Au Pairs and Cell Phones: Concrete tips to hold down costs?

by cv harquail on March 5, 2010

When a host mom emailed to ask for some specific suggestions around keeping the cost of cell phones down, I flinched. The whole cell phone thing, like recycling, is delegated in our house to my DH. Why? Because I just can’t stand to deal with it. Though I should deal with it, and stop avoiding it by remaining ignorant.201003050912.jpg

But hey, that’s my issue. It is, however, also related to this HM’s issue. And, with no knowledge to share with her myself, I turn to you, dear readers, for your knowledge of what cell phones (will) actually cost, and for you concrete suggestions about how to keep costs down.

Here is our Host Mom’s full email, with her specific information needs:

Does anyone have a really easy, painless way to deal with cell phone use so I don’t feel like I’m paying too much, and yet she won’t feel cut off from her friends?

201003050912.jpgIs 50 bucks a month about how much the au pair cell phone is going to cost, even if we shift around our cell phone accounts? We have an opportunity to do this.

I was looking around the site last night and didn’t quite find these answers. Lots of conversations about billing for overuse, but by doing the go-phone we have built-in limits. Even so, I was reviewing our pay-as-you-go phone account and it looks like I’ve been spending 50 bucks a month on au pair cell phone use, which surprised me.

I don’t want to turn into a shrewish host, I HATE accounting, and just I’ve never wanted to get into nickel and diming the au pairs about cell phone use. We have VOIP, so I encourage them to use the house phone as much as possible and don’t charge them for calling another continent from home, since it’s the same price as calling a neighbor.

The problem with using the self-limiting go phone arises when I need to reach my AP, for example, to tell her that I will pick them up in a different spot, only to discover she has run out of funds and I, the parent, cannot reach her at all. The point of the cell phone is for ME to reach her with kid-related information, not her convenience for chatting with friends.

She is a very responsible AP, and does not stay on the cell for hours, so I’m trying to figure out if this is just the price of doing business, or if I’m spending a lot too much.

My Pink Hello Kitty Cell!201003050913.jpg from fatcatinakomona
Hello kitty cell phone casefrom Pinky Anela
Talking on my Hello Kiitty cell…from ironic1


My 2 cents March 5, 2010 at 10:26 am

Don’t know if it helps, but here’s what we do and we so far have had zero issues with cell phones and overage charges.

We are all on one plan (that my dh controls). He has to use his cell all the time so we have some super duper account that has a ton of minutes for calling and texting. He pays a lot for his phone, and just a bit for the rest of us, but we all get to share the minutes. We use AT&T, but I’m sure all the other carriers offer similar plans.

A friend of mine handles hers differently. She uses a strict pay as you go plan ever since she was burned by her first au pair. She puts a certain amount she feels is reasonable into the account each month and the au pair pays the rest. I know AT&T offers pay as you go plans and pay as you go phones.

Oh, and we are clear from day 1 and in our handbook that the au pairs are absolutely not permitted to call internationally on the cell phones unless they pay us separately for that service. So far, no one has been interested. They all skype.

Darthastewart March 5, 2010 at 10:31 am

I have a friends and family list. I ask her to give me her friends’ numbers so I can put them on the list. I explain the terms of our cell phone use- how incoming/outgoing calls count, etc. I also have a boatload of anytime minutes, and unlimited night/weekend minutes.
And we have texting too, a boatload of texts.

Anna March 5, 2010 at 10:54 am

We have a family plan with a good amount of monthly minutes. Mine, my husband’s and au pairs’ phones are on it. The extra line for the au pair costs me just $10 a month. I pay for it because I need a way to reach her when she is with my kids, and she needs to be safe and be able to call for help when out on her own, so it is in my interest that she has a cell phone.
In our handbook I explain in great detail how our plan works (i.e. when the minutes are “free”, how much is each extra minute if we go over our monthly allotmnet, how to check remaining monthly usage from her phone). I also have a condition that IF our bill goes over one month, AND IF her usage was more than a certain number of minutes, she pays for the extra. I also emphasize that the phone is for her work primarily, but she is free to use it for personal purposes in her free time, with the above conditions. Usually this was enough for all my au pairs for all kinds of use, and they didnt’ need any additional service.
We don’t have a text plan on our phones, but if she wants she pays for one (the cheapest ones are $5 and $10/month, and are usually sufficient), and otherwise she pays for all her texts.

