Are “crazy” Au Pair guidelines really all that crazy?

by cv harquail on June 9, 2010

I laughed at the comment by Taking a Computer Lunch, on rules in her family handbook:

My least favorite rule that I had to add – don’t burn candles and leave your room. Duh!

As I look through our family handbook, there are some real doozies. My personal favorite is “In the evening, please do not play the stereo in your room at a volume over #12.

[WTF, you say?]

Under that seemingly crazy guideline is some real experience– our au pair’s room is right above mine. Au Pairs stay up later than me, playing their radios.

After who-knows-how-many times asking if she could please turn it down, I experimented to figure out exactly how loud was loud enough to hear through the floor/ceiling. At #12, you hear the “puh puh puh puh puh puh puh puh” rhythm, but not all the actual words to Pokerface. I can deal with that.

I’m not crazy, I’m experienced. I have created a guideline to avoid future disappointments.

201006091154.jpgRules have roots in Real Experience

Every “crazy” guideline has its roots in some real experience. You know that TaCl and I both have guidelines about candles because someone left a candle burning. So when you hear rules and guidelines like:

– “Never eat PB&J in the car.”

– “Car Mileage budget is 500 miles per week.”

– “Please do not move the bed in your room without checking with us first.”

– “Please wear a modest bathing suit to the town pool. Thong bikinis are not permitted there.”

Know that each of these rules came from some crazy situation, where an au pair did something that turned out to be a bad idea.

Review and Revise Your Handbook to Make Sure Your Rules Aren’t Too Crazy

Host parents should review and revise their handbooks with each new au pair… not only to update them for new schedules, new needs, and growing kids but also to remove guidelines that may now be out of date.

It’s especially important to remove guidelines that make you seem like “Evil Controlling Host Mom” to a new au pair, but are probably unique to the personality of a former au pair whose behavior you no longer have to worry about.

Remember that often the specific reminders that seemed necessary to keep one au pair safe and out of trouble might not be necessary for other au pairs. Each au pair will have his or her own unique challenges… and you can just make up new rules as you need them. < grin >

Your Host Parent Approach

We host parents also understand that we can’t legislate our way to a smooth, snag-free relationship with an au pair.

A rule-based, “here’s what you can’t do” approach is constraining. It may help to protect & prevent, but it also focuses us on the negative. Who wants to live in a world of “don’t do”s? A world of “no”? Not me, and not your au pair either.

Therefore, we need to identify, recognize and pay attention to the positive reasons behind any guideline and the overall principles underneath our rules. I’ll write a bit more about this in a future post.

in the meantime, I’d love to know:

  • What are some of the “crazy” guidelines in your Au Pair Handbook?


Anna June 9, 2010 at 12:44 pm

I don’t know if my guidelines are that “crazy”, they are just unique to our household…. or maybe not so unique?

I also follow the practice of updating the handbook through the year (depending on things that come up), and printing out and giving the au pair the updated page during our weekly meetings (with discussion of it of course). Our handbook is a three-ring binder, so it works.

I also revise the handbook before each new au pair comes.

My worst au pair got the whole section added to the handbook, called “being part of the family and what it means to us”. It had really crazy-sounding things there, in detail, which basically said “please try to find something to like about us, it is to your benefit too, since you are planning to spend a year here”, etc.
Once she left, I found all my additional handbook pages I so carefully composed just for her, crumpled into balls and stuffed into the back pocket of the handbook binder (instead of being inserted in place of old ones neatly).
Before the new au pair came, I re-read the “part of the family” section with horror, realizing what a year it’s been, and also realizing that the new personable and sweet au pair will not understand it. So I left the section in, but cut it down to a few basic sentences.

Now to the “unique” parts of our handbook:
1. We have a rule that before an au pair starts the washing machine or starts a shower, she must check that nobody else is taking a shower or filling a bath, because that can send that person cursing from cold naked out into the hallway (our boiler might not be able to handle such a throughput of hot water). ;)
2. We have a rule that everybody takes their shoes off when entering our house.
3. We have a rule that she cannot bring nonkosher food into our kitchen
4. She cannot give our kids any new food without checking with us first.
5. This crazy rule comes from my husband – I don’t enforce it so diligently – no using a microwave to warm up the food for the kids (we are crunchy-healthy family and there were studies on how microwaving degrades or destroys certain nutrients in foods).

CS Nanny June 9, 2010 at 1:40 pm

No microwave…so does that mean your AP is expected to “cook” everything then? Or are your kids just great at eating cold food?

NoVA Host Mom June 9, 2010 at 1:44 pm

You know, even chicken nuggets can be cooked in the regular oven. It just means you need to start the process about 15 minutes before dinner, instead of 3 minutes before dinner. Hardly requires training at Le Cordon Bleu.

Anna June 9, 2010 at 1:44 pm

There is a toaster oven, a regular oven, a stovetop, and even a stand-alone steamer appliance in our kitchen… You can use all of these devices to warm up food. Are you suprised?

NoVA Host Mom June 9, 2010 at 1:46 pm

And yeah, I do try to non-micro some things myself from time to time. For the change in texture if for no other reason (crunchy chicken nuggets instead of just hot). ;)

CS Nanny June 9, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Not everyone has all those resources. I just don’t know that many people who don’t believe in a microwave.

Anna June 9, 2010 at 1:57 pm

What???? Not everyone who has a microwave has a stove or an oven????
I’ve never seen a kitchen like that. I doubt an au pair agency coordinator will take a family into the program with a “kitchen” like that.

And I don’t know that many people who don’t know what to do with food without microwaving. It is a relatively new appliance, and not in many countries it even took off the way it did here in America.
I think I have a major revelation for you, CS Nanny. One can make coffee without a coffemaker, rice without a ricemaker, bread without a breadmaker, and tea without a teapot, and pretty much anything with just a stovetop and an oven. And I was not even talking about cooking here, but warming up food. Putting a pot on the hot stove will accomplish the same task as microwaving the same food, but will take a few minutes longer.

CS Nanny June 9, 2010 at 2:06 pm

There is no reason to be rude, Anna. Jeez. I was just saying that I think a lot of Americans rely on a microwave. Maybe you’re having a bad day or something, but maybe you should examine how you talk to people or not post at all. Because for some reason I feel like you take everything I post and finding fault with it.

Anna June 9, 2010 at 2:14 pm

CS Nanny,

I feel you are picking on me. I am not being rude, I am being sarcastic and genuinely suprised, how one could find such a big problem with this “crazy” rule (when there are so many easy alternatives). It almost seems to me that you made up your mind to dislike me, and now you are looking for a problem in my every post.

CS Nanny June 9, 2010 at 2:17 pm

I was sincere when I stated that I hadn’t heard of anyone not use a microwave, and that maybe not everyone had all the kitchen appliances that you have and then you went at me. How did I pick on you? I didn’t. If you have a problem with someone thing I say, then be a big girl and tell me. No need to be sarcastic. And online, sarcasm tends to be lost and just comes out plain mean.

Anna June 9, 2010 at 2:22 pm

It is a second time you tell me I am rude and basically tell me to shut up. I just didn’t answer you the first time. If CV didn’t edit out my posts, I think you are wrong about my rudeness.

EVERYONE I know has at least a stove and an/or oven. These are not unique or unusual kitchen appliances, there are more ubiquitous than a microwave.
I just feel you didn’t think before posting your first response to me – this is giving you the benefit of the doubt; or picked on me on purpose – that is not giving you the benefit of the doubt.

PA AP mom June 9, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I think CS Nanny was referring to the toaster oven, steamer, etc and not the stove and oven. I think everyone would agree that kitchens have an oven and stove standard.

CS Nanny June 9, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Thank you, PA AP Mom. Yes, that is what I was referring to. I am glad it was clear enough that you understood it.

cv harquail June 9, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Just FYI, I’m only now seeing this conversation…. < sigh> cv

aria June 9, 2010 at 4:05 pm

LOL CV. I think your wit in creating posts and adding comments is what makes this blog GREAT.

MTR June 9, 2010 at 2:41 pm

CA Nanny, I am sorry to say, but you started this argument with Anna without reading carefully what she written. Anna originally said “no using a microwave to warm up the food for the kids” She said nothing about cooking and did not mention plethora of “kitchen appliance resources”. It should’ve been assumed that oven and stove top are available and should be used to WARM UP (not cook) the food. None of this was weired or strange.

MTR June 9, 2010 at 2:43 pm

I meant to say “CS Nanny”, not “CA Nanny”. Sorry.

CS Nanny June 9, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Obviously I realized what she wrote if I wrote that I was surprised because I didn’t know many people didn’t use a microwave. How did that start an argument? It was an innocent comment. And I asked if her AP cooked a lot or if the kids ate things cold? The kids I look after love to eat things cold, like corn and pizza. I don’t see the harm in asking what I did.

CS Nanny June 9, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I’m just sick of feeling like pretty much everything I write is attacked. This blog was really helpful, and a lot of people have great advice. But this whole thing is ridiculous, stupid, and childish. If you go back and see my original comment, everything was blown out of proporation. Nothing I said was rude, or offending, or derogatory. For some people, it’s as though because you share a different opinion on something, you obviously are not worth simple manners. I’m leaving this blog because trying to defend myself is just not worth it. Thanks for the blog, CV. I’ve enjoyed it.

Amelie ex au pair June 9, 2010 at 6:09 pm

In my house in Brazil, we don’t have a microwave – we never wanted one.

And we cook delicious food everyday using just a stove and an oven.

It was very practical to have a teapot, a toaster and a microwave in my HF house, but honestly, I can totally live without them.

I’d be more than OK If I was asked not to microwave my host kids’ food! =)

AP-CA June 9, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Same with me, in Germany my family does not have a microwave. You really can live without one. It does not take thaaat long to warm things up in the oven etc instead. – At least I did not starve to this day…

CS Nanny June 9, 2010 at 2:21 pm

NovaMom, I am curious. Did you have any problems regarding having an AP and keeping kosher? I worked for an Orthodox Jewish family for a while, and in the beginning I found it difficult to remember which dishes were for what, and when shopping what meant kosher and what didn’t. lol. Luckily, the mom had a sense of humor and realized I wasn’t being disrespectful for washing the wrong dishes in the wrong sink! lol.

CS Nanny June 9, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Alright Anna. Whatever you say. I’m done arguing with you. From now on, I just won’t respond to anything you say for fear of you taking it the wrong way.

CS Nanny June 9, 2010 at 2:35 pm

I’m sorry. I didn’t realize Anna posted this response, NovaMom. So the kosher question wouldn’t make sense for you!

NoVA Host Mom June 9, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Actually, the question does make sense to me, it just does not apply to me. I posted the reply to you that cooking can and does occur outside of the microwave even without the “specialty appliances”.

