Au Pair Drinking Wine While On Duty: Okay or Ixnay? (Poll)

by cv harquail on August 9, 2016

4671257316_54fc8123fa_mDear Au Pair Mom — I have been an avid reader of your blog for awhile now and absolutely love the invaluable information and tips I have learned from it.

I’m not entirely sure this is an issue but I think it has the potential to become one so I guess I’m just putting some feelers out there to see if I could do something to nip it in the bud or if you think I’m just overreacting.

Our au pair has been with us for just over 4 months now. She is 24 years old and enjoys the frequent gin & tonic, vodka mixer and wine.

I have no idea how much alcohol she consumes when she is out on the weekend with her au pair friends and I feel it’s not my business to ask her as long as she is safe and doesn’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle.

The problem is there has been three nights within the past two weeks where DH and I either went out to dinner (our anniversary) or were running late with work so our au pair was in charge of dinner, baths and pajamas. When I returned home each of these nights, there was an open bottle of wine on the counter and the au pair has been consuming a glass.

Now to be objective, each time, it was around 6-7.30 pm time slot. I can imagine she’d had a glass of wine to wind down her day and/or to accompany her dinner.

On the other hand, I feel it’s completely within my right to ask her not to drink when she is on duty.

Our Au Pair has never been ‘drunk’ or unable to care for the kids, but my concern is that alcohol can alter judgement. Ultimately I just don’t think it’s appropriate for a childcare giver to drink wine when she’s in charge of the kids.   

My DH sees this as less of an issue than I do, perhaps because it’s only happened the three times out of her four months here. At the same time, I wonder whether the Au Pair has also been drinking other evenings when we have left her in charge of the kids at night.

I’m not sure if I’m making a big deal out of this or not.

What do other Host Parents and Au Pairs think about drinking wine on duty?

Is it Okay for an Au Pair to drink wine when s/he's On Duty?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...


NBHostMom August 9, 2016 at 6:18 pm

I personally would not be comfortable with this, but I also feel it is very likely a pure cultural thing and would approach it with great sensitivity.

I would openly acknowledge to her that it is a cultural difference but would also make it clear it is not acceptable to consume alcohol of any type of alcohol while on duty. I would not justify my answer with any kind of explanation beyond that as it can easily go down the wormhole of a moral discussion or her feeling you’re accusing her of have inappropriate alcohol habits.

I think I’d say “I’ve noticed a few times when I’ve come home that you’ve been drinking wine on duty, probably with your dinner. As you’ve probably noticed, the culture around alcohol here may be a lot different than if home. For us, it’s not ok for you to drink any alcohol while on duty. We’re not questioning your ability to take care of the children, but it is a cultural difference you need to be aware of. You are of course welcome to enjoy wine with dinner when you’re not working.”

After that, no further discussion, it’s just a fact, not a moral conversation,

hOstCDmom August 9, 2016 at 10:47 pm


WarmStateMomma August 10, 2016 at 2:57 am

Excellent explanation!

German Au-Pair August 9, 2016 at 6:34 pm

I would asses the other factors in the situation: what has YOUR behavior been while caring for the children? My HP frequently drank a glass of wine for dinner, while caring for the (older) children. I personally don’t like whine and also tend to not do well with alcohol so I never joined them. If this is common in your home, she may not have the slightest idea that there could be an issue. If it’s common in HER home it also might not occur to her.
Example: Even though I hardly ever drink alcohol, I do drink the occasional cocktails. I also never drink in stressful situations because it’s just not what I do. Once during my stay there was a very stressful situation with my HK being lost, the police helping out and me being on charge. I’ve told the story before. I was not at fault for her being lost but I was absolutely done for the day. I also happened to be on duty to babysit at night and did make myself a cocktail to wind down. While I was making it my HM actually texted me to suggest I do just that. Granted, my kids were pre-teen so there was no situation in which I would have to be extremely alert and there’s probably a difference when we are talking about very young children. But based on my HPs’ practice of also drinking a glass of wine, it would have never occured to me that this might be a problem. I cannot properly judge how I would have felt if the children had been younger. I’m leaning towards “no drinking while on duty” but who knows.

