When your Au Pair hires a babysitter so s/he can go to the gym. Really?

by cv harquail on January 21, 2015

Whoa there Nellie.  Get down off that exercise equipment.

Host Mom Mimi dropped an aside that felt like a bomb. 4727247770_6620363646_m

In her comments on Slush Funds vs. Petty Cash jars, Mimi mentions:

 “If our AP takes the kids to the gym while she is on the clock, she is responsible for babysitting room fees.”


HRHM asks in a more polite way:

Just curious if your kids like going to the gym babysitting? Mine would not and I don’t think I’d allow it, even if she was paying the fees. I’m assuming your  kids do…”

I understand that if a host parent can use the babysitting at the gym, one might think it’s fine for the Au Pair to do the same, but…. that wouldn’t fly in my house. Am I over-reacting? Please advise.


Image: University of Madrid


AussiePair January 20, 2015 at 4:53 am

In my second family my host mom offered to pay a portion of my gym fee and said I could put the baby in for an hour a day if I wanted to go to the gym. I didn’t feel right about it, and the baby socialised enough when we went to story time at the library etc. that I never took her up on the offer.

I have a friend whose host family have a YMCA membership and she takes the 3.5yr old to the babysitting at the gym (she doesn’t go to preschool and the parents ask she do this for socialisation).. But the idea seems really foreign to me, like I’m skimping out on my work and handballing it off to someone else

AlwaysHopeful HM January 20, 2015 at 7:58 am

We have a family gym membership that is really for the au pair and my son (I’m there in spirit!). The membership comes with access to kiddie care, and I have let each au pair know that if they want to occasionally take my son there while they work out, I’m okay with that. For practical reasons, it would only happen when there is a school day off, so infrequently, and the gym sets a time limit for the kids room, so at most, my son would be there for about an hour. I would have a problem if it were a regular occurrence, but I’m fine with a visit hee or there. I know that it can be a shock to the system to have your standard 6-1/2 hour break evaporate, so I offer a little built-in break on those days. No au pairs took me up on it, though– they preferred to work on in their free time– and now my son has aged out!

Taking a Computer Lunch January 20, 2015 at 8:05 am

This was always a no-go for us. The Camel is medically fragile and when she was an infant and toddler, incredibly prone to illness. Not only would gym day-care be grounds for a “reset your attitude” conversation, my handbook makes it clear to our APs that they should not invite any friends over who have a cold or contagious infection, and their friends’ HKs may not enter the house if they are sick.

Now, I’m sure there are some HMs and HDs here who drop their kids off at the gym, and if it’s okay for them, then it would be difficult grounds to say “No” to an AP, and if a HP explicitly OKs it, then that’s fine, but in my opinion, an AP should ask before dropping a HK off at gym daycare.

AlwaysHopeful HM January 21, 2015 at 7:09 am

Agree- I would be furious if my AP did this without my explicit prior approval. DS doesnt have any fragilities that make group care dangerous, so that’s not a concern, but I am clear with APs that it would not be okay to take son there on a sick day. If he can’t go to school and spread his germs on kids he knows, he can’t go spread germs on random kids in the public! Also, my comfort is with this particular gym care (which I personally investigated), not just any random babysitter or babysitting situation AP comes up with. While none of my au pairs has done the pre-approved gym drop off, current AP once asked if he could take my son to a pickup soccer game. AP would play, son would be on the sidelines, and “everyone” on the team would keep an eye on my son. To that, I said absolutely not.

Host Mom in the City January 21, 2015 at 9:35 am

Nope, this wouldn’t work for me even a little, and I’d be really irritated if an au pair asked to do this. But I don’t think my three good au pairs would have even considered this though, so I’m not going to get worked up about it. My au pairs work anywhere from 25 to an occasional 45 hours a week. Even when they work 45 hours, they still have all weekends and 4/5 weekday evenings off by 5pm. That is more than enough time to go to the gym.

WestMom January 21, 2015 at 10:07 am

This is a such a strange situation. I would have never thought of offering this, but then again we did not get an AP before the kids were all in school. I remember fondly breaking my long mornings as a young mom by going to the gym and I can completely appreciate how getting a bit if time off was helpful in making it through a tough day. But then again I was not paid to take care of my children! And I would certainly not pay for the AP hours + the gym membership + the daycare charges! Surely there must be another kid-friendly way for AP to break the monotony of a long day, like kids programs at the library, or the rec center, or even playdates with other AP with children of similar ages. And also, I would suspect that an AP who is home all day with kids has all her evenings and weekends to workout, no?

Host Mom in the City January 21, 2015 at 10:33 am

I should add that although I’m typically the type of host mom that does her absolute best to model how I want my au pair to be with the kids (e.g., we take the bus frequently ourselves partly because we expect our au pair to; the kids only watch TV on Saturday mornings even when they’re with us on the other days, period, partly because I don’t allow TV time during au pair’s working hours, etc.).

But that said, I do think there is space to disallow something that you would do yourself. Someone wrote on here one time that an au pair’s JOB is essentially a host parent’s LIFE. I do my job all day, and then as soon as I get home, I start my “second shift” with the kids until bedtime. Then after bedtime, it’s all the other life stuff like cleaning and bill paying and whatever else. I don’t have evenings and weekends free to go to the gym, so if I wanted to go to the gym (fortunately I don’t – ha!), I’d have to leave the kids in the gym childcare. I don’t think there’s anything hypocritical about that.

ProPair January 21, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Totally agree. I think host parents need to do their best to model KID things, especially screen time, but au pairs should use discretion and common sense when it comes to copying everything the host parents do.

In contrast, I would be pretty weirded out if my host mom every weekend going on trips with friends, or every Friday and Saturday night going out to bars ;)

Seattle Mom January 24, 2015 at 2:13 am

Plus when you are a SAHM you are not bound to 10 hour days or 45 hour weeks, you are always on duty. So yeah, I don’t think it’s the same thing.

