Au Pair Asks: How can I tell my Host Family that they’re so noisy they wake me up?

by cv harquail on October 22, 2014

If the shoe were on the other foot, we wouldn’t hesitate to tell our au pairs that their early morning or late night behavior was so rowdy that it interrupted our sleep.

But when you’re the au pair, and it’s your host family just doing their thing in the kitchen, what can you do?

7049247419_287461c152_zAu Pair Nadia has the right general idea– the best solution is to ‘change the system’.

Fixing the problem by moving the au pair to a different spare bedroom would solve the problem once and for all, and might be less likely to put a damper on Sunday morning family fun.  But if the parents have plans for that other guest room (Home office? Grandpa space?) or if that extra bedroom is right above their own bedroom, a room-switch might not be possible.

What do you think Nadia should do?

The problem is that my bedroom is right next to (into) the kitchen. So every weekend I wake up from the talking and screaming from my HF. I understand that the kitchen is the most important part of the house and that they can’t ask the kids to be quiet but I’m awake now every weekend around 7:30. That is not fun after having a late evening the day before.

A lot of au pairs and one of the friends of the family (that I’m also close to) told me that I should ask if I can move to the guestroom in the attic that they are rebuilding. But I have the feeling that asking/claiming that room is wrong, because it’s not my house..

I dropped a lot of hints in the last few months when they asked me how I slept. I really don’t know what to do anymore..


Read more:  Know When to Blame The System

Image: dorm room, Amy Ashcraft on Flickr


NewAPmom October 22, 2014 at 11:28 am

I think 7:30 is a reasonable hour to be up. I thought you were going to say something like 6 am. Get ear plugs if you don’t want to hear the noise or a white noise machine. You absolutely should not ask your room to be moved, it’s their house. In short, suck it up! They shouldn’t have to be quiet just because you were out late partying.

Host Mom in the City October 22, 2014 at 12:00 pm

I think this is a little strong. Particularly on weekends, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for anyone (without kids!) to want to sleep past 7:30am. I worry about this because our au pair room is on the same level as our room and the kids’ room and across the hall from our shared bathroom. I try to get the kids to be quiet in the mornings, but it’s sometimes a losing battle.

If they’re asking you how you’re sleeping, then they’re obviously concerned about it. Have you tried the obvious ear plugs and noise machine? We give both of those to our au pair. If you’ve tried that and it’s not working, I see no harm in asking if they would amenable to you moving. Obviously they might have plans for that room already, but most host parents want their au pairs to be happy and comfortable. I personally really wish I had a more private room to give ours! I would happily have her switch.

They would also probably try to keep things a bit more quiet in the kitchen. We really do our best, but after four years of au pairs you’d think the kids would remember not to yell “I have to go to the bathroom!!!” while running down the hall right in front of her room at all hours. It’s really hard to keep young kids quiet. :(

NewAPMom October 22, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Sorry didn’t mean the AP should be up then, but it’s reasonable for the kids and family to be up. Therefore she should expect there may be noise and try the suggestions made. As others said, that’s what happens in a house with small children. And I agree, the house is set up the way it is for a reason, so don’t ask about the remodeled space.

Didis October 22, 2014 at 11:53 pm

woah! Talk about equality and respect for your au pair!
This girl couldn’t be more polite and respectful while presenting her problem, and this is way to harsh.
Yes, it is not her house. Yes, it is not too early. Yes, she might suck it up.
But she is not a guest. She works up to 45 a week, in that same house, and just like you would like to enjoy your weekend. relax, chat, be loud in your home, why is it so wrong if she wants that too?
If you want employer who will disappear moment she’s done with work, au pair might not be program for you.
If I was au pair who asked this question, this response would be so hurtful and it will make me feel horrible for even thinking I deserve better/more/different.

Now my advice to Nadia:
Asking to move the room might be too much for them at first, so maybe if you just tell them plainly you are big sleeper and you are having trouble for months, but you didn’t want to be pushy and ask them for advice. Acknowledge that it is their home and you are aware of situation, but it’s becoming unbearable for you and is there anything to be done to improve it? I’ve noticed blunt and open approach always helped quicker and easier what I want, and if they say no, then you can try Nyquil, staying at friends house over weekend or something..
Good luck.

Host Mom in the City October 23, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Thanks Didis – many of these comments were a big surprise to me (the ones that basically said “suck it up”). I spend a lot of time actually worrying about making sure my au pair is comfortable and gets to do what she wants to do when she’s off-duty. If she wants to sleep all day, I would love it if she could – I know that’s probably not reasonable in a house with kids, but I certainly do my best to make sure she can do what she wants when at all possible. That would absolutely include not hanging out in the kitchen in the early morning if it can be avoided. Not being in the kitchen at all in the morning? Not going to be possible. Not chatting in the kitchen with my husband while we drink coffee? Sure, we can move to the dining room.