So my point is that it may simply not have occured to her. The other point is if YOU are not comfortable with her drinking while on duty, even if that’s what you do while caring for the kids, telling her in a friendly way is absolutely okay. It’s not about overreacting at all. I second what NBHm says, except I would leave out the part about the cultural difference. Something along the line of “we’ve noticed, we realize you probably didn’t think anything of it, please don’t do it again while on duty”. If the situation requires some reasons (she asks, you feel like providing instead od saying “because I said so”) you could tell her that while you do trust her, accidents can occur and the situation would be tense, if there was alcohol involved; even if she feels no effects of the alcohol the effects may vary based on factors like eating and overall wellbeing and her reactions may be affected. Something like that.

So I don’t think it’s a big deal that she did it but I would also ask her to please stop in the future.

HRHM August 10, 2016 at 8:21 pm

My response to this logic string is “I don’t drink when I am working, therefore, I don’t want my AP to drink when she is working” In my care of my kids, it’s not my job, it’s my life. If I didn’t ever have a glass of wine when I was responsible for my kids, I’d literally NEVER EVER be able to have a glass of wine, since when I’m not caring for my kids, I’m at work, where, as I stated at the start, I can’t drink either.

FWIW, not all families may feel this way, but it is one way that I draw the line that she IS working, it’s not just a lark or hobby. And lets face it, she has plenty of off hours to get her drink on. Me? Not so much.

German Au-Pair August 12, 2016 at 4:15 pm

I agree! I was just differentiating between two things: is it a problem (e.g. lack of judgement) that he HAS been drinking and SHOULD she be allowed to drink in the future.
For the first, I don’t think it’s a problem if the parents have modelled the regular glass of wine with dinner before or if that’s common in her home country. Not considering that there could be issues with drinking while caring for the kids is not a problem to me.
The other thing is should she be asked not to drink while caring for the kids? Yes, if the HM feels more comfortable that way.

Seattle Mom August 15, 2016 at 12:58 pm

Lol, this is my logic for a lot of things with APs where it’s “do as I say, not as I do.” I want APs to limit screen time, and make sure the kids get outside every day. I don’t *always* do this, because I have other responsibilities when I’m home with the kids. And it’s my time off from my job that I’m being paid to do, where I have to act in accordance with my organization’s rules. The au pair needs to act in accordance with my rules when she is on duty, even if those are not the same rules that I follow when I’m in charge of the kids.

Frankfurt AP Boy August 9, 2016 at 7:54 pm

As NBHostMom says: it is a cultural thing. When I worked in a school in Spain it was quite common to have a glass of wine at lunch time before returning to teach in the afternoon. None of the teachers had a problem with alcohol. Depending on what country she comes from she may not understand why you are asking her not to drink a single glass of wine at the end of the day. I think the best approach is to explain that you yourself dont drink while looking after the kids alone and that it makes you feel uncomfortable that she does – so for that reason youd rather she didnt drink while on duty. Perhaps it doesnt have to be made into a big issue but rather just a casual talk about what you feel most comfortable with in your house with your kids.

New to This August 9, 2016 at 8:01 pm

I don’t think this necessarily indicates poor judgment on the au pair’s part, but I also think it’s reasonable for you to ask her not to. We have language about this in our handbook — no drinking on duty unless we offer it (this lets us make the finer-grained judgments about circumstances, amounts, etc.), and some constraints on timing/quantities when drinking before a shift or if using our car. You trust her judgment, but parenting makes us all prone to anxiety sometimes, and I imagine she understands that well enough to be okay with being asked to take extra care about avoiding your personal (or cultural) anxiety triggers. If you want to soften the blow, perhaps you could take note of the types of wine she likes, and occasionally when you go out in the evening, bring home a gift bottle for her to enjoy afterwards…

Taking a Computer Lunch August 9, 2016 at 9:10 pm

You set the guidelines for what you consider a successful year with your AP. If you are uncomfortable with her drinking alcohol while you are paying her to look after your children, then put it in your handbook.