Julia January 21, 2015 at 12:29 pm

I as an au pair had the problem that my hk took soccer and swim lessons at the ymca and he became friends with other kids. Those kids were put in childcare afterwards and the moms would work out. So after hk was asked/invited by the other kids if he would come too. He sure wanted to go and I explained to him he can’t. One day his mom came to watch him and he was again asked if he would play in childcare and the mom said yes and the kid kinda told her I said no. I would never asked because of the same opinion as the others here but in the end I was the one who got a bit in trouble that I had never told them that the kid wanted to go.

Host Mom in the City January 21, 2015 at 4:06 pm

Oh. Well here’s a case where if my au pair approached me and said “HK has been invited to the gym this afternoon by his friends that he hangs out with there and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind me taking him or if you’d rather we do something else?” or something like that, then I would be more open to it for sure. I was thinking this is purely an “au pair wants to go to the gym and is dumping the kids” type situation. My fault – there’s always gray areas :) That’s what makes au pair hosting so difficult!

ProPair January 21, 2015 at 12:42 pm

I *sort of* understand this kind of situation. In the case that the child is an infant who still sleeps most of the day, I can see a host parent being okay with the AP leaving the child with a gym care centre during a time when there’s usually a two-hour nap. I worked at a gym which offered child minding and plenty of parents brought sleeping babies in their Maxi-Cosis and picked them up before they were even awake. However, Mimi does say “kids” so I’m assuming at least one child is 1+.

That said, I don’t think this should ever happen without explicit consent from the parents, nor do I think it would be appropriate for an AP to ask to do this if it hasn’t been brought up by his or her host parents first.

I don’t think I would have been comfortable doing this with one of my HKs, even the baby. My concerns would be that a) the older kids would feel I didn’t want to spend time with them, b) I’m possibly a *little* over protective and would be concerned that the kids were not receiving an adequate standard of care, and c) I wouldn’t feel I was doing my job properly.

Old China Hand January 22, 2015 at 9:44 pm

For us this sleeping kid situation would be a super no go for us because it would be poor quality sleep. But then, I am the sleep obsessed one.

Christina January 21, 2015 at 1:20 pm

We have a family YMCA membership and we pay for the au pair to be part of that membership. I have told her she can take the younger ones to the daycare center at the gym if there is nothing to do that day (bad weather, long day, whatever). While all of the au pairs have used the gym membership and they take the kids there to swim and play, I don’t think any of them have actually dropped a child at the day care center. But, it wouldn’t be a big deal to me if they did.

Nina January 21, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Unless you specifically told her it’s ok, which it doesn’t seem was the case, I would be very upset by this. I think it shows she is irresponsible.

TexasHM January 21, 2015 at 3:48 pm

I think it depends on a few things. 1. Do the kids want to go? (Several examples mentioned in comments like friends, sleeping babies that don’t care, maybe awesome play equipment or program – if no do not pass GO)
2. Are the parents familiar/comfortable with the quality of care? (If no do not pass GO)
3. Is this taking priority over other/better alternatives or being done instead of planning activities (getting lazy)? (If yes do not pass GO)
I guess I am getting at who does this benefit? If the answer is AP only this wouldn’t fly for us. But – if they (kid) had a friend going and wanted to do it and AP would be in the building working out for an hour or less and I was comfortable with the quality of care and it wasn’t in place of something else/better I would be fine with it but that’s a lot of ifs! Thank goodness we haven’t had this!

Mimi January 21, 2015 at 4:07 pm

My first controversy (squee!!)

So here’s some more information:

Our daily schedule for the APs is M-F, 8-5. Since my kids don’t nap during the day after age 1 1/2 :( there was no down time during the day and getting out of the house helped the AP avoid burnout/cabin fever and would break up the day a bit. We have a family membership to a local community center which includes the AP. The cost to add her was negligible– maybe $10 per month. There are tons of activities there for kids including swim lessons, open gym time, etc., so we encouraged the APs to take the twins to the center (‘the gym’) during the winter so they could run around and play without wrecking the house and without worrying about the cold/snow (which they were too small to be in). There were usually other APs and nannys around to socialize with and befriend, also.

This started with AP #2 as the child care at the center isn’t available to children under 12mos. She had class four nights a week and was having trouble finding time to go to the gym on her own and fitting in all the other normal activities and AP wants to do; weekend trips, visiting other APs, etc. She was very athletic and was (mentally) feeling the effects of no exercise and a little weight gain. I could tell she was unhappy and after talking with her about it I suggested a dancercise class (during the day). She would pay the fee for the hour she was there (45 minutes class) and then take the twins to play in the open gym.

The child room at the center is one of the nicest I’ve ever seen in a “gym” setting and is nicer and better run than some of the daycare centers I’ve seen… I’ve seen them refuse a child with a runny nose. Even though the twins were preemies, they were healthy and I didn’t have a problem exposing them to the same type of germs they now get in school. The sitters are great and the variety of toys and games are different from what we have at home. Even now, when I go with the boys to run around in the gym, they ask if they can go to the “baby room” first.

All of our APs have put on a little bit of weight when they got here. Whether it’s a change in diet (I’m a great cook!) or a change in routine, it happens. As someone who has had a weight issue since having kids, I understand how this can cause issues for them that can affect their overall happiness. Plus, I’m a firm believer in exercise for mental health and well-being. If they wanted to work out, I wanted to support that. I’d rather have them go during the day when it will impact the family the least, as opposed to skipping family meals. The perk for us has been APs who spend down time socializing with us instead of over scheduling themselves.

NoVA Twin Mom January 21, 2015 at 5:28 pm

We too had an automated pair and infant/toddler twins as well as a community center with child care and gym equipment. I considered having our girls go to the child care as socialization when they were too young for most of the other options and the age-appropriate options were prohibitively expensive when doubled and added to the cost of an au pair. I didn’t think to have the au pair work out while they were there though – I’d considered just sitting in the loop by with a coffee myself though for a break in routine. In my case (and maybe Mimi’s as well) I saw the benefit as being to the kids – an outing – with a side benefit of a change of scenery for me. The timing never worked out for me to try it though.

NoVA Twin Mom January 21, 2015 at 5:32 pm

Ugh my phone auto correct dislikes the word “au” and fills things in

HRHM January 21, 2015 at 5:36 pm

It works for your family and your AP, so it’s totally reasonable.

