The Au Pair Scheduling Constraint That Might Surprise You

by cv harquail on June 26, 2014

I’ve been surprised by some of the fine details in the rules and the principles that guide how we should schedule an au pair’s ‘on duty‘ hours.  

For example, I was surprised to learn that some Au Pair Agencies require that an au pair’s day off and half-day off are contiguous (making it 36 hours off in an unbroken span). 4393566201_c027ce4c1e_b

And, I was surprised to realize that my efforts to give my au pair an hour break here and there weren’t actually helpful. I wasn’t giving her a long enough span of time for her do do something meaningful, that felt “off duty”.

But here’s a scheduling constraint that caught me by surprise:

Give your au pair 8 contiguous evening hours off duty on days s/he is scheduled to work.

Said another way:

The total span of time from when your au pair begins her/his workday to the time s/he ends her/his workday should be no longer than 14 hours.

I haven’t seen this in an official agency policy, but I realized it was a problem when I was emailing with a host mom who was struggling to manage her childcare needs within the au pair scheduling rules.

When you think of it, it makes obvious sense. If your au pair does not have enough time ‘off duty’ s/he can’t get enough sleep!  

Of course, we sometimes schedule au pairs to be ‘on duty’ overnight — but since we count those hours it means that s/he will have a good chunk time off the following day. And, since most of the time kids sleep through the night and there are no emergencies, s/he’ll have had some uninterrupted sleep time.

The problem arises when you want to schedule your au pair to do a night time baby feeding or get up with a kid that’s being potty trained.

If you are asking your au pair to break up her/his sleep for a childcare task, you need to make sure that either on the ‘going to bed’ or the ‘waking up’ end of that activity, your au pair has a long chunk of time — preferably 8 hours but no less than 6.5 — to get some deep sleep.


Has anyone had challenges with this principle, or a situation where you couldn’t possibly make it work?

See also:

Scheduling Your Au Pair: The Half Day
Start By Following the Rules: Au Pair Asks About Hours, Holidays and Discipline
Overnight hours: Should we be able to schedule Au Pairs to work overnight?

Plus all these Posts about Scheduling


Image: “The Quiet Adventures of Evelyn and Blizzard” by AttributionNoncommercial Jesse f/2.8



happyhostmom June 26, 2014 at 7:23 pm

I sometimes have a hard time with the 36 hour contiguous rule. My work schedule is part-time and flexible so that can sometimes make it hard. So for example, If I have to work Monday, Thursday and Friday one week, and I want to go on a date night on Saturday and had her watch one kid on Wed. while I brought the other kid to the pediatrician, I would technically be in violation of that. It doesn’t happen too often, but it can be a hard rule to comply with. From what I understand the Au Pairs don’t have a hard time with it, they would be more concerned with other scheduling issues, such as working every weekend, working over hours, etc.

exaupair June 26, 2014 at 8:01 pm

They can’t work over hours at all. Although I wouldn’t have issues with overtime as long as I was being paid accordingly. My main issue has always been weekend on duty, so I pretty much blew off everyone who required weekends.

Schmetterfink July 1, 2014 at 5:37 am

” If I have to work Monday, Thursday and Friday one week, and I want to go on a date night on Saturday and had her watch one kid on Wed. while I brought the other kid to the pediatrician, I would technically be in violation of that.”

But in your example the only problem is “I want to go on a date night on Saturday”. Either don’t go on your date night, schedule it on a different day (Friday night, Sunday night) or get a babysitter. There you go, your au pair has 36 contiguous hours off on Saturday and Sunday.

Or schedule your kid’s doctor’s appointment on Wednesday afternoon and let her have Tuesday (full day) and half of Wednesday off. Or take your other kid(s) to the pediatrician with you.

While it might be hard, it’s not that you cannot schedule 36 contiguous hours, it’s just that it inconveniences you. Which is not nice but a clear case of, as one of my friends calls it “I cannot lives in I do not want to street.”

Taking a Computer Lunch June 26, 2014 at 8:00 pm

I think the 1 1/2 days off a week vary from agency to agency (so Texas HM’s comment about infant care varying from agency to agency also applies here). My agency does not state that it be contiguous, but that it equal 1 1/2 days. Now that my kids are teenagers, my APs usually work a split shift 2.5 in the AM and 3-3.5 hours in the PM. In the spirit of the rules, even though DH and I could insure that the split shift was no more than 5 hours, it is never half a day. I feel that if I want my AP to work more than 5 hours on a weekend, then I have to give her a morning or evening off during the week.

I think I can count on one hand the times I have asked my AP to work after 10 pm on a weekday night and to get up and work at 6 am the next morning. It probably has happened. But 99% of the time, even when I schedule her to work past 10 pm, it’s only a buffer and we’re usually home by 9 or 9:30.

When my kids were babies, I precisely didn’t schedule my AP to get up in the middle of the night for a feed because I wanted her to be rested and energetic for them during the day (AP #1, who had been a PICU nurse in her native country, enjoyed going out at night, but I felt that it was on her to be energetic and engaged). Child #2 stopped napping when he was 2 1/2 (bummer for everyone!) so she really had to be “on” all day – but his bilingual language skills made it clear she spoke to him and engaged him all day long. Because The Camel didn’t sleep through the night until she was 6, DH and I took the hit.

In my experience, APs are likely not to say anything to the HF when they don’t like the schedule or they don’t think it is fair. And while you might be thinking, “But my AP doesn’t complain…”, be warned – when things go south, it will be one in a long list of complaints held against you. Be fair. Be open. Apologize when you need to make the schedule tight. If you can’t make it work, then maybe the AP program isn’t right for you. (DH and I continue to work a staggered schedule 8 years after time has passed – simply because it makes us more flexible when we need to take time off when we need to stay within 10 hours.)

Should be working June 26, 2014 at 8:55 pm

DH and I only rarely go out at night. I tell our APs that they can go to bed, leave their door open in case someone calls (our kids are older), and we’ll quietly close their door when we get home. But NONE of our APs, weirdly, felt comfortable going to sleep until we got home!! They each said they only would go to bed when we came home, although we said it’s ok!

So I decided not to feel bad when, on the rare occasion (like 3x/yr), DH and I are out until 1am and the AP’s next shift starts at 7. She could sleep if she wanted, if we HPs aren’t concerned, she shouldn’t be.

