Here is a tip for both host parent and au pairs alike:
Schedule transition time, with explicit overlap between when the au pair and the parent (or other caregiver) switch who’s ‘on duty’.
Back when I worked as a manufacturing manager I always had to be there for “shift overlap”, when the outgoing shift would brief the incoming shift about how the operations had been running that day. Many times these meetings were boring (‘hey, we’re a little low on pallets on the second floor, blah blah’). And frankly, I wanted to get home after 10 or more hours watching bars of soap get wrapped and put into cartons. But then there would be that one day when problems had arisen, that had to be solved, and that required both shift teams to make changes in their operation. Because I was there, I could listen, understand, facilitate, help to solve the problem. Whew.
The Problem of the Quick GetAway
A few host parents have mentioned how annoyed they become when they arrive home from work to find their au pair standing at the front door, car keys in hand, ready to race off to Starbucks or elsewhere, at the end of her work day.
From an emotional perspective, we might feel annoyed b/c this behavior makes it seem like our au pair doesn’t really like our kids (or us) and can’t wait to get away from them. From a managerial perspective, the au pair’s plans for ‘immediate departure’ means we can’t have a good conversation about how the day went, and what has to happen next.
Au pairs, too, might feel annoyed when parents race off to work without discussing what’s for dinner, and without mentioning that the cable repair guy is coming (along with a pair of unicorns).
The problem with a quick getaway is that it leaves no time for sharing information.
I think it makes sense, then, to schedule in some dedicate time for overlapping and sharing news of the day. This would be in addition to (and not really a replacement for) a longer meeting.
I would actually write this in on our weekly plan, since I often have needed to schedule an au pair for an entire 45 hours. Others might prefer to have these 10 or 15 minutes just be part of the gray area if your scheduling is more informal. In either case, it’s important to keep the total time within the guidelines.
Let your au pair know that overlapping time at ‘shift change’ is an explicit expectation, and that a good, short conversation at the end of a work day is part of doing a good job.
You can also help to make this time something your au pair and you look forward to. It might be the moment you jot a funny story down into your mom notebook (the one you keep with the unicorns). And, it might also be the time your reinforce to your au pair what a great job she is doing.
Either way, make sure that you *plan* for even just a short time together. Take this little bit of time to make sure life and relationships run smoothly.
Pocket Watch Clock from Svadilfari