In my case, I am one of those HMs who has to get up at 5:30 (EEK) to work out before I need to be at work. If my AP wanted to go to the gym, I’d suggest she do the same or go in the evening and miss out on sitting at Starbucks for the AP social a couple nights a week.

I did have one AP who worked out at the Y while the girls were in Y swim lessons and we did count those toward her work hours because it was only 30 minutes and she would have had to be there regardless.

WestMom January 21, 2015 at 5:47 pm

Hello early riser! I do the same. 5:15 rise for a morning workout, done before AP is even up. If you really want to workout, you can do it :)

Should be working January 21, 2015 at 6:40 pm

How do you do it? What time do you go to bed? What kind of workout, is it at home? I’ve started getting up at 6:15 to go for a brisk walk (with dog, so double-duty), and it’s hard. Wishing again we could all go for coffee and have a lengthy life/au pair/kids chat!

NJ Mama January 21, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Since I started working in NYC, the only time I have to work out is before work, and to do that I have to get up at 4:40 a.m. All the years before the NYC job I was able to get up at 530 or 6 and go to the gym before work. And I was really good about it. But for some reason, before 5 am is just …. it’s just awful. I’ve had a terrible time trying to do this regularly. Sure I’ll go a few weeks or even a few months of doing really really well, but then something happens – work gets too crazy, hubby goes off on a three-week training, one or both kids gets sick, and on and on (our terrible unlucky stretch was a terrible stretch of no gym time for me) – the gym is the first thing to go.

Admittedly I do not get nearly enough sleep, which is part of it. (If I am in bed by 10 it’s a good night). And if I go to the gym I then go right to work – so I don’t get to see the kids when they first wake up. That is most definitely the biggest issue. Even though I only see them for a few minutes in the morning, I will often forgo the gym just for those couple of minutes.

So my goal this year is to try to figure that one out. Ok so it’s been my goal every year. But if I do figure it out I’ll let you all know lol! And I would LOVE to hear how others do it!

Returning HM January 21, 2015 at 7:32 pm

Another early morning workout person. Love love love Insanity or, if you don’t have the 40+ minutes for that, T-25 (high intensity for 25 min). Both are by Sean T. Great workouts at home with no equipment needed. About to start Insanity Max30….

WestMom January 21, 2015 at 7:51 pm

SBW- I am usually in bed at the same time as the kids- 9PM. They are in middle school now and they are the ones coming to tuck me in. In the morning, I vary my routines… I run outside, or if the weather is not conducive I do 40min on my spin bike (I got a cheap one from a gym that was getting rid of their old bikes. Best $100 I ever spent!). I also swim at 6AM once a week. This is not every weekday mind you, but if I can squeeze 2-3 early morning workouts, I feel so much better.

HRHM January 22, 2015 at 1:16 pm

I go to Orange Theory Fitness. I get up at 5:30, take a shower (can’t get out of bed without one! LOL) leave for the gym by 6:15 for the 6:30 class (one hour torture) and then back home to shower again and leave for work. I do it two days a week when my work start is 9am. I can’t do it on most other days because I need to leave home by 6:30 for a 7am start at least 2-3 days a week. Sometimes, I also go on Saturday (about every third week when DH takes the girls to their skiing lessons without me)

HRHM January 22, 2015 at 1:17 pm

and I go to bed between 9 and 1 :p

A/BHostmom January 21, 2015 at 4:30 pm

Wow, that’s too nice of you. She works 8-5 and needs to fit in gym time. Me too! How about she exercise before she comes on duty? Anyway, if it’s working out for you, great. I wouldn’t allow my AP to do that, but she is also off every morning anyway. One thing is that these girls need to learn time (and money) management. I know plenty of people that get up and work out at 6 am before going to work at 8. Not saying your AP should do this, just saying that sometimes we need to make sacrifices to do the things we want.

Should be working January 21, 2015 at 5:27 pm

I think Mimi sounds really reasonable and fair, esp if the kids beg to go to the childcare and it’s well run. She’s done her due diligence and lets everyone get what they want, but with no extra expense to her–what a great host mom!

TexasHM January 21, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Agreed! Mimi props for being perceptive and having your finger on the pulse because our APs definitely set the mood in our house so depressed AP = depressed mood in the house but you found a win/win/win solution – the golden goose!

WarmStateMomma January 21, 2015 at 6:34 pm

Mimi – it is really kind of you to let your AP work out during her work hours, but it’s kinder than I would be. APs have so much free time! Can you imagine going to class 4 nights a week, socializing with your friends, traveling, etc., and having time to work out? I’m surprised your AP would be depressed that her work like was cutting into her already active personal life.

I totally get the scenario where the friends invite the kids, but the gym child care would be a no-go for us. The AP wouldn’t be the one spending her free time up at night watching a sick kid cry or taking the sick kid to the doctor. And for a baby? I would probably be upset she even asked. Other than the germ issue, I’m paying for child care and not just babysitting. If all we wanted was a warm body that would keep the kids safe/alive, we could put the kids in daycare ourselves instead of hosting APs.

I waited tables 60 hours a week, took two classes, went out to bars/clubs twice a week, and hit the gym 5 days a week during my college summers. My sympathy for the AP is pretty limited here….

AnotherSeattleHostMom January 21, 2015 at 6:46 pm

My kids love the childcare at my gym, they frequently go to the “bouncy houses” in an attached facility and actually ask to go to the gym as an activity! I would totally be fine with a 1 hour per day work out “on the clock” if she is paying but in our case the gym membership is too expensive for our Au pairs (I joined at a lower rate and with an employee discount and no such option for our Au pairs). They go to more affordable gyms that may have childcare but since it’s not familiar to me or the kids, I wouldn’t be ok with it.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 21, 2015 at 8:25 pm

I’m going to give a bit of a flip side now. My first AP, whom DH and I tried to sponsor as an employer (we found a lawyer to submit the applications pro bono because of The Camel), register3ed as a full-time student so she could leave the country and return while she waited for her application to rise to the top (2 1/2 years later she left, and the US Dept of Labor had still not cleared it to go the Homeland Security). She took evening classes and made it work – but occasionally needed to go to a daytime lab or take a test in the middle of the day. I had a neighbor who always called on her to babysit (because she supported her brother back home, I looked the other way – she was that good). We worked out a deal, where she and the neighbor split 1:1 care – one hour here for one hour there (by that time The Camel was in full-time preschool for children with special needs). My poor neighbor was used to children who took an afternoon nap, whereas child #2 stopped napping at the age of 2 (imagine my disappointment at the weekends) and never shut up! My neighbor did it for the flexibility and I permitted it because I did not have enough vacation time to cover for my AP.