ExAP June 9, 2010 at 7:24 pm

I’ve lived without a microwave my whole life of 21 years.
Except my au pair year, since my host family had a microwave.
Yes, the nutrients will be gone when using a microwave. And it’s not that big a deal to just use the stove/oven o.ä. :)
But I still enjoyed to have a microwave for a year. It was a nice experience and some kind of luxus- esp. when you only have to wait 30 secs for your food to be ready =D

Calif Mom June 9, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Not quite true that “the nutrients will be gone” if you microwave. A much bigger–and real–issue is the migration of chemicals that are very similar to hormones from plastic that is used in a microwave, especially for foods that are high in fat. Check out for detailed info by reputable scientists about this issue.

I am actually considering not having a microwave at all, because of the plastics issue. If we didn’t use our big chest freezer so much, I wouldn’t hesitate a bit to donate the microwave to someone else. We basically use it to thaw frozen pre-cooked meals (which I store in pyrex) or to heat milk for my morning quadruple latte. Made without a coffee pot, BTW! :-)

We even do our popcorn in a pasta pot, because it tastes SO much better. It’s fun to watch through the glass lidded pot, and really quick.

I predict that as people realize importing produce from New Zealand is crazy, and get more aware about food issues in general, we are going to see more people “unplugging” their kitchens.

Aupairgal June 10, 2010 at 4:09 am

Backing up Calif Mom. She is right. The amount of actual microwaves that a microwave actually produces is so low that it doesn’t affect the nutrients nor does it make the food harmful to ones health. The only negative thing about a microwave is that the food doesn’t taste quite as good and often gets soggy.

Jan June 10, 2010 at 8:09 am

I agree about the plastics. Years ago a geo tech friend advised me on this. He also advised not to use plastic storage bins, drinking glasses, etc. We use plastic glasses, however, because the kids kill our glass ones and the broken glass pieces multiply all over the floor.

If you chop up your veggies you have already “lost” the nutrients.

TX Mom June 10, 2010 at 2:03 pm

When our microwave broke, we did not replace it. We also had a rule that the AP could not use it for the kids (for anything except heating water.)

I bought the best countertop convection oven I could find and a teapot and haven’t missed the nuker.

Anna June 10, 2010 at 3:41 pm


I know you are right about plastics; in fact I swapped all my leftover containers for Pyrex many years ago, before those news hit the mass media last year.
My husband is very into latest research on the subject, and actually, you are not quite right about nutrients; yes, there are scientific studies that also show that microwaving degrades nutrients in food more than other cooking methods.
Here are some references from reputable journals

[1] Vallejo F, Tomas-Barberan F A, and Garcia-Viguera C. “Phenolic compound contents in edible parts of broccoli inflorescences after domestic cooking” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (15 Oct 2003) 83(14);1511-1516

[2] Kidmose U and Kaack K. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica B 1999:49(2):110-117

[3] Song K and Milner J A. “The influence of heating on the anticancer properties of garlic,” Journal of Nutrition 2001;131(3S):1054S-57S

[4] Watanabe F, Takenaka S, Abe K, Tamura Y, and Nakano Y. J. Agric. Food Chem. Feb 26 1998;46(4):1433-1436

[5] George D F, Bilek M M, and McKenzie D R. “Non-thermal effects in the microwave induced unfolding of proteins observed by chaperone binding,” Bioelectromagnetics 2008 May;29(4):324-30

[6] Quan R (et al) “Effects of microwave radiation on anti-infective factors in human milk,” Pediatrics 89(4 part I):667-669.

[7] Lee L. “Health effects of microwave radiation-microwave ovens,” Lancet December 9, 1989 (Article)

Here is an article explaining many hazards of microwaving, but you can read it after subscribing to the news mailings from the site which is a little annoying

There are also possible health hazards from microwave radiation leakage (also from that article quoting legitimate studies)

hOstCDmom June 9, 2010 at 1:13 pm

• Do not use the fireplaces in the house – they are old and not functional —you could burn the house down. (old house, 5 fireplaces, and we worry that an AP might decide sometime to use one when we are out of town/out for the evening!)
• Do not open the screens on the windows – the cats can fall out. (yes, this has happened when an AP opened a window very wide, and the screen also, to air out a bathroom when she was coloring her hair!)
• You may NOT keep any medications, tablets, or medicines in your room, your drawers or your closet. You must keep all personal medications, tablets and medicines – including “over the counter” medicines on the top shelf of the black cabinet of the bathroom. (our kids don’t go in the APs room…but you never know. I once found our toddler with medicine from my father’s luggage -beta blockers!- unopened (thankfully), but little brown vial in hand…who would have known that she’d dig through his luggage in the guest room, into the back zipped pocket, into the bathroom bag, into the zipped pocket in the bathroom bag! This is a rule we apply to all houseguests, grandparents included.)
• Do not wear headphones while driving – it is dangerous and illegal. (first AP liked to have her iPod and earbuds while driving…)

CS Nanny June 9, 2010 at 2:06 pm

That is a great rule about the medicines.

MommyMia June 9, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Oh, your poor kitty! We, too, had one AP who always removed the window screens for some reason (has any scientist ever measured if the airflow is substantially reduced or increased with/without screens, I wonder?). We speculated after the fact that she was leaving the house this way (ground floor) in the middle of the night instead of going out the front door to meet people, because the noise of the door opening & closing was audible upstairs. We had to keep asking her not to leave windows open with screens removed as mosquitos were always getting into the house. Perhaps being from a tropical country, they didn’t annoy her the way they did everyone else. And I like and also use your rule about medications after our then 2-year-old found and was playing with some weird “anti-constipation” powder in the AP’s room which looked like big sister’s make-up. (My kids, too, are told to stay out of APs room, but you know curious toddlers when left alone for 60 seconds!)

ME June 9, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Yeah!…people from tropical countries LOVE mosquitos…PF

hOstCDmom June 9, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Kitty survived – landed on a porch roof! :)

anonmom June 10, 2010 at 10:55 am

You may need to rethink where you place the medicine if it is a bathroom with a shower.bath etc. The bathroom is the worst place to keep medicine-due to the moisture and heat of showers, etc it breaks down the components in medicines and makes them less effective- and that has been medically proven.

Hula Gal June 10, 2010 at 11:31 am

Thanks! You just reminded me that I need to add “no listening to your ipod or talking on the phone while taking our daughter for a walk in the stroller.” I was horrified when I saw my au pair start putting on headphones as she was preparing to put my daughter in her stroller for a walk. Seriously, total lack of common sense! I immediately told her she needed to be able to hear, and to be interacting with our daughter, while she was in charge of caring for her, at all times. That means no ipods and no cell phones.

NoVA Host Mom June 9, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Our odd rule is that the AP is not allowed to give out our home number to third parties (her family back home is fine, but no random people here).

We have to have an unlisted/non-published number for professional reasons, and provide her with a cell she can give out to new friends instead. It also provides the added benefit of not having late night calls for the AP from her friends (which did happen with the first, short-lived AP). And yes, when DH and I have to give out our numbers for the dry cleaner, etc, we use our cells as well.

NoVA Host Mom June 9, 2010 at 1:50 pm

This also has the added benefit of being able to change the phone number when a new AP comes in and the old one has failed to provide her new personal number to all the random people and business that had the old one (again – really happened. New AP was getting calls all hours of the day and night. Small fee but worth it!).

Taking a Computer Lunch June 9, 2010 at 2:43 pm

I did that with my first AP who lived on the phone – I just didn’t want to deal with her friends. Now, however, I just switch phones when we switch APs (I hate the phone and most people know to email me since I often work away from my desk). That way, I get to deal with crazy friends who can’t accept that my AP is gone (although recently I received a call for the AP I had in 2004-2006 on the phone I’m using this year)! It took some doing to get the girlfriend of another AP to stop texting me. It just makes breakfast much more amusing for my colleagues at work :-)

I ask the AP to wipe out her messages, contacts, anything else she’s loaded on the phone – and to let all of her friends know she’s leaving to mitigate this issue.

franzi June 9, 2010 at 3:57 pm

i also was not allowed to hand out the host family’s number. but that was back when cell phones came in jumbo size and were expensive to use. ;-)

Mom23 June 10, 2010 at 3:06 pm

This is a great rule. Our first au pair gave our number to several religious groups. I didn’ appreciate their mulitude of calls. I am very happy with my place of worship.

CS Nanny June 9, 2010 at 1:43 pm

My old HM was an anorexic alcoholic (not even joking) who had the weirdest “diet” (aka UNHEALTHY) rules for her daughter. I, in good conscience, couldn’t follow them. Luckily, the dad backed me up on a lot of things.

Should be working June 9, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I got some zinger rules off this blog:

Please do not use your cell phone or our computers to receive or send messages or photos that would be inappropriate for our children to see. No nudity, no violence, no sexual content.

Get on the floor, or go outside!

My favorite guess-why-these-got-invented rules:

1. Please no wet items anywhere except hung up in appropriate places (towel bar, hanger, coatrack).

2. If you dye your hair, don’t walk around with dye on your head, it can easily get onto other things. This means you have to spend the 30 minutes in the bathroom!

3. Please empty garbage from your wastebasket into a BAG, tie the bag closed, and put the closed bag into the garbage can outside.

4. Please gently close all doors, cupboards and drawers. They should not be slammed or tossed shut.

NoVA Host Mom June 9, 2010 at 3:00 pm

I think I stopped thinking of the hair dye thing as an “odd” or “crazy” rule, but when using hair dye, the process must be maintained within the tub/tub surround. All dye that is on walls, doors, etc., MUST be cleaned immediately and properly.

ME June 9, 2010 at 5:39 pm

ok…some might laugh at me i know, but what does this mean:

Get on the floor, or go outside!

Just very curious…

Nicola aupair June 9, 2010 at 5:41 pm

I assume it basically means interact- get on the floor with the kids, or go outside and play with the kids. Don’t just sit there reading a magazine.

MadredeDos June 9, 2010 at 11:49 pm

Oh, yeah, I’ve got to add that “no slamming doors” to my handbook! And also try to teach the kiddos to do the same!

PA AP mom June 9, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Some of our more bizarre rules:

-Do NOT feed the cats deli meat (ham, turkey) or give them milk. Screws up their digestive system.

-Make sure the kids pick up all the water balloon ends after a water balloon battle in the yard. Balloon ends are bad for birds that try to eat them.

-Do not let the kids play in the fish pond.

-Do not allow the kids to listen to your favorite Ludacris CD which contains the “N word”, sexual themes and other inappropriate language. never mind that the beat is wonderful for dancing….it’s not ok.

-Please put the lid of your toilet down when you aren’t using it. The cats might fall in and/or play in the water.

Just a few of my favorites.

CS Nanny June 9, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I have to say I have a funny mental picture of kids trying to catch the fish in your fish pond…lol…

PA AP mom June 9, 2010 at 2:50 pm

The not so funny thing is that I came home one day from work and another AP’s 3 year old host kid was standing in the pond with a butterfly net, trying to catch the koi.