WarmStateMomma June 27, 2014 at 5:54 am

I hear you. We sometimes go to work early in the morning, before the AP or our daughter wake. (We also then come home early.) Our deal is that the AP needs to leave her door open or have the baby monitor on, to listen for the baby waking, but she doesn’t have to get up until the baby does. The APs feel weird the first time or two being in bed during their shift, but then realize it’s a good deal because at least two of their “working hours” are used up sleeping.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 27, 2014 at 6:43 am

DH and I rarely go out at night, and often when we do it is to do something with child #2 (The Camel can be very loud and distracting so taking her to movies and plays is completely out of the question.) Some of our APs have been ready to party when we return, but the quiet, early evening types are invariably up, even though we tell them it’s okay to lock the doors and go to bed. I have begun to wonder if it isn’t a holdover from their babysitting days, when they were expected to stay up and wait for the return of parents.

happyhostmom June 26, 2014 at 11:20 pm

@ExAupair–yes legally they can’t work more than 45 hours, but I’ve been horrified of the stories I’ve heard of some families forcing some girls to actually work past the 45 hours each week, and not just a few hours every once in a while, but actually scheduling 55-60 hours a week. And one family even requires actually cleaning the house. And they don’t compensate them. I’ve always heard stories of HM’s limiting the au pairs food, such as putting the amount of fruit they can eat in a basket for a week (i.e only three apples per week) and some even making them pay for their own food. It is disgusting and not right. The sad thing is that some of the girls who report this to their agencies, the agency says just try to work it out and does nothing. Granted some of the girls rematch (as they should) or don’t speak up (which I feel bad for) but the ones where the agency doesn’t help is really sad. Anyway, sorry to hijack this post, but I feel really strongly about this. The word Au Pair means “on par” in French,meaning they should be treated on par with the family, not as a slave.

AlwaysHopeful HM June 27, 2014 at 8:05 am

Giving a full evening hasn’t been a problem for me, but I would definitely have difficulty with a 36 contiguous hours rule. I’m in the match process now with 2 agencies: one has a contiguous day requirement and the other does not. I had read the contiguous day rule to mean that the days, not the hours, had to run together. So, for example, if Saturday was the off day, I could require 5 hours Sunday morning, but no longer than that. I’m going to check with the LCC because that’s kind of a dealbreaker for me– I really need the flexibility. I guess I’m glad to find out now, although I’ve been communicating recently with a girl from that agency that i was starting to think might be a great match for our family. :(

Patty June 27, 2014 at 8:13 am

Just a note: the agency tells the au pairs (at least Cultural Care does) that we are not allowed to work more than 10 hours a day. So its not 14 hours,
Only 10.

NoVA Twin Mom June 27, 2014 at 8:29 am

It’s ten hours IN a day. So, not that our schedule works this way, I had my au pair work from 7 AM to 9 AM to get my kids to school after I leave for work (2 hours) then from 2 PM to 7 PM (5 hours) to get them home from school, start homework, maybe drive to ballet or karate, maybe get supper started, and to give me enough time to get home from my monstrous commute,that would only be 7 hours of work even though it’s over 12 hours. The five hour break from 9 AM to 2 PM starts the clock over on hours, but the number of hours worked in any given day can’t exceed 10 hours.

The question postulates that if you have a “split shift” like this, it can only be “over” 14 hours.

I think it depends on what time the shift ends and what time the next one starts. I also think it might be over 16 hours rather than 14 (16 + 8 = 24). But hostparents that are able to use a split shift like this do need to be careful to schedule sleeping time! While the scenario I listed above (just before/after school care) wouldn’t be an issue, scheduling a mid-week “date night” – something many host families with “extra” hours do to preserve the weekend for the au pair (so they choose to do this to HELP the au pair have a full weekend off, sometimes every weekend) – might backfire in ways we hadn’t considered.

Someday I hope to have this problem :) In the meantime, we’re using every second of our 45 hours during the week (kids are three, so too young for school, though they do attend a three hours a day preschool four days a week this fall to “buy” us a break in schedule and a few more hours – and because these are kids that need to GO somewhere every day!)

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 8:28 am

That’s not what CV was saying. She was saying work span less than 14 hours. Meaning if you worked for an hour in the morning at 6am and then were off during the day and then worked again in the afternoon/evening you should be off by 8pm so that the window of time in which you worked was 14 hours or less. Contrast would be you work at 6am, off during day then on again at 3pm for 9 more hours ending at midnight and then having you start work again the next day at 6am. Technically you didn’t work more than 10 that day but it leaves you less than 6 hours of sleep per night!

hOstCDmom June 27, 2014 at 8:54 am

I still think it was a typo re 14 hrs, rather than 16hrs — bc CV was postulating the need for a minimum 8 hour break before the next day. That would mean you could schedule 10hrs max over a 16hr period….unless I’m misunderstanding?

NoVA Twin Mom June 27, 2014 at 9:10 am

I think that’s right – but it assumes every day starts at the same time (which often happens). If the host parents did the morning routine after a late night and let the au pair sleep in, then it might work for the au pair to work later, picking up again after school

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 10:15 am

Maybe she was building in a little buffer so AP could wind down at night and get ready in the morning (vs cutting into the 8 hours of sleep time for that)? Who knows! But it sounds like we all get the idea – even though its 10 hours or less per day, if you work your AP from 4am-8am and then 6pm-midnight that would be disastrous to her sleeping schedule and likely nets you a worn out AP even though technically she could find ways to try to makeup the sleep difference (like going back to bed at 8am). A recent AP rematch was due to several reasons but one of which was they had the AP working nights and they were switching up her schedule regularly so she was getting 4 hours of sleep one night and 7 another and 2 another and they said it wasn’t a problem because she wasn’t working more than 10 hours per day and 45 hours per week and she could sleep during her off time during the day. :(

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 10:24 am

Another thing pseudo related to this that we got snagged on was APIA’s 2 hour break rule. Meaning the AP has to be off for at least 2 hours for it to count as “off duty” time otherwise it would still be considered working time because an hour or hour and a half is not long enough to do anything “meaningful”. Came up with AP #1 because we had a wonky week that we were trying to cover so I tried to give her 1.5 hours off one afternoon to help cover a 30 min gap we needed a different day and AP complained to LCC because she didn’t want to work 30 min later the one day and said she didn’t have anything to do that afternoon so it shouldn’t count as her off time. Don’t get me started but question – do the other agencies have rules about timespan for breaks? APIA is 2 hours, I will have to ask my LC at Interexchange, anyone else know? Also, I know Interexchange and APIA do not have the consecutive 1.5 day off per week rule – is that only CC? I swear I am going to end up making an agency matrix just because I am nerdy enough to want to see the variances!

hOstCDmom June 27, 2014 at 10:28 am

I never heard of the APIA 2hr break rule — is it in the contract? on the site?