I do have neighbors who have spotted me in the evenings after The Camel has gone to bed – once she is asleep, she is asleep. I need an “adult in charge” to call 911 in case of fire, etc. They do not provide care. 90% of the time I have enough hours to ask my AP to be the “adult in charge.”

I am sure AP #1 always did switchouts with child #2, who is typically developing. All of my APs had friends who were convinced that caring for The Camel is easy. Usually, all my AP has to do is ask them to feed The Camel a meal. Enough said.

AlwaysHopeful HM January 21, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Wow, this is a tough crowd! I certainly understand nor letting AP dump the kids with any available warm body, but a preapproved break in the middle of the day is no problem for me. I’m tired and stressed all the time– I really value keeping my AP energized and refreshed for my son. I also would count the time as on the clock because, at least with my gym, AP would not be allowed to leave the building while the child was in care. Anyway, for whatever reason, my APs never took me up on the offer. Maybe they thought it felt inappropriate, maybe they never got around to it. My guess is that they liked to keep their personal free time activities separate from work so that they could fully enjoy them, but who knows. First 2 APs worked out while my son was in school and just skipped the gym when school was out . Current AP works out at night, when he goes. As for me, it kills me to wake up at 6 each morning for work. I couldn’t bear a minute earlier for exercise!

Returning HM January 21, 2015 at 8:41 pm

I cannot go a day without a workout and more than once have asked AP to stay on a little extra (he usually works only 5-6 hours/day) so I can squeeze one in if I haven’t gotten to work out in the morning. For our APs who were like this about their workouts, I definitely prioritized them getting their gym time. Last year, whenever we had a day when the children were home from school, either AP or I would do our workout early while the other one covered and then in the afternoon the other one would go workout. It helps that I work from home 2-3 days/week (and then in a far away city the other days) so I have flexibility to cover for AP. But on the odd day when he was home all day with my son and my daughter wasn’t there to babysit (she is 12 and gets paid to babysit now, both for her brother and for other people), then I always invited AP to take our son to the gym playroom. I think he did this a handful of times, but it was definitely a standing offer on any day he was home all day with the children.

WestMom January 21, 2015 at 8:50 pm

Slightly off-topic, but I have to say that I have found all of our French APs to be so uninterested in gyms and sports in general (5 of them). We had one Swiss AP who was an avid soccer player, and our current Brazilian AP is probably the most active with a daily long walk. Have you seen any patterns with interest in exercising based on country of origin?

Returning HM January 21, 2015 at 9:27 pm

Our Brazilian females hardly ever worked out. One went to Jazzercize (seriously), but the rest “exercised” by going dancing several nights/week. Our German females were somewhat active – badminton, occasional run – but the males (Swiss, Austrian, German) have all run, played soccer, worked out daily in the gym, or played European handball. Our current male ran 5Ks nearly every weekend of the fall (and brought our 12 year old to run with him), and I suspect will do the same in the spring (he wants to join my husband and 12 yr old doing a sprint-triathalon too – we will see whether that happens!). Because we are a pretty athletic family, we tend to attract sportier APs – I’ve found for myself that if an AP doesn’t workout regularly, then he or she will have less patience or understanding when I prioritize my own daily workout, so this is something I actually screen for now.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 21, 2015 at 10:30 pm

Nope. All my APs worked out to one extent or the other, whether it was taking advantage of the hiker/biker trails in my area with a long walk/jog, going to the gym, or just never driving the car or bothering to figure out public transportation.

As for me, I’m obese, and have recently added 1/2 mile to my morning walk (which starts at 5:30 am!) and still gets me to work shortly after 6:30!! When my kids were little, my swim routine when out the window completely (DH said, on the first day I went to the pool and work – “You’ve been gone for 13 1/2 hours!!!) Losing weight slowly, but I can’t imagine I’ll gain pre-kid activity levels. As someone who was completely active — and thin — before I had kids, I totally support AP exercise routines. Our APs have varied between waif thin and obese, but all have cared for The Camel to the level of which we have requested of them!

Mimi January 21, 2015 at 11:20 pm

We look for “outdoorsy” types because we do a lot of family activities outside in all seasons. So although we’ve screened for this, I have found that there is a definite cultural difference with respect to what “outdoorsy” means.

Returning HM January 22, 2015 at 12:29 am

Ha! Totally agree!

WarmStateMomma January 22, 2015 at 12:41 am

So true. Our first AP said she liked camping. When we visited a state park for some hiking, she was surprised that the trees were planted in such a random pattern and that there were so many birds and animals. She apparently had only “camped” in landscaped parks before. She did enjoy it, though.

I would be interested in hearing if anyone had a successful camping experience with their AP. Since my kids are so young, sleeping logistics would be the biggest barrier. We can’t banish the AP to her own tent and have the family in a separate tent, we can’t stick her with a toddler and infant, and she probably wouldn’t want to sleep in the same tent as my husband. Maybe my husband and the baby should just stay home. :)

TexasHM January 22, 2015 at 1:00 am

We camped with our last two APs successfully. First was boy scout family campout we were all crammed in a single room tent (weather was great so AP actually slept on the covered porch area of the tent at our feet – her idea and loved it). Next trip to Costco we bought a multi-room tent. :) Used that a couple times with last AP and gave her one of the three “rooms” – essentially a divider that hangs like a sheet from ceiling clips no real privacy – and she loved it too. To be fair, we have learned that we do well with low maintenance APs and I am sure that helps us in this area. Duckface, makeup everyday wearing, designer clothes AP wouldn’t do well in our household. We are active and low key so often go on spontaneous adventures and an AP that can’t grab a bag with the minimum essentials and be in the car with 5 minutes notice or needs a flat iron or makeup before going anywhere would miss out on a lot in our household! ;)

TexasHM January 22, 2015 at 1:08 am

I should also note that we were very close with these APs so I never thought about them sleeping in the same tent as husband or kids or lack of privacy and I bet if you asked them they didn’t think about it either. These women were true blue members of the family and suffered and celebrated with us the whole term and we were at least a few months in with each one. Not something I probably would have tried week one but once they know all our warts and we know theirs I wouldn’t hesitate. Our next match is an avid hiker/camper so I’m glad I spent a small fortune at Costco after the last campout so I can sleep half as good as I do in my house I pay all that money for as I am sure that will mean we will be doing that a lot more and perhaps planning a family campout vacation (start praying for me now!). ;)

WarmStateMomma January 22, 2015 at 5:21 pm

We wouldn’t host a duck face, either. One agency asked me why I wasn’t interested in a candidate who checked the language and driving boxes, and I had a hard time describing this duck face impression she gave and why that wouldn’t fit with our family.