AuPair Paris October 22, 2014 at 11:44 am

Earplugs! I get woken up by the kids like this every day. I think it’s just one of the hazards of the job. It used to really upset me when I was in the middle of a nasty bout of insomnia, but I knew that I was being unreasonable. But really earplugs are so cheap. The wax ones work really well, and even the foam ones are better than you imagine before trying them.

WarmStateMomma October 22, 2014 at 11:59 am

I would try the earplugs. If that doesn’t help and you ask about moving rooms, don’t be surprised if they say no. Early mornings are just a downside of living with young children. Some of us parents really don’t enjoy it either!

Kiki October 22, 2014 at 12:52 pm

I’m a host mom whose au pair bedroom shares a wall with the kitchen. I had no idea how loud it is in his bedroom until he told me that when we talk in the kitchen, it’s like we’re standing right in the bedroom. This only came up on his birthday when he admitted he knew what we had gotten him because he heard crystal-clear my husband and I talk about his gift one evening in the kitchen. Of course I feel awful that it’s really loud in his bedroom, but we don’t have anywhere else to move him, or I would. We have young kids who get up early, so there’s no escaping the noise.

I think it’s reasonable to point out how loud it is in your bedroom, because like my husband and I who had no idea, perhaps your host parents don’t either, especially if they never had to sleep in that bedroom. Maybe they do have other plans for the attic bedroom, but I don’t think it hurts to ask about a switch. Just keep in mind that if the room is right above the kids’ room, you’ll probably hear the kids any time they’re in their bedrooms, but it won’t be nearly as bad as being next to the kitchen.

Nbhostmom October 22, 2014 at 1:50 pm

I also would start with the earplugs and noise machine. Maybe also a softer general inquiry about the new space, for example, “what are your plans for the guest room once it is finished?” and gauge you decision to ask for a move based on the response. I’m guessing if they’re remodeling it, they may already have plans for the space.

Nbhostmom October 22, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Also, just a bit of perspective, if our au pair asked to switch rooms, I wouldn’t find it rude / consider it wrong, I’d like to know the reasons and attempt to solve the underlying issue, but a move would be a no-go… Our house is setup as is it for a reason :)

HRHM October 22, 2014 at 2:00 pm

I think it’s pretty unlikely that they are doing a major rennovation to provide you with the space, but others here have done it, so it’s not a bad idea to ask what their intention is once it’s done. If they say, “oh it’s for our new master suite” then it’s not in the cards for you to suggest you get it instead! However, if they say it’s going to be a guest room for the elderly grandparents once per year trip, you could offer your main floor room which might be so much better than climbing to the attic for elderly knees! And mention that BTW, it would be easier for you to sleep if you weren’t on top of the AM activities on the weekend.

If you end up having to stay in your current location, I second the idea of white noise. I personally can’t do earplugs, it’s a sensory thing. But a nice big fan or HEPA filter might block out all but the most egregious noise.

The other option (I know this sucks) is to stay over with a friend who either has older kids who sleep in on weekends, a more remote room, or a HF that heads to the beach/mountain every weekend, leaving her alone. While you don’t want to feel “displaced” I’ve had APs who just wanted to sleep until 2pm on Saturday, and there is no way to keep my kids quiet past 8am. This was the solution one chose.

Julia October 22, 2014 at 3:39 pm

I dont wanna be rude here or anything but just get over it. As harder as you concentrate on it you will hear it and it will annoy you more. My hostdad was up Saturday and Sunday by 5 am and hostmum and child mostly around 7 sometimes later. Yes their noise bothered me but after a while I would just turn around and went back to sleep. Learn it now to accept it and you will have learned a good lesson. You will probably be living with other ppl in the same building, maybe even a shared apartment and yes there will be noise and you will get used to it. Just to speak from the other side my neighbor has been complaining to the landlord because of me leaving for work at 5 am. As much as I tried I just cant be anymore quieter than I’m already and she still complains about hearing my alarm clock, my teeth brush or me just closing the door. Honestly I’m so annoyed by that neighbor complaining that I considered after I really tried to be as quiet as ever possible to just behave like I would normally do. Yes that neighbor asked if I could start working later and stuff but I cant and she just has to live with it and accept it or move.
But on the other side I learned a lot during those noisy sunday mornings now when I can sleep in I really sleep in. And yes my hostmums aunt called every sunday at exactly 8.05 am to talk to her. Annoyed me in the beginning but after a while I didnt care. Either get ear plugs and suck it up or talk to them. But to avoid future problems in your life I recommand grow up and suck it up.BTW right now I can sleep at the loudest places with no problem at all.

AuPair Paris October 22, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Wow… I don’t want to butt in just to start a fight but… This seems extremely harsh! I mean, I agree basically that it’s something you need to figure out and work around, but the whole “grow up” “suck it up” thing seems really too far. Not everyone has the same sleeping pattern/ability. Not everyone is capable of falling back to sleep.