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 11:09 am

Nope not on the contract or on the site – like I said we only learned about it because our first AP complained and the LCC told me that was the agency rule. We also (dumb first timer mistake) learned that sleeping hours count as working hours (I left once an hour earlier and told kids to go to AP when they woke up in the am). Made sense once LCC told me and after doing that once I felt better having the AP awake anyway just in case kiddo decided to get into something (I have one mischievous one) so it never happened again and wasn’t an issue. Makes more sense for someone like Warmstatemomma who has a toddler in a crib that is stuck until AP comes to get her. There were several agency rules with APIA that we didn’t know until we ran into the situation or a friend did. My knowledge of their no care for under 12 week olds came from me looking into trying the AP program when I was pregnant with one but would only have 6 weeks maternity leave (I worked from home so being in the house wasn’t the issue it was not being able to supervise at all times the first 12 weeks that was the issue) and the recent events with the other APIA family in our area going through it right now. Not necessarily surprising though given that the HF contract for APIA is a single page and the one for Interexchange reads like War and Peace. We had been in the program going on 4 years when we switched to Interexchange and I read things in their HF contract that I hadn’t even thought of or heard of so to say it covers all the bases would be an understatement. Although we really liked that and same goes for their AP agreement. I read through that and was surprised any AP still wanted to join the program after their dose of reality! I almost wanted to write interexchange and tell them to lighten up the AP contract but figured hey, tough screening and giving it to them straight means yes, they likely have fewer candidates but I only need one AP and if you give me a third of the number of candidates but they are well vetted and have realistic expectation I will take that any day of the week over a pool in which I weed out literally 90% of the applications on first read (no joke that was my last round with APIA)!

hOstCDmom June 27, 2014 at 11:15 am

I don’t really get how the agency can have “rules” that are not made explicit in the contract, or at the very least on the site.

Don’t get me wrong — I think the 2 hour break is a reasonable one, is fair to the AP, makes sense etc. but I would be seriously annoyed to run into “rules” that an LCC made me aware of on an ad hoc basis and which were not part of the written deal I signed up for!

Host Mom in the City June 27, 2014 at 11:25 am

Totally agree. We have an excellent LCC and I guarantee you she would have told us these rules if they were explicitly required by APIA – she goes through pages and pages of information and the APIA contract, which is 4-5 pages long if I remember correctly. I completely agree that the 8-hour before working and 2-hour meaningful break concepts are really fair and perhaps should be required rules, but I’ve never had anyone at APIA tell me this, never heard about anyone getting in trouble for it, etc.

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 12:21 pm

It was extremely frustrating and on a very long list of reasons we no longer use APIA but like you – I agreed that they were reasonable and we were willing to accommodate no problem but nothing like thinking you have things figured out and then learning new guidelines as you go along.

Host Mom in the City June 27, 2014 at 12:34 pm

I completely agree that if that is APIA’s policy, it should be explicit somewhere.

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 12:40 pm

I asked several times where these things were documented (so I could figure out how I missed them) and was told that its not in the agency contract (obviously) but it was their policy. I still have the emails from the LCC! I told them (this happened with different LCCs) that we were more than happy to follow the rules and as a new family had read everything and were willing to read anything else to prepare us and help us setup to be successful but they said while it wasn’t in the documentation, it was an agency policy. The family here dealing with this right now would love to know if the infant care thing is not true (direct supervision vs an adult being in the house somewhere) because that would save them hiring another nanny for 3 months so if you happen to chat with your LCC and she says otherwise please let me know!

WarmStateMomma June 27, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Maybe it’s the litigator in me, but I wouldn’t be inclined to follow “policies” that weren’t part of the deal. I agree that the 2-hour idea makes sense, but I’m not legally bound by this “oh and we forgot to add this gotcha provision” nonsense.

Host Mom in the City June 27, 2014 at 11:22 am

TexasHM, I feel like we’re talking about totally different agencies frequently on here. We just went through our fourth matching process for our au pair arriving at the end of the summer and really wanted to try Interexchange based on your recommendations (we’ve been happy APIA customers for years now).

I literally looked for two months, and never found a single candidate at Interexchange that was even close to someone we would choose. I found the website really difficult to navigate, the applications tough to read through, the process difficult with the having to log in and out of the passport just to send/receive messages, the placement coordinators only suggested candidates for me if I specifically asked and then seemed to forget about me and never showed me anyone that met my qualifications, etc.

I talked to four candidates at Interexchange – one never showed up for our interview, two said they were too busy during the week I contacted them and then never got back to me, and another said she would only match where it was warm and that she really was hoping for a family in San Francisco (which is not so warm, right…?).

I know you’ve given out your email before, and I apologize for wanting to maintain my anonymity, but man, I wish I was seeing the agency you are seeing. I feel like between you knocking APIA and loving Interexchange, we’re talking about two totally different agencies between your experience and mine. Is it that varied by region perhaps (we’re nowhere near Texas)?