I admit to being a hypocrite. While I ask my APs not to drink while on duty, because The Camel used to get driven to the hospital frequently – I admit I do drink enough when I’m home alone with her that my driving would be impaired (I would call 911 and put up with the social worker’s questioning me at the hospital – but I am the parent and I know that at the end of the day the staff would realize that I am organized and able to keep a severely medically fragile child safe.) I realize that most of you have typically developing children and can probably count on one hand the numbers of time you have gone to the ER (I think I can still do that with child #2), and therefore your AP should be safe having a beer or a glass of wine.

Would I be upset if my AP had 1 or 2 glasses of wine 99% of the time? No!!! (Although, actually, most of my APs have been teetotalers – one even started hanging out and playing board games with us because she was tired of intoxicated APs.) Would I be upset if she got drunk while not on duty? No – as long as she didn’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle!

The bottom line – you’re the host parent. You decide the risk threshold with which you are comfortable. Remember – it’s always easier to relax the rules than to add them. (So, my advice is to start out strict and ease up on the reliable, practical, sensible AP, because it’s easier than cracking down on the AP who has no common sense whatsoever!)

hOstCDmom August 9, 2016 at 10:50 pm


hOstCDmom August 9, 2016 at 10:46 pm

NB – small typo above:
What do other Host Parents and Au Pairs [THINK?] about drinking wine on duty?

cv harquail August 10, 2016 at 11:03 am


Full Circle August 9, 2016 at 11:06 pm

Uhmmm if if feels off to you than it’s probably beyond your limits and I would listen to that. Personally, I would not be ok with it. Simply because an emergency can happen at any time, and while on duty it is the Au Pairs job to handle it and be able to make the right call (whether that is drive somewhere, call 911 or whatever). Can an emergency happen when she’s off duty and joining HPs to a glass of wine over dinner? Sure! But then again, we can’t live life expecting an emergency 24/7 and with 3 adults in the home, chances are the emergency can be handled effectively. But her being on duty is a different matter. She’s fully responsible for the kids then and that’s a big deal. I would explain to her why you think this isn’t ok so that she doesn’t feel restricted and micromanaged. Chances are that if she’s a sensible AP she will get that you are the parent and get to make that call, without judging her. I would tell her to wait until I got home to drink her wine. That would be perfectly ok with me. That way she knows you aren’t judging her ability, just making a decision for how your kids are cared for which is within your rights to do

FormeraupairNowjustaMom August 9, 2016 at 11:15 pm

I think this is very personal and reflective on the family lifestyle. As an Au Pair I was VERY young and it would never occur to me to drink wine while or duty, when my host mom offered me I politely accepted because in the country I come from is rude otherwise and I was afraid of offending her letting her drink alone (host dad worked late). 2 years later on a babysit gig for a super rich (i.e. like real wealthy living at a 6 milion home) family who had 3 full time nannies plus a on call sitter (me), the lady would basically force us into drinking while ON the job, what was super annoying since I would have to drive home often late at night, so I kept pouring my glass of (super expensive) wine over the sink when she wasn’t looking so she would think I was drinking with her and she kept refilling my glass.

Fast forward, 10+ years later today as a responsible adult and mother I would be mortified if I knew a nanny or babysitter of mine would be drinking on duty. Obviously, I sometimes (3-4 times a year) drink while taking care of my kids, but they are my kids and I know that my drinking won’t become reckless/embarrassing behavior and if the need to drive arise I will find other means vs. “just driving anyway because I’m on duty and what would the parents think”.

Aupair Paris August 10, 2016 at 5:19 am

I think it’s fine for HPs to say no if this is a problem for them, but also that it needs to be stated. I never drank wine while on duty, but I think once or twice I had a couple of glasses at lunch with friends (common where I was!) and then went to pick the kids up at school. I didn’t have to drive for my job (and don’t drive anyway), and my judgment was never impaired (I mean… As far as I could tell, but nothing bad ever happened and I always felt the same and acted the same with the kids, so…)

Once with the grandparents of the HKs, I was offered wine at lunch, accepted with thanks, and then underwent hours of nasty passive aggressive comments about it, which was just about the worst of both worlds. I guess I’d been offered it as a moral test or something… Luckily when my HPs came down at the weekend, they saw me turning down wine when everyone else was having it, and, knowing it to be out of character (and HM knowing her father well) sorted it out, and told him to snap out of it. I guess it was something to do with British people having a reputation for being binge drinkers, so even when I had one glass of wine with everyone else in the family, it was somehow worse for me? I don’t know… I had my issues with the HGPs anyway.