Taking a computer lunch March 5, 2010 at 10:58 am

We have 3 cell phones on the same account, DH, AP and me. The AP uses most of the minutes (we pay for some texting). Only the chattiest of APs go over the minutes, but I don’t really know as DH pays for the cell online. We give APs one warning when they use all the minutes and more, and then ask to be reimbursed. The current AP uses skype, for which she pays, to talk to her family and her cell for the rest.

The rule is that the AP cell must be functional and on at all times during the school hours. She is the person who can get to DD fastest when she suddenly gets ill at school or needs to go to the hospital. If we call both the house phone and her cell and she doesn’t answer, she hears about it.

In all 9 years, we’ve only had one AP who had trouble limiting her cell phone use. She even managed to use all the house phone minutes (we hadn’t known there was such a thing). After printing out the records and showing them to her (she was talking too much when she was supposed to be working), we told her to buy phone cards to talk to friends out of our area code and to limit calls during working hours. We set a limit – it’s okay for APs to answer the phone, say they’re working and make arrangements to call back later, but not to chat endlessly. Our APs now only work 25 hours or less a week, so there’s plenty of time to stay in touch with friends.

If I didn’t need the AP to be able to get to DD, then I probably wouldn’t have her on a high-end account. Our APs have to do a lot to keep DD on an even keel, so we consider the cell phones one of the benefits for that work.

OHHostMom March 5, 2010 at 11:30 am

We added our AP as a line on our cell acct. which was only $10, and we got a simply basic cell phone for free with the additional line. We also pay for a $10 texting feature on her phone, as she textes alot…sometimes to me, more often to her friends, but I (and I believe she) counts that as a perk she gets. As others we are clear about no calling international on the phone. She has received international texts before…which cost only $0.12 each occasions so I have let those slide as they total less than $5 in 6 months. I know our AP uses her phone primarily for social contact with her friends, but I also know I can get ahold of her at anytime and that brings me some comfort. She uses video skype to chat with her family/BBH which is free with internet access so she doesn’t ever use our home phone or cell for international calling. She is an Awesome AP who is always pitching in around the house and with the kids even when not on duty, so I happily provide the perk of cell phone minutes/text each month.

Anonymous March 5, 2010 at 11:57 am

We’re still trying to figure out the best way to do this, so I appreciate the topic. Host Dad and I are both on Sprint’s unlimited plan – separate accounts. That plan doesn’t allow for us to add an extra person to either of our accounts, so we can’t do that with our AP. What we first had with our current AP was a pre-paid, but she went through minutes so fast. So then we offered to give her so much a month (I think it was $40 – the cost of a basic plan) to get her own plan, and if she wanted a plan with more minutes or texting, she had to pay for it. Now she has ended her plan and gone on her boyfriend’s plan, so I have no idea what she has or what she’s paying.

We next our next AP this summer, and I’m still trying to decide what to do about a cell phone. I don’t want to give up my unlimited plan, but it seems going to more of a family plan might make more sense.

MTR March 5, 2010 at 12:31 pm

We do the exact same thing as what Anna described above. However, no matter how well we explained to our AP how our cell phone works, she managed to incure $157 above our regular phone plan last months. She is now paying us back at $30 a week for 5 weeks. And she’s been with us for 9 months now. I feel really bad for her.

Host Mom in VA March 5, 2010 at 12:33 pm

My au pair is on our family plan ($9.99/month) and I paid $30.00/month for unlimited family text. I have a ton of unused minutes, so my risk is very minimal.

If I didn’t have these minutes, I’d give my au pair a no-frills AT&T go-phone with $20.00 in airtime (easily reloadable from the phone). I’d tell her that this phone is for work only – do not give out the number to anyone and that I expect her to carry it and answer it while on duty. I’d also help her get a personal device ($up to $100) with her own plan that she pays for 100%. All the carriers have inexpensive devices you can buy without the two-year contract and a pay-as-you-go model.