Amelie ex au pair June 9, 2010 at 5:05 pm

PA AP Mom… sorry for the off topic question… but is it really that bad to give milk to cats? I have two cats, and they always drink a little bit of milk in the morning… Now I’m a little scared!

PA AP mom June 9, 2010 at 8:15 pm

I can’t speak for anyone else’s cats, but the two of mine who have been given milk have gotten diarrhea from it. GROSS!!!!!!

Aupairgal June 10, 2010 at 3:54 am

Yeah, cats cannot digest cow milk and should not drink it. It’s that whole lactose thing like with some of us humans. You can however give them goat milk. Nowadays you can buy condensed goat milk and mix it with a bit of water for your kitties and they will probably love it.

NewAPMama June 9, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Hi everyone. I just heard of this blog from a friend. Just reading through some of the topics, and it looks great! Looks busy in here though!

PA AP mom June 9, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Welcome NewAPMama. Sometimes topics are hot and there are a bunch of posts and sometimes it’s a little slower.

Hope you enjoy this site.

Should be working June 9, 2010 at 4:40 pm

The graphic with ‘The Rules’ is The Best I Have Ever Seen.

franzi June 9, 2010 at 4:48 pm

something to start off the ap handbook with, lol

NewAPMama June 9, 2010 at 4:53 pm

We are on our first AP. Just a couple of our rules:

1. Must dress modestly at all times during work. By my standards, not Hollywood’s.

2. Must attend church on Sunday’s. I do count it in with their work time. I am not that mean to expect them there, but not give them credit for it.

3. No male visitors in our home while we are not home nor after 9pm. And they cannot be in the AP’s room unless the door is open.

We have others, but these would probably be the more extreme ones in other people’s minds.

Nicola aupair June 9, 2010 at 5:03 pm

The last two are a little… strict. But not too bad, overall fairly reasonable. Just curious as to why you feel church is necessary for a non-believer to attend (is it for your kids or for them?) and also, a bit of controversy, what if your aupair was a lesbian?

NewAPMama June 9, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Hi Nicola, thanks for the questions. Our lives revolve around our faith and our church. We are raising our children with certain standards and morals. The aupair is a large part of my children’s lives, and is a role model as well as a friend. We ask that they come to church to reinforce what we are teaching our children, and it is something that we do as a family. We are with our first aupair, who is a blessing to our lives. Sure, she has her faults, but who doesn’t? She also shares our faith. The next aupair may not be the same exact faith as us, but she does need to realize that while she is a member of our family, certain things are expected. I am very upfront with who we are, and what we need. If someone does not want to choose our family, then of course that is okay. We will both move on to other family/aupair candidates.

As for the other question, homosexuality is a very taboo and generally results in an arguement. For that reason, I will not be answering it. I hope you can understand.

Nicola aupair June 9, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Yes I can understand, that was basically the answer I expected. Thank you, actually, it was quite a pushy question and I was worried you might take offense.

NewAPMama June 9, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Oh, no offense taken. :)

anonmom June 10, 2010 at 11:02 am

While we never *require* our AP to attend church with us- except for Christmas. We will not choose an au pair that is either atheist or agnostic. This is for a few reasons, not the least of which is that our children attend a religious school, and in my opinion, thos that are faith based, tend to ‘follow the rules’ a bit more than the others- flame away! but that is our feeling.

Host Mommy Dearest June 10, 2010 at 3:55 pm

No flaming here, just an observation that my public school team mates and I in high school sports initially thought our Catholic school opponents would be well mannered and ‘follow the rules’ too. We were shocked to find that most of their team members had the worst potty mouths of all the teams in the league, and got the most disciplinary actions from the refs for dirty play and unsportsmanlike conduct. Made me feel like they felt the need to rebel against authority (I have no idea if it was a strict school or not, but I doubt it).

NewAPMama June 10, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I don’t feel that someone who is a non-believer of any religion is a bad person or has no morals or unethical. I hope that’s not what people took from my post. I merely see it as if an aupair was an athiest, etc., she might not feel comfortable in our very religious household. And that is perfectly fine. I wouldn’t want my daughter becoming an aupair and working for a family who has no religious views. Not because I feel they are wrong, but because I would want her to be comfortable in her new “family” and with what we believe, she probably wouldn’t be.

aria June 9, 2010 at 5:16 pm

I assume if NewAPMama expects her APs to attend church AND counts that time as working hours, they probably go through that expectation in detail before matching- can you actually imagine an atheist agreeing to that? It makes sense for a religious family to look for an equally religious AP, and vice versa.

Nicola aupair June 9, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Well…surprisingly enough, I’m an atheist and I would agree to it for several reasons. One being that churches do a lot of charity work and I like to get involved in that stuff. Another being that it’s a good place to make friends, there’s always things happening, etc. etc. But I’m a bit of an odd atheist, because I used to be a devout Catholic. So I can live comfortably with taboos, etc.

Anon Nanny June 10, 2010 at 3:34 am

I live with a family who is atheist/agnostic/non religious and I am very religious. I think it suits them because they know I’m teaching good morals but don’t force my religion at all (other than taking the Lord’s name in vain, which, when I was non-religious I just found rude anyway). It suits me because they still have good morals and they’re funny – I got a Charles Darwin keyring when they went to the natural history museum in London – bahahaha :D

Hula Gal June 10, 2010 at 11:45 am

The issue of being atheist has come up a few times now so I am going to address it. Just because a person is atheist does not mean they are without morals or ethics. My husband and I are atheist although I was raised Catholic and he was raised in a protestant religion. We no longer practice any faith and do not believe in god. We are very happy, welcoming, ethical, and moral people. We have friends from all walks of life, religious and non-religious. So I think it would be kind of those of you who believe that atheists are amoral and unethical to think about whether you really know first hand if this is true and whether it is anecdotal or fact based that you have come to this conclusion before you continue to post this opinion on this blog. I apologize CV for responding and feeding a controversial topic but since it has come up more than once I couldn’t continue to ignore it.

PA AP mom June 10, 2010 at 3:07 pm

We too, are atheists. Hubby and I grew up in very strict Protestant households and my butt went to church 4-5 times per week. No drinking, smoking, swearing at all in our house.

Since that time, I have drifted away from religion and now consider myself a “non-believer”. My boys attend church nearly every Sunday with my parents and we do not try to tell them that we don’t believe. It is good for them to see many schools of thought and we want them to choose what they believe.

That said, my boys get compliments all the time on their manners. They are the first in their class to befriend the kid that others pick on and they donated items to Haiti and the local shelter this year instead of getting birthday gifts at their parties.

Please, as Hula Gal said, don’t assume that because we don’t attend church and believe in organized religions that we are not moral, law-abiding people.

Aupairgal June 10, 2010 at 3:11 pm

To add to what Hula Girl said, I perfectly respect a parent’s right to choose an aupair based on faith. If said parent wishes to raise their children catholic, for example, then maybe it is best to find an aupair that shares that faith and reinforces those beliefs. But assuming that an atheist or agnostic has less morals or can’t “follow the rules” in comparison to a religious person is completely and utterly inaccurate. So please, don’t base your choice on an aupair on something that is a preconception, as well as quite untrue. At least be honest and say you want your children being raised according to your religious belief system.

Aupairgal June 10, 2010 at 5:25 pm

To back to the main theme of this website being aupairs and aupair familes and not religion, I would at least add that perhaps when a family matches or before matching, it should be discussed how something religious and sex should be explained to a child should the question come up.
Before I began with my family, I first asked about religion and explained if asked I would truthfully say what I believe. I also asked what I should say if asked about sex, which was really smart because my 4-year-old host boy is really hot on the topic on the difference of men and women and wants to know about how babies are made.

aria June 10, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Just curious, Aupairgal- what DO you say to the kid about sex? Because my 5 year old host boy is the saaaame way, and I get the feeling my babbling on about genes and chromosomes isn’t going to distract him for much longer. >.< Eeek!

Aupairgal June 11, 2010 at 3:59 am

Well aria, currently he is interested about the umbilical cord and where the baby comes out as well as the fact that he has a penis and women have vaginas and breasts. He has pointed that out every day this week. He hasn’t asked what the are used for yet except that a baby comes out of the vagina. Should he ask I will explain very honestly about sex and how it works and how semen and eggs contain genetic material (instructions on how to build the baby) and when combined a baby starts to grow. I and my host parents are of the thought that children should be explained things honestly and are never too young to receive too much information. While they might not be able to process the information now it still gets stored in their brains. I would say also, if you are too embarrassed or not sure how to explain it, tell him to ask his parents. I have on more than one occasion told my host kiddo to ask their parents on topics that I just don’t have enough words for and tell him frankly that I don’t know how to explain it in German(explaining complicated things can be sometimes so hard in a foreign language).

Az. June 12, 2010 at 11:08 am

I think it would be a good idea for host parents to explain sex to their children – or their version of sex, if they’re not comfortable with going into detail – before their au pair arrives. My host mum said to me on the first day I arrived that she’d already explained everything honestly to the four-year old boy, because he was curious, so I wouldn’t need to worry about it.

BLJ Host Mom June 14, 2010 at 7:03 pm

I am a Christian and my husband is a non practicing Jew. We don’t expect our AP to teach our kids about religion at all, as we are still finding our way. We are up front about this situation in our house during our interview process. I usually take the kids to church alone, but love when our AP comes with, both to share a nice Sunday morning together or just to help me by holding a hand in the parking lot. Also, they have a lot of questions about God. Since we DO both believe in God, I don’t want an AP to say something like, “No, I don’t believe in God”, even if that is what she believes, because at this point, we don’t want our young children knowing that is an option of something people believe. (The world will teach them that soon enough!) Though religion is not how we base our decision, and we do know we are a bit convoluted, we do spend a few minutes talking through it, to make sure she is open minded enough to attend church once in a while with me and to be coachable and respectful as to what things to say and what things not to say to our kids. Or to defer questions to us.

In general kids ask so many questions, if you can find someone like minded, it will be easier when they are under interrogation about who God is and what does He mean to you?

SotaGal June 9, 2010 at 5:04 pm

We have ammased a slew of “crazy” rules over the years…

– Any music that the children listen to must be approved by a parent. Ke$ha for 3 year olds is not a good idea.

– Do not give out host family home phone number or address to strangers or people (usually boys I’ve found) that you’ve just met.

– Please do not use host family names, neighborhood or city on Facebook, MySpace or public blogs. Do not use/post pictures of our children or our home without our OK.

– We will not tolerate underage drinking. No fake ID’s. If we discover that you are drinking, this will result in an immediate rematch. Note: I am VERY adamant about this one and my DH and I have a very long, personal story that goes along with this. We share it in the interview process to weed out the party girls. I make sure that they are aware that the legal age is 21 if they are under age when we are interviewing and that they are making a choice to come to a country where they will no longer be legal to drink.

– Do not set your flat iron/curling iron on your carpeted floor, even after you have unplugged it.