Jennc August 10, 2016 at 8:22 am

Well I would talk about it with her , I would be okay with A glass of wine if that is her culture . In reality if there is a true emergency it is better to call 911 than attempt to drive multiple kids to an ER if you have a real problem . I am a hypocrite because if my husband drinks while in charge of kids alone I get pissed…. But that’s a different story , rare but more than one drink too . I do drink on occasion in the evenings while in charge of my kids , not always but crap with 3 kids lots of activities wiling a very stressful job sometimes I need to relax or my parenting sucks …. I’m not talking sloshed I’m talking 1-2 drinks . So if my aupair is responsible and has 1 glass of wine I’d visit the subject making it clear a glass is okay but not more . Jen

PacNWHostMom August 10, 2016 at 10:25 am

I’ve been thinking about this issue all morning, and after reading all of the responses I have to say that I would definitely NOT be comfortable with my AP drinking wine (or anything else) while on duty. Even just one glass. While it’s true, that on occasion I have a drink or two while taking care of my children I don’t think you can compare the situation of the host parent to that of the AP for many reasons. Most importantly, in the event of an emergency, I know exactly what to do, where to go and can do so without having to stop and think about it. Unless the AP has been in that emergency situation along side the HPs before, chances are they are going to have to stop and think about what to do, who to call, where to go. Possibly even get out their handbook to refer to. Their instinct to go into hyperdrive to protect my child(ren) isn’t going to be anywhere near what we as parents experience. Even one glass of wine may impair their ability to think as quickly as I need them to in the event of an emergency. And while their drinking could be just a cultural difference, which I would chalk this up to, it’s still not “okay” in my house.
I too agree with those that have said approach this issue with great sensitivity and caution, so there aren’t hurt feelings. My approach is always to put things like this back on myself, and apologizing for not clearly sharing my expectations, and I do like to share that when we have cultural differences that I’m sensitive to that, but that ultimately my rules are what need to be followed.

Anonymous in CA August 10, 2016 at 11:53 am

As a rule of thumb, one generally doesn’t drink while at work. It is different for the HPs because taking care of the kids is not work, it’s life. For the AP, taking care of the kids is work. True, we talk around this fact, we treat the AP as a family member – in many ways we don’t want to think we are employers and the AP is an employee and in many ways the relationship is very very different from a traditional employer / employee relationship. But, at the end of the day, it is a job and generally we don’t drink at work.

Here’s where I think there’s an exception. Family meal and AP is still on duty and HPs have wine (or other) and offer some to AP. Totally ok to accept if it’s offered from the HPs and in the context of a meal where it would be completely normal (for some, I realize not everyone has a drink with dinner) to have a moderate glass of something.

Here, I think the OP was saying the AP was home alone with the kids….so, she’s drinking alone, drinking while working, and drinking when her job requires full attention. There are a few troubling things about that.

And, yes, there may be some hypocrisy if the AP sees that the HPs drink a bit while caring for kids in the evening. I view this as different – the HPs can make their own decisions about their children. The HP is having a drink after work; here the AP is having a drink during work.

I simply could not imagine myself uncorking a bottle of wine at my desk in my office, even if I’m still at work at 6:30 or 7 pm! I’m sure I would be fired on the spot.

I did a lot of babysitting when I was in college – about age of many APs (19-23 or so) and it would never have occurred to me to have a drink while caring for the kids.

In the case of Aupair Paris – I totally agree that in France some wine with the sit down lunch or dinner is completely normal – and you’re eating a meal, then walking or transiting to get the kids…I somehow think that’s totally ok and also really different from the OP’s AP who was drinking alone, probably not at a meal (for me, if I have a glass of wine without food, it goes straight to my head; with the meal, though, not so much).