Also, AT&T has Smart Limits for Parental Controls feature for $4.99/month that lets parents set limits for:

* Time of day their phone can and cannot be used
* Number of text and instant messages per billing cycle
* Dollar amount for download purchases (ringtones, games, etc.)
* Amount of Web browsing usage allowed per billing cycle
* Block/allow specific numbers that can be called or text messaged (incoming and outgoing)
* Restrict content inappropriate for children

Calif Mom March 6, 2010 at 12:24 am

Wow. We’ve got the Go phone. Never dreamed of telling her she couldn’t phone friends on it. That seems impossible to enforce. This has been the “au pair phone” for years now. I guess that’s one way to deal with the random phone call problem. We did buy the cheapest phone possible at the time.

But if you ask her to pay for her own cell account for personal use, she would then have to have to remember to bring two phones with her. I do like the idea of a bright red Mom Phone (reminds me of the Batman series on tv!)

Mom23 March 5, 2010 at 12:53 pm

In the past I have added au pairs to my friends and family line. The thing is I need so few minutes and to go to a family plan I needed to go to the next higher level which was $30, plus another $10. The understanding was that they would pay for any additional minutes and for texting.

Several of my au pairs, including the current au pair, arranged their own cell phone and so I compensated them in other ways (i.e. Netflix subscription).

I just got my son his own phone and I think it would also work well for an au pair if you wanted to limit hours or numbers called. Kajeet phones have phones that you can set parental limits. The plan that my son wanted was $15 for 60/minutes/month and unlimited texting. For someone who prefers texting it would be a good option.

PA au pair mom March 5, 2010 at 2:01 pm

We added our AP to our family plan. It was $10 for the extra line. We already have family unlimited texting so that wasn’t an issue. We have A LOT of minutes which HD mostly uses for work. She has 3 numbers (other AP’s) in our friends and family list that she can call anytime for free. Most of her AP friends also have Verizon, so calls to them don’t use minutes either.

We state upfront that she is to use only 200 minutes per month outside of other Verizon numbers and her 3 allotted friends and family numbers. She used 33 one month. that was her highest usage.

She has her phone from Sweden that she uses to send/receive international calls and texts.

HostdadinNJ March 5, 2010 at 2:12 pm

All reasonable, though Host Mom in VA surprises me with that setup – If I was an Au Pair making $800 a month, I would not want to have 6% of my net pay to go to a cell phone bill.

We do what many of you have done, simply add another line to our Verizon plan, which cost $10 a month. I also paid for her unlimited texts for another $10, because that’s how people communicate nowadays (a topic for another day). We have 700 mins in our plan, and all calls to anyone on Verizon are free (so not just the three of us, but anyone on the Verizon system). We have yet to have an issue, though I did talk to her about internet usage not being part of the plan, after she had a small $5 charge one month.

The only tip I can add is if you can use an old phone, you will not have to sign up for a new contract in order to get a new free phone. Which is obviously a benefit in the event things don’t work out for whatever reason, you just cancel the added line, and no penalty or fees are assessed.

Host Mom in VA March 5, 2010 at 9:30 pm

I should have been more clear: I would pay the $20.00 in airtime on the phone. I do think that host families should pay all expenses to keep au pairs in touch as needed for their duties and a modest amount for au pairs social connection.

Soccer Mom March 5, 2010 at 3:54 pm

$50/mo seems like alot to me for just the AP phone. We do almost the same as HDinNJ – add her to our Verizon plan for $10 sharing 700 minutes for 2 of us (HD has a work cell attached to his hand that’s not on our plan). We only pay $5 for 250 texts per month, then it’s 10 cents per text after. We tell her she has 200, but we don’t use up the remaining 500 so she has some slush before she gets dinged – she pays for charges incurred if she goes over and it hits our bill. We get free calls to any cell phones in the Verizon network (so of course calls between AP & us do not use up minutes). We also get free nights & weekends. We explain the whole deal in our handbook as well, along with the fact that if she incurs charges on our bill she needs to pay us for those. If she does come close or goes over insignificantly we just let her know to keep an eye on her minutes and there is no charge to her if it doesn’t impact our bill.

We did have one AP that ran up her cell phone bill that we got right before she left (among other things she did at “the end” the did not make us feel the love in the air) so we paid it ourselves b/c things were already bitter enough and the $70 in overages was not worth the stress on top of everything else. What bothered me most about the overages was that to incur them, she was on the cell a ton during work hours. DD was under 2 at the time and would have benefited from an engaged caregiver speaking English to her so she could learn to speak, not being ignored, hearing a foreign language spoken into the cell all day. Now we periodically check our cell phone account online not only for number of minutes used, but we can also see when calls and texts occur. I don’t mind her making or taking a quick call to say see you tonight at Starbucks at 7pm, or I’ll call you after work, or whatever, but 10-30 minute phone calls during (non-nap) work hours are not ok – or constant texting throughout the day.