I’m sure I have more, but that is what I can remember off the top of my head. I know all of the rules and the whole hand book can be overwhelming when everything is new, so we go over bits of the handbook with each weekly meeting. Not all of it at any given time, but things like family privacy, cell phone allowances (even the english speakers have been confused because their home country’s cell plans are so different), emergency contact information and what is an emergency and what to do.

SotaGal June 9, 2010 at 5:12 pm

– Do NOT feed the dog. She is not allowed table scrapes or even crumbs off the floor. If the children make a mess while eating the floor must be swept immediately afterwords. She will stay stationed while the kids are eating.

– If the dog eats “people” food and gets sick while the children are in your care, you are responsible for cleaning up the mess. The children know that the dog may not eat our food and will not intentionally feed her. They will tell you if they drop food on the floor by accident to help preserve her health.

Nicola aupair June 9, 2010 at 5:19 pm

All those rules I get, but I really don’t understand where the limits of the music rule lie. For example, I was singing Torn by Natalie Imbruglia (take a look at the lyrics) when I was 7, are they too much because of the “lying naked on the floor” part? I’m a Foo Fighters fan, am I allowed to listen to their music or is it too much “rock” despite the safe lyrics?

And- If I played “Under the Bridge” to you by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, you’d probably agree that it was safe to play to your kids. You might even like it. What you don’t know is that the song is actually about shooting drugs (specifically heroin) with mexican gangsters “under a bridge downtown”. I mean, it’s actually a beautiful song about loneliness and other things, but that’s what the “bridge” refers to. Another good example would be “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. Would you allow these songs, or not?

NewAPMama June 9, 2010 at 5:26 pm

I definitely do not want my children listening to Ludacris, Kesha, etc. There are few Top 40s singers that do not have explicit lyrics that include sex, drugs, etc. There is no way I would allow my aupair to listen to that around my kids. And Nicola, you should be able to figure out the difference between Natalia Imbrulia and Ludacris and why parents would probably not think he, nor any of the other rappers, Lady Gaga, etc. are not good influences on their children.

Nicola aupair June 9, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Yes, I understand, but really I was wondering where it “stopped”. For example, what have you allowed your children to listen to? Is Pink ok? What about Lily Allen? I honestly want to know these things because I’ve never considered limiting any music for children- my cousin plays AC/DC to his 1 year old girl, and I just want to know, what you think is ok.

Sota Gal June 9, 2010 at 8:38 pm

I screen if you will for more explicit lyrics. Things where the message is pretty clear and a child could pick up on it. A song with derogatory names, cursing and blatantly sexual content I will not allow. We listen to lots of top 40, rock, classic rock, hip hop and even rap. Things that won’t fly in my house are songs with the n word, songs where women are called whores, swearing, sexual content. So Ke$ha’s brushing her teeth with a bottle of jack is avoided in our house, but Bob Schneider’s song 40 Dogs is happily played (FYI – he’s an Austin guy and his new album is great!!!). The definition of 40 dogs from urban dictionary: A 40 oz bottle of beer or malt liquor. The term is commonly used in the American South.

In response to your specific examples, yes we listen to Lily Allen, Red Hot Chili Peppers, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, U2, Eminem, Black Eyed Peas, Beyonce, Usher, TI, Justin Timberlake, Madonna and more. I love iTunes for the simple fact that you can often buy a clean version of a song or at least a song will be marked explicit. Our 8 year old loves classic rock and hard rock/heavy metal. Yup, he listens to Metallica and that’s fine with me. There is lots of music that I love to listen to that I won’t play for my kids simply because of the language. I know they’ll be swearing soon enough, but I don’t need to encourage it, especially at a young age. Kids parrot what they hear, and I don’t want them repeating some things from music. As a parent we are constantly judged: our daughters Pre-K teachers were telling me that they can always tell how a parent parents their children based on how the kids talk. Particularly when a classmate misbehaves.

Aupair Mama June 9, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Hmmmmm. I’m pretty sure my last 2 underage aupairs had illegal ids. When legal she told me all the aupairs have them and its ‘what everyone’ does.

I never thought about the music. My favorite band (old) is limp bizkit. I think they say the f word like 53 times or something. My rule is that its ok for me to say things and i tell my kids just dont say them in front of other adults.

I have mostly young kids so maybe I have no idea what i’m talking about but at the mall it looks like all the kids have heard/seen bad words /music before.

I believe in tolerance for all things and am really surprised about so many rules.

Our rule is = aupair uses washer/dryer mon -thurs. Host parents get to use it fri-sun. too many times i want to do wash and au pair still doing kids wash/her own and i’m sol.

NewAPMama June 9, 2010 at 9:42 pm

My girls listen to Disney cds, nursery rhymes, and church music. I listen to Nickleback, Lifehouse, and things of that nature. I also love classic rock like Journey and Genesis.

anonmom June 10, 2010 at 11:25 am

BTW- the beatles song lucy in the sky with diamonds has nothing to do with drugs! Lucy was the name of his (or his son’s- now I forget) childhood friend, who drew a picture- which is still in the possession of the Lennon family- when she was 4.

Nicola aupair June 10, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Err… no, that was actually the excuse they used at the time to get it on the radio

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds= LSD

2boys2girls June 10, 2010 at 11:41 pm
Calif Mom June 9, 2010 at 9:16 pm

LOL! I just added the no candles rule THIS WEEK. But not because of the au pair; because my dear 4th grader decided she wanted to do her math homework by candlelight. Yes, in the daytime. And Accommodating AP went along with it.

Calif Mom June 9, 2010 at 9:26 pm

To your broader point, CV — the first page of my handbook is called Guiding Principles or something like that, to show that there really is an underpinning to how we (try) to act, and to help our new au pair figure out which rules are the really important ones. Which is really a no brainer: Safety Rules Are The Most Important Rules. But if you were handed a list of 50 things to do or not do, you’d want some way to categorize them in importance so that if you screw up, it’s on something that isn’t as important.

I think I will state right in the book–since I’m redoing it this week–that most of the odd little pointers in there are indeed from things that have gone wrong. So she’s benefitting from our experience.

I also did go through and try to re-frame all the Thou Shalt Nots into “The Best Way to Deal with This Situation is by…”s, instead. It’s not that hard, actually.

margo hill June 9, 2010 at 9:35 pm

I agree with the Top 10 List. My second year, when I knew my AP was arriving with shaky English, I added a Top 10 list to the first page of the handbook that covered all the basic safety rules such as: Children should never be left unattended anywhere for any reason; never leave the children in the care of another adult/AP etc., no matter how well you think you know them; never take your eyes off the girls when they’re swimming, etc. This way, I felt that if she never made it past page 1 at least the girls would still be alive at the end of the first week, LOL! We work on the more nuanced rules over time.

Aupair Mama June 9, 2010 at 11:05 pm

I had a live in nanny start napping when the baby was napping. It was because she was partying so much. We had to let her go eventually for that and a ton of other issues. I don’t think its ok personally unless its unintentional when holding the baby. When my infants were young often they had to hold the baby the whole nap time … I’d even fall asleep.

NY Host Mom June 10, 2010 at 8:17 am

I am SO glad to learn that I’m not the only one who had to fire a nanny for sleeping on the job. She was a professional nanny with LOTS of experience. I’m happy to report that we have NEVER had an au pair sleep on the job!!!

NewAPMama June 9, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Does the moderator of the blog get suggestions from posters? Because I have a question that I think be a good topic. One of my closest friends, who also has an aupair, said her aupair takes naps on occasion when the kids are napping in the afternoon. Does anyone else allow their aupair to sleep while technically on duty? Even if the children are napping?

SotaGal June 9, 2010 at 11:59 pm

We have had a couple of our au pairs nap when our twins are napping. I would be concerned if it was something that they were doing every day or not otherwise taking care of themselves. The au pairs that napped were all 19 (I view them at that age as still needing to nap from time to time), hard workers, had gotten any other chores I expected of them done and would take short naps if they still had some time to spare. They always bring the monitor into their room whether napping or not and knock on wood, we’ve never had an issue with it. Thankfully I have never heard of an AP that has fallen asleep while the kids were AWAKE, and they are all good tattlers – on each other, myself, DH, AP and their teachers.

Perhaps at some point it won’t work well for us and it will be added to my list of rules but for now I don’t mind.

MommyMia June 10, 2010 at 12:02 am

SotaGal, looks like we were typing at the same time. Now, you’ve heard of a case where it did happen, and probably you’ll understand why that AP went into rematch!

MommyMia June 10, 2010 at 12:00 am

I wouldn’t encourage it as a regular practice, but I’m was OK with it when my youngest was still napping. We had a baby monitor that the AP used, and we made sure that she had it turned up loud enough for it to awaken her if she did need a nap, which was a fairly rare occurrence. What I had a big problem with was “party girl” napping while sitting on the floor “playing” with the little one!

Taking a Computer Lunch June 10, 2010 at 7:07 am

I never minded when my first AP slept with my son – they took a nap in his bed and he only napped if someone else slept with him. Sometime between 2 and 3 he stopped altogether and so did she. I never thought it was a big deal – my kids were loved.

CO Host Mom June 10, 2010 at 8:27 am

My current AP also naps with my son, and I love it. He is 3, and they both love to curl up on the bed or the couch and nap in the afternoon. Sometimes they just watch a movie instead of sleeping, but I think it is great to come home and find the two of them all snuggled up sleeping together in the afternoon.

HRHM June 10, 2010 at 10:01 am

I’ve never discouraged our AP from napping when the baby does, so long as she still manages to get the other “stuff” done, like laundry. Heck – I frequently do it! I think if it makes her more energetic for the afternoon, great!

anonmom June 10, 2010 at 11:28 am

When our children were all young and napping, we would allow the AP to nap, but only on the couch upstairs next to the baby’s room- and it was not an everyday occurrence! If they had a cold, were too tired, etc. Otherwise it can be a long day with 3 young ones running around! However, if I had an au pair that went out a lot- I would not allow her to nap, as I am sure she would be using it more for sleep. Rarely did our au pairs npa, though, usually they were on the computer or talking to family back home during that time.

My 2 cents June 10, 2010 at 12:43 pm

We made the mistake of allowing our first au pair to nap when the kids napped and to go to bed early on those infrequent weekend nights we would go out. She feel asleep so hard that she couldn’t hear the children, which I really should have thought about beforehand. I came one night and found my toddler son downstairs wandering around, and discovered her in bed (as we allowed) and I had to shake her awake and she was completely clueless about the whole thing.

Never again. They need to be downstairs. Bring a laptop, turn on a movie, do whatever you need to do to be conscious.

Melissa June 10, 2010 at 6:44 pm

I’m fine with napping while our kids are napping, as long as it she can hear when they wake up. Also, on the occasions when we go out in the evening and will be back late (rare occurrance), I tell my AP that it’s fine for her to go to bed too, as long as she leaves her bedroom door open and is prepared to get up if she hears the kids. I would have an issue, however, if she seemed to ‘need’ the nap because she was out too late or not getting enough sleep on a consistent basis.

