Can an Au Pair be On-Duty to House Sit or Pet Sit?

by cv harquail on January 9, 2013

Is it okay to ask your Au Pair to live at your house while you are away on vacation, and to take care of your family pet?

Dear AuPairMom–

My husband and I are hosting an Au Pair for the first time. We have three kids, ages 13, 10 and 5 and I am a stay-at-home Mom. Our AP has been with us since September and it’s working out very, very well.

Our au pair is on duty around 30 hours per week. We have cleaning help so her only responsibilities are helping me with the children in the afternoons and doing lots and lots of driving.

She had a real full-time job before becoming an AP so she agrees that her job with us is an easy one! Her day doesn’t start until 3pm when it’s time to go to get the kids from school and most days she’s done by 7:30pm. She works some Saturdays and has longer days on Fridays when the kids get out of school at 12pm.

The only other thing she does for our family is walk the dog in the mornings. That was something that we discussed before she arrived, and she was happy to agree to it.

Here’s our specific question:

We were away for 10 days over Christmas so our AP had a long vacation. We only counted it at 1 week of her vacation time. We told her she could take the other week off whenever she wanted it.

We are going away in March and AP is not coming with us, nor is she taking her vacation that week. This is fine with us since we do want her to choose some of her vacation time (and we can cover her week off.)

Is it reasonable to expect her to stay in our home that week and house/pet sit for us?

She’s technically “working” and will be paid. Our LCC said it’s fine.

But, is it fair? I’d love to hear what the AuPairMom readers think.

Thanks, HostMomW/CutePuppy


Personally, I think this is absolutely fine, and fair. What do you all think? 

See also:

Poll: Do you ask your Au Pair to walk your dog?
Our Au Pair Hates Our Dog: Ideas to help?
Bathe the Dog?
All the little things … that add up to a BIG help

Image: Flower Dog Hat Costume Available on Etsy from Hatz4Brats


OCHostFam January 9, 2013 at 6:07 pm

I think it’s fair and have asked the same of past APs. Just set some rules or your home will be AP central while you are gone. We learned that one the hard way.

Should be working January 9, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Can HPs require that she sleep at home and spend time at home (for the dog’s sake–even 1 two-hour walk a day would leave 22 lonesome hours otherwise)? Is it ‘work’ time if it’s taking care of the dog? We have had APs do this but I never know if it’s ok.

American AP in Europe January 9, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Any time that isn’t her own is considered work. Even if she is sleeping or “isn’t doing anything”.

So if the host is going to require things like that, it shouldn’t exceed 45 hours. It’d probably work best to talk about the dog’s needs and leave it to her judgment.

anon January 9, 2013 at 11:28 pm

I’m not sure that this is exactly true in the US AP program. Many HP require their APs to be home 8 hours prior to the morning start of their on-duty time (i.e. they have a curfew either at a specific time, like midnight, or they say be home X hours before your shift starts) and I don’t think those sleeping hours count towards the 45hr/week max.

Julie January 11, 2013 at 1:18 am

Sleeping hours would count only if the au pair were on duty with the children. It’s one of the reasons a family can do an overnight, but it’s tricky because the au pair can only work up to 10 hours, so they could work like 10 pm to 10 am if they are the responsible adult on duty–but that’s kids. Pets are different. Families and au pairs can work out situations where they share in the task of pets, so this can be allowed, but an au pair should never have sole responsibility of a pet all the time.

Also realize that sometimes, a pet can get sick or has an accident when the family is gone. A host family has to recognize that it’s tough to take care of a pet sometimes.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 9, 2013 at 7:49 pm

You’re leaving and she doesn’t want vacation time. We had this situation arise last year, and my solution, based on previous discussions on this list was to give her some kid-based work in the house while we were gone:

1) sort out the kids clothes – wash and put away winter clothes and go into the bins we keep in their closets and bring out the summer clothes

2) clean their bedrooms – vacuum (including moving the furniture around), a thorough dusting, organize their dressers, closets and bookshelves

3) wipe down toys with Chlorox wipes

4) vacuum and dust the playroom, sort the games and put the pieces in the right boxes, put the books upright on the shelves

I knew it wouldn’t add up to the 25-30 hours we typically have our au pairs work in a week, but it saved me from having to wedge it into my “free” time on the weekends.

Where you want to be clear is – does she intend to stay home the entire time your gone? Because if you’re asking her to feed and care for an animal, you don’t want to find that she’s taken a powder and you’re left with a mess. I don’t think you can require her to stay and care for the dog, but I think you need to have an agreement that – as a family member with light duties while you are gone – that if she stays in the house, then she’s caring for the dog. If she intends to go away, then you need to know, so you can plan for care.