For me, her cell is an important safety tool and it would make me nervous if she were out driving alone or with my kids and did not have a functional cell phone.

Soccer Mom March 5, 2010 at 5:44 pm

All in we pay about $80/month for the 2 cells with 700 minutes shared and 250 texts for each phone. Our grandfathered rate goes up $10 for next year.

Mom of 3 March 5, 2010 at 3:59 pm

We bought our AP a Virgin Mobile cell phone ($19.99) at Best Buy and I set it up to auto-load via my credit card each month for $20. I told the AP that $10 should cover what I’d need for it to be on at all times, and so she was getting $10 for her own use. I also set up the phone to auto-load when the minutes ran out (to make sure that I was always able to reach her in emergencies…in case she used the minute max and went over) and then I deducted any overage from her weekly pay. Whenever Virgin sent me an email saying my Visa had been “topped up” beyond the monthly, I put that as a debit to her pay. This way, I never was out the money and reimbursed accordingly, and I think she got a good deal extra ($10 worth/month) as a freebie.

We did the same with a prepay card – but required the AP to pay for all calls to her home country using that. So – whenever my Visa was charged (typically a $20 top-up fee every few weeks), I passed that along to her (If her weekly pay was $195, I would subtract the $20 from her pay).

NJMom March 5, 2010 at 5:15 pm

I agree. We added a $10 line to our Verizon plan. My husband and I were already going over the lower limits for works so we bumped it up and did unlimited texting for everyone’s convenience. we’ve never had a problem with the AP overusing but I’m always a bit shocked that I pay $200 a month for this. (Some is work-related and deductible.) I figure that by the time I don’t need an AP phone in a couple of years my older daughter will be kiling me with her phone usage so I may as well get used to it! :)

HostdadinNJ March 5, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Mom of 3…$10 of cell phone use. Wow, and I was made to feel like a piarah for having our AP work 5 hours of pait OT a week…

HostdadinNJ March 5, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Sorry – that reads harsher than i would have liked. It just seems a bit stingy to me to offer an Au Pair $10 of cell usage a month, when adding them to family plans, etc maybe would cost you the same $20.

aupair March 5, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Hello, moms and au pairs. I know it doesn’t have much to do with cells, but I have a problem.
I’m au pair at a family with a nanny and a maid. The nanny have sole charge durring the day with the children and then, after her leaving, it’s my turn to help the mom. My tasks are very simple, nothing to complain. But since I arrived in the house it seems that the nanny is taking advantage of me. She doesn’t wash the children dishes after their lunch, she leaves their clothes everywhere, and even more, she is very intrusive and keeps me asking about my wedge and my benefits.
The maid, on the other hand, stayed 3h today, and didn’t do much. I had to hoover after her leaving and to do the bathroom, not to say the cloths were badly ironed.
The thing is, my hostmom is very nice. She keeps the maid because she is old and she needs the money and I expect she doesn’t know much about the mess is the nanny leaving behind.
I don’t mind cleaning the house, I find it normal, as long as I will live here too, BUT I think is very unfair, as long is not one of my tasks. And they are very well paid for their jobs, compared to me.
What should I do? Should I carry on with the cleaning and tidying up after the nanny? Or should I speak with the mom? They work for her for almost a year already….
Besides this….it really annoys me to see that the maid is just pretending to work. She is just cleaning the bath with a wet wipe!! I am sorry, but I shower there too. If they don;t mind, I do!I don’t like having a shower with the last week soap in it.
And firstly I said, ok, I will clean the house the way should be. But the mom is not letting me, because ‘I take the maid’s job!’
Please help me finding the right way, without upsetting anybody.

Mel March 5, 2010 at 6:15 pm

I’d buy two cards every month, or $50 total. One for the pay-as-you-go cell and one for international calls. I thought then, and especially now, that I was giving too much. Problem is that both my husband and I have phones through our work, so we wouldn’t be able to get a $10 extra line. Grr…I really like the parental controls idea.

