Au Pair Asks: How can I get my Host Mom to give me a schedule?

by cv harquail on May 23, 2010

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.

calendar_2008-03-30_2008-04-06.jpgOften, 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.201005231302.jpg

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.

See Also:
Calendar Advice from CalifMom


PA AP mom May 23, 2010 at 6:20 pm

I think it is unfair of your host mom to ask you to work without a schedule. If you have asked her on a couple of occasions and she is still not giving you one, maybe you need to contact your local counselor for some assistance.

We are with CCAP and we use the “communication log”. It has a place to write in the weekly schedule and then write more specific things on each individual day of the week. We try to give our AP at least a one week notice of her working hours, keeping in mind, that flexibility when changes are needed is VERY important.

Westchester mom May 23, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Thank you for this great topic. As a first time HM, this blog has been invaluable. This topic is close to my heart, so I just wanted to share my experience about schedules.

I too, am the planning-type, and it’s essential for me to plan a full week out (if not more), to make sure we have the coverage we need, and allow our AP to plan out her personal activities.

Google calendar has been so helpful to achieve this. I have created an online family calendar, which I share with my husband and where we both enter our personal/family activities (like birthday parties or school activities) and work-related activities (like if DH needs to travel overnight for business for example). We also share a calendar with our au pair, which describes her schedule on a daily basis. I make sure to total out the hours to make sure we respect the max number of hours per day and week. Now that we are 8 months into our experience with our AP, the shifts are usually similar from week to week, with the exception of a night out every once in a while. I print out the weekly calendar on Sunday and post it on the fridge for anyone to refer too.

I can’t recommend Google calendar enough to simplify communication and scheduling, both within our family and with our AP. It’s really great too for hub, who seems to be much more aware of all the extra-curricular activities I need to keep track of, with 3 children in school :)

Calif Mom May 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm

this is my favorite tool. Started doing it about a year ago, I guess, and all three “grown ups” in the family are responsible for entering important dates. Dad logs in his travel days, I do all the school half days, etc, and (ideally) our au pair adds the days she’s sleeping over with friends or traveling for the weekend. Also the days a parent *must* come home on time because of her classes.

Love, love, love google calendar with the challenges of managing home life with an au pair.

Calif Mom May 24, 2010 at 9:33 am

I do print out the “aggregated” calendar from google, and stick it on the fridge with magnets. Nothing will replace paper entirely.

Taking a computer lunch May 23, 2010 at 9:09 pm

I’m more old fashioned (and I have really small, precise handwriting) – I buy a calendar with large squares – the AP schedule goes into the top of each day (and listed as OFF when she is OFF), at the bottom of each day are the routine activities, and then in the middle – and circled so they stand out – are such items as doctor’s appointments or school performances to which everyone needs to pay attention. I write when HD and I need to use both cars, so the AP can plan a car-free day. It hangs in the kitchen, and when HD expresses surprise, I roll my eyes and say, “It’s on the calendar!”

My best APs have come to me, either on Friday or Saturday night before they are done working for the week, or when they get home on Sunday evening, and ask “Is there anything I need to remember?” Or “Have there been any changes I need to know about.” The Camel is often ill and has an additional medicine or two added to her routine. She is capable of upending the schedule (we warn APs that match with us that this will happen), and when she does, we take away weekend hours (we never add them, even if we have an evident that makes it inconvenient to bring The Camel, she comes along).

In my opinion, you have a right to schedule your free time, and it is difficult to do if your work schedule is not planned out. Since your HM is new to the program, it appears that she’s trying to have it all – you help her manage her working life and her recreational life. Gently insist on a schedule — and remind her when she’s approaching 45 hours and suggest that she hire a babysitter to cover the additional hours. While I can understand how stressful it is to be a single mom (DH travels from time to time, and when my kids were younger I had a relative come stay with me — even though I had an AP!), you should not be responsible for working more than 45 hours so she can lead the life she wants. If I were her, I would expect you to be flexible in a crisis, but not every week!

FormerSwissAupair May 23, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Working without a schedule, and working more hours than you are supposed to is just unfair. No matter how “close” you are with you HM, you need to approach her again, and state that you need a schedule. Schedule a time for you and her to talk when her head is clear and she will be able to focus on what you are saying. If it helps, print out a google calender as others have suggested, write in things you know of advance that you need time off for, and then ask her to write in when she needs you. Contact you LCC if nothing else works. As time goes on, and you meet more people, you will become resentful for not being able to schedule your life outside of work. Good luck, and keep us posted :)

hostmom May 24, 2010 at 6:26 am

I was basically a single mom for 3yrs while my husband worked on the other side of the country – he left when our twins were 1 and we finally moved up when they just turned 4. I really do understand how hard it can be as a single mom – BUT having said that i was always careful to make sure i didn’t go over the 45hrs and provide a schedule- unless there was an emergency. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be flexible and change a little during the week if you can/don’t have plans, but it really is necessary to have a schedule and stick to the rules. Talk to her again and if it doesn’t work you need to call your local coordinator to talk with her. the 3 of you can have a sit down about it.

I hope it works out.