I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the AP refrain from drinking until after her shift and this might serve as an opportunity to engage in a respectful discussion about cultural difference / norms, about being a responsible adult, and maybe a little of “just because others do it doesn’t mean you should do it.”

And solitary drinking would give me a little bit of pause.

American Host Mom in Europe August 10, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Anonymous in CA has completely captured my thinking. Our au pair, while she doesn’t have as structured set hours as in the US, frequently helps get the kids ready for bed after dinner. And we all eat together as a family usually, and HD and I will often have win with dinner, and offer it to AP as well (we think it would be rude not to — and most of our APs have enjoyed a glass of wine, although say no if they are going out later in the evening and driving). It never occurred to me that technically, for the AP, this is “drinking on the job”, since she would continue working after dinner. Even now that I do think about it, I still think it is fine in this context.

But I too would be worried about the drinking alone and more frequently, while working. I guess this is the distinction: “she’s drinking alone, drinking while working, and drinking when her job requires full attention.”

Definitely an opportunity for a discussion about cultural norms AND family values…and an update to the Handbook for the future!

New to This August 10, 2016 at 2:34 pm

The “drinking at work” norm also seems to vary by region and industry, among other factors. Again, most often acceptable when officially endorsed (a couple of beers at the office TGIF, say), but I’ve also been in workplaces where, for example, nobody had a problem with the guy who’d occasionally break out the bottle of good scotch he kept in his desk drawer. US cultural norms are themselves such a hodgepodge that it’s no surprise that throwing international perspectives into the mix can create big differences in expectations.

The taboo on drinking alone is another great example of where, for one person in one cultural setting, it’s a behavior that’s clearly counter to social norms and therefore a red flag for general excess and/or having something to hide, but from another cultural perspective, drinking only in groups might be the warning sign, because it means you probably don’t simply enjoy what you’re drinking for its own sake, but are (ab)using it as a social lubricant or letting peer norms stand in for personal judgment — both risk factors for binge drinking. So here too, even mature, responsible au pairs might need expectations spelled out to them in order to avoid running afoul of HF standards for appropriate behavior.

Former AP Now HM August 10, 2016 at 6:38 pm

Not drinking at work is cultural, I think. I certainly drink at work (we usually go out for a long lunch and share a bottle), and I often offer a glass of wine to my APs. Even minimum wage workers will often have a glass or two while working in this country. My husband goes further and breaks out the spirits – most of our APs have never tasted things like grappa before and we will often drink it with them at lunchtime. We actually tend to drink more during the day than in the evening. It is absolutely cultural.

That said, you are absolutely within your rights to ask your au pair not to drink while working, but I think it needs to be a sensitive conversation.

Quirky August 10, 2016 at 6:45 pm

Apples and oranges. You’re not talking about drinking *while you are actually working.* Rather, you’re talking about drinking socially while on a break from work to eat lunch. During that lunch time, you’re socializing, not working. My bet is most people aren’t taking their wine bottles back to their desks and having a glass or two by themselves (i.e. not in a social context) while working. Drinking socially at lunch with work colleagues is still a thing in the U.S. We might not see the three martini lunch of the Mad Men era so frequently any more, but a glass of wine or a beer at a restaurant with colleagues is not exactly culturally strange to Americans.

The type of work the AP is doing is also very different from office work. You and your colleagues (I assume) are not taking care of children while drinking. If a daycare worker or babysitter starts drinking by herself while she’ being paid to watch children- that’s a completely different picture from the office lunch.

I think the conversation should be polite, but in no way do I think the host parent in this situation need to bend over backwards to avoid offending her AP’s cultural sensibilities around drinking on the job.

Anonymous in CA August 10, 2016 at 8:15 pm


HRHM August 10, 2016 at 8:27 pm

I would also say that if a daycare worker or grade school teacher tipped a couple back at lunch and then returned to work they would be uncerimoniously fired.