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 12:19 pm

HMiTC I have no doubt that all the agencies vary by area. I can tell you first hand that the AD at APIA is a huge part of the reason we are no longer with them but other HMs with different ADs at APIA have had better experiences. I can only speak from my experiences, although I have had 6 families in the last 3 months (some local some from this site) ping me about Interexchange and every one of them came back and told me that they loved the process and thought the candidates were better, agency had better customer service, etc so I am really surprised and saddened that you didn’t have the same experience. :( As far as logging in and out of passport for messages I didn’t do that. Once we selected a candidate to interview I just emailed them directly from my personal email but I can definitely see how that would be frustrating if I had tried to do all my communicating through the portal! As far as interexchange regionally two of the recent converts from this site were in the greater NYC area which is I am guessing your area as well so I can’t explain the difference in experience there but I am sorry to hear that BUT I will say if you are happy at APIA then great! It’s not my intent to pretend like Interexchange is perfect (there are a couple agency rules that are a bit more AP favorable than other agencies and some HFs might chafe at that), it was only my intent to share my personal experience. I would pray that if we had not had 3 LCCs in 3 years and a horrible AD at APIA that our experience would have been different. We tried so hard to make it work there (my daughter is on the inside cover of the 2014 APIA brochure right now!!) so after having such a consistently unpleasant experience at APIA to a downright obscenely awful end and then having such an awesome experience at Interexchange has made me a fan. At the end of the day I hope everyone is happy regardless of agency and I am being a bit selfish in wanting everyone to have the same experience I did with Interexchange. :) I also think all agencies in this program should be non-profit because for-profit is basically legal human trafficking but thats me on a high horse. I have watched 4 situations where an AP was being threatened or harassed and APIA tried to mediate. In 2 of those situations the LCC couldn’t even be bothered to show up at the house and handle the mediation and make sure the AP was ok (both of those situations were in PA with same APIA LCC btw) so the ADs and LCCs definitely impact the experience. Ironically, the LC we have with Interexchange is also new but had extensive training and knew more than my APIA LCCs did after a year so it hasn’t been an issue. Now I am really getting tempted to make up a matrix because there are obviously differences in how the agencies interpret the rules and manage the program and some of those could impact which agency a family decided to use.

skny June 27, 2014 at 5:27 pm

I was an au pair with APIA 10 years ago and will tell it depends on LCC.
My first LCC was great. She was supportive, fair to au pairs and families. She expelled 2 families from program who were really abusive, etc. Now on my second year I was in a different area. That LCC was terrible. There was a family with school age kids who used to let their au pairs work 25 – 30 hours only during the week, but every 3 weeks would go on weekend trips and leave au pair all by herself with kids from Friday MORNING to Sunday Night. Au pair complained to LCC who told her there were au pairs working full 45hs every week, so stop complining.
Other family in the cluster, host dad made a move on the going away au pair on her last night (physical move). He threaten the au pair the next day not to tell, and not only LCC said sure lets keep quiet because he can be dangerous, but they got 5 more au pairs before APIA dismissed them from program.
So yes, it is an area issue. I personally love APIA. BUT they dont work on my area

WarmStateMomma June 27, 2014 at 6:08 pm


How awful! We wouldn’t consider using our first agency again after seeing some of their emails their regional director sent to a troubled AP who reached out to my AP. It got to the point that I told my AP to tell the other AP that my parents would make the 3-hour drive to her house and pick her up if she was ready to escape. It’s so unfair to place vulnerable young people with awful families and even worse to keep supplying the families when multiple APs flee.

I wish the agencies did a better job of screening HFs. Our crappy first agency didn’t even do our home visit until a week before the AP arrived – so she’d already quit her job, given up her lodging, etc. What if we were dangerous weirdos?!?!

APC let us interview applicants – but not match – prior to the home visit. That seems reasonable to me. And the LCC who did the home visit is a social worker and parent – not a bachelor school bus driver – so the LCC was better qualified to determine if we were dangerous weirdos.

hOstCDmom June 27, 2014 at 10:28 am

If you make such a matrix, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE send it to CV as a guest post!!!

CapitolHostMom June 27, 2014 at 10:32 am

In the military, there’s an (unwritten?) leadership rule that you never ask a subordinate to so something your haven’t done or wouldn’t so yourself. As a before babies lady, I’d never take a job that didn’t give me proper rest, so I don’t ask an au pair to work those hours. I’ve found this little principle very helpful in developing rules, chores, expectations, etc.

MommyMia June 27, 2014 at 10:52 am

Exactly! It’s the “golden rule” or just a great life principle: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Works for every situation!

HRHM June 27, 2014 at 11:28 am

I agree as well.

I would add to this that I wouldn’t routinely ask an AP to do middle of the night anything if DH or I were home. If I needed/wanted AP to work her entire shift at night while we were offsite due to a work that’s one thing, but to interrupt her sleep to feed or change my baby so I can sleep, I think is out of line. If you need relief, maybe asking her to start early and do the 6am feed and then keep her on shift from that time is acceptable. They are not newborn nurses (most anyway) or house elves.

Host Mom in the City June 27, 2014 at 11:33 am

Totally agree. I remember we had a thread about night shifts before and it seemed there were different perspectives. I personally don’t think you should be able to have your au pair do night shift duty.

skny June 27, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Agreed agreed agreed.
Out of line

Seattle Mom June 30, 2014 at 1:03 am

I also agree with this completely.

I was shocked when our last AP asked us in the first week if it was her job to take care of the 2 year old when she woke up at night (which she did frequently). In her previous HF, she cared for 5 kids and had the 2 year old all day long. When he woke up at night he went into the APs room and she took care of him. As tempted as I was to say “yes” I knew it wouldn’t work for us- I can’t sleep when either of my kids are awake, no matter who is taking care of them. And the AP’s room is way upstairs, far away from us.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 27, 2014 at 12:29 pm

My handbook explicitly states that we don’t ask the AP to do anything we wouldn’t do ourselves. It doesn’t take long for a new arrival to see both DH and I in the trenches, changing our teenager’s diaper, hanging laundry on the line, scrubbing down the floors, etc. Nevertheless the ONLY time my AP works while I’m asleep is when I’m home sick having been flattened by a stomach bug (so once or twice a year).

I think families get into the most trouble when they try to make the AP program something it’s not.

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Like button! Completely agreed on this!

Host Mom in the City June 27, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Yup agreed. That’s something we really try hard to do – particularly with using public transportation ourselves. We are a one-car family, but we take the bus or train 6/7 days a week, even to visit friends or go to the store or when we could just as easily drive. We prefer public transportation personally, but also do it to show our au pair that we’re not being unreasonable in expecting her to do the same when possible. Though she drives more than I do actually! We also do it with screen time – none of us watch TV during the week, period.