We always tell our neighbors when we are leaving and the au pair is not (a couple are nosy and happy to tell us what went on). When we left with a barely driving au pair staying behind, we took all of the car keys so she wouldn’t be tempted. (We would NOT have done this to any of the others we have hosted.) Our HF guidelines say that friends may not be alone in our house when our AP is not (I got a bad surprise once from a friend who slammed a door in my face when I went to investigate a noise in the house).

The bottom line – tell your AP “I trust you – you’re doing a good job of taking care of my children, so I know that I can trust you to take care of the house [and dog] while we’re gone.”

Oh, and leave her money to feed herself. If she’s working, then you’re feeding her.

American AP in Europe January 9, 2013 at 8:00 pm

TACL- thank you for including the bit about food money!!! Luckily my boss always remembers, but I have plenty of friends whose HP’s don’t do it at all, or my AP friend has to ask to be reimbursed.

Returning HM January 9, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Our AP chose not to come with us when we went away for a week at Christmas. We too did not count it as her holiday time, but I also didn’t feel right asking her to stay with our dog. I’m not sure what OP’s dog requires, but our velcro golden needs three walks (and a quick out before bed) a day, plus he is a very social guy who really wants to be with people all the time. We have never left him alone overnight or for more than four or five hours at a time, and I didn’t think it was fair to ask AP to spend every night at home (though as it turns out, she did spend each night at home anyway). So we ended up bringing our dog to someone else’s house for the week, but we did have AP care for our rabbit, who simply requires being let out of his cage for a few hours a day and given food and water in the mornings.

Bottom line, I think a lot depends on the dog’s needs and on the relationship you have with your AP, how much you trust her to have your dog’s best interests in mind, and how you present her with the situation. We like our AP and she is fine with walking our dog at midday, but she is not (unlike every single other AP we have hosted) a true “dog person,” and I didn’t think she would put our sweet needy guy ahead of her own priorities. On the other hand, she offered to take care of our bunny (she grew up with rabbits as pets) and since he is so low-maintenance, I trusted she would do what he needed. Ultimately, if you think your AP would arrange her schedule around your pet AND you have a clear and honest conversation with her about what you’re expecting, whether it’s overnights with the dog or four walks a day no matter the weather or what have you, and if she is comfortable and your LCC supports it too, I think you’re good.

Regarding food money – we left our AP with a credit card and just asked her to leave us the receipts for whatever she bought. Unlike some others, we are fine being “AP central,” whether we’re here or not, and I know that AP had overnight guests and dinner guests every single night we were gone, and I was just glad that she had company.

OCHostFam January 10, 2013 at 6:35 am

I have a problem being “AP Central” because my former AP (and friends) emptied the liquor cabinet, climbed onto the roof and then jumped into the pool. Huge liability. I don’t mind company of one or two that I know well but I will not allow my AP to host the entire cluster leaving me on the hook for what they do. Sorry.

Returning HM January 10, 2013 at 10:25 am

Got it! We haven’t had this kind of a situation ever in our six years of hosting. Should we encounter this, you’re absolutely right -there would be lots of structures put in place to make sure it never happened again!

Should be working January 10, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Whoa, OCHostfam, that story belongs on the “how to discipline your au pair” thread. Did you discipline her? Did you go into rematch?

OCHostFam January 10, 2013 at 6:21 pm

We didn’t have to discipline. The neighbor that caught them called us on vacation and we immediately contacted our LCC. AP was gone before we got back. The neighbor, knowing they were all drunk and under age, called the rest of the HF’s and 6 more went into rematch over it. We are just really lucky no one got hurt.

Should be working January 11, 2013 at 1:36 pm

What a story. Did the APs get rematched with other families or sent home? Do you know if the agency told the new families about the incident?

anon January 9, 2013 at 11:25 pm

I find it interesting/curious that folks think that HP can’t “require” the AP to sleep at home at night *during a week when she is on duty* and not on vacation – i.e. this is not her vacation week, it is a regular on-duty week, except that the duty is far, far fewer hours than during a regular childcare week.

Don’t many HP require that their AP sleep at home during the week when s/he is on duty? Isn’t that exactly what a curfew is? I think there are many HP that would not want their AP sleeping out many evenings a week…? (of course there are some that wouldn’t care, but my guess that is a sizeable percentage and probably the majority want their AP sleeping at home/have some sort of curfew during the work week). And I wouldn’t think that these curfew or “sleeping at home” hours during the work week would count as part of the 45hrs – rather they are simply a term that was agreed at matching….?