Quirky August 10, 2016 at 11:54 am

I am in the “no drinking on duty” camp. I think about it this way — if I were hiring a babysitter for the evening, I would expect that she refrain from drinking on duty. If I came home after an evening out and found that the babysitter had had a glass of wine, I would probably blow a gasket.

I do think there are cultural sensitivities here, but I also think that the cultural norm about relaxing with a glass of wine over lunch or dinner in many countries is not necessarily entirely on point with the norm for drinking on the job, which is what this issue is really about. It would be interesting to hear from the Europeans who post here what the norm would be in the scenario where they are being paid to babysit a family’s kids rather than being at lunch during the school day, at dinner at home, etc. Would the family paying for babysitting be chill if they came home to find an open bottle of wine on the counter?

And I don’t think it’s all that relevant what the HPs do and the AP does when everyone is at family dinner. If my DH, my AP, and I are having a glass of wine with dinner, that is not a work situation but a family/social situation. We are not relying on AP to be the sole adult responsible for the kids. So it’s possible for the OP to continue to be fine with her AP drinking socially at home off-duty while clarifying that on-duty drinking is not OK.

FirstTimeHM August 10, 2016 at 3:25 pm

The babysitter and alcohol would be an absolute no go in my country. We have a sitter on a date night and none of them have ever thought about drinking alcohol, coca cola being the strongest thing that came to their mind.

We cook quite elaborately during the weekend and have a glass of wine on those occasions, of course our au pair is welcome to have one as well (or not if she prefers soft drinks). During the week we don’t drink, and on a weekend only one or two glasses.
If my youngest daughter has trouble with her asthma, we don’t drink during the weekend either, someone should be able to take her to the hospital immediately if/when an attack starts.
Our au pair is welcome to drink if she likes, but not on duty and not if she’s too hungover to work well if her shift starts.

I personally haven’t heard of a single babysitter of one of the people I know that ever touched alcohol when being on duty.
I know that in countries like France drinking a glass during lunch/dinner is socially completely accepted, so there it may be different.

Former AP Now HM August 10, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Yep, I’m in Europe and it’s totally different here.

I used to babysit a lot (before I was an au pair, so several years ago!). I was aged 14-18 and usually cycled home afterwards so drinking while babysitting was uncommon, but it definitely happened. Often the parents would pour me a glass of something before they left, or they’d show me where the bottle was if I wanted a glass. I actually spent a few months au pairing in France and the mother regularly left me wine when I was working.

Obviously ‘Europe’ isn’t a monolith and I suspect different countries have different norms, but I would say it is much more accepted here than it seems to be in America.

Aupairinfrance August 11, 2016 at 5:16 am

I’m currently an au pair in france, and I’ve been told to help myself to the beer and wine in the fridge, even when I’m working (and responsible for a 2 and 5 year old) but the parents drink both while looking after the kids and while they work ( in a restaurant and small shop), and it doesn’t seem to occur to them at all that it might be unsafe.

Schnitzelpizza August 29, 2016 at 8:27 am

I have actively been offered alcohol by parents whom I babysat for.
Often it was just “there is beer in the fridge”, sometimes it was putting a bottle of wine on the table and telling me it was there for me to enjoy when the kids were in bed and sometimes it went so far as to pour me a drink before leaving. I have also been told to help myself to whatever but please not the Grappa on the fridge because it was expansive.

So yes, many families I babysat for (and it has been quite a few, I started at 13 and only stoped a few years back, in my early 30s) would have been totally fine with me drinking on the clock. I wouldn’t though because I personally don’t feel comfortable with it. In the US, I drank once, sharing a beer with grandpa where I assume I could have been considered “working” but it was late-ish afternoon, parents were back home already and grandpa offered. I would never have felt it was okay to drink on duty otherwise. It was never discussed if I could drink when watching the kids but I would just have assumed it was not. There also barely ever was alcohol in the house.