Should be working March 5, 2010 at 6:21 pm

I do pay about $50/month for the AP’s phone, maybe a little less–altogether the two of us are $99/month. It’s a family plan with UNLIMITED minutes and 500 texts/month.

It’s worth it to me to pay a little extra to not have to look through the bills, worry about overages, and also worry about my own usage–which is too high. *I* was the one getting overages when I had a limit of 600 min/month.

AP and I both appreciate guilt-free phoning.

Calif Mom March 5, 2010 at 9:22 pm

hey CV, I much prefer recycling–even compost!–to cell phone management! :-)

CrazyLady March 5, 2010 at 10:24 pm

We added a line for our au pair for $10/ mo. We have unlimited family texting, and both my au pair and I fully utilize that feature. We have AT&T, so we also get rollover minutes (and calls to other AT&T users don’t count against our minutes), and this helps us to do well with only a 700 minute/ month plan. Normally we just about use all of the minutes (with me being the biggest user), but with my husband deployed for 7 months, we have built up a nice amount of rollover minutes. We spell out early on that there shouldn’t be any int’l texts or calls. We have VOIP and have unlimited calls to many countries included, so all int’l calls should be made from the house phone. I will make an exception for 1 or 2 texts when they are having visitors, since they will usually send a message when their plane arrives or if they are delayed, etc.

ANONHM March 5, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Hmmm. My husband was recently deployed too! I wondered if other military families ever used AP’s.

Mary March 6, 2010 at 5:57 am

We’re a military family and have been using au pairs since 2005. I know quite a few families with au pairs. My base is putting together an info paper for the family support center to hand out with all the child care options now that there are two au pairs living on base.

ANONHM March 6, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Great! We are Nat. Guard, and HF just returned from 1 yr deployment. We did it just last year so I could have the live in help while he was away with the kids. We have extended as the experience (after a rough start) was so positive. Of our large BN I was not aware of anyone else that choose this option. Glad to hear it may be becoming more popular for military families. Just wish the subsidies would apply to the costs like they do licensed daycare (NACCRA)

CrazyLady March 6, 2010 at 9:27 pm

We’ve had au pairs since 2005, when we were both AD Marines; my husband deployed; and we had a 20 month old and a 2 month old. I know a handful of other military families that have an au pair, but I would say that for the most part, I get more grief about it than anything else- like we think we’re special or something, when it really just comes down to different things working for different families.

HRHM March 7, 2010 at 12:29 pm

I am Navy and DH is AF. We’ve had APs for a couple of years, mainly due to the geo-bach thing. I don’t know any other families at my command who use them, although, we are one of the few dual mil families and dual working families we know.

'sota gal March 6, 2010 at 12:00 am

We also went with a family plan so it is only $10 more each month. I’ve also learned that staying with the same carrier has gotten us some big discounts as far as $ paid for minutes. Our phones have the My Fave 5 feature plus unlimited calling to other T-Mobile customers; we then allot a certain number of minutes for our AP’s use over the plan features. I also learned that texts are important for our AP’s, and I use it quite a bit to stay in touch with her…. We pay for unlimited texting, though we have chosen to give her a limit of 800/month. I started this after learning the hard way – the AP who knew the rules of no cell phone use during work hours or while driving went from following the rules when we had a limited plan – went hog wild texting once she learned she had unlimited texts. And we had never even told her, she had overheard a private conversation that I had had with DH in his office. She was texting over 250 per day, including during work hours (my hint was my 3 YO’s “texting” with their play phones) AND while she was driving.

The most complicated thing for me is explaining how the plan works, especially with the Fave 5 and texts as not all countries count an incoming text on their plans. I do have them pay for sent international texts, unless there is only a few each month.

NannyKelly March 6, 2010 at 4:37 am

As an au pair, I paid for my phone fully own my own. I had a pay-as-you go and spent somewhere in the range of 50-60chf (about the same as the USD) a month.I never called the parents because it was too exepensive, if I needed them I texted them. Luckily, there was never an actual emergency

Noelle March 6, 2010 at 1:40 pm

I have the “even more plus” plan from t-mobile, and have four lines (myself, DH, AP, and my teenaged daughter). All lines have unlimited talk and text, and DH and i both have unlimited data/web. To add the two lines for AP and my daughter costs 30/mo + tax/each, but i also don’t want to deal with accounting, overages, paying back, etc., while still requiring that she carry this phone so that we or the school can reach her. It’s basically just a benefit we offer.