The multi-room tent may be the answer, especially since we won’t be doing any back country camping with two littles in tow. I have some time at the end of my maternity leave and was thinking that a drive out to the national park would be fun, but I can’t manage it alone with the kids and our AP might feel like she’s working 24/7. She is sporty, but not outdoorsy, so I’m not confident she would view this as a fun work trip like when we went to Hawaii.

Seattle Mom January 24, 2015 at 2:24 am

That is awesome. We go camping several times a year and so far we haven’t convinced an AP to come with us. We have an extra little tent that we would let them use, right next to ours (it’s only a 4 person and the 4 of us barely fit in it).

I also pass over people who seem overly “made up” in their profiles, but it’s not that easy to tell who is truly ok with skipping a shower and sleeping outside for a couple of nights.

Leaving a Comment January 22, 2015 at 2:22 am

We are planning to camp with AP. In a multiroom tent. I’m optimistic!

Host Mom in the City January 23, 2015 at 9:28 am

We’re planning on camping a couple times this year with our au pair too! We go a lot, and have always invited our au pairs, but none have been interested until this one. Hope it goes well!

Old China Hand January 22, 2015 at 9:50 pm

Our first ap went backpacking with 4 college guys for her vacation. I loaned her all her gear including a bivy sack so she didn’t have to share a tent with the guys. She loved it.

Seattle Mom January 24, 2015 at 2:19 am

We had one very unathletic French au pair (she complained about her legs hurting after going on a long walk with another AP), and one who was a gym rat. Not really “sportive” as they say, but she was watching her figure so she worked out.

Our Thai au pair was super athletic, went kick boxing like every night that she didn’t go out and party.

Mimi January 21, 2015 at 11:08 pm

If you regularly and seriously work out, but then stop for whatever reason, you’re going to experience endorphin withdrawal/ hormonal changes, etc. Combine that with the AP common stressors and you risk problems. This was not an AP with priority or time management issues and I believe that a happy AP will equal a happy HM.

I wouldn’t ask my AP to do something I wouldn’t do, and early morning workouts is one of them. I am not a morning person and many of our APs haven’t been either. If they are super stars in other ways, that’s the flexibility I work with. Keep in mind that they weren’t watching a baby, it was two impish toddlers that eventually became two hellion five year olds. :) We use the max hours per week at 9 hours in a row (and no tv babysitters here-we limit screen time). I love my kids, but even I need a break from them under those conditions. Three hours a week was worth it to me. I totally get and respect that it’s not for everyone.

I think most of us here are very driven people who ask a lot of ourselves and push ourselves to limits we have had years to develop and test. Most of the APs are just learning this about themselves and I think sometimes a better lesson is compromise. When I ask myself, “Is this the hill you want to die on?” and the answer is no, then I save it for when it is.

AlwaysHopeful HM January 21, 2015 at 11:53 pm


TexasHM January 22, 2015 at 12:50 am

Totally agreed. Honestly, there are lots of things that other host families do that wouldn’t work for our family for whatever reason and vice versa but when I hear about interesting scenarios from this blog or other HFs I always think – if you are happy with it (HF), the AP is happy with it, it doesn’t break the rules and kids are safe/happy then why not and who am I to judge?! As was said, Mimi obviously knows what she is comfortable with, has a keen understanding of her AP and a desire to be flexible where she can be and potentially provide a huge perk to her awesome AP that doesn’t sacrifice her children’s well being or happiness so bravo! We tend to try to be generous in ways that align with our APs interests when we can and I think this is an example of exactly that. (We bought a piano to put in the front room when we had our super musical AP that missed playing, often adapt family trips to align with places or things on our APs bucket lists – my HM friends find that stuff to be nuts too) :)

Anna January 21, 2015 at 11:12 pm

My first reaction was “no way”, but now after reading all the responses I think it depends…
I have been known to be very accomodating in order to keep a good au pair happy. If this would make big difference in her life, why not… But then does her workout while someone else is watching the kids count towards her working hours?

Mimi January 21, 2015 at 11:26 pm

She’s still the adult in charge so for me, that’s a yes.

SKNY January 22, 2015 at 2:43 pm

yes, if something happens while they are there she is the adult in charge

Former Aupair January 22, 2015 at 4:46 am

Hi there, former Aupair, nanny and nursery teacher here.
I think more then the issue of just wanting to “dump” the HK it’s more the fact that as a AP you have NO breaks!
I realize the fact that an APs job is the HP everyday life, but it is in fact a job to us. As a now adult employee I would never except a job with no breaks, would you?
Imagine going to your job for 10 hours and not even being able to have a 5minute break for coffee in silence. As soon as the HK’s stop napping this is the reality. I really loved my year as an AP but I do think that there is a reason you go when you’re young and haven’t had a lot of experience with the “normal” working conditions (I’m swedish).
I’m not saying that the AP should use alternative babysitting everyday or even every other day, but it might go a long way for the quality of care that the AP provides that s/he know that in face of total need of a break there is an already HP approved plan in place.