I found when I suffered from severe insomnia, that people seem to think you should just get a grip of yourself when you have sleep issues. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do. Really, no matter how much you chill out/don’t look at screens/practise mindfulness/drink herbal tea/do yoga/”grow up”/”suck it up”, some people still can’t control it, and it’s really not kind for people to say “I can control it so you should too!”. Particularly with insults…

Your last sentence really got to me. I mean, congratulations for your excellent sleeping ability, but your life experience isn’t the same as everyone else’s. Your abilities aren’t the same as everyone else’s, and *that doesn’t make you a better or more worthwhile person than everyone else*.

I mean, practical responses like ear plugs, noise machines… I’m sorry to be so confrontational but I don’t think your comment is very constructive at all.

oranje_mama October 22, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Try the ear plugs / noise machine. I think it would be reasonable for you to ask your HPs to buy them for you – put it politely – I find it hard to sleep because of the noise in the kitchen, would you consider buying me ear plugs / noise machine?

It is unreasonable to expect the HF kids to tiptoe around the kitchen in the weekends, sorry!

exaupair October 22, 2014 at 6:50 pm

As others suggested you should start using earplugs, they aren’t uncomfortable to sleep with and really do their job.
Also if the parents ask you how you slept it means they genuinely care – you can mention that you struggle to sleep longer on weekends because of the noise they make in the kitchen, but don’t expect them to change their routine only because you would prefer them to be quiet in the morning.
I could also suggest the boyfriend solution – if you have one you don’t need to spend nights in your house :-)

Christina October 22, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Our au pair often sleeps over at friend’s houses on the weekend. I assume that is, in part, because my kids are noisy and get up before the crack of dawn. I’d want to sleep in as well, if I didn’t have to get up.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 22, 2014 at 8:42 pm

We do try to accommodate our AP’s need to sleep against our kids’ need to play. The Camel sleeps directly above our AP, so on weekends we keep her out of her room until 10:30 or 11:00 (my absolute favorite APs would come when they had dressed, pick her up and put her in her room, but most got the late morning serenade). Nevertheless, living with a family is messy. Kids wake up early and their parents, sleepy or not, have to deal with it.

I do think it’s okay to tell the HF you realize that there’s nothing they can do, but you are hyper-aware of the kitchen noise on the weekend. You may inquire about sleeping in the attic, but don’t get your nose bent out of joint if your move is rejected.

Skny October 23, 2014 at 6:31 am

It is hard. Last night 4yo Woke up at 4am from a nightmare. In this she woke up 6mo baby and 2yo. At some point at 6am she decided she was ready to sleep and had a tantrum because I started getting ready for work. It was loud enough that probably woke up our Au pair, and I am genuinely sorry. There is not much I could do however.
I do tell upon matching that kids can be loud and while I never allow kids on the basement (where Au pair room is) on weekends she will most likely be awaken by a child on occasion.

Skny October 23, 2014 at 6:34 am

And while I understand she may be upset, I hope she appreciates I have been up since 4 (and had already nursed baby 3 times prior to that) and be understanding and don’t give me an attitude.

WestMom October 23, 2014 at 7:48 am

Beyond earplugs and white noise headphones, are you the type of person who can easily fall back asleep after being awoken in the morning (somehow all our APs seem to be able to do this… Ahhh youth…). Could you ask if you could crash in one of the kids’ room after s/he is up, on those mornings where you are not working? I would not have any problem with that request if I could not accommodate a new room in the attic.

Should be working October 23, 2014 at 10:44 am

Maybe you could ask to sleep on a mat in the new attic just on weekends, not move into the space but just sleep there–nothing else–for those two mornings a week? That would be pretty reasonable.

Boys Mama October 23, 2014 at 12:44 pm

This is tough. I’m a crazy light sleeper and I know if I were the AP it would be a bad situation for me. As a Host Mom of three little boys, I also know that it isn’t reasonable for my family to change our schedule to accommodate our AP’s desired sleep schedule. We all want our APs to be comfortable, but it is in the end, our home. One of the things that went through my mind while pondering this was the whole “part of the family” conundrum we often discuss here – it seems to be a double standard that HPs need to both bend over backwards to include the AP in vacations and the like, yet when a situation like this comes up we are also supposed to bend over backwards to accommodate the desires of our “guest”.

In my opinion you should feel free to be open and honest with your HPs and let th know how you feel and what works for you, but please don’t expect their whole world to change in order to revolve around you. It’s a year, living with small children is part of the experience, and not all of it can be perfect for you individually. Families involve team efforts, give and take. I hope you can make earplugs work AND they can make an effort to keep the noise down till 8.

Host Mom in the City October 23, 2014 at 1:42 pm

I actually don’t see it as a double-standard at all. In fact, I think it’s a double-standard to NOT be accommodating to a sleeping au pair. We expect our au pairs to come in quietly when they come home after everyone is asleep. We expect our au pairs not to play loud music or have friends over when the kids are napping. Etc. Etc. Essentially, during “reasonable hours” when family members are sleeping, I think other family members (all inclusive) need to be respectful. To me, this includes a period in the morning on the weekends – though where you actually put that reasonable point probably varies. We try to keep the kids quiet until 9am or 10am. Frequently, we’ll go outside to a park or the kids might watch some TV or something.