Today, I barely drink socially at work. I will have maybe a cup of Glühwein at our Christmas party and maybe one beer or a glass of sparkling wine at celebrations (and we have plenty of those, I’d say at least one a month) but not more. I work with a bunch of hard drinkers, I know I can’t keep up with, and we have previously had problems with people drinking too much at work dos (which included alcohol related accidents at the workplace) so I will have one drink to be polite and that’s it. However, it would probably be overlooked if I had a drink sitting at my desk, especially if I was working late (ie. later than 6 pm).

Texas6TimeHostMom August 10, 2016 at 12:04 pm

No way. I agree with the work vs. life for host parents. It is not hypocritical for parents to drink when they are ‘on duty’. If I am out of the house and the AP is in charge of kids, and there is an emergency, I want her to be 100% there to react appropriately.

WestMom August 10, 2016 at 12:35 pm

Where I live (and I suspect most of America), the only time where you get to drink while on duty is if there is a work celebration during work hours. I would use the same guideline for AP.

Mom can drink while caring for the kids. Because mom is never off duty (even when we are not home!). If and when we get paid to raise our kids, then maybe we can reconsider… But until then, wine one of the tools in our arsenal to survive motherhood.

cv harquail August 12, 2016 at 2:17 pm

Tell it, WestMom!

IntellectualMom August 14, 2016 at 5:19 pm

WestMom has it right! Absolutely agree!

NZ HM August 14, 2016 at 6:49 pm


this is why I tell my aupairs: while I’m in charge, you might see me do things that I absolutely don’t want you to do (sit down with a cup of tea and a magazine [unless kids are napping and all duties done]; leave the bathroom while kids are in the tub; leave them unsupervised outside, etc.)

I am MUM and I have full responsibility all the time! I am older and more experienced; I have a sixth sense and eyes at the back of my head; I can sense trouble; I don’t get paid for what I do and most importantly, should anything happen when I’m in charge it might be devastating but it’s just on me. On the aupair’s watch, it would not only ruin my / my family’s life but also that of a young woman! No one should want that burden.

2 kids and a cat August 10, 2016 at 1:51 pm

We have a zero tolerance drink-and-drive policy. If she’s on duty and might need to drive in an emergency, then no alcohol.
I might drink socially with colleagues, but not on the job.

SeattleHD August 10, 2016 at 2:42 pm

Couple of follow-ups:

Been here 4 months but now you’ve had this issue 3 times in 2 weeks? What changed?

Whose wine? Your stock, she bought?

What is your policy generally – does she drink wine with you at meals? Have you given her permission to drink your wine (presuming so) while off-duty?

After 4 months baths it seems like the sudden change is what would concern me.

txmom August 10, 2016 at 10:52 pm

Looks like I’m going to be the exception here. I think you are totally in the right to say no to drinking on the job if you are not okay with it. Your kids, your house, your rules. We are okay with a glass of wine or a beer in the evening, both on her nights off and when working. She knows that she can’t drive if she’s been drinking. She is required to work until 8-8:30pm on a regular basis, and the kids are in bed by 7-7:30. When I’m home, I pretty much always offer her a glass if I’m having one. She accepts about 50% of the time, and never has more than a glass. My kids try my nerves, I’m sure they try hers…she’s earned that glass of white wine by 8pm!

NonDrinkingMom August 11, 2016 at 4:49 am

Thank you all for your wonderful advice, I am the original poster.

I don’t really believe it is a cultural difference, seeing as this au pair is from New Zealand and not a European country. HRHM thank you for articulating my feelings! When I’m at my job I do not and cannot drink alcohol, yet when I am caring for my children which is my life I can. Although I will add that DH and I have possibly drank alcohol one time only before our kids were in bed at a family dinner with this au pair so I don’t think our au pair could of thought it was ok to do because we do ourselves, if you know what I mean.

I should of also added our three children are between the ages of 1 and 5 and possibly if they were around 10 or older I would maybe feel more relaxed about her drinking on the clock. But I won’t be able to tell you that for sure until the time comes ;)

When I get home from work tomorrow I will discuss this with the au pair (it hasn’t happened again since I wrote in) and make it a kind of non-issue like suggested but will definitely be adding it to the handbook!