American Host Mom in Europe January 22, 2015 at 4:50 am

Interesting discussion! I live in a small town in the countryside. My gym has a small children’s play area, unsupervised. My kids (6, 5, 5) LOVE to go play there, as there are toys we don’t have at home, and I’ve been taking them to the gym with me once every couple weeks. It was my last au pair actually who got me started going to the gym, she was an avid work-out fan. Sometimes one of my girls would ask to go with her, and she didn’t mind — kid got some alone time to play somewhere different, which was fun for them; and when only one of them would go to the gym with either of us, sometimes we’d let them use the equipment for a few minutes, which was a major highlight. So I guess the scenario is a bit different, as there’s no other child-care involved; but I never minded. We also don’t have the strict rules around hours here, which I guess changes things a bit too.

dcmomof3 January 22, 2015 at 9:33 am

Yes, opinions on this topic can certainly vary! A few years ago, I was getting my hair cut during the middle of the day and was watching a cute 4 year old boy run in circles around the salon while his caretaker got her hair highlighted. After watching this for awhile and hearing the caretaker make a few comments to him with German accent while reading In Style, I realized that the little boy and his German au pair had been to my house a few times for playdates with my au pair and youngest son. I told the AP who I was and asked if her host mom knew that she was getting her hair colored while working. She looked kind of surprised and told me yes. Going way, way outside of the mind your own business zone, I called our LCC and told her. LCC kind of freaked out saying it reflected poorly on the AP program, her cluster, this particular AP etc, that another host mom would see an AP getting her hair colored while her host child just ran around the salon. The LCC called the host mom and then reported back to me that the host mom had indeed authorized the trip to the salon. LCC did offer the host mom some coaching on how to manage her AP, but the host mom did not seem to think that any of this was problematic.

SwissAupair January 23, 2015 at 1:49 am

I was in the salon with my HK more than once, just because the HK needed a haircut and I asked my HM if it would be okay to get a haircut as well. In my opinion that was a exaggerate reaction. I would not feel comfortable moving in that city again while knowing that there might are HMs/HDs seeing me and tell everything to my HM or even the LCC! I once saw the “assuming to be very religious” (church 3 times a week) host parents of a (very religous) aupair-friend come out of a adult movie thater! I was a bit schocked, and really thought about telling to my friend because she is very religious and this would have been horrible for her to know, but did not tell that to someone becaus this is the HP business. But I could not stop grinning when I was in their house again :)

TexasHM January 22, 2015 at 1:33 pm

One quick thing I think is important to note here – this was not the AP asking for this perk. This was an observant/intuitive host mom offering this up (we don’t even really know if the AP accepted the offer and does this). I think that makes a huge difference. Not that it isn’t ok for APs to ask for exceptions or make suggestions for changes in schedule but there is a big difference between an AP expectation of this and putting the HM in the position to have to maybe seem like the bad guy and say no and the HM coming up with this idea and offering it up to the AP. Just my perspective. :)

I have a HM friend whose newer AP asked if she could finish early a couple days a week so she could go to a Zumba class with another AP and my friend almost lost it. She has school aged kids (12 and 10) and the AP works about 25-30 hours max per week during the school year and this would have meant reducing that another 4-5 hours per week and my friend trying to get this covered so she was pretty upset by that ask.

BUT – she said if her kids were little and the AP was 45 hours per week she probably would have considered tweaking her start or end time to help make it work but that the ask was inappropriate given that the AP honestly has a pretty easy gig, works far less than her friends and would be right in the middle of her already short shift (HM does morning shift so AP only works afternoon/early evenings and periodic date night).

Taking a Computer Lunch January 22, 2015 at 10:20 pm

I think it’s fair for the AP to ask, but she also has to understand, that if she has a light schedule (especially only in the afternoons – and not in the AM, too!), that she should understand if the HP say, “No.”

Because APs with only school-age kids are in the minority, it can be hard for them to make a coterie of friends. Our only rematch, was with an AP who gave us a lot of push-back on working 5 hours at the weekend (the times varied with our needs, and we tried to be flexible when she had something she really wanted to do – but when she was rude to the kids because she had to work, we knew we were done with her).

Sometimes, it helps to say, “I know it’s frustrating to work when all your friends are out doing other things, but we were clear about the schedule when we matched with you. I assume your friends taking this class work 45 hours a week and this works for their schedule. Maybe you can find someone willing to take a class with your during your free time during the day.”

TexasHM January 22, 2015 at 11:07 pm

That’s funny here the majority have school aged kids and we are definitely in the minority having a preschooler!!

HRHM January 23, 2015 at 10:47 am

Here too. Maybe it’s just the group that my AP chooses to spend time with but all of the ones I’ve met have school aged kids. She is in a large cluster so maybe it’s 50/50?

TexasHM January 23, 2015 at 4:51 pm

In our area our APs struggled to make plans with other APs because only one other family was on the younger kid schedule like us so when we put the youngest in preschool a couple days a week the AP didn’t even mind working later on those days or the added Sat date night occasionally because she was now freed up during the day twice a week to socialize with all the other APs! Maybe its because the cost of having an AP is very similar to having a nanny here so maybe the families don’t see the advantages of hosting APs until they get into school aged kids that need split shifts and date night schedules and there isn’t as much risk – just hypothesizing.

SwissAupair January 23, 2015 at 1:58 am

As an Aupair I have always asked my HM it I wanted to change the shedule for a “special event”, because the worst thing that can happen is, that the HM says “no!”. I had the feeling that when I don’t ask I will never find out and may be sad that I did not tried to ask. The HM was never the “bad guy saying no” to me. I think that a lot of Aupairs do this and none of them will think that the HP is the bad guy.

WestMom January 23, 2015 at 9:28 am

I think that’s fair to ask for a schedule change for a very special occasion. I don’t think it’s ok to ‘just ask because the worst thing that could happen is that HP says no’. Some HPs might feel pressured to say yes to keep AP happy, and this would definitely build resentment. I think it’s all about gauging how special is this situation- Is this a long weekend off and you are flying to a destination and need an extra hour to get to the airport? Sure, that’s fine. But asking for time off for social outings is not ok in my book.

dcmomof3 January 23, 2015 at 10:05 am

I agree with this comment. Whenever an AP comes to me to ask for something, I always consider it. Even if it means changing the schedule or doing something that is against my rules, I will consider it because I do want the AP to be happy and I assume that she has a valid reason for asking. Many times, after considering the request and the context, I will honor it. If I don’t, I usually feel bad about it and will continue to think about ways that we can “meet in the middle.” Current AP does ask me more than others have to change the schedule, to take the car where she is not allowed to take it, etc. I guess she thinks it can’t hurt to ask, but I do feel like it takes a toll on the relationship because it makes me feel as though she doesn’t look at all of the things that we do give her, the extra free time off that she’s had, the ample use of a car in an area with easy public transit access to major cities, etc. Her focus on what she is not allowed to do makes me feel like she is not appreciative of what she is allowed to do. Maybe some of it is just a matter of maturity, but I agree that it does build some resentment.