PA mama June 10, 2010 at 10:13 pm

We have a strange work schedule in that we both work the 2nd shift from 4pm to 12:30am. The kids go to sleep at 8pm without fail. We tell the AP to carry the video monitor with her. After 8pm is an excellent time to clean up, do laundry, wash bottles. Provided everything that has to be done is done, the rest of the time is free as long as the AP is attentive to kids waking up, which they almost never do unless they are ill or teething. She can watch TV, talk on the phone, Skype, and even sleep. I have had 2 au pairs, and never had a problem with either one abusing this. They see it as a very nice perk for having to work such a socially limiting schedule. Usually they are still up when I get home though, because they were busy Skyping all over the world, and end up giving me updates about their day at 1am.

Az. June 12, 2010 at 10:47 am

I would have loved to work that schedule! :D

Sofia, Future Au Pair June 12, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Me too! :)

forex robot June 10, 2010 at 2:19 am

What a great resource!

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

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

Jeana June 10, 2010 at 7:29 am

When I wrote my first family book, I reviewed numerous family books from our cluster. One family was in their 12th year of having an aupair. I assumed that each of the rather unique topics was due to experience, and incorporated many of them. I also added topics due to my own experiences. One night my children had just gone to bed, and I was in my room. Our aupair returned home, and I heard talking in the hallway. I got up, and almost passed out when I suddenly realized there was a man at the top of our stairs, two inches from me. He had planned to accompany our aupair upstairs. I asked him to go downstairs, and then added rules regarding male guests. It hadn’t been necessary with our first or second aupair.

StephinBoston June 10, 2010 at 8:35 am

OK that is scary!!! We’ve been extremely lucky with 3 au pairs, no boys ever even mentioned, I’m not sure how I’d react to “the boyfriend”. The thing is, I’ve been their age, I know how it is so I’d want to be understanding but the safety and comfort in my house has to come first. We always get older APs (none have been younger than 22 when they got here) and it’s always funny when we start getting to know each other and I tell them how DH and I met when we were barely 23 and have been together since. Most of them are so not in that place in their lives, it makes them chuckle :-)

Jan June 10, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Very scary! Our LCC actually suggested this for our first handbook. She said “Do you really want to walk out into your hallway and find a guy with just his underwear on or naked?” Needless to say it went in right away.

Aupair Mama June 12, 2010 at 8:24 am

my husband and I met when we were 16 .. been married 15 yrs this yr… :) Actually we are looking for new aupair and I am curious about people’s opinion on ‘how aupairs looks’ influence their choice. I know some families who refuse to take girls who look ‘beautiful’ whereas others seem to always choose. I have to say – lots of aupairs are just gorgeous. We purposefully look for those who seem avg – ‘cute’ but not beautiful or umm. maybe opposite of beauty.

All of my sitters and aupairs (around the age of 19-24) eventually got a boyfriend….. I’m curious if yours just dont mention it or what?

cv harquail June 13, 2010 at 10:18 am

Hey AP Mama– we did have a conversation about this issue of pretty vs. not pretty au pairs… but I’ll put it up as a topic in the next week or so…. cv

PA AP mom June 13, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Our first AP was a shop model in Germany. She was 6’1″, 140 lbs and gorgeous. She got looks from men and women everywhere she went. People always asked if it bothered me and I could answer that it honestly did not. I knew what she looked like when I selected her.

Our AP now is very pretty and athletic in build. The last time we went out, I had to use the restroom when we arrived at the restaurant and the hostess assumed that HD and AP were a couple with our 2 boys. I laughed it off.

I have been married to host dad for 13 years and have known him since I was 5 years old. I trust him.

I try to choose APs based on experience, not looks.

NewAPMama June 13, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I would hire someone who was pleasant to look at and in shape. I would not hire an overweight/obese aupair. I am sure people will disagree with this, but I want the aupair to model healthy eating and exercising habits for my girls. I understand people have weight problems due to health issues, but I find that is more on the rare side. Our current aupair is pretty, and has a wonderful personality.

Host Mommy Dearest June 13, 2010 at 3:48 pm

I try to always hire based on experience and character rather than looks, but I honestly feel that looks impact everyone subconsciously whether you want them to or not. I try to read through an ap first and not look at pictures until the end so I know whether the pix sway my decision to contact her or not. I don’t think everyone is looking for someone as beautiful as possible, or as not beautiful as possible, but most people have a ‘picture” or type in their head and is more accepting of a candidate that fits that.

PA AP mom June 13, 2010 at 4:29 pm

That’s what I do too. I look at the application first and then look at the photos after I have made a “first impression” judgment about an AP.

BLJ Host Mom June 14, 2010 at 7:24 pm

My AP told me that I am the ONLY host mom in her cluster that HAS a handbook. Is that weird or what? She wasn’t complaining, at all. But it did make me feel rather obsessive! :)

I come here to feel less alone! :)

CO Host Mom June 10, 2010 at 8:32 am

I’ve shared my wine rules on here before – they are clearly spelled out in my handbook, and I have Host family friends that have also adopted them. Primarily “Do not open a bottle of wine from the cellar without asking our permission.”

StephinBoston June 10, 2010 at 8:36 am

I don’t remember, was that one created due to an “incident”?

CO Host Mom June 10, 2010 at 3:47 pm

No, not from an incident, just from my huge fear that AP will drink one of those “special” bottles that is either priceless, irreplaceable, or has a lot of sentimental value for some reason.

Calif Mom June 10, 2010 at 9:17 am

Don’t use a knife to cut frozen lard.

Aupairgal June 10, 2010 at 10:13 am

I really want to hear the back story on this one. It could also be that I don’t know anything about FROZEN lard.

Calif Mom June 10, 2010 at 11:32 am

You have to be careful using a knife to cut *anything* frozen, and that’s how it’s phrased in my guidebook. The blade becomes brittle when it hits a certain level of coldness, which happens quicker than you think. If you try to pry something apart, say, a chunk of lard for a pot of beans you’re making (yes, we have leaf lard in the freezer) with a too-cold knife, the tip will snap.

Let’s just say that I came home one day to the BIG, pricey Global chef’s knife that was a gift to my hub from his sister having a completely snapped off end. Knife snobs would say that it is now ruined. I use it anyway, but it pains HD every time he sees it. (Of course, he’s too much of a Midwesterner to throw it out, either.) ;-)

Since we rely heavily on our freezers–we keep a lot of fruit, meat, pre-made entrees and side dishes on hand so we can have a nice meal with just a bit of reheating–this is an important lesson in the Kitchen section of my guidebook.

I found a very thorough Cook’s Illustrated magazine article on kitchen safety that I’m going to put into our binder. It covers sanitation, food storage and fires–now I don’t have to write all that content myself and sound completely OCD to my new AP.

DarthaStewart June 10, 2010 at 11:47 am

Ooh.. Do you by any chance have a link to the food safety thing? I’m thinking that it might be a good one. I’ve had a number of au-pairs that I’ve had to teach these things to.

Aupairgal June 10, 2010 at 2:43 pm

I totally understand. My host family has a dream kitchen, but that means that everything is extra fancy, new and high tech. It was like a day long course for HM to teach me how to use and wash everything. There are still some things that I am just not comfortable using like their Dampfgarer (don’t know what it is in English, but it looks like a oven except it cooks with steam and pressure). I’ve never seen one in the States.

Lindsay June 10, 2010 at 10:05 am

We had to make a rule about bringing everything in from the car when you get home, – I was finding the kids’ shoes, old sippy cups (yuck!), beach towels, etc. in the back and under the seats on a regular basis.

Our three kids have a large number of children’s CDs which we have collected over time, some from music classes they were in. We ask the au pair to listen to those with them in the car, because they are really good for singing along etc. and we know the lyrics are appropriate.

When possible, I try to make my rules a list of what TO do, rather than what NOT to do. But we have been pretty fortunate with our three au pairs, -no party girls yet, I’m sure my list could change dramatically.

Calif Mom June 10, 2010 at 11:41 am

OH YES! I handled this with a sticky note prominently stuck on the radio of the car to remind “us all” to empty the car out at the end of each trip.

If your kids are in sippy cup stage, those things can become time bombs in the summer! Our car still smells like old milk on super hot days when you first open it, and I’ve had the thing detailed twice. I sent the sippy cups to recycling a couple years ago; guess they wanted to live on in our memory.

We have a terrible problem with kids’ CDs not being put back into their cases. I hope to break that habit with our next AP. Even starting to collect the CDs I found and taking them out of circulation didn’t solve this intractable problem. Kids today have too much stuff! They didn’t miss them enough.

A terrific stocking stuffer we gave our AP was a Putumayo CD of Brazilian kids’ songs. They ALL loved singing that one in the car. She translated the lyrics for them. That’s what cultural exchange is supposed to be about. She loved it so much she cried. :-)

Should be working June 10, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Yes, our next edition of the AP handbook will include emptying out the car EVERY DAY. As of now I have tried to encourage the idea that no one leaves the car without removing an armful of stuff, or at least three things in their hands.

But this leads to the topic of an earlier post (“RTFM!”), namely how to get them to read, reread, or simply abide by the manual.

Sota Gal June 10, 2010 at 1:43 pm

To help with cleaning out the car, each kid has their own small basket. They are only allowed to bring what may fit IN the basket, no more and this includes any snacks or drinks they want to bring along. They must carry it in and out – if they forget, those toys go away for a day or two. DH is horrible about emptying out the car so I’ve put notes in the car to empty it out and also on the door leading into the house. This helps to some degree. I’ve kept it out of our list of rules just so that its not more overwhelming than it already is, rather we try to lead by example when we all go out together as a family and offer tips that work for us hauling around all of the kids stiff. A clothes basket or big Ikea bag in our car is a lifesaver! :)

Mom of 2 June 10, 2010 at 10:23 am

The topic of a host family handbook is so important! As a host mom it is so important for our family and now that I am also a local coordinator for Cultural Care, I see how imperative it is to have the document. So many families don’t take the time to put one together and as evidenced by all the previous blog posts, there are some REALLY good reasons for having “Crazy Guidelines”. Having the document helps address communication issues before they ever happen.

For our own family, I know our craziest rules are:

“Don’t drive on the grass” – This one is the first one my husband talks about with any new AP. It seems that every AP we have every had drives of the exact same patch of grass as they drive out the driveway and I honestly don’t think the grass will ever grow in there again, no matter how many times my husband seeds it :-)

“Don’t talk on the internet while you are taking care of the children.” We had an AP who would talk to her family for literally 2 hours a day, every day of the week on Skype. That was all fine & good, but she would do it from 1-3pm when she was responsible for our son. I understand the time difference between the US and Germany played a major role in this, but still, not while you are on the clock, and not every day for 2 hours!

