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