WarmStateMomma October 23, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Our house is large enough that we don’t really have this problem, but the playroom is next to the AP room. Yet I shamelessly get my toddler to snuggle in my room by reminding her that we don’t want to wake up the AP. I love this time on the weekends. :)

JourneyEC Aupair October 23, 2014 at 8:04 am

I think that both perspectives here aupair and parent are important. As stated most parents would definitely say something if the aupair woke them in the night. Most au pairs are really careful to make too much noise while up at night skyping or just coming in. I think its also fair for parents to attempt to keep children quieter, no screaming or wild games etc until 8am. After that I think it’s fair for the parents and children to not worry about noise. Can you mention to the parents that you are being woken up by the children? And then if after taking all the measures suggested here, asking them to be quieter, using a noise machine, ear plugs, then ask what the plans are for the attic room. If it is just going to be used a spare room ask if they would consider moving the aupair room there. Hopefully you can work out a solution with the family! Eventually you may get used to the noise and be able to roll back to sleep or just sleep through it. I know I have so heaven help my own kids when I have them because I just sleep through the kid noise unless its extreme!

Beyond the Sea Mum October 23, 2014 at 8:25 am

I think the general consensus is to get ear plugs and tough it out.

Another suggestion that I would make (that might not benefit you exactly but the next AP in will thank you for) is that while your HPs are remodelling the attic – they might look at getting the wall annexed to the kitchen soundproofed..

It can be done relatively cheaply.. it’s really only insulation board being nailed/glued onto an existing wall and maybe some electrical fixes if there are lights or sockets on the wall – but if they already have handymen in then they might consider it..

It would also help them understand that this issue will probably reoccur with every AP then intend to host.

This must be brought up in a polite/constructive manner.. and you must offer them solutions.. you could say something like..

Hey – I’m not sure that you’d know this but I’m finding my room is really noisy especially in the mornings at the weekends.. because the sound seems to travel right through the wall..

For now I’m thinking of getting earplugs to see how it goes.. but as you are remodelling the attic.. do you think it might be possible in the future for me to swap rooms (even with one of the kids etc when that is done) or is there anyway to soundproof the wall in my room that joins onto the kitchen..

What you want to do is offer .. three solutions.. together..

Best of luck..

But to most of the HMs I do agree – living in a noisy house is part of the job description for an AP – it comes with the territory..

Also someone mentioned insomnia.. if you suffer with insomnia.. I’m not sure if APing is the right choice for you at all.. I most certainly would not host an AP who was an insomniac.

I would approach the conve

AuPair Paris October 23, 2014 at 4:26 pm

I’m the insomniac. But at this point, honestly, it seems like I have a whole myriad of things going on that would prevent a lot of people from this site from hiring me as their au pair. I’m queer, I’m an insomniac, I’ve had depression in the past. I do my job well. I’m confident of that. My host parents don’t know I have insomnia, because I do my job well regardless. I have coping mechanisms. As I pointed out in my initial response – if you are being woken up by children *even if you are suffering from insomnia* you should work on your own coping mechanisms rather than expecting other people to change their lives for you.

It does make me depressed (in the popular sense of the word) to think of the number of people who seem to think I should run my entire life based on these things – on the offchance that my having a couple of miserable and debilitating illnesses might slightly inconvenience someone else. What people don’t get is that I’m a human being. I contain multitudes. People think “depressive”. Or “insomniac”, and have a whole picture in their heads. But people are so much more complex than that. If you met me, you’d have no idea of what illnesses I had.

I mean it doesn’t *matter*… I have my job, and I know I do it well, and that my host parents are pleased with me. And you have your system for choosing au pairs which presumably excludes people like me, which is fine for you. But I wish you wouldn’t tell me that my choice (to… basically just get a job, and try to live in the real world) was the wrong one. I know it was right for me, and it’s working for me.

I don’t know. I’ve come to a new messaging board and seem to be antagonising the whole world. I wish I wasn’t, and I’m sorry for it. But the idea that an isolated fact, or knowledge of an illness that you seem never to have experienced can give you enough knowledge about someone to tell them how to run their life… It’s hurtful and insulting.

German Au-Pair October 24, 2014 at 4:15 am

I have to agree with you on this,
I get why HP might want to exclude certain illnesses, simply because I would want to reduce potential risks of failure -not everyone copes as well as you seem to do-, too. Insomnia can lead to being too tired to pay proper attention to the kids, depression is even more severe and I understand why HP would not want to add to the risk of having a bad match -it’s high enough as it is. I really do understand the HP’s POV on this.
However, I also think that it IS rude to suggest that people suffering from those and other illnesses should reconsider their choice to be an AP. Responsibility comes with other jobs, too and noise cannot be avoided in other living situations either. So basically suggesting you shouldn’t become an AP because of this means suggesting not living a normal life. Same with depression…how many have been undiagnosed? Just because once someone put a name on it you shouldn’t be an AP?
Again, I understand why HP would exclude this risk alltogether but some HP seem to be fine with dealing with this. It always depends on the person and how self-reflected he/she is to decide which living and working conditions are accetable for him/her. And when a person cannot do that, it doesn’t matter if they have an illness or just certain character traits. I would have been miserable with a baby and had I not known that before, I might have had a terrible match.