I see the point and question about “requiring” pet care or not, can HP require this since it isn’t childcare related, but is it part of being part of the family etc. But asking your AP to sleep in your home during the week when she is on duty seems reasonable and in line with the program rules. Setting aside the pet care aspect, if we were out of town and our AP were asked to be home and on duty during that week to housesit, I would want her to sleep at home from a housesitting perspective.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 9, 2013 at 11:49 pm

I don’t have a curfew and I don’t require my APs to sleep in my house before working. They do have to show up on time and be energetic. Some achieved it, others didn’t try staying out. However, in my opinion, the curfew is so your AP can be refreshed and ready to handle your children, yes? If they’re not there, is the curfew important?

If I am gone for 10 days, do I expect that my AP will spend her weekend in my house? No. If I leave a set body of work for her to do and she does it in 2 days, do I care if she spends the other 8 days away? No. Do I expect that she’ll communicate her plans, so I know that the house will be empty? Yes!

As a HM, I wouldn’t feel right forcing an AP to stay in my house when I went away on holiday and didn’t invite her to come along. As it turns out, we always invite our APs to come with us, and usually our kids’ spring break does not coincide with the AP’s spring break from college. I have them work while we’re gone so I don’t feel compelled to force them to use their vacation time while we’re away (after all I benefit from their spring cleaning) and they get to go to class. I would never demand that they spend every night in the house.

I don’t think the AP’s duties are to the house, but to the children. I do think if you want her to abide by your curfew and stay in the house every night you are gone, it is important to be explicit well before your departure.

Returning HM January 10, 2013 at 12:45 am

Our AP doesn’t have a curfew either, and I don’t think it is my role to dictate where she spends the night. I do require that she be ready to work on time with a smile on her face, her full energy and wits about her, and everything she needs for herself taken care of, but other than that, she is welcome to roll in 5 minutes before work time, if that is what she wants. Over the years we have had plenty of APs who routinely spent one or two nights a week with other APs, and then in return hosted 1-3 APs on one or two nights per week, depending on who lived nearer to whatever bar or party or mall or tourist site they were going to. Neither their work nor their attitude suffered, so we didn’t (and don’t) consider this an issue at all.

Should be working January 10, 2013 at 1:13 pm

How do you screen for, and enforce, the smile on the face? Morning grumpiness has been an issue for most of our APs.

German Au-Pair January 10, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Don’t let anon get to you, morning grumpiness has nothing to do with your au pair relationship. I am not and never will be a morning person. I don’t get enough sleep at night and spend a good part of the morning sleeping (my kids are in school, I get up at 5 and have 7 hours of free time…I just go back to bed when they’re gone.)
My host parents hate my sleeping habits and at one point they have asked em to be more cheerful with the kids in the morning. I had not realized that it was bothering them because for me it’s normal -my mum is not a big morning person either so for me it was normal to just give her some space in the morning.
If it bothers you, simply ask. My HP told me they wanted the kids to start their day with a cheerful attitude and it did make sense to me. In the beginning it was quite an effort for me to be cheerful in the morning, I got used to it very quickly.
Things like that can be life-long habits the person might not even be aware of. Just ask.

Should be working January 11, 2013 at 12:01 pm

I meant the word ‘enforce’ ironically. But my screening process includes asking about whether the AP is a cheerful morning person, and they all claim they are. (And all told us we were the best HF they could have hoped for, and asked to extend, and have visited us.) Yes, probably just asking more directly for this would be a good idea. It is precisely something that can’t be ‘enforced’, which is why the word was ironic.

Should be working January 11, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I meant the word ‘enforce’ ironically. But my screening process includes asking about whether the AP is an upbeat morning person, and they all claim they are. (And all told us we were the best HF they could have hoped for, and all asked to extend, and a few have visited us.) Yes, probably just asking more directly for this would be a good idea. It is precisely something that can’t be ‘enforced’, which is why the word was ironic.

Yes, probably saying something would be a good idea.

Returning HM January 11, 2013 at 2:40 pm

German au-pair, the only reason I know you’re not our AP is that you have said somewhere else that you live in a rural area, and we don’t; otherwise I would wonder. :-)

We had a similar talk with our AP as your HF did with you. But in our AP’s case, she had a glum look all the time – not just in the morning -for her first few weeks here. We told her, “You don’t have to be happy to be with the children all the time, but you DO have to ACT like you are happy to be with them.” And then we also said, “If you’re not happy to be with them as much as the job asks (about 20-25 hrs/week of active childcare), then you need to tell us right now, as this would not be the job for you.” It turned out that AP was both very shy and reserved but also very in over her head. She hadn’t realized how much her nervousness was coming across as sullenness. Once we called it to her attention, she made an active effort to put a smile on her face at all times when greeting the children or interacting with them directly. It went a very long way to winning the children over to her, and it went a long way with us as well because we could see how hard she was trying. And before long, she was actually FEELING as happy as she was ACTING, and now she is a very smiley, engaged, cheerful AP.

