Her Au Pair Takes Too Many Showers: Is this really the problem?

by cv harquail on June 1, 2017

Too many showers?  That’s so much better than the alternative. Really, who wants to tell their au pair that they need to wash more often?

409191765_d1cd8b64e5_mBut we know, it’s these seemingly small things that can (1) be annoying and (2) tip us off to some deeper issues that should be addressed.

 

SoggyHostMom’s problem?

“How I can nicely tell my au pair that 2-3 showers a day is just too many showers? It’s impacting our water bill.” 

Here’s how I’d handle it:

First, don’t describe the problem as the “water bill”.  Au Pairs don’t know what water costs are, so this won’t be meaningful. Water costs are also rarely so high that the differences between pre-au pair and with au pair actually matter. You might sound stingy.

{{This is different, though, if you are living in an area where there are drought-based water restrictions.}}

Instead of linking the problem to your water bill, ask your au pair what’s really going on.

What’s happening in her day that she needs to retreat to the shower a second or third time?

  • Is she getting sweaty?
  • Does she need to shower to help her relax or fall asleep?
  • Is she using a late-in-the-day shower as a ritual for shifting from on duty to off duty?
  • Is the shower the only place in your house where the au pair can have some time to herself?
  • Is she hogging up the family bathroom?

There’s something going on here. It may be harmless, it may be serious, and it may or may not be manageable without the extra showers.  Use the shower issue as a chance to talk about other, possibly bigger & deeper, things.

And before you talk to your au pair, reflect a little yourself.  745238553_8d93a8563b_m

  • Is it the water bill that’s bothering you?
    (If it is, is this a symptom of larger worries about what you can afford and whether or not you can afford an au pair?)
  • Is it that your au pair takes time for luxurious, unnecessary showers — and you wish you could too?
  • Is it something else?

From a distance, this issue of “too many showers” looks annoying but not critical itself. It may instead be masking some other annoyance that has a less concrete expression. Once you reflect on why these extra showers are bothering you, you’ll be able to raise the issue with your au pair more confidently.

My .02.  Yours?  Add it below…

 

See also:

What To Do When Your Au Pair Doesn’t Bathe

Water-Conserving Host Parents Challenge Au Pair Cleanliness Preferences

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Should be working June 1, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Also, are these 2-3 quick rinses or lengthy steaming sessions?

If it’s quick rinses and doesn’t impact her work or punctuality, I don’t see the problem. If it’s lengthy steamings and doesn’t impact her work, punctuality, the availability of the bathroom or the quota of drought-impacted family water (as CV suggests), I don’t really see the problem either.

It’s weird, sure, but who cares? Maybe she is used to a cooler climate and doesn’t like the stickiness where you live; maybe she has heavy periods and wants to feel cleaner; maybe she runs the shower when on the toilet because your walls are thin and she doesn’t want people to hear her bodily noises. Do you really need to know why?

We have had several APs who spent HOURS watching movies on their computers, as in, almost every minute of their off-time. What a waste of time, I think, for your year abroad! But as long as things are going well between the AP and me and kids, I manage to just not think about it.

As CV says, maybe you are disappointed with your AP’s performance and the frequent showers are a hook to hang your annoyance onto. I totally get it. I am driven crazy by AP habits that are in themselves unimportant–especially when I’m low-level disgruntled at the AP for other reasons. Try writing out everything that annoys you about your AP’s childcare and household task accomplishment, and imagine if all those things were amazing instead–would the shower matter?

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FormerAPinBrazil June 1, 2017 at 6:45 pm

I think it’s possible this is a cultural difference. Is she South American by any chance? I know in Brazil it’s very common to take at least 2 showers per day. I think it’s because it tends to be humid and warm there due to the tropical climate but it probably becomes an ingrained habit over time as well.

If she’s a good AP otherwise I honestly wouldn’t sweat it unless it’s significantly raising your water bill. I don’t even know how much my water bill is, but I live in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. and usually take 2 showers per day (one is a quick rinse post gym). I have never noticed it being overly expensive. If we’re talking $20-$50 more per month here it hardly seems worth creating an issue over.

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Amy-AP June 1, 2017 at 7:14 pm

I agree. I take 2 showers a day, and this is something that I discussed with every single family I had an interview with. My showers don’t last more than 5 minutes, and I feel gross and worn down if I don’t take 2 showers. Since this seems to be bothering the OP so much she should bring it up with her au pair – such a seemingly small thing could lead to resentment. Years of reading this blog are telling me that the issue here isn’t just that she’s showering 2 – 3 times a day, there’s a bigger issue here.

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NJ Mom June 2, 2017 at 9:02 am

I’ve visited tropical climates where 2-3 showers a day is normal. If AP is from an area where it’s normal, it might just be a habit. I think every person has their couple of habits that could raise your utility/food/transportation bills. I chalk it up to the cost of room and board as long as it’s within x amount and doesn’t interfere with family life. I know I appreciate it when visiting out of country relatives that they humor my American need of AC!