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 1:01 pm

I tend to agree that night shift duty is a lot to ask of an AP and probably not a good fit for the AP program. APs are not professional baby nurses and even if they have a lot of babysitting experience thats nothing compared to night shifts of baby feedings and diaper changes! I remember my first night alone at hospital with my first born (no judgment – I sent DH home because tiny room didn’t have anywhere for him to sleep and figured I’d take night shift then he could take baby next day so I could rest and we weren’t both useless). Baby was crying, I was crying, lol! I had been a part time nanny and loved kids and had tons of experience but being sleep deprived and learning an infant is a lot to ask of a parent, let alone anyone else! I wish we watched no TV. :) We don’t watch that much but sometimes I need a Duck Dynasty or Walking Dead escape!

CAmom22 June 27, 2014 at 10:50 am

Does anyone know where this 14 (16?) hour rule is coming from? I’ve never heard of this. Looks like CV is saying it is not an official agency policy so I’m wondering where it comes from? We also do split shifts on weekdays with no weekend work but we do a weekly date night. So is having a weekly date night a problem if it runs late (AP normally works 6:30-8:30 AM and then again 3-7pm except on date night which normally goes till 9pm but sometimes as late as 10 or 11pm). We obviously don’t come even close to 45 hrs / week or even 10 hrs / day — it never occurred to me that date night could be a problem. I’m sure AP would be really annoyed if we had to switch date night to Friday or Saturday!!

Host Mom in the City June 27, 2014 at 11:29 am

I’m confused too. The way this OP is posted, it sounds like an official rule, but I’ve never heard of it. I just read back through our contract and don’t see anything like it. If it’s a rule like the “golden rule,” ok sure, but I really don’t think this is an official agency rule.

Now the 1.5 days consecutive off for CC is an agency rule, and that one drove me crazy. It’s one of the many many reasons we only used CC for one year and won’t ever use them again. Our au pair that year worked two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, for what amounted to a really easy schedule. We rarely use weekends, but when we did, we had to either do the Monday morning or the Friday afternoon routine ourselves so that we could do the 1.5 days off.

AlwaysHopeful HM June 27, 2014 at 1:02 pm

I agree that 1-1/2 consecutive days is an agency rule at CCAP, but I just looked through the contract and didn’t see anything that suggested that there be no uninterrupted break in the 36 hour span off. Am I missing it? I have an email out to the LCC with this question, because I just can’t imagine it could require essentially one weekend every weekend!

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 1:07 pm

It doesn’t have to be a weekend but does have to be 1.5 consecutive days. It could be mid-Tuesday to Thursday am if thats what fit your schedule. I know this has been a deal breaker for many and was a reason we didn’t go to CCAP because our kids will be school age soon and we would like the occasional Sat night date night but couldn’t give the AP Mon am off to compensate for the consecutive rule.

HRHM June 27, 2014 at 11:34 am

I know in the transportation industry, “crew rest” is a key ingredient of safety monitoring. The theory is that each pilot/driver needs 8 hours of uniterrupted sleep between shifts at a minimum in order to be able to perform safely. I would say this is a good idea for APs as well, esp if they are driving your kids places or taking care of smaller children that need closer attention. I think if it happens that you are out late on a date once a month and shorten that time, it’s probably less of a big deal than the aforementioned making her get up for an hour every night to feed baby.

Having said that, even if you don’t have them scheduled, there is nothing that says they have to actually go to bed and sleep. I’ve had plenty of APs who stay up most of the night on the computer/Skype or would stay out pretty late if allowed. We do ask our AP to get reasonable rest on nights before she has a morning shift (not dictated but we would intervene and set a curfew if it became apparent that she was not functional in the am)

Arianna July 8, 2014 at 11:04 am

The consecutive days is a an Agency rule not program rule.
GreatAupairUSA only talks about 1.5 days per week- and 1 full weekend per month (Fri eve-Mo morning) and no breaks. The rule is no more than 10 hrs a day and no more of 45 p/week. That is standard for the program itself.

Host Mom in the City June 27, 2014 at 11:44 am

Ok, looking through the APIA Handbook (33 pages!) and it says the following under obligations. Nothing about 8-hours break between shifts or 2-hours meaningful break or that APIA doesn’t allow au pairs to take care of infants at all. It says later again that “if you have a newborn, you or another responsible adult must be with your au pair/companion until your baby reaches three months of age.” I also point this out all the time, but it specifically says that pet care is not allowed.

“You have agreed to do the following:
* Never leave the au pair in sole charge of a child overnight
* Never leave an au pair in sole charge of an infant under 3 months of age”

TexasHM – seriously not trying to be argumentative, but I feel like we’re talking about different agencies sometimes. You say they have a single-page contract, but there’s a five-page contract we were shown, including all the refund policies and such (sure, the page you actually sign summarizing everything is one-page) and a 33-page guidelines document on the website. You say they don’t allow au pairs to take care of newborns period, but everything I’ve ever heard or read says they can as long as a parent is there. Again, is it that different by region maybe?

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 12:32 pm

The previous poster mentioned having the AP watch the baby alone while HM was still in the house (aka – taking a shower, catching some Zs while AP watches baby) thats not having a parent there. As far as it being by region we were told that by APIA in Kansas City before we moved and told that again in Texas which are different APIA regions and the other family dealing with it right now went all the way to the top at APIA because they got a lawyer involved and that is what they were told as well (AP can do something with baby under supervision – HP must be with at all times until after 12 weeks). By the way that is the rule with Interexchange and APC too so thats not a differentiator for any of them.
Yes I was referring to the one page that the AP and HF sign at APIA. The document that both parties initial and sign individually and then again together is significant and the policies are reviewed in the home interview beforehand with the family and again in the first 2 week visit. APIA did not do that for either home interview (we had one in KC and one in Texas) or the 2 week visit but maybe your experience was different. Thats what I love about this site. I wish HF had to sign the guidelines doc that would save a lot of frustration! :)

Host Mom in the City June 27, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Ok, thanks for being so kind to me in your responses. Love that about this site – the assumption that we all mean well :)

It sounds like we have had such varied experiences based a lot on vastly different experiences with our LCCs and Regional Directors. Perhaps we’re also looking for different things in an au pair candidate? That could explain the differences between my perception of APIA and yours. We do have an awesome LCC, so I fully recognize that that is a huge part of why we love APIA. She sits down and has a really really long conversation about all the contracts and guidelines and details. She wants to see your handbook and gives you tips on it and asks tons of great questions both in the pre-arrival meeting and the two-weeks post meeting. Scared to death she’s going to leave!

