Au Pair Management Tip: Schedule Transition Time

by cv harquail on March 29, 2010

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’.201003291103.jpg

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.

See Also:

How to improve your Au Pair relationship in just one minute
3 Ways to be a Great Host Parent

Pocket Watch Clock from Svadilfari


StephinBoston March 29, 2010 at 1:03 pm

This is interesting, I work from home so I spend a lot of time with our au pairs, morning, lunch and after work I get to talk to them. I think some overlap is very beneficial, lets us both take our time “jumping in” to the situation, whether it’s morning for her of night for me when she hands the kids back to me. If I ever go back in the office, I’ll make sure to schedule some overlap time

PA au pair mom March 29, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Last year I didn’t schedule overlap time and it would make me crazy, and sometimes angry, when I would get home from a long day and our AP would be waiting on the front porch, purse in hand, to leave.

This year, I schedule the AP at least 1 hour after I get home. If I don’t need her for the whole 1 hour, I will simply say, “thanks for your help today. We are going to go out for dinner. You are more than welcome to come along, or you can be free for the evening”. This has worked out very well.

Anonymous March 29, 2010 at 4:52 pm

I think this is an excellent idea. I am a teacher and I am exspected to be in my classroom prior to class and after dismissal. Often, students stop by just to talk. At my son’s school, I have heard many parents complain about teachers who just go racing to their cars as soon as the bell rings. It sends a strong message. On behalf of the aupairs, I want to say something. When I was a brand new mother at home all day, sometimes I, too, wanted to run out the door as soon as my husband came home. At one time, I was a therapist and many women told me that exact same thing. If you come home late, through your own fault or no fault of your own ( traffic, demanding client, inconsiderate boss ) , don’t be too judgemental of your aupair. She has had a long day, too. Don’t take it personally.

Au pair March 29, 2010 at 6:57 pm

i can say as an au pair that taking some time to talk about the day and let my host mom in to what is going on is good to the relationship (and i do that almost everyday) but i remember how i hated to receive a txt message from my host parents asking me to come home in my free time to talk. It got me scared many times as i thought something bad was going on..but everytime i’d come home and they would talk about simple stuff – which made me pissed. They had plenty of time at home with me almost everyday..why dont use this time to talk? and oh, i coud not stand my host mom which made everything worse.
In my new family i do that naturally..because even tho i am dead tired when she comes home..i rarely feel like running to the street since she treats me well, respects me and most important of all, APPRECIATES my job.

Pearl March 30, 2010 at 1:24 pm

My au pairs have kindly picked me up from the metro/bus stop after work most nights. We almost always get a few minutes to talk about issues that arose during the day while she drives me home (and the kids are distracted by a movie in the back). Luckily, all my au pairs have been able to drive and talk well at the same time!

We also always try to seek out an au pair who is interested up front in having family dinners with us most nights. It’s during those dinnertimes that we usually hear the great little stories about fun things they’ve done, and that’s the best chance to thank and praise our au pair (and our kids) and generally bond. I think it’s not so bad for our au pair to run out and get a workout in, or even just escape to her room for a bit right after I get home. Thenwe can talk about things over dinner after she’s gotten a break. For those nights she’s going out at dinner time, I also have her fill out a daily report form to make sure no necessary info falls through the cracks.

Au pair March 30, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Just make sure you dont talk only about work and kids because no one wants to talk about work while having dinner.

Taking a computer lunch April 3, 2010 at 10:30 pm

When the kids were babies, we had very little overlap, because we needed the AP to work 42 1/2 hours per week, leaving the remaining 2 1/2 hours for my commuting delays. Now, we usually have the AP feed our daughter, so she is in the dining room feeding DD while I am preparing dinner. It’s a great time to chat.

One of my previous APs trained me, by always asking “How was your day?” And I learned to ask back of her. It was a great way to find out what was important to her, who was new in her life, which APs were going home that week, whether or not she wanted extra time off to say goodbye to someone at the airport, what her favorite things were… This information was as important to me as what the kids were doing. For APs whose English needs improvement, it’s also a time to help them improve their skills (you don’t need to directly correct, just reply using the corrected language).

We also have the AP start at 6:00 when DD needs to get up for school (because she requires total care, getting her ready takes a long time). DH is home with the AP in the morning, and has a chance to chat. DH is home, talking a walk and seeing our son get up in the morning before he heads to work at 7:30, so there is a great deal of overlap there, too.

This extent of overlap works because our kids are school-age and spend 6 1/2 hours out of the house each day.

Aupair April 9, 2010 at 12:07 am

I work the full 45hrs and my host parents HAVE written on the end of my schedule that im expected to STAY AN EXTRA 15mins (after my 9hr/day) to discuss the children with them….Add to that the usual 15-30minuts of lateness EVERYDAY, and thats alot of “Change-over Time” (as my HM likes to call it!) that is UNPAID and UNWANTED!! I love my host kids!! But when im looking at the clock and 5.30’s come and gone…. I start to feel a little used. :( It’s a sad fact that MOST Auairs make a run for the door…. But you need to remember, it’s still a job and we need some time and space for ourselves aswell. I think scheduling in time for this conversation is imperitive! It makes it a better enviroment for everyone, Host Parents, Children and the Au Pair…. But lets keep it on the clock! :D

aria April 9, 2010 at 3:54 am

Preach. I’m all for scheduling transition time in between, but when my HP are 30- 1 hour late every single night and then I have wait for them to get settled, read kids a bedtime story, then come out and discuss what needs to be done…and I get to go around 8:30-9:00 every night, it starts to wear on you. Resentment builds, no matter how much you like your job!

Euromom April 18, 2010 at 11:16 am

I have a daily report sheet that my au pair fills out every day before going off duty. It’s exactly like the type used in daycare centres and it is extremely fast and simple to fill out with multiple choice questions for example. “My (toddlers) mood today was: cranky / fussy / periods of fuzziness / happy / teething”.

It covers everything from “What I ate today” to “My activities were” and also bowel movements – sorry to include this but they are important!

There is also a separate question for medication administored – v important when dealing with a teething baby and means that we cannot possible OD him.

Because the sheet is filled out daily I can see how my child is each day – it is also a great way to review the day with the au pair – it keeps us focused – she can also write comments down for me if she think there is something that I would like to know or need to think about i.e. a playdate, etc.

We also have a house diary which both I and my au pair fill in – in case we forget to talk to eachother about a night out or an extra class – this is used to aid communication and not instead off talking to one another but really keeps us focused.

I also keep a white board in the kitchen for groceries – what we need kinda list – all these little things help my house run smoother – don’t impact on her off duty time – and as an extra – my au pair and I work great together.

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