AuPair Paris October 24, 2014 at 5:38 am

Insomnia *is* hard to cope well with. I’d suggest people who’ve never been diagnosed with a mental health disorder might find it even more difficult to deal with, because they won’t have had the same medical and psychological assistance to learn coping mechanisms. (Many of which are the same as the coping mechanisms new mothers are taught to use.) However, the idea that one shouldn’t hire people with it (or depression), just makes people feel that they should avoid being diagnosed and therefore, should never get any medical help…

I agree that HP should hire who they feel comfortable with hiring. I cope well with my occasional insomnia, but I don’t think I would be able to cope half as well if a host mum figured it out and was then *angry* about it, or wanted to rematch because of it. As it is, my host mum has noticed sometimes that I’m tired (interestingly, only in times when I’m *not* experiencing insomnia – and thus not compensating), and has always told me that if I want, I can chill a bit that day. Let the kids watch an English film, or just do something calm in the house… I think there is a cultural difference, given that France has really excellent workers’ rights, and wonderful anti-discrimination laws.

TexasHM October 23, 2014 at 9:13 am

First of all Nadia thanks for your question. It’s clear that you have thought about proactive ways to fix the problem. Our AP room is next to the laundry room and one random Saturday am my husband ran a load. (Mind you this was year 3 of AP program.). Later that morning my AP came dragging out and I asked her if she was up late. She said no but the laundry woke her. I had no idea it was that loud in there! I walked in her room, had husband start a load and then apologized profusely and promised her we wouldn’t run laundry before 10am unless she was already up. Problem solved but I have to wonder how many other times we did a load late at night or early in the morning in those 3 years and they didn’t say anything!
I know you say you’ve dropped hints but let’s be honest, sometimes we host parents (and APs) need it spelled out for us. Most of the above advice is good but I would flat out say it first in case there’s a solution. “Love you all to pieces but weekends can be rough because I can hear every word in the kitchen/walls are thin etc. I know it’s your house and you need to go in the kitchen and not tiptoe around and kids are kids but do you have any suggestions?” So ask your HPs for advice. I wouldn’t ask about the other room until you’ve told them the problem outright and asked about other solutions and then if you do, I would take above advice and ask what their plans are not if you can have it. If all else fails them you have the plan B advice – earplugs, white noise, etc. good luck!

WarmStateMomma October 23, 2014 at 10:00 am

+1!! Direct and friendly.

happyhostmom October 23, 2014 at 12:58 pm

I agree with Texas HM. IT sounds like a family who is concerned about her quality of life so I think the direct and friendly approach could work. Ask them a good place to get a noise machine, or ear plugs? In my family, I wouldn’t want my AP to get over it, I’d want her to come to me with this issue. IF they are off on the weekend, they should do whatever they need to unplug. Taking care of two kids is a demanding and hard job, and is exhausting. I remember being that age and working hard at a job and college, and using the weekends to catch up. Even if you don’t care about the AP’s sleeping in from that standpoint, I think the family would want them to be happy (within reason) because a happier au pair in general is a better au pair and more likely to extend. IMHO

ILHostMom October 23, 2014 at 1:16 pm

When you were in the matching process, did this ever come up? If they warned you that it could be noisy in the mornings, and now the reality of it is here, they may be a little miffed if you complain about the noise. Our first Au Pair expected us to be quiet in the mornings on the weekends, which in retrospect was obnoxious. Now in the matching process, I specifically spell out that we are all up by 7:30 and that it will be noisy and there is no way around it. If you were totally caught off guard by the early mornings, then nicely let them know that you would love to be able to sleep later and ask if they may have any ideas.

Au Pair October 23, 2014 at 2:28 pm

I actually wanted to say the same thing as well. We all try to be quiet when we come home late at night, and we don’t play loud music in our room even tough i love brushing my teeth while listening to music:) but I don’t do that because I know everyone is sleeping and I would wake them up. On the other hand, I would expect the family to also TRY to keep down the noise level in the mornings, on weekends. I don’t mean they have to stay in their room until I am up, but maybe playing tag at 7am might not be so thoughtful. Even kids can understand when they should keep the noise level down, at least mine do, and they are pretty young. It is all a matter of how much you want to make that happen as a hostparent. It is harder to keep them quiet, well it doesn’t always, like some people said, there is the option of playing in their rooms instead of the kitchen or whatever is close to au pair room, or, my kids get to watch cartoons on the weekends.As the name says, we are au pairs, part of the family, if we fulfill our part of being quiet and considerate etc. why wouldn’t you do the same thing?