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Sarah Nguyen June 1, 2017 at 6:59 pm

My husband takes two showers a day most days…He has to take one before he sleeps, and he likes to exercise in the morning so he needs a shower after that. They are quick showers though.

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Taking a Computer Lunch June 1, 2017 at 9:10 pm

Almost all of my APs took what Americans call a “military shower” as opposed to a long American hot shower, meaning they turned the water off after getting wet, again to rinse out shampoo, and perhaps a third time to rinse out excess conditioner. Their showers were not a drain on our water use, although it seemed strange to me. In the end I shrugged and decided that Americans liked to smell good for people around them in the morning, while a lot of my APs wanted to go to bed clean.

The only AP who gave me a shocking water bill (I’m talking going from $200 a quarter to over $1,000!) was a Chinese AP who – in retrospect – must have chose to wash all the clothes by hand because that’s what she was used to. The minute she left, my water bill returned to normal.

APs, if your HF asks you, “Do you know how to use….?” and you don’t, then please, please, please say so. It will save a lot of time and energy – and possibly money! (For us, $4,000 was the difference between a family vacation and a family staycation, as well as giving up tickets to movies in favor of family game nights.)

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cv harquail June 1, 2017 at 9:14 pm

whoops, I stand corrected that changes in water bills would be insignificant. I think I’d pass out if my water bill jumped to $1000!

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GermanHostMum June 2, 2017 at 3:27 am

Our normal 4-person water bill nearly doubled with our last aupair (and water in Germany is not cheap). We never took it up with her, although we wondered what was going on, since we did not have the feeling she showered overlong in the morning or evening. We put it down to her running the washing maschine frequently for very small loads (even though we had told her not to do that). Once she was gone, we found out from our children that she also took showers that lasted over an hour during the day – and that she would even leave them alone when she was on “playtime duty” to go take such a shower! Had we known, we of course would have discussed that!

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NYHostMom June 1, 2017 at 11:06 pm

I take 2 showers a day too, my kids do before school and again at night the day they have sports. I am from DR and it is so hot there that this is the normal. I did have an au pair that took 2, 30 minutes showers everyday, that did bother me because of the length of the shower, and having only 1.5 bathroom, it was I considerate to take that long when we were getting ready in the morning.

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EastcoastHM June 2, 2017 at 5:59 am

We had an ap who took at least 2 showers a day. She needed one every morning and one every day after work to wash the day away. We didn’t have a problem with the concept and don’t have a water bill. But, her morning showers interfered because they were just before my husband and I showered and one or both of us would run out of hot water pretty quickly. The evening showers interfered because they were right after she was off duty, she’d often stay in the bathroom (which was a shared bathroom on our first floor) for over an hour, listening to music, talking on the phone, and my kids would be crying during dinner that they had to use the bathroom and didn’t want to go upstairs to use it. We asked her to limit showers to 15 minutes so that everyone could have hot water, and asked that if she was going to be in the bathroom during dinner time hours to keep it to 20 minutes or so, or else please use the bathroom upstairs. I thought this was reasonable, but it upset her and she complained that we had too many rules about when she could shower and for how long. So, in the end, I think there are going to be things that annoy you, but you have to pick your battles, as will she. You never know what her big thing is that could send her running.

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AnotherSeattleHostMom June 2, 2017 at 11:42 am

Our first AP would shower until the water got cold every single day (but only once per day, usually at night). I honestly have no idea what she was doing in there. Our water bill went up a lot…don’t remember the details. It wasn’t “I can’t afford this” high but it was noticeably higher.

I didn’t mention it because it felt too awkward. I did put in my handbook that we needed enough hot water for the family both in the morning for our showers and at night for dishes or adult laundry so that we expected showers to be less than 10 minutes….

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Amelie - former au pair June 7, 2017 at 3:36 pm

Maybe she didn’t know you could run out of hot water, so it’s definitely a good idea to mention that on the handbook.

In my country, the use of electric showers is really common, and as long as it is on, you’ve got hot water running!

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Amelie - former au pair June 7, 2017 at 3:37 pm

(not that I think it is in any way reasonable to take so long a shower every single day, though)

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Seattle Mom June 4, 2017 at 2:05 am

It’s not just the drought-affected areas where this is an issue… there was an article last year in the Seattle Times that Seattle has the highest per-unit water costs in the country- it is something like 10 times as high as southern California, where the drought was!

And I can attest that I have noticed au pair’s water use on our bill. Most of our au pairs took 1-2 showers per day, some more. All more than we did- partly because we shower at the gym when we work out.