My 2 cents May 24, 2010 at 10:44 am

You need to train your host mom into a schedule. First step for me would be to make clear that you have concrete plans and have commitments so you just cannot have an open schedule (even if you don’t have plans, you can make comments to the effect that no, you are not available to work more than 10 hours this day because you are supposed to have coffee with A, B or C, or promised to go help X, Y, or Z with a computer problem, etc.). In other words, make clear that she cannot have free reign because you just won’t be there for her to do so at the last minute. It’s just not possible. Period.

If she can’t get it together enough to give it you, or appears to want to keep it open so she can take advantage of your “flexibility” (read: YOU), then you take the initiative and write down the hours you have found you typically work (probably the core work hours for her), give it to her before the upcoming week, and ask if there’s anything else that has to be added (assuming there are even hours left — if there aren’t then she needs to reorganize your schedule).

To me it sounds like your host mom needs some training with a touch of advantage-taking mixed in and, unfortunately, you are the one that’s going to have to do the training. Although this shouldn’t be the way it works, it is in your situation, and I for one would try to train before going to your LCC which can set off its own set of problems if you KWIM. If none of this works, talk to the LCC.

HRHM May 24, 2010 at 12:19 pm

If you are caring for kids that are home all day with a single mom who works full-time outside the home, there is a GREAT possibility that she is never going to be able to stick within the hours limits. I say this from experience. I had both DDs in daycare PLUS the AP because if you work a typical day, add in a reasonable commute, you are pushing 9 hours every day – this doesn’t account for the fact that most single moms who can afford an AP are not hourly workers and may need to put in longer days even if it’s not a daily thing. So unless you are willing to work out something for extra money (I don’t condone this but I know lots who do it) then either she needs to get more help or you may need to rematch.

I agree with the others who suggest making up a schedule and presenting it to her as a starting place. You are being taken advantage of and it’s only going to get worse if you let it continue. Also, make sure that your LCC knows what is going on and gets involved early. Good luck.

HostMominCA May 24, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Google Calendar looks great, but how do I make sure that the au pair looks at all the details (for example, if I add a note on a specific event). Also, how do host parents generally use it? Do you simply “share” it with your AP? How much detailed information do you add, other than name of event and location? Thank you!

Calif Mom May 24, 2010 at 4:13 pm

You can set google calendar to send reminder emails about specific events, and also to send a daily agenda of all the day’s activities. (Love this! )

Since I know my AP checks her email regularly, I can forward to her my daily agenda when needed. She tells me that she has not been able to get the email event reminder function to work right; I haven’t had time to dig in and figure out whether that’s due to her settings, or a limitation of the program itself. It would be fantastic if G-cal could send emails to ALL people who have access/privileges.

We have it set up as my calendar, but my hub and my au pair can add events. That’s the only way my hub’s travel gets logged! I was tired of having a pile of “events” to plug in myself. I do know that some host moms prefer to have full control themselves of the calendar. It can work either way.

There’s a previous post on this topic from last year, but I can’t seem to paste the link. (it’s that kind of Monday today!) Just plug “calendar” into the search box and it comes up.

HERE IT IS: Calendar Advice from CalifMom

Should be working May 24, 2010 at 5:02 pm

I have separate Google calendars for my husband, me, ‘kids & family’, and the AP. DH and I have power to maintain all the calendars; AP has power to maintain her own and kids&family.

I love this system, I’ve never been so organized.

It is hard to get her to look at it, though, or to be sure she has looked at it. And it is hard to get her to input her important events–except if she doesn’t and a conflict arises, she loses if her plans were not posted on the calendar.

In addition to Google calendar (and based on it) I write her a weekly email with a day-by-day schedule of her work and kids’ events she needs to be aware of.

Should be working May 24, 2010 at 5:03 pm

I forgot to mention that we all ‘share’ our calendars so that we can all see what everyone is doing, or at least when they have plans.

Busy Mom May 24, 2010 at 11:26 pm

I also create a day-by-day schedule narrative because, with an 8, 10 & 12 year old, life is busy and every week changes a bit: special one-time events, carpools, carpool cancellations, unexpected mtgs after school, unexpected mtgs before school, bag lunches required for field trips, etc. The calendar alone is not sufficient. I print mine and it lives with a 5-day google calendar printout on the kitchen counter. DH looks at it. Kids sometimes refer to it as well.

J May 25, 2010 at 6:28 am

Thanks so much for the great, great advice!
I sent this email because nothing else worked!
I had already tried making a beautiful handwriting schedule for her!
With space for everything! (or printed the ugly, boring one from Google, it’s really helpuful, but mine it’s just cute! LOL)
Both of them had slots for all the activities – Hers and the kids!
I told her – That I didn’t care if she worked from midnight to 6am, but it was important to me, that she would let me know!
I know that from time to time things can change, but I’m feeling sad that we can’t seem to stick to any kind of time or schedule.
I don’t wanna sound like the queen here! I’m flawed as every au pair!
but I just think she has different needs and too much expectations of the program!
And i’m feeling overhelmed and insecure that I can’t fulfillied them!
I talked with my LCC yesterday and she is coming to our house tonight!
Pray for me and if you wanna give me some more advice is welcome!

Thanks in advance!

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