“We only gas up the car every other Friday.” We have had to literally calculate the mileage from our house to all kids activities to figure out how much gas the AP car really should consume and over what period of time. We had an AP who would use 3 tanks of gas a week! When we saw the gas bill rising, and investigated just how many trips to skating, karate, school, etc. that would take we knew she was totally taking advantage of us just gassing up the car whenever she needed it. So now we only gas up every 2 weeks which is more than enough to shuttle the kids to wherever they want to go, but not enough to make the trip to the boyfriend’s house 30 miles away every night.

We also have the “no candles left burning” rule and the “hang wet things in the proper places and not on beds” rule.

I knew a host mom who specified how the children’s shirts should be folded prior to being put in the drawer and an exact set of instructions on how to load the dishwasher. I think those types of crazy rules are just unreasonable and I personally am happy that someone besides me is even doing the laundry and the dishes and I don’t want to ruin it by nit picking the way it is done. As Dr. Phil said on his show one time, 50% perfect is still 100% done. And in this case I can deal with 50% perfection.

courtj June 10, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Mom of 2 you would understand the instructions on how to load the dishwasher with my au pair. She has a tendency of putting multiple dishes in the same holder, nesting the forks, and other assorted things, which all means the dishes don’t get clean, but rather wastes water when it has to be re-run.

I don’t think I have any crazy guidelines. The one that I need to add is when bringing a child to a class not located at the school you must walk the child in and make sure 1) the child has the class that day 2) the responsible adult know he/she is there and 3) that they have a way of contacting her. Imagine the call from the community center during a really busy day at the office saying we have your son.

West Coast Mom June 10, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Oh dear … I have a way that I like the kids shorts to be folded. I did not put it in the handbook, but was planning to show new AP how I like the clothes folded and put away. Perhaps I’ll rethink …

Is having a specific shelf or drawer for short sleeve shirts and one for long sleeve shirts too neurotic?

NewAPMama June 10, 2010 at 8:28 pm

I have a drawer for every specific type of top…t-shirts, long sleeves, camisoles, etc. Along with seperate ones for skirts, pants, shorts, and undies. I don’t feel like I am neurotic…Though maybe I am! The aupair does a great job with the kids laundry, folding, and ironing, so I have no complaints! :)

Host Mommy Dearest June 10, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Maybe label the shelves if it is important to you? Then you could just point out the labels for her to reference later. She might be overwhelmed with stuff to learn and that one might end up low on the priority list if she needs to remember a lot already.

PA AP mom June 10, 2010 at 8:52 pm

Probably is too much, but I’m guilty as well. The first few weeks I have easily removable labels on all the kids’ dresser drawers and shelves in their closets. It eliminates confusion. Once the AP is familiar, I remove the labels. It also helps that my kids are reaching that age where they can help with putting their things away.

Chev June 10, 2010 at 9:22 pm

I think it’s great to show your au pair how you want things done when she first gets to you, it’s much better to do it that way then 3 months down the road finally have enough of her doing it not the way you’d like and have to show her how you’d prefer she does it. That happened to me and i just felt kind of dumb for doing wrong for the first 3 months and not knowing.
Also, labeling where items, not just clothes go is a good idea, it’ll help her pick up on things easier and make doing the laundry faster at the start.

Aupair Mama June 12, 2010 at 8:29 am

I have bins labeled! Though I must say you ALSO have to then show them the clothes and tell them the difference between pj tops and shirts. the diff between a baby onesie and a onesie shirt. the diff between a one piece outfit and a onesie. this is my biggest pet peeve along w/ the times when all the white onesies come out pink or blue. very annoying AND costly

Sota Gal June 10, 2010 at 9:44 pm

I don’t think its neurotic at all. Perhaps you could let her label the shelves in her own language and tell her she can remove them as needed. Our 1st au pair did this with many shelves, foods and cleaning products. We went through bedrooms, bath and kitchen with a sharpie and post it notes. The post its drove me crazy – I can’t stand clutter!!!! But it really helped her and she told me it helped her eliminate confusion, especially with cleaning products.

My neuroses rears its head with the kitchen counters, kids pajamas being folded a certain way and towels! Sometimes I even drive myself crazy!!!

PA mama June 10, 2010 at 10:31 pm

I didn’t know how neurotic I was until I got an au pair. The very first time my very first AP dressed my son for bed she put on mismatched PJ top and bottoms. I stood by and quietly broke out in a cold sweat. She noticed I was trying to hid my discomfort and asked me what was wrong. I told her his PJ’s didn’t match and it was driving me crazy. But I also told her I knew that was stupid, it wasn’t like he was going outside in them, who cared if they matched? They’re just PJ’s!! She must have seen the crazy glint in my eyes, because she laughed it off and so did I. I also noticed she never mismatched his PJ’s again. And I didn’t even have to put that crazy rule in the manual!! (She was my best AP, and for many reasons, I hope to find another like her!)

PA AP mom June 11, 2010 at 11:18 am

Maybe it’s the PA thing PAMama…haha.

I tell my APs that I am neurotic about things so they don’t think it’s in any way related to them.

I had a freak out when AP took boys to the pool and didn’t put matching goggles on the youngest. Stupid, I know, but important to me all the same. I like things in “order”. I didn’t say anything to her because it’s not her fault that I’m neurotic. She is wonderful with the boys and adjusted nicely to all of my OCD neuroses.

West Coast Mom June 11, 2010 at 11:30 am

Haha! Mismatched PJs drives me crazy! And I have been known to take the (messily folded) towels out of the linen closet, refold neatly and with the “smooth” side showing, and put them back.

Glad I’ve found my people … ;-)

NoVA Host Mom June 11, 2010 at 11:45 am

Ooh! WCM & PAM, I am so there, too. My DH did that the other day and it was all I could to to keep from taking the toddler upstairs and “fixing” it. And how he folds the towels is the reason I try to do it (even though folding is a most hated chore). We are so sad. ;)

Mom of 2 June 11, 2010 at 2:44 pm

West Coast Mom,

I have a specific drawer for each of the kids clothes (short sleeved, long sleeved, pants, shorts, etc) so I don’t think that’s too neurotic :-)

I think it becomes a bit nit picky if you have a certain way to do something and can’t deviate from it. Especially if it’s still done in the spirit that it should be done. Like folding underwear for example. I fold them differently than my husband does. But they are still folded, so no big deal. It would be different if he just bunched them up into a ball and threw them in the drawer. Then they wouldn’t be folded no matter what the underwear looked like :-) Just the fact that my husband would have folded the laundry and put them away – I would be so happy! I think the same is true, at least it is for me regarding the Au Pair. As long as she is doing her job there are some things I just don’t feel like nit picking. You have to pick your battles. And the way the shirts are folded aren’t a battle I personally feel worth picking. Others may feel differently.

I just think that like in any job, you need to give your Au Pair some autonomy to do the job the way she wants to. When there are little things like how to fold the shirts that you can let her be in charge of on her own, then she gets more satisfaction out of it than if you had a “shirt folding training” session with her. Then it would feel a bit more opressive like if she did it wrong, she would get in trouble. See the difference?

I know as a type A neurotic mom myself, it is sometimes hard to let up on some of the expectations, but when it is about the specific origami of the laundry, I don’t think it’s worth getting into the nitty gritty details.

Jenny June 14, 2010 at 7:34 pm


Go with it. Don’t put it in the handbook, but definitely show her. According to my current AP, she doesn’t mind at all being shown how I like certain things, if she’s going to do it, she might as well do it the way I want because she doesn’t have a preference. That’s not the same as drawing a diagram about folding shorts in your handbook!

I have separate spots for short sleeved and long sleeved too, for all three kids. If that’s too neurotic, then I don’t know! :) But really, it makes getting dressed a lot easier in the mornings if shorts and longs are separated.

At the same time, I am with Mom of 2, as long as things are getting cleaned and put away, I’ll take it! But like I said, my AP doesn’t care how it gets done and would just assume do it a way that makes me happy. The last thing she wants is me to be annoyed about something I never even told her I wanted!

Why... June 24, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Hahaha…. I wish clothing was sorted like that here!

I tried about 2months ago to sort the Host Kids clothing into easy to find piles….. But to no avail….. 3 days later and the wardrobe was trashed again!! HM does not seem to care….. So i’ve given up on that! I wash, dry, fold and put the clothes away in no specific places or piles anymore…. :D

California Cowgirl June 10, 2010 at 11:28 am

After 5 au pairs, we have a long list, here are our more unusual ones, all from experience:

– No surfboards in the car
– No picking up hitchhikers
– Marijuana is an illegal drug, do not smoke it in the house or drive under the influence.
– Paper towels do not go in the toilet
– You may drive the car a maximum of 1000 miles a month in the au pair car. Thereafter you pay 55 cents per mile.

Should be working June 10, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I love the first four, they are so funny! The last is amazingly generous in my view.

PA AP mom June 10, 2010 at 3:11 pm

I love the hitchhiker rule. I never even thought of that.

Az. June 11, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Jeez, an au pair actually smoked marijuana in your HOUSE?! I don’t have a problem with it and smoke occasionally (2/3 times a year-ish), but I would never dream of doing it in my host family’s house, or even in the country while I was au pairing! I’m guessing it ended in rematch?

Jenny June 14, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Another tip, that’s not so obvious to the AP (or first time parents!). Baby Wipes, unless specified cannot go in the toilet either. Oh, sure, they’ll go for a while…but then a call to Roto-rooter will be required.

Hula Gal June 10, 2010 at 11:59 am

ok- I have one that has not been mentioned. Do not drive with less than a 1/4 tank of gas in the car. I found out that my au pair, who never has any money, was only putting a few dollars of gas in the car at a time and was driving on the tank empty light with my daughter in the car. I happened to find this out because I met her and my daughter at a music class and before she left to go home she realized she had left her wallet at home. She had planned to get gas on the way and did not think she would make it if she didn’t fill the tank. So I had to scold her for this (after giving her my credit card) and told her if I ever found out that she drove with less than a 1/4 of a tank with my daughter in the car she would lose her driving privileges. I also explained how inefficient it was for her to only put a few dollars in the tank and that she needed to fill the tank up as soon as she got paid. She thought if she left the tank low she wouldn’t drive as much and would spend less on gas. Ugh!

Taking a Computer Lunch June 10, 2010 at 1:30 pm

I tell my APs not to drive when the tank is on “E” because they never know when they’re going to get caught in traffic, and rather than be stuck on the highway, or worse yet, the wrong part of town where there are less gas stations anyway, they should tank-up

Guess I’ll find out tonight when I drive the “AP car” to my softball game whether my current AP has listened or not – she rarely drives, usually to the college two miles away, or to her Buddhist Temple 23 miles away.

We top off the AP car when we drive it for long distances, but otherwise we don’t go in it and haven’t a clue what they’re up to.

BusyMom June 13, 2010 at 11:12 am

We have the same rule in our handbook!

TX Mom June 10, 2010 at 2:43 pm

We have the “rules” for childcare and then I have the “living with us guidelines.”