HRHM June 27, 2014 at 12:41 pm

My interpretation of this rule is different than yours apparently. By not caring for an infant “alone” I take that to mean that a parent must be physically present in the home at the time in question. i.e. if mom is in the shower and AP has baby in family room, ok but if mom is at starbucks while AP stays home with baby, not ok. I don’t take it to mean that mom has to be within eyesight or arms reach, just that she is there in case AP asks for help.

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Yeah I wondered that myself so I asked for clarification and was told present means literally direct supervision. Now, how easy would that be for the agency to track? I don’t know but we are staunch rule followers so that was a no-go for us and we did a nearby in home daycare until we moved and could get an AP. If CV is interested, I’ll call the agencies and ask them a dozen or so of these gray area guidelines and compare them to see where the differences really are. I thought all the agencies were the same until we switched from APIA to Interexchange and made friends with APC and CC families and there are many differences!

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 12:56 pm

APC goes as far on their website to explain further that the AP can “assist” with any aspect of childcare for 0-3 month infant while parent or other designated caregiver is present. This is the same for APIA which is why other family here is required to get a nanny for the infant until 3 months old. AP can “assist” but can’t do anything without direct supervision.

ChiTownMama July 20, 2014 at 10:33 pm

For our baby from 9 weeks old until he’s 3 months my husband will be working from home while the au pair watches the baby. I told the LCC, my matching person and someone from the corporate office this and they were fine. Of course he’ll always be there ready to hop in at a moment’s notice, but not in the same room. We were told as long as he is at home it is okay.

Dorsi June 27, 2014 at 6:05 pm

As I mentioned, we have had 4 different APs (one with APC, three with APIA) in our home with a <12week old baby. (AP#1 came when first babe was 7 weeks, AP#3 came a few weeks before second babe. Our third babe was born when AP #4 had a month left in her contract, #5 came when babe was 4 weeks old). We never had any issues with the agency. As far as I know, they never asked the APs what childcare we were expecting of them. All of our APs have been IQ, so new babies didn't present any challenges from that aspect of the regulations, though AP5 clearly had never spent any time with a newborn (which is an easy jump to the uselessness of the IQ designation).

I absolutely think it is in the spirit and the rules of the program to have an AP taking care of a 2 month old, when there is an adult directly available (occasionally, this has been my father — who is quite incapable of taking care of an infant.). Tiny babies are stressful in ways that toddlers are not (back to the Louise baby-shaking case), and there needs to not be 10 hours of isolation for someone who cares for an infant.

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 6:20 pm

I’m going to sound like a hypocrite but I tend to agree. An IQ AP I would think should be able to take a 2 month old for 10 minutes while mom showers but maybe the agencies feel like its easier to draw a line in the sand and for liability reasons they say they are to be supervised? Or maybe in your case Dorsi since you were a good HM and AP was happy the LC didn’t dig or looked the other way? I don’t know. It’s funny for a program that seems on the outside very black and white I think the whole thing is shades of gray! Even things like 10 hours per day 45 hours per week I have heard argued (10 hours per day as in Tuesday 1201am to midnight so if she works until 1am does that count as Wed hours? and 45 hours per week but what day or time does the week start and end? Can the flip be Sunday at noon? Sunday at 6pm? Monday am?)

Schmetterfink July 1, 2014 at 7:14 am

The law actually reads
Ҥ 62.31 Au pairs.
(e) Au pair placement. Sponsors shall
secure, prior to the au pair’s departure
from the home country, a host family
placement for each participant. Sponsors
shall not:
(2) Place an au pair with a family
having a child aged less than three
months unless a parent or other responsible
adult is present in the home;”

So I would guess, officially the parent/responsible adult doesn’t have to be a) awake or b) supervising directly. Might be a liability issue. Easier for the agency to draw a clear (stricter) line in their regulations.

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 12:47 pm

OMG thats awesome about your LCC and totally was not our experience. Remember 3 LCCs in 3 years so within about a month of being a host family I knew more about the program than any of our LCCs did so I had to solve my own problems (thank God for this site!! thats how I found it!!) Don’t get me wrong – our LCCs at APIA were wonderful women and I’m still in touch with them as friends but the agency did not prepare them well and at this point I have heard enough horror stories from them (again mostly related to the AD) that we won’t ever go back but if you have an awesome LC I venture to say that the rest may not even matter as long as they buffer you from corporate! ;)
Not sure what you look for but we search 21+ (unless they are turning 21 by the time they get here or within a month), exp drivers (hard to screen I know), not Brazilian (had two plus extensions so wanted to try a diff cultural exp), swimmer (although I learned this last round to ask about this because we matched with a “beginner” that has been swimming her entire life but put beginner because she only “knows 2 professional strokes”) and willing to care for 3 kids. So thats my criteria on the first screen to sort. After that I am screening for maturity, flexibility, attitude, ambition, etc. :)

Mimi June 27, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Over nights/nights and weekends haven’t been an issue for us because we use weekends for family time (including the AP if interested in a non-working capacity) and we don’t go out as just a couple except on our anniversary or birthdays(sad but true!). This past year we found it harder to get the twins to behave for my oldest’s basketball games on Saturdays so we hired a sitter for the two or three hours we were gone. Giving our oldest some undivided attention was more about personal preference. So likewise, if HD and I wanted to go out nights or weekend, we’d hire a sitter rather than use the AP. I guess since we use the AP as more of regular “daycare” (8-5 M-F schedule) it would make sense that if it were true daycare, we could not expect to drop kids off at night.

I will be on maternity leave soon and since the twins are starting kindergarten this fall, we expect to change to a split shift so that the AP can help more with homework, dinner, etc. Overnights with the baby will still be for me and HD, which will make morning time for the AP even more valuable if/when I’ve been up with the baby and the other three still need to get out the door for school on time. Same for weekends unless we find we aren’t using our full hour allocation during the week– which is entirely possible. Even then, there would have to be a good reason to schedule our AP on weekends because I find it hard to imagine adding shift time on the weekend just to use up hours when that time is meant for us to be with our kids. (Am I alone on this? Are there people out there who never use all their hours and are ok with that?)

