Dear Au Pair Mom,
I just find out this site, and I think it’s really helpful. You have a lot of useful information for all of us, and I would like some advice from host parents.
I’m an Au Pair, and I just started the program. I’m here for two months and everything is incredible!
I live with a single mother and her 2 boys and I’m also her first au pair! We are very comfortable around each other and we don’t have any issues that I can think of, right now. Food, money, being treated like a family member. Everything is okay…
But, the thing is My HM refuses to give me a schedule or any kind of time to work with! Last week I worked 51 hours and this weeks is going to be even worst! Because this Saturday I started working at 8am until 1pm and now from 4pm to midnight! And I’m going to work tomorrow as well! I’m so tired that I’m afraid it is going to interfere with my relationship with the kids.
I told her 3 times that is too much work, and she told me she would try harder to give me a schedule, this was 2 weeks ago and I haven’t seen one!
I don’t know what to do right now! Should I rematch?
Hi J –
It looks like both you an hour host mom are overwhelmed…you have too much work scheduled, and she hasn’t figured out how to organize herself as an ’employer’ of an au pair. Good thing that you have a good interpersonal relationship, and that you are doing well with the kids. This is the most critical piece, and all the rest you can work on with the expectation that they will get fixed.
Every au pair should have a concrete, reliable plan for when s/he’ll be working each week.
I know that some host parents are very vague about the schedule, chance of going over 45 hours a week. I don’t really see how it works when you don’t have a written, intentional schedule… but then I’m a systems-planning kind of person. Maybe not having a written schedule works when the schedule is more or less routine, and when there is little chance of going over 45 hours. However, most of the time, everything works better when your host parent gives you a schedule at the beginning of the week, and then sticks to it.
Let’s assume that the basic problem is that your host mom doesn’t know that she should give you a schedule, and that on top of that she doesn’t really know what that schedule should be. Let’s assume that it’s an organizational problem (and not something related to her wanting to take advantage of you.) Finally, let’s assume you’re in the US where there are clear rules and expectations about schedules.
1. Make sure your Host Mom has the tools you need for a schedule.
Your host mom needs a monthly calendar and a weekly schedule page.
Often, au pair agencies give these to host families, and/or have daily journals that host parents can use to schedule. You simply MUST have some place (preferably on a piece of paper) where you can not only write out the plan, but also count up the hours worked. You also have to put this in a place where both of you can easily see it and refer to it. Most folks use either the refrigerator door or a wall in the kitchen.
Find your host mom a family calendar, with a month-by-month view, where you can write in your on-duty hours each week and circle your weekend off.
Find a weekly calendar page with the hours of each day listed… (maybe print out one from Google calendars). Have a couple of blank copies of next week’s calendar that you and your Host Mom can work with.
2. Know the rules
Make sure that you know the rules beforehand– no more than 10 hours a day, one 1/2 day of 5 hours only, and one day completely off. Breaks should be no shorter than two hours. Days where you work three “sessions” are okay but these should be rare and should give you useful amounts of break time.
(For example, you can work 8 am to 10 am, 1 pm to 4 pm and then 7 to 10 pm, for a total of eight hours but with decent breaks in between, so you can cover before school, after school, and your HM’s book club meeting.)
3. Make a concrete suggestion
Use what you know about your host mom’s schedule to put together a possible schedule for the next week. You could block out the times when you know for sure she’ll be at work and need you on duty. Also, suggest (or sketch in with pencil) ideas for how she might use any additional hours that would remain, up to 45 hours.
Under no circumstances should you offer to work more than 45 hours a week– your host mom has to learn to respect the limits and the reasons for those limits.
Remind your host mom that, although it might be hard to pin down a schedule at first, once you have a basic schedule adjusting it each week is easier. For most host families, 85% of the on-duty hours are the same week to week, because our own (parental) work schedules are usually consistent.
4. Be ready with explanations for why you need a schedule and why you need for the two of you to follow the rules.
You mentioned the most important reason– which is for you to be able to be rested, strong and happy so that you can do a good job with the boys.
When you sit down to talk with your Host Mom, be ready to say something like “I know that being a host mom for the first time can be a little overwhelming, since there is so much you need to figure out how to teach me. One of the basic things we need is a schedule so that I can plan my days and weeks. Thinking about what I know already, here’s a beginning … maybe we can revise this to make sure you get the childcare coverage you need.” Remember, you’re here to solve a childcare problem for her… you, personally are not the problem but the solution. That’s a great position to work from.
Call your Community Counselor
You community counselor should follow up with your host mom on the importance of giving you a schedule. Your Counselor is supposed to call your Host Mom anyway, and this is a good topic for conversation. Your counselor wants your Host Mom to succeed and for you to have a great year, so s/he should be willing to help here.
Don’t be thinking about rematch just yet.
Always, the hardest thing is the interpersonal relationship and getting on well with the family. If you already have a good relationship, and it’s the technical stuff of hosting an au pair that’s the problem, the technical stuff can be fixed. The hard stuff to fix is a bad attitude or lack of interesting a good year, and it doesn’t seem like those are at issue here.
Parents, au pairs, and counselors– what are your suggestions? Do you have any easy ways to generate your au pair’s on-duty calendar? Share your systems, below.
Calendar Advice from CalifMom