Under the Rules some of the weird – but apparently necessary ones are:
• Please do not put things on the children’s bodies that we don’t buy
• Do not run personal errands when you are on duty. Arrange to go to the post office, store, hair styling, etc when you are not working.
• Check the driveway for toys, etc. before you back out the car.

Too true guidelines:
– You will be setting an important example for our children. We want them to learn a “can do” attitude. Don’t say you “can’t do something” without trying. Be persistent in your goals. Try to “figure things out” in front of the kids (ex: where is the logical place to put child’s shirts?)
– We believe we can have an impact on the world in a positive way with the choices we make. We conserve natural resources and energy in our home both by necessity and out of choice.
– We all have different ideas about cleanliness, so please keep your own messes to your own space.

NewAPMama June 13, 2010 at 2:48 pm

I have no problem if my aupair takes my kids on personal errands like the store, bank, or post office. In my mind, these are learning experiences. Now, I would not allow her to take them to go get her hair/nails done, clothes shopping, etc. I don’t mind if she takes them to Starbucks to meet a friend or something provided their needs are being attended to. Children learn so much on outings like this!

TX Mom June 14, 2010 at 12:34 pm

I agree kids need to learn to be in different social settings and we ask our AP’s to take the kids on errands that we request and are child related (like “buy milk” or return the kids’ library books, playdates, etc.) However, we had a few AP’s with poor judgement who dragged the kids to their dentist or nail appt. or to the bank to meet the cute guy (no kidding!) We decided to make it clear that “on duty” time means we are paying the AP to interact with the children. The rules ended up in our handbook so we can start strict and loosen up as an AP demonstrates good judgement. Our current AP will ask if she can take the kids on a personal errand and I have never said no to her.

Calif Mom June 14, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Oh, my youngest would have hated that. She occasionally would be riding in the car with me on errands and would lobby heavily to go to the bank–I had no idea why, until she told me our AP’s bank always had lollipops.

This “errand running” can get out of hand, though, so it’s one of those things to add in gradually, or offer as a perk only after you see that you’re not on a slippery slope with a particular AP.

CCDC Mom June 10, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Like many of you, I have my own set of rules borne from experience. Because every new au pair is different, one thing I do is acknowledge up front in the handbook (as well as during ther oral review of the handbook upon arrival) that the reason some of these rules exist is because of prior experiences with other au pairs. I also say that every culture is different, and that what may seem obvious in one place or to one person, sounds absolutely weird in another context. As an example, one of our prior au pairs lived in a small town where it was completely acceptable for parents to leave their kids in their cars during short errands. Here, of course, that is a big no-no, and before this au pair I never would have thought it was necessary to say so. This au pair was not stupid or negligent, she just came from a different place. Once I explained, she fully understood. Lesson learned. I think the trick is to make clear that you believe your au pair is an intelligent young woman, but that the rules are intended to recognize the differences in culture and experience (part of the program after all) and ensure that everyone is on the same page about the things that you find to be important to you and your family.

Sofia, Future Au Pair June 10, 2010 at 8:57 pm

That is a really great point of view, having that atitude is something your APs thank you :D

Pia Aupair June 10, 2010 at 9:08 pm

yeah when i first got here i felt my host mum thought i was stupid with all those rules that seemed to be obvious to me.

Mom23 June 10, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Here are two of ours (which do come from experience):

1) If you are going to have an overnight guest you must ask us first. For a while I had: Do not sneak boys into the house. We do know when you do this. Our au pair would come in the front door. The boy would sit on the porch. Then she would open the basement door and let him in.

2) Do not bring open mugs of coffee into into the car.

TX Mom June 11, 2010 at 4:41 pm

I’m laughing at my desk about both of these. Hopefully you can remove the second one from your handbook. (There are some things you hope won’t happen with 2 different AP’s – like adding diesel instead of gasoline to the car. :-p )

StephinBoston June 10, 2010 at 4:24 pm

So we have a rule about not leaving the car empty or not refilling it when it gets low. We explain why, etc. and our au pairs have been great with it. Well, this winter, I managed to run out of gas and had to call my au pair to the rescue! That’s completely embarrassing and a really good lesson learned for me!!

Host Mommy Dearest June 10, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Under safety we state that the children should not walk over or play near the septic tank cover. I have a paranoia that they will fall in the tank.

On a related note, we include that nothing other than toilet paper and human waste should be flushed down the toilet. It costs alot to have a system pumped and is financially devastating to replace a failed system. Facial tissues, sanitary products, baby wipes, etc go in the trash, not the toilet.

We do not have a garbage disposal, so left over food goes in the trash – none should be washed down the sink.

OnceAnAuPair June 10, 2010 at 6:12 pm

The craziest rule I had as an au pair was “do not do your own laundry”. The mum liked to do the laundry after 8pm every night because they had reduction in price after 8pm. The rule was normally fine except that she didn’t do laundry very often and I would often wait a week for clothes to come back (no dryer, everything was hanged to dry indoors—which wasn’t a quick process). I respected the rule almost all the time, the one exception being a month after being there and I wasn’t very comfortable yet and my mom came to visit. She asked if she could have some of her things washed but she wasn’t comfortable with my HM washing her underwear, etc. So I did thinking it shouldn’t a big deal if I do it once. It was appearently and I never heard the end of it.
But seriously, my mom wasn’t comfortable with someone she barely knew washing her underwear! Is this totally strange?!

The second time was when the family went out of town for over two weeks and left me with barely any food except dry pasta and no money to get groceries (normal of them). Anyway, I had to to do my laundry at some point in two weeks so I thought it wouldn’t be a problem if I did it after 8pm just like the mum. When they got back from their vacation the father said “we know you do your own laundry, we wish you would stop”. WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO FOR TWO WEEKS?!

Does anybody else have such an insane rule?

Melissa June 10, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Wow – that is a crazy one! Definitely one of the weirder stories that I’ve heard!

NoVA Host Mom June 10, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Nope! Gotta say that one is in it’s own special list.

PA mama June 10, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Wow. I can barely bring myself to do my own laundry, let alone other peoples. That is by far the craziest rule mentioned here IMHO.

Who did the kids laundry? Because I have the AP do that. It would be even stranger if you could do the kids laundry, but not your own.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 10, 2010 at 11:03 pm

That rule is over-the-top. I can see trying to save money, but asking you not to do your own laundry while they were on vacation?!?

I try to get my APs to do their laundry with my kids’ laundry during the middle of the week, and it drives me insane when only a few pieces of clothing get washed at a time (but then I see my water bill and realize I’m still under the average use and calm down).

I do prefer to dry my clothes on the line, but I don’t do it during the wet, cold, dark winter months. (However, to me, underpants feel used and not clean when they’ve been dried in a dryer.) I do insist, however, that Friday-Sunday are my wash days – woe to the AP who interferes – only so many loads of laundry fit on my outdoor line!

OnceAnAuPair June 11, 2010 at 5:33 am

I have no idea what they thought, I guess I was just supposed to “wait”. The mum did all the laundry, she had some sort of neurotic separating process that she did. In the morning, I would take the laundry out of the washer, hang it out and fold the dry stuff. I folded/dried the entire family’s clothes. I’m not sure if this is normal? The family I work for now as a nanny, all I do is put the little girls’ underwear and socks away and the mum irons and puts away the rest. I don’t touch the parents things. Maybe its just me but I feel like their should be some privacy regarding underwear. How do you all feel about this? Are you ok with your au pair seeing your bras and panties and your husband’s things?

I found it kind of funny though that the demanding, controlling, sexist father wore tighty-whities ;P.

Jan June 11, 2010 at 8:02 am

I don’t mind if they see my underwear, but I don’t want anyone else washing them. One of my au pair’s decided to help me out after I had just had a baby and washed my “whites”. I was so upset that I actually cried about it, but then maybe that was the change in hormones of having a baby. My husband thought I was losing it. I also felt bad because I should have felt grateful for the help but instead I obssessed on someone else washing my dirty underwear!

aria June 11, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Jan, I’m not a mom or pregnant, but I totally know what you mean!!! It skeeves me out to let someone else wash my underwear! In my HF, I only wash the boys’ things, but they don’t have one hamper all to themselves, so I find their dirty clothes in hampers all over the house, and it drives me nuts to sort through Mom and Dad’s underwear, dirty socks, bras, etc, to find their stuff!

anon June 14, 2010 at 7:41 pm


Calif Mom June 14, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Can you suggest that a hamper just for the kids would make things easier for you? Say that that way you can be sure the boys have clean underwear before the weekend, or something. Hampers are cheap–even if I didn’t understand, I would totally pick up something like this in the name of AP happiness and domestic harmony. I don’t think hamper diving is right!

Taking a Computer Lunch June 14, 2010 at 10:51 pm

We just use tall kitchen garbage bins for hampers – they hose down nicely.

LI Host Mom June 11, 2010 at 2:37 am

I have had to add a couple of rules – One seems silly and the other was not. The 1st is when unloading dishwasher please put the forks, spoons and knives in drawer separated. (This one comes out of book next time cause our new AP was smarter) but our 1st AP just threw them all in a drawer even though we have a divider/organizer in there. The 2nd – Please do not unplug the freezer to plug anything else in…The 1st AP did this with a freezer full of foods and forgot to plug it back in and we had to throw out about $700 of food new and prepared and then have a cleaning services fumigate the freezer from mold and bugs. It was awful and she was a terrible AP – after this and many, many other issues we rematched !! We hear she ended up back home cause she also lied to the new Host family she was re-matched with.

Calif Mom June 14, 2010 at 10:30 pm

yep — been there! That’s when I broke down and bought the label machine. Much better than post it notes.

I’m not an OCD person by nature, but labeling is GOOD. Even a preschooler can benefit from labels. Added benefit: HD, kids, and even visiting relatives have no excuse for not knowing where things go. :-)

momto2 June 11, 2010 at 9:37 am

We had to add, “do not download pirated music and video files to the host family’s computer”……..(especially if the host parents’ jobs are to investigate cases of copyright infringement).

NoVA Host Mom June 11, 2010 at 10:16 am

HaHa. Not good! :)

Taking a Computer Lunch June 11, 2010 at 10:22 am

Before I got XP and block everyone from being an authorized downloader on to the computer, I had an AP who when she got angry at us, clicked “OK” onto a lot of pop-up software and almost brought it to a halt. Fortunately, a computer geek friend saved us! Now we have such an ancient CPU (8 years old) that most of the APs feel compelled to buy their own laptops, just so they have a computer that will work with their latest and greatest stuff.

