An Au Pair’s room can’t be a space that is used for anything other than his or her personal space. It can’t be a playroom, a family TV room, an annex of the laundry room, or part of a passageway from one room in the house to another (e.g., like a railroad flat, where you can’t get to the back door without walking through the bedroom).
It’s easy for parents who store things in their extra bedroom to “forget” that they need to remove their stuff from the room once it becomes the “Au Pair Room”.
Sure, you can store a few blankets or tablecloths in the closet, or use one row of the bookcase from your undergraduate statistics classes, but you can’t use up a whole closet, all the space under the bed, and/or the entire bookcase. Anything you store there can only be accessed with the Au Pair’s permission to enter the room — and without disturbing his or her stuff.
Each Au Pair needs a room of their own.
A space they can personalize to meet their needs and some of their tastes. A place where they can spread out and relax. Having your stuff in there, or having the kids playing in there, makes this impossible.
You’d think people would know this and create Au Pair rooms that are relatively empty, with attractive but ‘bare bones’ so that the Au Pair has room for him or herself.
But just last month I visited the home of friends who were getting their first au pair after several nannies. The mom proudly showed me the lovely, sunlit third floor space, with the built-in book cases stuffed to the brim with old piano music, musty books from her mom’s house, and bric a brac from every estate sale held in my town over the last decade.
Delicately, I suggested that my friend pack up most of this stuff and put it in the attic space down the hall.
I wanted to suggest the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but I’ve seem my friend’s home office, and clutter is how she rolls. She just needs to roll that clutter out of her au pair’s bedroom (and, out of the third floor bathroom too).
The Au Pair who wrote for advice has two other problems she’s worried about– but I’m thinking that, if the family can’t even give her the private space that’s required, they’re unlikely to respond to any efforts to adjust their unreasonable work expectations.
Dear Au Pair Moms — I am looking for some advice to figure out if I am over reacting or if my concerns are reasonable.
I’m an Au Pair in Europe. The family seemed lovely during our conversations and skype calls and I met them through a friend’s recommendation.
Before I arrived we formed a contract with a generally list of responsibilities and information about the job and family. One of my concerns immediately was my room was to be used as a “playroom”, which I told them that I required a room separate from the family. They reassured me that it would be my own room and that they would move out the toys and everything.
We also agreed on 4 hours a day Monday to Friday with the occasional Saturday (one per month) where I could hang out with the kids and Sundays completely off.
Fast forward to my arrival and I come into a room full of toys and children’s clothes. My first day they informed me that they use this room as storage (which has eventually turned into basically a shared space) and that they have decided that our agreement hours will need to be one hour shorter so instead I work 3 hours a day and then until noon on Saturday mornings. I instantly had a bad feeling about this but I wanted to make it work and decided to accommodate them because I wasn’t sure what to do.
I have now been with the family for 3 weeks and have become very resentful to the altering of our contract, especially in regards to not having my own space (kids, parents and nanny come into my room throughout the day in order to access toys and clothes). I have also been having a tough time with feeling closely monitored by the parents, they ask me when I’m going to wash my laundry, tell me to clean my room, make my bed, not to have any personal items in sight and that my closet is messy.
When I left some items on my bed for a few hours while I was working, I was told my room was a mess and that the HM is not my mother and does not need another child.
They have very strict rules for not forgetting anything in the main living area (I have been trying my best to be as clean as possible) and told me that they were unhappy when I closed my door after I was done work and didn’t offer to help with the children when I was off duty.
These expectations of needing to be with the family when I wasn’t on duty and to be always asking how I can help were never communicated to me. We had a conversation about all of this not too long ago and I was made to feel that I was being unreasonable and selfish for taking issue with the changes they had made to the contract without discussing it with me.
They also say I am “not trying hard enough to be a part of the family”. I know that my responsibilities as mainly a playmate and English teacher are quite easy compared to other au pairs (which they made sure to emphasize to me), especially because there’s a cooking/cleaning/child minding nanny who works Monday to Friday, but I can’t help but to feel resentful and anxious, as well as lacking in basic respect.
Otherwise from this laundry list of issues, I really enjoy the kids and our relationship. I need to know, am I being unreasonable? What should I do since they believe these problems are my fault because in their opinion I’m not trying hard enough? We have agreed to add my hours in the week in order to scrap the working on Saturdays but there is really no compromise in regards to my room (which is one of the things I am most stressed about). I am torn on whether I should just suck it up and this is just what is expected of Au Pairs or if I should expect better?
Some advice is badly needed!