Exaupair Hamburg August 12, 2016 at 1:11 pm

I agree with everyone here that you should have a conversation with her if this bothers you.
I also think this is cultural thing. While I was an aupair i remember having a glass of wine a couple of times (always after the kids were in bed), my HP knew it (most of the times it was their suggestion) and therefore it never occurred to me that there may be a problem about it. So it is important that you discuss the topic, since she may see it as something normal.

Frankfurt AP Boy August 12, 2016 at 4:49 pm

I have never drunk while looking after kids. It just seems inappropriate… I think its more to do with the fact that when I am looking after kids I feel I need to be earning my money – that I need to be engaging with them during my working hours. Drinking is not an activity I can share with the kids. I have never drunk even when the kids are in bed – but thats more because Id feel uncomfortable drinking someone elses alcohol without them.

As for the reasons why an au pair shouldnt drink on duty… I’d personally find it hypocritically if a HM told me I shouldn’t have a drink at the end of the day while in sole charge because the children are in danger when I drink but not when she does. Mothers do have time off sometimes too and theres no reason to not limit her drinking to when someone else is looking after the kids (such as the au pair or her partner). That is: if she sincerely feels that it endangers the kids. However, ultimately, I would follow what the HM says even if I do think its a hypocritical and a bit silly – theres no reason not to wait a couple of hours to drink when off duty instead. Clearly for some mums, irrespective of the reason, it is important that the au pair doesnt have a drink.

Anon for this one August 12, 2016 at 5:20 pm

This is a really interesting subject because I think it goes right to the heart of the employee/member of the family paradox with APs, touching on the cultural differences aspect along the way.

I will drink wine at home with dinner, even when caring for my children. Of course not to the point of impairment. And as others have said, for me it is my life, not work.

Whenever I get a new AP we have a frank discussion about alcohol use including our expectations and the issues around drinking in the US.
Since we are in the US, my under-21 APs are not allowed to drink legally, but most of them come from countries where it is legal to drink beer starting at age 16, and hard alcohol at age 18 and personally I have no problem allowing them to have a beer or glass of wine with us at dinner provided that they are not driving anywhere afterwards and are not caring for my children by themselves. Usually my AP is technically working at dinner and will be helping me get the kids ready for bed afterwards, but we are working together so I am available if any emergency arises.

One of the other posters made the very good point that even after a couple glasses of wine I would still know without hesitation what to do in an emergency, but my a AP might not. This is an important distinction, and why I am not okay with my AP drinking alcohol while caring for the children when I am not present.

A related issue that I make sure might AP is aware of, is that if they are drinking alcohol at our home with a friend while off duty (which in principle I am ok with, as long as it is in moderation) it is imperative that neither one of them leave our home after drinking since we are liable if anything bad it occurs (car accident, etc.). I don’t mind if the AP’s friend stays over the night provided we know them, since I would rather everyone be safe.

Overall, I think the alcohol issue is closely tied in with the APs level of responsibility and maturity overall. None of my 10 APs have ever seemed to drink alcohol in any excessive quantity or had any problems relating to alcohol use. If I felt my AP’s use of alcohol was excessive or inappropriate I strongly suspect that there would be other problems.

All this said, I think it is essential to clarify your own feelings about alcohol use (both your own and the APs) before the AP arrives so that you can clearly communicate to your AP what you are comfortable with and what you are not. Ultimately this is no different than any other issue with house rules and expectations.

Sydney mum August 23, 2016 at 6:50 am

I want to comment on the cultural side of things for future reference. I know that some European countries have a reputation for drinking with meals. Just because NZ isn’t in Europe doesn’t mean they are different.

NZ produces a lot of great wine & as our countries have some cultural similarities I will make an assumption that they, like us, have plenty of families who drink wine every night.

Also, in my country it is not necessarily a bad sign to drink alone. It depends more on the reasons for drinking & how many glasses. If you feel like a glass of wine, how is it different to wanting chocolate at the end of the day?

I want to note that I also support the OP in asking AP not to drink while on duty.

I’m hoping this might help with understanding cultural issues around drinking for any future APs from this part of the world.

Comments on this entry are closed.