For international: skype or calling card. If any international SMS end up on the account, I’d ask for her to pay for this, but so far this hasn’t been an issue. I did call t-mobile and had international calling disabled on our account. Nice bonus: i’m associated with a corporate account, so activation fees are waived, so adding this line was pretty painless.

Au Pair in CO March 7, 2010 at 1:35 am

I think most of the offers here seem pretty generous. I’m on a family plan with my host family, but I’ve only used 18 minutes of calling since I got here 7 weeks ago (I just checked it now), so I think the costs of having me on it should be pretty low.

I’m considering paying my host family for adding the monthly texting plan though, ’cause I’m not used to calling people, everyone in my country texts instead, and I don’t wanna drag up their expenses. Would you have added a texting-plan if your au pair offered to pay for it?

Michigan Mom March 7, 2010 at 6:12 am

We do add a texting plan to the phone if our au pair requests it (it’s in our handbook). I think it’s $5/month.

'sota gal March 7, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Au pain in CO, we have done that in the past. We offer a basic texting plan that we would pay for, and if our au pair wanted a plan with more texts per month, she paid the difference ($5-10 per month depending on how many texts she wanted). The basic that we were paying for was primarily for us to communicate with our au pairs and left only 100-200 for them to use for friends, and they paid for more for personal use.

You may want to take the time to make sure your HF fully understands why you want this, and also to reassure them that you will use it responsibly, i.e.. not when driving or working.

HRHM March 8, 2010 at 12:17 pm

We do this too. We don’t use texting, but AP does ALOT! so for 15/month, she gets unlimited texts on her phone, which she pays for.

ExAP March 7, 2010 at 8:10 am

Au pair in CO I think if you offer to pay for the texting plan it should be fine for your family :)

I was on a plan with my HPs. We had AT&T.
After 9 p.m. and on the weekends (startiing Fridays 9 p.m.) it was free for me to call any other cell. Calling to AT&T cells was free all the time. For the rest, I had 60 minutes/month. 1 or 2 times I used more than the 60 minutes, and my HPs payed without telling me. Just some time later it came up. If I had known that I was over the 60 minutes, I would have offered to pay the rest immediately!

I guess you should just check all the other rates that are out there =)

PA Mom March 7, 2010 at 10:30 am

Wow lots of input on this one from all the HMs here. We also have an extra phone and line for our AP – it’s on our Verizon plan. The phone was “free” with a 2 year contract (and we will have APs for at least the next 2 years as we’ve already had for the past 4 years) and the texting is cheap for her and me. She is really the only one I text but I find it’s much easier to text at work than to call and she hooked me on it. Many of her AP friends have more texting than minutes so it’s really helpful to an AP socially. Remember a happy AP is a happy family and child. We too have only had one AP who was minutes crazy and we also have a shared family plan which includes parents and a grandparent and the AP. Eventually the AP line will probably be a child’s line when the are old enough and there are no more APs. There seem to be no international texting plans so we also caution against international texting. This generally works if the AP has access to a computer as there is skype and gmail and other instant messaging that they and their parents and friends abroad all use. I don’t nickel and dime my APs on cells or gas – they don’t make a ton of cash and these could eat their entire weeks free cash if I were crazy on that front – but also they don’t abuse those priviledges and I think they appreciate that we do it this versus what some other families do. Does the extra 20 a month really pinch the family – it may some families – if it does not, I’d argue for making your life simpler and just picking a family plan that’s large enough for all – caution your AP on total minutes she can use and the ramifications to you and her if she goes over – and pick a texting plan for her (and maybe you). Regards from PA

Jane March 8, 2010 at 10:23 am

My au pairs have all arrived with their own cell phones and since they do not drive the children or take them out of the home as part of their job, they have paid entirely for whatever minutes they chose to put on the phone for social use. It would be a lot to add a third line for us, so I can’t justify the cost of paying for her social calls ourselves. One of our au pairs was always texting, even at family dinners, so I think paying for a plan for her would have made that even worse. I do not want them texting/talking socially while working. This is very hard to enforce, and I know they all do it occassionally despite my reminders (I can see when their friends have called the house during work hours). I don’t want to make it even worse. Plus I really don’t want them texting while driving.