Melissa June 11, 2010 at 2:46 pm

We also have the ‘no downloading’ rule without checking with us. Sometimes our AP has downloaded some programs, which I guess she feels are fairly harmless, like Instant Message programs. Also, I’ve found that they sometimes can’t explain how things got on there – we don’t know whether they’re just playing dumb or just clicking on ‘ok’ to every pop-up that appears on the screen, without realizing what it means. Because we also have a separate laptop for the AP, we rarely look at it unless there’s a problem (and thankfully, my husband is a technie, and has had occasions where he’s had to wipe everything out and rebuild it several times over because it was so ‘clogged’ with stuff).
I did, however, once have a situation where I needed to use the AP computer because my own laptop was not working and I needed to get something done right then. She wasn’t at home to ask, and when I opened her PC up, I found evidence of some things that were problems for us. We had a discussion about it and worked through the issues, but then she password locked the PC. So, now I try to make it clear in our handbook that while the computer is for our AP’s use and she can keep it in her room, that she shouldn’t really view it as “hers” and we specify: no downloading, no photos or wallpaper that she would be embarassed if others saw, and no password lock, in case someone else would need to use it.

Aupair Mama June 12, 2010 at 8:37 am

We don’t want aupair using our computers. We have 1+ computer per person – i have 2 myself. Computers are so cheap they should get their own. Now most aupairs have their own thankfully and we ask b4 they get here. One didnt and she got one soon after. We said ok to the computer but she quickly found the owner of that computer was rarely letting her use it and aupairs love to IM

Host Mommy Dearest June 12, 2010 at 8:53 pm

I agree computers are so cheap (for a non laptop and for host families to buy), which is why we bought a desktop and camera for Skype for our au pairs’ room. The au pairs from wealthier backgrounds probably already have a laptop that they bring, so those that don’t bring one probably find it more of a financial hardship to buy one.

Aupair Mama June 13, 2010 at 6:19 am

So how can you share playing a game with 2 people? you can’t. My computers are for my biz. if someone downloads something and ruins it my BIZ is OUT OFLUCK. I can not risk an aupair or anyone doing that. sorry its not gonna happen. also i do not like the idea of my personal financial info avail even if password protected or letters or personal info avail to an aupair. I really don’t want my music itunes or anything shared. The ‘family’ computer – one of the kids has had tech support 3x for virus and things and its cost a lot of money.

a little computer to do just email is like $300 + now. So if its SO important for an aupair to chat/skype etc that is deal. ‘back in the day’ calls and letters would add up to much more than that for one year. So YES i think its cheap.

Host Mommy Dearest June 13, 2010 at 3:22 pm

I agreed it is cheap, that is why we bought one and have had 5 au pairs use it. It is fine for email and Skype & if they want something snazzier they can buy it. Two of the 5 APs have also had their own laptop.

DarthaStewart June 11, 2010 at 10:51 am

We tell them not to download anything onto the PC, and if they get a virus, they get to fix it.- or pay to have it fixed.

Anna June 11, 2010 at 1:25 pm

We have that rule too, in addition of not downloading any new programs without our explicit consent; but it didn’t stop one of our au pairs from doing that anyway.
When she left, our computer was full of pirated X-files epizodes dubbed in Russian, it was completely russified, and had expensive pirated software on it (Photoshop!!!!)
Ugggg… the computer was ours, but for her exclusive use while she is here… I didn’t think of entering her room and checking it…

Christina June 12, 2010 at 6:28 pm

photoshop is the most pirated software ever…

Anna June 12, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Doesn’t make it right, does it???

Sofia, Future Au Pair June 12, 2010 at 10:20 am

Most of the rules posted here don’t sound “crazy”, they are more common sense to me; Other are just “different” in each home, (everyone likes things their own way, and that’s normal) and just have to been taugh at the star of the APs year.
About all the “neurotic” mums I have something to say…every mum is a neurotic from the way you descrive it here, hehe. (i.e My mum always wash the dishes before loading the dishwasher, so it is imposible to know if they already dishwashed or not, they just look clean).

Calif Mom June 14, 2010 at 10:31 pm

thanks, Sofia. That’s what our AP says, too. Her mom is the same way! She laughs at me about it. Somehow it’s easier when it’s not your own mom…

Pa Host mom of Two Au-pairs June 12, 2010 at 11:01 am

If it’s raining out you must pick the dog up and take him to the laundry room so his foot prints are not tracked all over the hardwood floors. Nothing like the cleaning lady cleaning the floors and a day later footprints left from the dog.

SotaGal June 12, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Ours is a large breed – we have “dog towels” to dry her feet when its raining. The trail of paw prints through the house and the mud tracked in can be really bad if not! Thankfully for our AP’s the dog despises going out in the rain so its rarely an issue for them. One AP totally missed her dog back at home, so she fully embraced our dog and all of her issues. She fed her, walked her, brushed her, bathed her, gave her her medicine and washed her feet during allergy season. Was great because she also got the kids really involved in caring for the dog; something we had never been successful with!

NewAPMama June 12, 2010 at 11:07 am

What kind of dog do you have?

PA Host Mom of Two Au-Pairs June 12, 2010 at 4:04 pm

A small cockapoo… I am glad it’s not a large dog :)

NewAPMama June 12, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Lol. I was just picturing your AP trying to carry a Golden Retriever or something. lol

Pia Aupair June 14, 2010 at 6:52 am

can you really make your au pair responsible for the dog?

Calif Mom June 14, 2010 at 10:33 pm

There are other posts on the topic of dogs.

In my book, you can absolutely ask an AP to not let the dog tramp around the house with muddy paws! That’s a basic “member of the household” request, and not hard or time consuming.

cv harquail June 14, 2010 at 11:05 pm
PA mama June 16, 2010 at 11:10 pm

I treat all of my pets with dignity, just like I treat all people with dignity. Our dogs are around us 24 hours a day. Everyone who has lived in our house, family, roommates, au pairs, has been expected to treat our animals the with the same respect we do. If the dog needs to go out, the dog will ask. All you have to is open the door and let the dog out into the fenced in yard. They also ask for food. If potential ap is the kind of person who can ignore a little dog who wants to go out to pee, then that is not the kind of person I want. We are specific with this when we match. We have been fortunate to match with people who truly love animals and are tickled pink when our dog wants to sleep in their room with them while we are at work.

Mom23 June 12, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Another rule we have is that the second set of FM stations on the dial is for the au pair. There is nothing I hate more than getting into the car and finding someone has reprogramed my stations and reset NPR.

cv harquail June 13, 2010 at 10:16 am

I totally do this too! I thought I was the only person in the world who’d figured out a system to avoid this…. particular annoyance. I also have one of the car seat adjustment buttons that is specifically for the au pair– which was really helpful with the two au pairs who were 6 feet tall, and the one who was 4 feet 11. cv

Anna June 13, 2010 at 11:24 am

It is funny, I am also an NPR listener and only one of my au pairs either left the station alone or always remembered to return to it… But I am not annoyed, I enjoy seeing (hearing for the first few seconds, LOL) what my au pairs like to listen to….

Host Mommy Dearest June 13, 2010 at 3:29 pm

This reminds me – I don’t have a rule about this but perhaps I should add one. Often when we go to turn the car on the radio is BLARING really load. I don’t have presets of even mind what she is listening to, but I don’t think it is safe for your driving, the radio speakers, or your ears to listen to music that loud! It is especially concerning when I know the kids were in the car last time she drove!

MadredeDos June 13, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Yeah, that bugs me too! Every time I turn it down, I turn to the kids in the back and say “Whoa, you need to ask AP to turn that down if you’re in the car with her – she needs to be able to hear you if you need something or are talking to her.” But I imagine that they like it cranked up that loudly, too. Little wonder that a lot of people under age 25 now already have moderate to severe hearing loss and must play everything at this increased volume – all the earbuds, live concerts, cellphones, etc. may be contributing to a lot of future hearing-aid users –but everyone will think they’re just “old-school” with bluetooth earpieces! LOL

pia Aupair June 14, 2010 at 6:59 am

well my hostfamily made me sign a driving contract.
all car rules are listed in their and the consequenses if i break them too.
like no eating, no more then three passengers, no loud music, no more then 40miles a day…etc if they found out i would do any of that i would lose my private driving privileges for 2 weeks. I share a car with my hostdad so most of the stuff is easy to find out.
Getting a ticket brings me 4weeks and when i cause an accident i will loose them completely.
most of the rules are so strict cuz the previous aupair totally messed up… thx for that! she would drive hundreds of miles a day and spill soda everywhere.

Mom23 June 14, 2010 at 11:42 am

We have a blown speaker in the car courtesy of our first au pair. HD keeps saying that we should probably get it fixed, but it does prevent the radio from being played too loud.

NoVA Host Mom June 15, 2010 at 10:29 am

My concern for the loud music blasting would be not only for the kids’ sake, but also just so she can hear emergency vehicles that need to get by. If the windows are up and the radio is blasting, a lot of cars these days are more insulated (for road noise, I suppose) and it has a direct impact on how well people can hear ambulances, fire trucks and police cars.

Sounds like I need to add a new rule for the car (sorry about the pun – we have realized our next will need to drive once the toddler starts preschool in 2011).

Pa Host mom of two au-pairs June 13, 2010 at 3:38 am

Great stocking stuffer idea…. Calif Mom

Pa Hst mom of two au-pairs June 13, 2010 at 3:42 am

West coast mom: My answer would be “no” I do have a certain ways, I also like to keep the children’s clothing, I refuse to have to search for mix-match clothing when I buy them as a set. I like the children’s clothing neat and tidy and to be put away correctly.

Pa Host mom of two au-pairs June 13, 2010 at 4:03 am

My goodness this took forever to read! such good postings, I will add my last two comments for you.

1> Spray and wash is used for the children’s clothing, not clean up bleach ( the whole load of laundry was sprayed with bleach)

2> If you wreck the car, explain that you are from a different country to the police officers they have no idea what or who a host parents is, ensure to show the au-pair where you keep the registration/ insurance to be able to present it! I think they might have thought she stolen the car.

PS: Someone please reply to Aupair MAMA requests on hiring a pretty au-pair! I believe that was missed.

BusyMom June 13, 2010 at 2:11 pm

I’m so relieved to find that nearly all of our rules that I considered a bit extreme have been mentioned by others! 1/4 full tank of gas, no shoes in house, no candles, do your laundry during the week, no downloading any programs or any pirated music, hitchhikers, things to put in the toilet, etc.

I’ve gotten some ideas from others of things that I’ll add in the future, the thong being one of them.

The only additional crazy rule that we have is – don’t use any scented air freshening products due to host parent allergies.

Just had a new rule crop up last night from an otherwise lovely au pair – “Please be considerate when we have guests using the guest room and keep music/TV/voices quiet after 10:30 p.m.”

For me, the handbook is a way to avoid conflicts. I find it much easier/less awkward to remind an au pair of an existing rule than to have to explain something new.

Pia Aupair June 14, 2010 at 7:09 am

why dont you just give your aupair a guest account on your computer (or even the aupair computer)
that way she cant change anything and cant download stuff either. or at least not without you (the admin) confirming that it is ok.

Aupairgal June 14, 2010 at 4:39 pm

I agree with Pia Aupair…you would be surprised how much you can restrict on a guest account. It annoys the crud out my boyfriend that he doesn’t know my password to my sudo even though he knows more about computers than I do. Teehee!

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