We’re on our fourth day of snow-related school closings this month, and I’m really starting to feel the burden of being the only adult working at home– in (what seems like) the whole neighborhood.
If you usually take their child(ren) to a childcare center or nursery school, these institutions are often closed on school snow days.
And of course, the schools are closed– so no matter who takes care of your kids when school is out of session, you probably don’t have someone ‘on duty’ to care for the kids who are now at home.
Unless, of course, you have an au pair. Your childcare provider is right there, safe and warm, in your own house! Ready to go.
And everyone in your neighborhood knows it.
Which is why you get the phone call, or the text message “Can Hermione come over to your house, until the late bus comes?” Or, “Is it okay if Ron comes over to play with your kids? That way they won’t get bored.”
Today my university is closed for snow, and so I’m working from home, and –yes– I’m available if someone is having a childcare emergency. “Sure, send him/her over. Bring snow boots and extra mittens.” There were over a dozen tweens in our playroom yesterday afternoon!
I can do this because I’m the mom, and I will do it because there were too many time when I was a kid that I needed somewhere to go, and too many times when I worked full time and found myself in a bind with sick au pairs, sick kids, spouse out of town, who knows what.
What’s easy for a working-from-home parent is not so easy for an au pair. Even if it’s okay with you (and it may feel like a burden anyway), your au pair hasn’t signed on to be the emergency childcare contact for the other families in your ‘hood.
When your Au Pair is the Safety Net
If your au pair is willing (or says s/he’s willing– s/he might feel pressured), there are a few things you can do to ease the burden for her:
- Ask the visiting kids to bring games, toys, videos to entertain everyone.
- Order pizza, get out that frozen tray of family-sized Mac ‘n Cheese, coordinate the food so s/he has less to worry about.
- Create a list of things kids can do to keep busy.
- Sketch out a schedule with play time and rest time for kids — why not pretend you’re all camping, and it’s time to sleep?
- Tell the visiting kids (and yours) that the Au Pair is in charge and must be obeyed.
- Make sure the parents know that they need to get their kids at a certain time, so that your au pair knows when the end will be in sight.
Then, be sure to find some way to thank and maybe even compensate your au pair.
Starbucks gift cards, a new pair of snow mittens, inviting her friends over for a family dinner, getting the au pair car washed for him, whatever treat you can imagine.
Somebody’s got to be the safety net, because we need one.
When it’s your au pair, make sure her or his extra effort is acknowledged, and make sure s/he knows how much you appreciate it.
Has your au pair had to fill in as the neighborhood safety net?
What have you done when this has happened?