What about emergencies when they are out on their own? Well, call me old fashioned, but cell phones weren’t around that widely when I was their age, and I managed emergencies/airport arrivals/mall meetings without them. I think cell phones may cause more emergencies than they solve through distracted driving. I fully expect to be flamed now, but I had to share my opinion–please know it’s just that–an opinion. I would probably have a different opinion if the au pair was driving the kids around and needed to be reached outside of the home in an emergency.

Is there anyone else like me that doesn’t provide a cell phone? I do provide wireless Internet for Skype and perks like free Netflix, full premium cable in their bedroom, etc.

Anonymous March 8, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I agree with you but the only thing is that it is often very hard nowadays to find a public phone. I know that when I was young.
I just managed to get where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there. I just did it.

Disgruntled March 27, 2010 at 7:07 am

I don’t really see how wifi and cable are “perks”- unless they’re ONLY for the au pair’s use. If the rest of the family has access, shouldn’t the ap as well?

Calif Mom March 28, 2010 at 9:47 am

But wiring an au pair’s bedroom for cable and paying for a second set IS an additional cost. We have one set for our family, and it is not in anyone’s bedroom. We added a second tv, with cable, as a perk for our au pairs so they can watch trashy TV in privacy. I definitely consider it a perk.

Wifi bears no additional costs to us, so I don’t see it as a perk. (Though playing IT Support person can certainly suck up a lot of hours!)

HRHM March 8, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Jane, while I agree that all us old HMs survived without cell phones (or tv remotes, home computers etc ), the fact is you will go blind trying to find a pay phone in this day and age. Cell phones are rapidly becoming a neccesity, unfortunately.

We don’t even have a land line at home, so without providing a cell, our AP would have no way (beyond skype) to place a simple call.

Jane March 8, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Yes, I agree a cell phone is handy and convenient–I just don’t see the need for me to pay for it when it’s not used for work. No major need for it has arisen for us other than to use it socially. We provide a land line with extensive free calling, so they are able to call friends during off time. I can see how many other families use the cell phone for work related calls with the au pair, and then I can completely understand paying for it. I’ve only received a handful of cell phone calls from my au pairs over the years–and that was for them to let me know to pick them up from the airport or train station for one of their leisure trips–again, not for work. I hate to sound stingy about it, because I would probably add it as a perk if it only cost me $10 a month, but the cost would be more like $50 a month for us.

I offered to give my current au pair money to put on her personal phone for emergencies when she commented that it was expensive for her to keep it loaded for social calls, but she declined it. She makes all her calls for free from the house before going out. I would feel better if she had a loaded phone with her in case she gets stranded, but when she declined the money I offered for that, what else is there to do?

PA au pair mom March 8, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Our AP got stranded on the interstate with a flat tire, nearly one hour from our home. The next exit would have been a 4-6 mile walk in the dark, alone. That incident alone made the cell phone worth it for my family and our AP.

mom431 August 12, 2010 at 5:12 am

I agree with Jane. I paid $10 for a tracphone plus $100 for 900 minutes and service for 1 year. She has use of the house phone and wireless internet for skype. The phone is for emergenices and to maintain contact about my children.

Gianna August 12, 2010 at 8:30 am

The phones which use pay as you go work as well as any other phones. The phone is just for emergencies ( like the flat tire mentioned above ) or to share info about a change of schedule or ask an important question. You can always buy an additional card to ramp up the minutes if there was heavy useage or if you anticipated a need.
The cards can be bought in convenience stores and generally, the phones are very good.

NewAPMama September 4, 2010 at 3:21 pm

I’m confused. Is your AP calling your husbands cell phone? Or she is calling overseas from your husbands work phone? Your post is very confusing.

MommyMia September 5, 2010 at 12:32 pm

I think you’re responding to a post that cv made into a new entry…and my understanding was that it was her husband’s cell phone, which was probably provided by and for his work. Doesn’t really matter–the point is, the AP made a very expensive call without asking. And I believe that the orientation provided by agencies, as well as their marketing information to APs does talk about international calls from the US and various options, although I’m sure that only about 25% is understood and retained by APs with good language skills. As has been pointed out here, in most countries incoming calls are not counted toward mobile phone minutes allotments, so that’s something that needs to be made very clear.

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