small (2yo and 10mo) and the requirement was that she spoke ONLY on native language with kids. She is our first au pair.
I have observed that my au pair’s English is fluent (maybe because she is an extension already) to the point that it is unnatural for her to speak native language to the children. So mainly she is speaking English with kids (although I do correct her and she tries when I am home – I work out of home so no way to keep track).

Before I had her, I had a friend from my native country come over for 5 weeks to help watch my kids. During those 5 weeks she spoke no English to kids (in all fairness, she didnt know any). And I was amazed of how much of my native language my 2yo learned. That was how I convinced DH that even though it meant A LOT more money than day care, we should get an au pair.

However, now that my au pair is here, there is no progress in Native language ( she has actually lost some of the words) and DH is always questioning why are we doing it.

How do you deal with it? do you match with girls with poor English (I am afraid to do so and loose an au pair because she wants to learn English and will not learn so much when is speaking native language all day).

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CAMom22 November 25, 2012 at 11:58 am

SK – I am on my 3rd au pair (just started last week) and also screen exclusively for language as my first requirement. My kids are in a language immersion school so I wanted the language reinforcement at home and this was also our primary reason for going the au pair route. I am very clear in the screening process that this is a non-negotiable for us and if they do not feel comfortable with that specific requirement, then this is not the right home for them.

We are also very clear that DH and I will speak with the AP exclusively in English (even though I speak their language at a decent level) in order to help the AP with their goal of improving their English. But not speaking exclusively in their native tongue to the kids, for us, is grounds for rematch. Because we make this very clear up front, we have not had an issue with it. If you were also clear that this was part of the contract, I would sit down with her for a serious discussion about whether she is willing to continue with you on your terms or not. Best of luck.

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SandyKassia November 22, 2012 at 6:11 am

Taking a computer break,
I agree with you that being a family with special circumstances would not hold families from finding a match.
When I first came as an au pair (in 2004), I came to work with a family who had 4 kids, 2 autistic ones (one mildly, one severe). I was psyched with the idea of working with special needs children (I am a physical therapist myself) and using that experience in my resume when back.
I did end up rematching after 6 months, but it wasn’t because of the children at all.
It was mostly because of host mom. She expected me to clean windows, walls, china, etc during my day. While I did not mind cleaning kids poop all over the house (severe autistic one would poop during the night and run around “painting”all he could with it – a morning surprise for all of us), doing daily laundry, keeping track of therapies, and even being the girl scout’s leader for 8yo girl, I didn’t think it was my job to clean the windows because the children touches it (therefore should be kid’s related), or other un-related tasks.
I end up rematching to a family who also had an autistic child (I think my agency “saved” profiles of au pairs with experience for special families, because only they would contact me) and we did great! We still keep in touch!

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sylvie January 24, 2013 at 7:31 pm

I am rematching because my AP gave me short notice. I am angry about the lack of information and respect from the AP. My husband and me work long hours, but always made sure we only had her working 8 hours a day. We gave her full use of her own car, which she promptly had an accident in. She has her own level, the basement, with bathroom and the house is internet wired. The expectations were for one child. She is a ‘teacher’ in her home country, but had no concept on how to work with a 5 yr old that is very active, behind in school, and just diagnosed with ADD. She states it is too much work for her. I told the counselor my concerns after she entered rematch, and I do worry that the next AP will have similar issues. Any suggestions?

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Should be working January 24, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Do you mean the AP told you she is leaving, with short notice (less than two weeks), which is forcing you into rematch?

It sounds like this might be a good opportunity to find a better AP, since you feel like this one is disrespectful and didn’t do a good job.

I would spend some time really thinking about what I can expect in an AP. Are you expecting her to tutor him in schoolwork? This is not something that is necessarily easy for a non-native English speaker who grew up in another educational system. Are you expecting her to play with him actively so that he gets his pent-up energy out? That is quite reasonable if she can get him outside and doing stuff. If the ADD is severe it might be best to look for a special-needs-willing AP.

Our only rematch was with a former preschool teacher. She was 24–too old for APing in our view; too confident in her ways of doing things. Our 18-yr-olds are more energetic, more open to doing things our way, and more playful.

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Taking a Computer Lunch January 24, 2013 at 10:46 pm

I would second the recommendation for a special-needs willing AP. In my experience, APs who are not warned about atypical children resent the extra work. Be forthright about your son and his needs – he’ll weed out the good-time party girls who see their AP year as a gap “vacation” year and those who truly love children. I see my special-needs child as a bonus in matching with good APs (most of the time – but even the ones who had tough times weren’t complete duds). I will say, that for the next go-around, I’ll be focusing on extraordinnaires myself – they have been worth the extra money to me and my family.

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https://www.facebook.com/OperationBypass/info April 24, 2013 at 5:43 pm
Anne-Louise June 22, 2015 at 5:56 pm

I am so pleased I have found this site. I’m in England and as a single parent and teacher I can’t afford a child minder as I have to leave work early double price etc bla bla bla. So I got an au pair. All good or so you would think. The first one was sort of ok made some really great lists and instruction manual but then she announced in May that she had to go back to Spain as she had failed her high school exams. New au pair, male, French, to last me up until the end of the summer term in August. Good grief! Have just discovered what he is actually not doing with the kids as my son aged 6 wanted a play date and the mom (a friend )said no, if I was not going to be there. The school then emailed about him just dumping the kids in the playground and vanishing (A big no no in the UK) Have had the chat and been told that apparently my kids are ‘difficult’. Aren’t we all, but you are being paid to be in charge. This website has been a lifesaver for ideas. Many thanks.

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Mamapajama August 28, 2015 at 8:06 am

I’m so glad I found this website! We are now looking into a ap to help me with my 4 year old triplets. 2 of them are on the autism spectrum and I am a stay at home mom. My asd kids main issue is speech/communication and I believe they would improve if I had more one on one time, being that my other child who is not on the spectrum demands most of my attention the other two miss out.

while reading the handbook I was kinda overwhelmed! I do think it is extremely important to lay down the rules right away. I was very lax with our summer nanny the first summer and I constantly felt overwhelmed and guilty that I wasn’t sticking up for my family more. My husband was constantly angry that I was a pushover. Luckily we had her for three summers and the last two I started being more assertive. This last summer was the best one as she stepped up to the plate! She’s finishing nursing school and won’t be back, hence the ap.

My mistake was wanting her to like us and therefore treat the kids better. I’d listen to her college stories and we became good friends. My kids didn’t get her attention, I did! I felt so awful because that was not my intention! Well it wasn’t until this last summer that they even mentioned her name or got excited she was here. It was because I just told her “today you are bringing ds2 to beach, or can you bring them outside?” When I started getting more assertive, I could tell she did not like that at first. If I had been clear from beginning a lot of problems wouldn’t have happened.
Never again will I make that mistake of not spelling everything out! Asking for help, ect.

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AuPairAnnie September 4, 2015 at 6:58 pm

Yes!
This is exactly what I would like to receive from my future host family. I think that as an AP it is important to know what to do and what not to do with and around the kids.
The detail in the handbook will most likely ensure that there is only minor miscommunication and will mostly like prove to be helpful throughout an AP year.

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