happyhostmom October 23, 2014 at 3:21 pm

well said Au Pair. I think it depends on how you view the situation. I don’t buy the argument that well as a mom I don’t get to sleep in. I don’t either, but I signed up for that and knew how it would be. Does our AP occassionally wake us when she comes in late, yes. Do we occassionally wake her in the weekend on the mornings, yes. but all of us make an effort to try not to. I tell my kids that she is trying to sleep and we should try to be respectful of that and speak in inside voices. We do the same thing when friends or grandparents visit. I think it doesn’t have to be library quiet, but making an effort is nice. And as I said before, I’d want my AP to bring it up. I want her well rested, instead of being exhausted and sucking it up.

meanwhile in canada October 23, 2014 at 3:37 pm

i would want my au pair to address it too, because i want her to sleep well so she can be rested to do her job, but also to make the most of her time here. i usually ask our ap how she slept because i really want to know, and because i know that our floors are thin and can result in some noise downstairs in her room.
like a number of the posters have indicated, i would say that it is part of the give and take that this program requires- it’s the effort that counts (even if the baby screams sometimes, or preschooler upends the blocks on the floor at 7 am, or the ap accidentally lets the door slam when she gets home late…).
i think too that this is an issue that might cause a build up of resentment if it is not addressed at all, which would be really unfortunate given that nadia seems to be quite self-reflected and sensitive to her host family’s needs.

German Au-Pair October 23, 2014 at 4:22 pm

I actually LOVE to sleep and have a pretty sick sleeping schedule. I like to sleep until noon on the weekends even though I don’t party the night before. I’m not a light sleeper but do wake up a couple of times and when I do I’m really sensitive to every noise. So when my boy practiced his instruments at 9 or 10am in the morning I thought I was going to die. The isolation in American wooden houses is so much worse than I was used to so it wasn’t just my boy, practicing but also things going on outside.
My solution were those tiny foam ear plugs, specifically for women…they’re pink, but I don’t know the brand. Those were the first earplugs ever that wouldn’t hurt my ears but work perfectly and I cannot sleep without them even though I’m back in Germany. They don’t block out everything, you can even hear your (loud) alarm through them but voices are basically gone.
BTW, I know the AP after me asked to move in the guest room so “my” room became the guest room instead and no one ever cared. So I’m sure some HP are okay with that.

As for what is reasonable…this AP is not asking anyone to adjust to her schedule, I realize that working HP don’t get the desire to sleep late so much anymore -mine sure hated it. Chances are they don’t care which room will be the guest room. And, depending on how old the kids are- maybe teaching them to consider others’ needs is not the worst thing. Over here many people live in apartment buildings and while kids will be kids, teaching them to tune it down a bit and not randomly scream their lungs out just for fun because there are other people is not the worst lesson. When your parents do night shift you have to adjust your behavior a bit, too. Here we have a period between noon and 3pm when it’s socially expected for children not to behave like savages inside and outside and it hasn’t put a stop on the fun for anyone. I do realize this depends on the age and no one should tip toe around in their own house, but 7:30 is pretty early and at least making a bit of an effort would nnot be a terrible thing.
They cannot do that however, if the AP never brings up that issue.

Host Mom X October 24, 2014 at 11:06 am

As most here seem to be saying, I think that if this au pair is not sure if the family knows about the noise situation, then she could respectfully mention it (in case they really don’t realize), and I know others have said maybe not to ask about the new attic room outright, but maybe in a lighthearted way? e.g. “hey, any chance that new attic room might be open to your hard-working au pair?” They’ll just tell you what it’s for if you ask, I’m sure. Could be they ARE remodeling up there so that they have two different room choices for guests and/or au pair. For instance, we would like to remodel our basement to add an extra bedroom and bathroom so that we can have both an au pair and a guest room that each have access to a nearby bathroom. It will likely happen while our next au pair is with us. Our intention is to give the AP the choice – stay in the first floor bedroom that is near the noisy kitchen and living room, but is bright and sunny, or move downstairs to the new bedroom that won’t have as much light, but will hopefully give her more of a sense of privacy and quiet on the weekends. And then we’ll just use the other room for guests.

Though – I’m not sure what the host family could actually do for this au pair once she mentions the situation, other than purchase a white noise machine, ear plugs, and ask the kids to try to be more respectful. (Sounds like the attic room isn’t ready yet anyway.)

Our au pair’s room in our current and last home is on the first floor, near the kitchen, living room and downstairs bathroom (we have a small house, and our last place was just as small). We tell APs during the interview process that this is the situation, we have really little kids, and that it’s just noisy on weekend mornings. We do ask our kids to try to keep the noise down and be respectful of the AP on weekend mornings, but babies and preschoolers only have so much control over their own volume levels, and screams and shouts (of glee or rage) slip out even if the kids are trying to be quiet. We also try to put the older kids in front of the TV to get a LITTLE more quiet (and sleep for ourselves!) on weekend mornings, but that only lasts for so long (and we don’t want them watching three hours of TV anyway!).