AlwaysHopeful HM January 23, 2015 at 10:29 am

Dcmomof3, your post helped me realize one reason why the requests don’t bother me. I think I am a problem solver by nature, so I kind of enjoy taking something that’s not going to work and figuring out a way to make it work for everyone. That’s a big part of what I do in my job, so I guess it’s just ingrained!

AlwaysHopeful HM January 23, 2015 at 10:17 am

I believe this is another area where HFs and APs need to pay attention to the other’s co?unication style. For many people, the request itself is an imposition, so an AP in such a family should choose her requests wisely. For others (and i’m in this group), it doesn’t hurt to ask. I really value directness, so if you want something…ask! I have no problem saying no if that’s my answer, but if you don’t ask, chances are it never would have occurred to me that you want it. I have found some au pairs to be more open than others to asking for things, and i just feel frustrated to no end whenever one doesn’t ask me something because they want to be polite. So, really, I think it’s a matter of matching styles. The one thing I DON’T want to be asked about is something clearly inappropriate, or something I’ve already nixed.

HRHM January 23, 2015 at 10:48 am

twice weekly exercise class isn’t a special event. A one-off concert or lecture, yes. Weekly alteration of the schedule to a class that should be taken during your off hours, no.

Host Mom in the City January 23, 2015 at 11:44 am

I appreciate you posting this position, SwissAuPair. I’m a people-pleaser by nature, so when an au pair asks me something, my inclination is to say yes, even if it really doesn’t work for me. And on the rare occassion I do so no, it is really difficult and I do lots of worrying that the person won’t like me anymore. It took me a long, long time to learn to make myself say “let me do some thinking about that and get back to you tomorrow” to pretty much every request rather than just saying “yes, of course” and then realizing shortly thereafter that whatever it was really didn’t work for me. I’m glad to hear that you, and perhaps other APs, aren’t put off by a “no,” but rather that you’re just asking.

I would suggest that au pairs gauge their requests. If it’s something you know isn’t going to work for your host family (taking a class that means you won’t be able to pick a kid up at school), I wouldn’t even bother asking. I think that would irritate me if an au pair kept coming to me with requests for things that really routinely disrupted the schedule for which she was hired.

Want to head on a road trip a couple hours early on a Friday? Please, definitely ask if I can be home a little early and I’ll do my best. Want an extra day or two off? Of course – let’s make it work. Host child has been asking to do something that you’re not sure I’ll approve (e.g., go to the gym childcare with his friends), definitely ask. Really hate beans and I keep putting them in our dinners? lol – let me know! I do love my two au pairs that have been really vocal about their needs and preferences. Keeps me from agonizing over what they like/don’t like, which I do constantly.

But also, two things – one, I am way way way more likely to do my absolute best to please an au pair that does her absolute best to please us. Our one au pair that made it clear what a pain in the butt it was to work? That spent her entire work time on whatsapp? That lied to me about a number of things? Nope, I had zero interest in being flexible even a little. Our three amazing au pairs who are truly part of our family and did their best with my kids – I’d pretty much do anything for. And finally, if you do ask, and it’s a no, I’d really appreciate a “no problem – I completely understand” and a generally fine demeanor about it. Any pouting or taking it out on me or my kids for a reasonable “no, sorry, that really won’t work for us” would really really bother me, particularly since I give so much when I truly can.

TexasHM January 23, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Just to be clear since I hijacked this in in the first place, this was a new AP (first couple weeks) that still hadn’t mastered the job responsibilities entirely (she was good, just little details she was still figuring out) and this was a twice weekly zumba class right in the middle of her shift (which is maybe 5 hours a day) that would have made the HM have to change pickup arrangements, hire additional help to drive the kids to the activities and/or change her or her husband’s or boths work schedules to accomodate. She was clear about the schedule and sends a handbook upfront and AP agreed, when HM asked AP why she would think that was ok AP said “I just figured I would ask” but like others on here, my friend was offended by the request, upset that she felt like the bad guy and thought it was inappropriate. This same HM is very flexible about special events and they are a generous family, that was not the issue here. I have another HM friend right now who is struggling because her wonderful AP tends to make inappropriate asks as well and she doesn’t know how to explain to the AP that she needs to pick her battles. AP tends to ask HM for any and every favor her friends bring up even if its not important to the AP so my friend bends and twists and then when she does say no the AP just moves on to the next ask. I don’t know how much is age or culture or what but I am HMiTC’s personality twin I think and I have now adopted her strategy and any ask I tell the APs I need to “talk to DH about it”. Before I tended to give and then hated myself or DH would get irritated so now I take the timeout approach too. I think most HMs want to be flexible and try to do what they can to make their AP happy but APs also need to be sensitive to what is an appropriate ask and be prepared to accept a no gracefully. I look for empathy in APs partly for this reason. APs that can put themselves in the HPs shoes excel here and with us. We try to be flexible and put them first, they do the same and everyone wins. The times we got hung up were the times that the AP didn’t consider our side or the extent of what she was asking so a few times we sat them down and explained it and they either reconsidered their request to something that was palatable or withdrew it entirely because they realized it wasn’t worth the impact and were able to move on happily without damaging the relationship.

Seattle Mom January 24, 2015 at 2:38 am

You know, I think I’m generally in the same camp as AlwaysHopeful HM, where it really doesn’t hurt to ask me for something- I will say ‘yes’ if it is really ok, and if it’s not ok I can say ‘no’ with no guilt.