I find that CCAP’s 1.5 consecutive days suits us well for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that child care is not easy and APs deserve their downtime; but also that I think we Americans over schedule ourselves and need to have those reality checks for what is reasonable time off. It’s hard to work full time and have time for meaningful interactions with your kids, plus housework and upkeep, hobbies, whatever– but why have kids if you aren’t going to spend time with them? I struggle with typical working mom angst, but have made peace with the fact that some things have to give. For me, that’s the big bucks/high stress job and a spotless house. We won’t be any happier if I’m making more money but don’t see my kids or am stressed out when I do see them so that our time together isn’t what it could be. Would I like a cleaner house? Sure, but a little dust never hurt anyone (and nicely keeps the MIL away!).

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Mimi LOL. So yes, we have the Mon-Fri 9-5 schedule now so our AP has all weekends off so its not a current issue but being the planning freak I am I looked at it going into things and would be a bigger impact next year. At first I thought we might do Sunday night date night instead but I often have football board mtgs and husband plays softball that night so honestly regular date nights probably won’t happen but boy it sounds nice in my head! ;)
I don’t know that it would kill us to have to do the 1.5 days consecutive as much as I don’t like the restraint. That would be one more thing to calculate and keep track of each week. Yes, like you even when we switch to school schedule we probably won’t use 45 hours and we aren’t going to try to make it 45 hours but we also need an AP because we need help juggling 3 kiddos and activities and to get that one on one time with them so being able to have some flexibility is attractive to us vs knowing we will never be able to do anything on Sat nights because that would kill the consecutive hours rule.
We definitely want to spend as much time as possible with the kids but as was mentioned recently in another post – we want it to be quality time. AKA – daddy daughter dates, special events, playing a particular sport, practicing a cartwheel etc vs chasing all 3 and trying to pack bags, being a chauffeur, etc. If the AP can help drop one kid off so I can coach another or make lunches so I can read books at bedtime that would be awesome. :)

Mimi June 27, 2014 at 3:21 pm

And to me that all makes sense. We juggle activities for the boys now but limit them so we’re not frazzled. Is there a reason you wouldn’t consider an outside sitter for a random date night? (If not a regular one? We sure need that grown-up time together!)

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Well right now we would use an outside sitter for a random date night because our AP works Mon-Fri 9-5pm. BUT – next year when we flip to a school age schedule it will likely be an hour or so in the morning, then off during the day and on again around 3pm so likely 20 hours per week (because we try to eat dinner together as a family and spend time with the kids before bedtime) so the idea of hiring a separate sitter for random date nights when our current AP is only working 20 hours per week would make the AP program cost prohibitive for us. We fully intend (and have actually because our next AP starts in Nov and we’ve already had this conversation) to get AP input about preferences (can we go out Fri night vs Sat night? sure) and notify AP well in advance of events and make sure we try to stay a month ahead and work together to try to block her free weekends months in advance so she can plan travel but otherwise no, it wouldn’t make sense for us from a cost perspective to keep an AP if we had to hire sitters for anything on the weekends at that point. Our next AP currently works 2 jobs and is a planner and lectured me recently about the fact that DH and I haven’t had a date night in months so at least for now, it appears she has no qualms and loves the idea of us doing regular date nights and her still only working 30ish hours per week. Alternative would be that I cover am getting kids off to school (I do it now anyway) and we get a part time nanny or sitter for the afternoons and pay extra for date nights or occasional early ams. I would prefer to stay in the AP program as we like hosting but if we couldn’t use hours on the weekends then it would no longer make sense for us $$ once the kids are all school age. Remember we spend time as a family every night too so we aren’t in a scenario where we don’t see them during the week as some are. Not saying that means I don’t want to see the kids on the weekends, just saying I am not going to guilt myself out of date nights or activity with the hubs when I currently get them up and ready in the am, have dinner as a family and spend time with them before bed and on weekends. They will have a happier mom and dad and honestly on the rare occasion we do get out the kids love it (movie night! pretend camping!) and push us out the door!

Mimi June 27, 2014 at 4:15 pm

It makes more sense in that context and I appreciate you taking the time to explain it to me!

Julie June 27, 2014 at 4:20 pm

We are a 6 time host family and I’m also a CCAP LCC. What I do for our family and generally recommend for other families who have “extra” hours on the weekend is to have the au pair work Sunday from 2-7 or 3-8. That way the au pair gets the 1.5 days off. You have them with the kids while you get things done around the house (all the things you never get to do) and then go out to dinner Sunday night. It’s a nice way to kick off the week.

I also have a really good list of kid-related “chores” the au pair can do, if anyone would like to see it. My families love it. You can email me at julie.dye at

I completely agree with the golden rule of treating others as you wish to be treated. It would be a lot easier if we all lived by this principle!

AlwaysHopeful HM June 27, 2014 at 4:40 pm

So, Julie is it true that the 36 hours (not just 1-1/2 days) must be consecutive? If so, where is that interpretation found?

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 5:27 pm

It would be more than 36 hours wouldn’t it? Just thinking because if she works until 6pm Friday night and then was off Saturday she would be off at least half of Sunday as well – 36 hours would mean she could work again Sunday at 6am which is really only one day off (Saturday). I think they make it a point of saying 1.5 DAYS off vs 36 hours off for this exact reason but I could be wrong. Same reason Julie said AP could work up to 5 hours on Sunday night – that is considered a half day (5 hours or less) and after the 1.5 day gap which would end hypothetically sometime around mid day on Sunday. Anyone?

AlwaysHopeful HM June 27, 2014 at 6:19 pm

So, I heard back from the CCAP LCC on the day and 1/2 question. She advised that, since the consecutive day guideline is not a state dept reg, it is up to the HF and AP to negotiate how to follow it. In my off Saturday/ work Sunday morning example, she thought an au pair might appreciate having both evenings free, so she could see how that would work. It sounded like contiguous hours may be what they think makes sense in most cases, but it’s not a requirement.

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 6:22 pm

If thats the case Julie should set the record straight on here because I have heard numerous HFs say they wouldn’t use CCAP because of that rule! We ourselves were hesitant to consider CCAP (even though I have heard good things) because of the perceived loss of flexibility and additional restraint to manage. Love this blog. Learn something new every day!