We put earplugs in our APs’ “welcome baskets” and they all laugh when they see them and say, “oh, I won’t need these!” We smile and say “just you wait.” And when we check in about it a month or so into the gig, they all tell us that they have started using them! Most of our APs seem not to emerge from their bedrooms until very late morning or early afternoon on weekends, so I have to assume that the earplugs are doing at least an okay job of keeping the kid-noise out.

anonforthisone October 25, 2014 at 2:25 pm

I also have some advice for APs who are hoping to “upgrade” their living quarters: How do you treat your space (aka your HF’s home)? I will tell you that I’d be much more interested in giving a newly rennovated space to an AP that keeps her current room clean and shows she respects my home than to one who lives like an animal. I try not to directly intervene when my AP is a slob in her own space, but you can be sure that if there is old food on her dresser, garbage cans overflowing, unvaccumed floors with dirt and dust bunnies, sheets that never get washed, etc, that I won’t be inviting her to move into (and ruin) my newly furnished guest room.

We actually moved with our last AP in tow and because of how much of a slob she was, she got a small room right next to the kids instead of the bigger room in the basement. When she asked why, I told her point blank that I noticed in our old house that she never cleaned her room because it was out of the way in the basement and that she seemed to do a better job of keeping it up when she knew we were walking past on a regular basis.

FWIW, Our new AP was placed in the upstairs room at first, but after a month (and seeing that she kept it reasonably clean) I offered her the choice of the quieter suite in the basement, which she graciously accepted. She earned it…

Host Mom X October 27, 2014 at 5:12 pm

This is going a bit off-topic, but this post raised the question for me: do most host families who use cleaning services have the cleaning service clean their APs’ rooms? We do – so even though most of our APs have been more or less slobs in their own rooms, the rooms can’t get really gross because our cleaners clean them every two weeks and we let the APs know to leave out a clean set of sheets on the day the cleaners come, and then the cleaners will change the sheets.

TexasHM October 27, 2014 at 6:21 pm

We do not but in fairness, we don’t have them clean our room either. We have them do main level floors (hardwoods and stone tile), all bathrooms and dust. The APs and kids are responsible for their rooms and the upstairs living gets hits by me, kids or AP as needed but those areas also have bank foreclosure crappy carpet. When we change that we might reconsider. :) I have asked slob AP to clean her room when it got to be beyond my tolerance threshold (pretty lenient) though. Current AP does her sheets every two weeks and makes her bed everyday! (They do exist!)

Should be working October 27, 2014 at 8:04 pm

We tell the AP that if the room is “picked up”, then the cleaners can clean it if she wants. But if the room is not picked up, then I’ll ask the cleaners not to clean it.

“Picked up” means no clothes lying on the floor and things generally put away. And the rule is that they shouldn’t have food or drinks up there except water and non-sticky, non-crumbly food (apple slices are ok). No candles or incense either.

We have a longstanding relationship with our lovely cleaning lady, so I have told her to let me know if she sees anything that looks like it could be a problem. And once she came to me and told me that the AP had been unkind to the dog!

Returning HM October 27, 2014 at 10:33 pm

Yes, our cleaner does clean the AP’s room, including changing his sheets (as she does ours and the children’s rooms as well) so this helps keep the room from getting especially dirty. And AP shares one of the hallway bathrooms with our son (our daughter shares the other hallway bathroom with us), so I am in there each night while my son brushes his teeth and can keep tabs on its cleanliness. Plus the cleaner cleans that as well.

I don’t know whether the male APs are explicitly told to do their utmost to shatter the image of male APs as less concerned about cleanliness than female APs, but our three male APs have all been very neat and clean. The room is always straightened (AP leaves his door open when he is not home, so although I don’t ever go in, I do get a peek just walking by it), and as with SBW, our cleaner would report if AP weren’t caring for something, so at this point, I’m considering us lucky. All in all, I think the three males have taken care of the room just as well if not better than their female predecessors did. And certainly, we haven’t had the same kind of issues about storing food under the bed as we did with two of our APs early on in hosting, both of whom ate almost nothing in our presence but ate a ton of junk food in their rooms…

Taking a Computer Lunch October 28, 2014 at 7:12 am

We do not have a cleaning service at all, so the AP is completely in charge of keeping her space clean (most do a better job than I on the rest of the house), as well as light cleaning in The Camel’s bedroom and bathroom. Because The Camel’s diapers often leak through to her sheets, we ask that the AP wash both sets of sheets once a week. I also wash the Camel’s sheets once a week.

HRHM October 28, 2014 at 1:09 pm

We don’t currently have a cleaning service, but when we did, she cleaned everyone’s room.

