There are two kinds of host family schedules:
- Host Families that use up all of their 45 hours during the host parents’ Mon – Fri work week, and
- Host Families that don’t.
I can pretty much guarantee you that if your host family schedule is the second kind, and you try to use your au pair hours regularly to have an au pair on duty Saturday nights, you’re going it get a lot of crap for it.
I know that we did– in fact, this is the issue over which one of our two rematches occurred. That au pair “just couldn’t stand it any more” that she was being asked to work one or two Saturday nights a month. Our schedule was “ruining her social life”.
Even worse, our LCC told me that we were being unreasonable, asking our au pair to work on Saturday nights when “all the other au pairs” had Saturday nights off. She also told me that it didn’t matter that our au pair usually worked only 30 hours a week anyway– Saturday nights were still ‘not fair’.
(Insert string of expletives here )
What can you do to address the Saturday Night Situation?
I’ve tried very hard to make working on a Saturday night both “normal” and not such a big deal, by doing things like:
- Stating up front in our family letter and during interviews that we scheduled our au pair to work one or two Saturday nights a month
- Stating up front in our family letter and during interviews that at least one of these Saturday nights ended at 10:30, leaving plenty of time to get out and party.
- Balancing our this ‘horrible’ demand with liberal use of an au pair car, a cosy room, and well-behaved host kids.
- Scheduling our new au pairs to work on a Saturday night their first weeks here, so that it was already part of normal.
- Asking my host mom friends to do the same, and trying to coordinate with them so I wasn’t alone with this.
- Talking to my LCC and asking her to make it clear (to herself and) to the au pairs that Saturday nights were indeed fair times to ask an au pair to work.
- Planning these Saturday nights out way ahead so our au pair could schedule around them.
The whole ‘on duty on Saturday Night’ thing is both a practical issue and a philosophical one for me.
Practically, one of the reasons to have an au pair is so that you and your dear partner can have a social life yourselves. Call me crazy, but I’m often too tired to go out on a weeknight/worknight, and I’m also too cash-constrained to pay an additional $60 to a babysitter so that my au pair can be off duty.
Philosophically, the Saturday Night Situation is one of those that surfaces a tension around au pairs and their motivations. Do they understand that the childcare part of their jobs takes priority over their leisure time, at least occasionally?
And, for host parents, do you feel comfortable asserting your own needs and saying- “Yes, we need you to work because we need to have time off ourselves”?
How have you managed the Saturday Night Situation?