AlwaysHopeful HM June 27, 2014 at 6:35 pm

To be clear, even requiring that the 2 days be connected is aggravating to me, and a crimp on flexibility. However, requiring consecutive hours would be a bridge too far for me because, while inrarely use weekend hours, when I need them, I need them, and the flexibility to use them is one reason I’m with the program.

Julie June 27, 2014 at 8:09 pm

That is not actually correct. Host families sign an agreement saying they will give the au pair consecutive days off. Even though it’s not a DOS rule, it is a CCAP rule and is not up for negotiation. Please let me know if I can help on that–your LCC is free to contact me too. :)

Julie June 27, 2014 at 8:04 pm

The State Department says 1 1/2 days off per week. Cultural Care requires family to make that consecutive in order to give au pairs a proper rest. There is a general agreement that 1 1/2 days would not be 36 hours, but based on the schedule. So if an au pair worked until 8 pm on Friday night, you could give them all Saturday and then they could work up to 5 hours starting in the afternoon (whereas 36 hours means they could work Sunday at 8 am–that’s really only one day off–Saturday). I would say in general, the families that are most suited to the au pair program are the ones who want the best from their au pair, not the most. They are taking care of your kids–you want them to be well-rested and have a chance to actually do something with their time off. Just my 2 cents!

Always Hopeful HM June 27, 2014 at 10:05 pm

Thanks Julie– just to clarify, the LCC didn’t say the consecutive day and 1/2 was negotiable, just the interpretation of “consecutive days.” My question to her was whether that just meant the days had to be next to each other, which I can manage, or whether all of the hours have to run together, which is probably a deal breaker for me. She felt the interpretation could be worked out between the AP and HF. From your post, it sounds like the continuous hours interpretation is a “general agreement” but not part of the written CCAP guidelines? If that’s the case, I question why my LCC’s interpretation would necessarily be incorrect.

I totally get the idea of APs needing and wanting time away. Our AP usually leaves Friday after work and returns late Sunday night, which is fine for us. Some weekends, though, I need him to work a few hours, and only being able to schedule those hours for Sunday afternoon/ evening is just not realistic for me. Not because I don’t want the AP to have a good experience, but because I want to have one, too!

With that said, I try very hard to stay within the rules and tret my APs fairly. It sounds like maybe CCAP is just not the right agency for me, and I should just stick with the one I have, which is fine also.

Host Mom in the City June 28, 2014 at 8:00 am

Julie – it has nothing to do with me wanting the most and not the best. The year we were wth CC, our au pair worked 25 hours a week – two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon on weekdays and then a dinner shift so we could do date night one night a week. We rarely use weekend hours and make that very clear when we match – we feel strongly that we want our au pair to have the weekends to travel and have fun and recharge. But if we have a major event like a wedding, we do ask our au pair to work a Saturday night, maybe twice a year at most. What was annoying to me was that with our very normal and easy split schedule, if I wanted to ask her to work Saturday night, I had to take off of work either Friday afternoon or Monday morning to make sure we were following the 1.5 days consecutive rule.

I hope you will agree that that isn’t wanting the most out of my au pair instead of the best. It’s not the *reason* we only used CC for one year, but it’s certainly one of a handful of reasons.

Julie June 28, 2014 at 5:11 pm

I wasn’t speaking of your specific case–just in generalities so that people understand my position.

Arianna July 8, 2014 at 11:45 am

As a former Au-Pair (I have worked as a nanny as well for several years after)
I think the 1.5 days is plenty of rest. Plus it is what the Law Actually says!

TexasHM June 27, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Great idea. APs aren’t likely to have as many conflicts on a Sunday night and DH and I like to avoid crowds anyway (I swear we were born old farts!). Although DH plays softball Sun nights right now so may have to get him to give up a team or start playing coed again (God help us!). :)

Seattle Mom June 30, 2014 at 1:12 am

I have a lot of difficulty with the 1.5 consecutive days off rule. It’s a reason to leave CCAP, honestly. We generally don’t schedule the AP for weekend hours, and when we do it’s usually Saturday morning so there still 1.5 days off.

Whenever we do plan to have a date night, and if it doesn’t matter to us we give the AP the choice of which night to do it. And based on the choices they have made over the years it doesn’t seem to bother them to split up their time off. Maybe if it were a weekly occurrence it would be more annoying. For us it is really more like once every 6 or 7 weeks.

Arianna July 8, 2014 at 11:57 am

The actual law says 1.5 days NOT consecutive days and 1 full weekend (Fri evening till Monday morning) per month

The Au-Pair program does give flexibility within a margin of reasonable hours for the AP to more than 45 p/week and no more than 10 p/day.

When I was an AP I worked for a family where the mom was an RN so she had diff hours and dad worked in a diff city-lots of commuting. I think discussing the schedule in advance works well with the AP. I think that is important.
1 day off is a full day, it could be a Wed and then the other half day could be a Sat or a Sun. As long as you are complying with 1.5 day off per week and the whole weekend a month.

HRHM June 30, 2014 at 1:14 pm

We’ve been with CC cince 2008 and have never done consecutive hours. AP works M-F split schedule and when we have a Sat date, she works 5 hours on Sat evening and then has all day Sunday off. That is her day and a half off. Never had an LCC blink, never had an AP complain, never heard that this was a bad interpretation. My impression is not that it exists so that they can get proper rest, but rather so they can travel on the weekend if they want. After all, it’s not like my AP is “resting” from 5-10 pm on a Saturday! If she’s not working, she’s at the pool, the pub or at a girlfriend’s house getting ready to go out for the night. I hardly think she’d be pleased at being asked to do her 5 hours from 7am to noon Sat morning, so that her 1.5 days of hours would be consecutive. I think she’d be pretty pissed to have to get up early on Sat instead of covering date night in the evening…

Rebekah October 23, 2014 at 12:12 am

I would say if your talking about putting your Au Pair on feeding duty overnight for an infant, that the hours from when the night starts to the end of the night, as the au pair may have to get up several times, so all hours count as work hours. Say the au pair is on duty from 9pm-6am, then that is 9 hours taken from her 45 hr work schedule you are allowed to schedule her for that work. This is fair, as getting up several times in the night does not allow any real sleep, and in the field of childcare it is a full work shift.

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