As my kids age, I think if I hired one again, it would only be for the common areas and I would have everyone do their own bed and bath with AP being responsible for supervising the kids. As it is now, I’m on the cusp of starting to ask my 10 year old to participate in her room cleaning beyond what she currently does (making her bed, picking up daily and putting her clothes away on laundry day)

Seattle Mom November 3, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Our cleaning service only cleans the main level of our house, and the AP room is upstairs.. so no. We just don’t have money for that. I do have them clean the room before the new AP arrives, but that is the only time. We also only have the service come once every 2 months, so it’s really just an emergency type service for us to make sure things don’t get too nasty.

L. October 25, 2014 at 12:18 pm

I do not expect my kids to be quiet after 8 am. I think it is unreasonable to expect the host family (4 people) to change our habits for the convenience of the au pair. We are fortunate that our au pair seems to prefer similar awake/asleep hours as we do. But for au pairs who stay out late partying, of course they should be as quiet as possible when they come home. And then the next morning, they shouldn’t expect a toddler to be quiet to accomodate the luxury of sleeping in. This is a family home, not a college dorm. Moreover, for them it’s one year, but we are trying to live indefinitely with rotating new au pairs living with us, each with their own unique traits and preferences.

AnotherSeattleHostMom October 25, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Our kitchen is right above APs bedroom…and my kids are 6 am wakers (even on the weekends!). We supply a great white noise machine, point out the situation in matching, and do our best to have a quiet breakfast on weekends and then get out of the kitchen so she can go back to sleep.

We also have a guest room but we want to retain it as such. If an au pair asked us about moving we wouldn’t be ok with it, but if she wanted to sleep there on weekends that would be ok (although in our house the guest room is probably more prone to noise…)

AlwaysHopeful HM October 26, 2014 at 9:36 am

Slightly OT, for those who have AP’s room in the basement, how much do you use the rest of the basement? When we finish our basement, it will include a guest bedroom and full bath, but the main reason to finish it will be to add entertainment space for the whole family. I’m concerned that giving the basement bedroom to our au pair would either leave us feeling uncomfortable about using the rest of the basement for fun, or leave him or her feeling put upon or irritated. Not really a present worry (no current money to remodel!), but just something I’ve often wondered about.

HRHM October 26, 2014 at 9:50 am

We had this issue in our old house. The AP at the time would have groups of APs over every weekend and they essentially took over the space. It made us uncomfortable going down there, although we had a TV on the main level and in the end it probably didn’t change our overall behavior that much.

In our new house, the basement is set to be a home theatre and bar/billiard room, but right now it’s just a large empty space. Once it’s finished, I will make clear to the AP at that time (may be years from now at the rate we are going!) that it is not her personal entertainment district and that if she wants to bring over groups to play pool or watch movies, she needs to clear it with us first in case we had plans to use the space.

dcmomof3 October 29, 2014 at 8:17 am

We had this issue in our old house – it was a smallish, city rowhouse and the au pair room was in the basement, which meant she essentially had 1/3 of the house. On the weekends, we wouldn’t let our kids go down to the playroom in the basement until at least 9 am, but that still always ended up waking up the au pair so we usually would try to keep them out of there until later. My husband wanted a treadmill and the only logical place to put it would have been in that same playroom, but he was not comfortable running down there right next to the au pair room, especially since the only times he could run were at 5 am before work or after the kids went to bed at night and the au pair was already in her room. Giving up 1/3 of our house to her was certainly a lot for us, but it seemed better to do it that way than to always be in her space or have her in ours. I think part of it just depends on how much “closeness” you can tolerate.

Old China Hand October 26, 2014 at 4:07 pm

I want to add in a belated shout out to white noise. We had problems with our son staying (or falling) asleep during naps because of noise in the house (old wooden house) or neighbors. We got him blackout blinds and that helped. Then after a trip where we stayed in a room right off the kitchen and my mom figured out that the fan on high drowned out all noise, we always have him sleep with a little fan on. My daughter (4 months old) sleeps all the time still and starting when she was about 8 weeks old, she got a fan too. Cheap and easy to try. I like it better than ear plugs and it really drowns out noise well. My son now requests the fan at nap and night time. The big window fans are really loud. I find this better than the white noise machine we tried because that was too rhythmic. You could tell it was a recording playing over and over. Fans really are just white noise.

Mimi October 28, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Half my kids are early risers so morning noise is an issue for us. Our handbook states that we try to be considerate and knowing our AP is well rested is important to us. We also provide earplugs and would invest in a white noise machine if asked.

Our AP comes on duty with the baby after kids 1-3 (10 y/o & twin 5 y/o’s- all boys) to school. Most morning noise is confined to the kitchen which is far from the AP room. I have the kids brush teeth and wash up downstairs to keep stair clomping and other noise down.

On the weekends, we make the kids stay quiet until 9 (also in the handbook) unless we’re going out for the day and we let the AP know to expect noise if so. Neighbors mowing in the summer seem to be a bigger issue than the kids.

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