We did get annoyed by shower use with a couple of our au pairs. If they showered during the day when no one was home it was not a problem- we could live with the increased bill. The problem for us is that we have 1 bathroom for our family, and it is right next to our bedrooms.. it’s rather inconvenient. So if the kids need to use the bathroom while the au pair is taking a long shower (a couple of them did) they really did have issues.. and if the au pair came home at midnight and wanted a shower before bed, it often woke me up because I’m a light sleeper (even with ear plugs- I know, it’s my problem, but it still is a problem). All of our au pairs lived with our insistence that they not shower in the morning while everyone is getting ready for work/school.. unless they wanted a morning workout, in which case I would not deny them- but no one did (only my husband and I do that).

I think 2 of our au pairs did not bother us with their use of the shower in any way… they may have taken the same number of showers and cost the same on the water bill as the others, but they were more considerate about timing. And they were better at cleaning up their stuff from the shower.

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HM June 5, 2017 at 9:13 am

I think one way to address it would be from an environmental stand point. The au pairs that I have hosted, have always been quick to criticize American’s lack of interest in the environment. Maybe you could do an initiative as a family and ask each other how you could help conserve? Even if you don’t live in an area where water is a problem, it might help to show how it is a problem for other parts of the country/world. I am sure you can google videos about water conservation. Some of the hosts from Discovery Channel have had videos on it that were pretty touching. Just a thought.

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2 kids and a cat June 5, 2017 at 10:28 am

I realized with our last au pair that I need to emphasize more that we are an eco-friendly household. We’re very sensitive to waste and over-use in our house and are trying to raise the kids to be aware of resource consumption and it’s impact. I’m not sure how to describe it, but our last AP loved using consumables (If one cup of laundry detergent was recommended, 2 would be even better!). It made her feel good. And then when things were used up, she could go shopping, which also made her feel good (obvs we provide detergent, but this really applied to anything you could purchase). Conservation was not a concept she was familiar with – on any level, for anything. We loved her as an AP, but we didn’t want the kids picking up these habits.
I had to talk to the AP about modeling to the kids that the earth’s resources are finite and we need to be responsible in how we use them — turning off water when brushing teeth, for example. Periodically I would remind her to be sure she was keeping the kids in check for these things, and talk up recycling, reusing, etc. It helped that we get a lot of materials from the schools on these topics.
So, for the showers (if it really is about the showers), I would try to keep it to 2 short showers. A long day with dirty kids could reasonably require a second quick rinse off in the evening. Our house rules are very relaxed, so long as you don’t disturb other people. We have no curfew, but if you wake us up at 2am, we’ll have a conversation. If the showering interfered with work hours, our our work hours, we’d talk.

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Amelie - former au pair June 7, 2017 at 3:31 pm

I think it really might be a necessity for her to take two showers, or even three, depending in where you live and on her daily au pair duties.

I spent my year as an au pair in DC and it was freaking hot during the summer there (and I’m from Brazil!). Also, I had the kids full time during the summer, which meant a lot of time spent outside, in the park, swimming pool, zoo, etc. I had to take to showers a day most days so I could function well (not to mention the b.o.). I also bathed the kids more regularly durig this time.I’d be super annoyed if my host family tried to convince me not to take these extra showers (I’d tey to comply, though, if there was a good reason for that besides plain stinginess)

So, I don’t know, as long as it’s nit like three 40-min showers, I guess a bit of a higher water bill comes with having another person living in the house. I don’t know if saving a few bucks a month could justify jeopardizing a good relationship.

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Batmum June 12, 2017 at 9:14 am

We use electric showers here so AP wouldn’t use up all the hot water. Its not a warm climate so no need for several showers a day. One girl we had took hour long showers nearly every day and sometimes twice a day and it annoyed the living daylights out of me.The sheer waste of it was what bothered me more than anything. I am very environmentally conscious. She used about a bottle of conditioner a week on her long beautiful hair. Our electricity bill nearly doubled. And she was always making us late whenever we were going anywhere as she would take so long in the shower and then another hour preening in the mirror and straightening her hair after wards. We put up with it because she was a nice girl. But when I began to feel that she wasn’t up to the job the shower time and all her other annoying habits grated on my nerves even more. Thankfully in the end she decided to leave before we had a chance to send her packing

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Exaupair June 17, 2017 at 3:41 am

I’ve always had two showers a day, both when I was an aupair years ago and as a working adult paying my own water bill. I would regard any employer, partner etc interfering with my hygiene needs as control freakery to be honest. My rationale for two showers a day, even in a UK winter… I have very long hair. This could be blow dried, but this would take so much time and electricity so I prefer to let it dry overnight. So I shower at night to wash my hair. I’m also hairy elsewhere, so I shave arms, legs, pits etc at night. I am quite a sweaty person, so I also need a much quicker shower in the morning, as I can’t stand BO.

So, anyone refusing me two showers a day would either have me with BO during the day if I only showered at night, or would have to pay for me to have a hairdryer on for around 30 minutes (seriously, that’s how long my hair takes to dry!) if I was only allowed to shower in the morning. As an au pair, my HP didn’t really monitor things like that, so I was fine. I didn’t take showers when on duty, or at strange times of the night, so my hygiene routine wasn’t their concern.

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