HOWEVER, it changes when the request is in the category of “Why would you think that is OK? Are you even realizing what you are asking of me?” And that is what you are talking about- it should be obvious that this is never going to fly, when you’re basically asking to have time off in the middle of your shift on a regular basis and make your host parents leave work or hire someone else.. I mean that would bother me and I am upfront enough that I would just tell the AP that the question bothers me.

So yes, there is such a thing as an unreasonable question, in my book. I wouldn’t feel guilty for saying no, but I would think less of an AP who asked for that kind of favor.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 23, 2015 at 12:34 pm

DH and I try to be as flexible as we can – but in return we ask that the AP be flexible, too – in fact I’m nearly quoting my handbook. So when the AP wants an evening off with little notice to attend “a chance of a lifetime” concert, I often say yes. However, when an opportunity arises for DH and I to suddenly attend an evening event, we ask her, assuming she’ll remember the concert and say yes (I understand that I have more power in the relationship and it’s hard to tell me no). And of course, there are snow days and days when the kids are sick and she’s forced to change her plans (and so are we, the HP, as we juggle who will leave for work late and who will come home early).

I understand that the entire AP year could consist of “chance of a lifetime” opportunities, and have grateful that my APs have balanced their requests. I may be a little more flexible than most – I have kids who attend school all day, and so DH and I are often home while the AP is caring for The Camel. It’s not that hard to take a little extra time off work so she may do something in the evening. It’s also easier for us to say yes to the great or rock star AP, than to the one that needs constant job coaching.

When my kids were younger, and all my sick and vacation time when to doctor’s visits for The Camel, it was very hard to say “yes” to an AP when I was counting minutes of time off, not even hours, much less days or weeks, and I tried to be honest when their request was going to force me into a situation where I would be taking time off from work and not getting paid when I said “No.”

SKNY January 22, 2015 at 2:40 pm

We had this as an alternative.
Our au pairs have always been allowed to go to the Y and leave the kids in the child watch up to 2 times a week. None abused it (and to be honest, none really used it), until last one (the one who left us without notice to go to another family and got kicked off of said family within 4 weeks).
Anyway, we went to the Y one night for our daily workout and was approached by an upset worker to inform children are not allowed to spend more than an hr and a half in the child watch. We were shocked to discover that she was going there and leaving them for many hours (sometimes up to 3), multiple days a week, while reading magazines and browsing the internet in the lounge area.
So that became a NO, and she was informed that she could no longer do it, and child care workers would tell us. I feel this was one of the precipitating factors for her to decide that we were abusive and she had to leave.
For what is worth, I heard she is finishing her term with her 3rd family by the end of the next week. A mess…

WarmStateMomma January 22, 2015 at 5:07 pm

Yikes! Your kids are better off without her.

Anna January 23, 2015 at 9:37 am

May I ask the name of the agency that let that girl “work” for three families?

SKNY January 23, 2015 at 1:46 pm

She left the agency. The family who kicked her off as well as the third family were not in an agency

SKNY January 23, 2015 at 1:48 pm

Also, I am sorry to realize that there is no limit on the number of families who will take an au pair without an agency, without any reference. They seem to be able to jump from one job to the other without any fear or concern… Will go from one state to another… As long as they make a good first impression and speak good English, that seems to make it. too upsetting. And dont even get me started on how they use Greataupair and care.com to “fish” for new families…

Old China Hand January 22, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Our gym doesn’t have a daycare, so I’m a bit jealous of all of you who can work out while the kids play. Then again, my baby sleeps all the time and only in her bed by herself, so it’s not like I can do much with putting her in care so I can work out. My husband and I enforce very early bedtimes (5 for the baby, 6 for the toddler) and exercise after they go to bed. Dh leaves for work before 6 am, so no morning work outs for either of us. We Have a complicated system of who gets to exercise outside the house each day (or at more desirable weekend times) and who has to use the bike trainers in the basement or do a yoga video. I wouldn’t go for the ap leaving kiddos at a daycare of any kind, but do provide gym membership for the ap once we realized how cheap it is ($35 to add her for a year). We also pay for swim lessons for her because we pay next to nothing for education and none of the aps we have interviewed actually know how to swim. She can work out on her own time at the gym and we are happy to drive her on days we go.

Old China Hand January 23, 2015 at 10:08 am

As I was going to sleep last night I realized that I do do something to workout that I would never let an AP do – I let my son play on the track equipment (like the high jump mats) while I do a speed workout on the track. I close all the gates and let him run around. I will probably do this with my daughter too when she is older.

In Rematch Hell - AGAIN January 22, 2015 at 10:34 pm

We have a “free” gym in the neighborhood club house (in quotes because we definitely pay for it as part of our HOA dues, but it’s not optional). We have always allowed APs complete access to the clubhouse gym but not while the kids are with her. There’s no childcare option there and they love the game room but shouldn’t be unchaperoned at the club house. There’s a pool as well.

We are big into exercise that doesn’t seem so prescribed (hikes, biking, tennis, games with balls, etc.) but our APs seem to either want to run around the neighborhood (we do have trails and lakes) or work out in the gym. So we encourage that.

As far as the OP, no I would not be pleased to have the kids put into a group care program merely so AP could get a workout. When she is ON, she is ON. My kids are older (middle school and up), so I don’t think they can go to the kid care things anyhow.

In Rematch Hell - AGAIN January 22, 2015 at 10:36 pm

Oh heavens. Sorry. I meant elementary school and up. Not middle school and up.

PA AP Mom January 23, 2015 at 11:11 am

Our first AP did this with our complete approval. Our youngest was 4 at the time and he loved going to the “kid place” while our AP went to Zumba. She couldn’t do a Zumba class in the evenings because that was her big “work time”. I think allowing her to have that break during the day (3 times/week) to re-energize was well worth the $3 it cost me per week.

Seattle Mom January 24, 2015 at 2:45 am

I could imagine allowing it, if I was familiar with the childcare and I knew my kids liked it. And I would have to approve it, and be sure that it was only happening maybe once or twice a week.

But I don’t have a gym with childcare, and my kids both go to school (though not everyday for the younger one). So realistically, my APs have time to work out when they are off-duty.

Also we have a rowing machine in our house and always invite the APs to use it when they are off-duty. We also have some weights. So far one AP used our rowing machine, and she even put up a kick boxing bag in our garage and used it regularly.

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