Sometimes being very clear about things can go a long way. I have learned that on this site, and I don’t let things that are really bugging me go as much (of course, I also try not to let a lot of things bug me, so it’s easier to call attention to something like smiling when you’re not also harping on lots of other things).

Should be working January 11, 2013 at 3:13 pm

This is also a cultural-exchange issue. My European acquaintances think that Americans are fake-friendly and insincere. Fine if they think that, I get it and it is true in a way. But pretending cheerfulness when not cheerful, and smiling just because it makes things pleasant even if you don’t ‘mean it’, are part of American life (at least where I live). Sincerity is overrated in my view. Who really wants to know, in an early-morning work interaction, just by looking at your face, that you are feeling glum and tired? It makes everyone’s life more pleasant if people act pleasant, even if it isn’t ‘sincere’.

German Au-Pair January 11, 2013 at 6:38 pm

SBW, yes! That is something I am trying to tell my fellow Europeans every single time! I live in the South here and I loooove the Southern friendliness and whenever I say that, people tell me it’s just fake anyway. I always say that sure, people don’t want to know if you have a blister when they ask you how you are but when people compliment your purse, it’s not like they secretly think what an ugly thing that is. It just makes every day life much more pleasant if you chat nicely with the people you deal with.
But it does strike Europeans as very odd because we just don’t get it. If you compliment ones purse in Germany, people think you’re either really weird or want to steal the purse :D

Returning HM, I can assure you I am not your au pair because I am so not shy :D For me it really was an issue of being crabby in the morning. My friends and family know not to approach me in the morning and no one has ever questioned that.
For me it was nothing special and if my host parents hadn’t told me, it woild have never occured to me that is could bother anyone (usually morning people find not-morning people quite funny).
Now it has become normal and very easy for me to be chatty and joking and happy with the kids in the morning instead of complaining how tired I am.

HRHM January 10, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Our AP does have an expectation (wouldn’t call it a curfew) that she get 7-8 hours of sleep before she has to care for the kids in the morning.

I guess because of what it is, I would never ask/demand that she observe it if she was “working” while we were gone for the week. As TACL says above, if you have things you need done related to the kids, make a list and give it to her. But if she gets it all done in the first day, she’s well within reason to think that she can use the rest of the week as her own.

House sitting and pet sitting are NOT part and parcel of what the State Department lists as AP duties. If you have an AP who is willing to do that for you as a favor and a good flat-mate, then bully for you. But if she wants to spend that week day-tripping and sleeping over with friends, you can’t really make her do it. And really, she would be saving you a boatload of money by covering pet sitting, so maybe offering her a little money may get her to lean in the direction of saying yes.

anonymous January 10, 2013 at 3:25 pm

I suppose one could schedule the AP to be on duty 12.00am-8.00am each day (i.e. to sleep at home) and an hour each day to take in mail, etc. and possibly feed pets. That would cover the 45hour/week issue.

EastCoastHM January 10, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I disagree with some other posters in that I think one can require the AP to sleep at home during the work week (but of course I think that should be disclosed/in a handbook/agreed during matching). I also think that the HP could give the AP 45h of childcare duties, spread over 5.5 days while they are gone and expect that certain things are done on certain days (and not that the AP can just do it all on one day.). Our AP has various kid related chores each week, and she has to do them on specific days – for example, kids laundry on Friday, clean kids rooms on Monday, clean playroom on Tuesday, clean out kid stuff in minvan on Tuesday, wash kids sheets on Thursday, organize closets on Friday etc. — and the AP could not simply do it all on one day/could not do it all on Monday. The job instruction is to do specific things on specific days.

Melissa January 10, 2013 at 8:15 pm

I agree that it makes sense to schedule different childcare related tasks throughout the week during regular workweeks, while the family is home and on everyone’s regular routine. However, even though you ‘can’ also do this while the family is away, I think it would come across as inflexible and likely foster some ill will. Same way as I would see an au pair who drops whatever she is doing at 5pm (or whenever the end of her shift is) and immediately goes to her room or out the door. She ‘can’ do that of course, but it certainly wouldn’t help my opinion of her or willingness to be helpful and flexible with her.

EastCoast HM January 10, 2013 at 8:16 pm

No, I don’t. I think it is the job description for our APs. It is laid out in our handbook. I am the employer and I set, and stick by, the instructions and directions I give by the AP. Some employers want things done a specific way, with specific timing – or “micromanage” as you put it. I am one of them.

As for lasting a month, we’ve had 11 APs and never rematched, so obviously it works for some folks.

German Au-Pair January 11, 2013 at 1:37 am

I have to agree with AAIE for once. I would consider that micromanaging, too and I would feel like being treated like a child.
It would bring me in the situation if seriously considering to lie to the host family even though I don’t want to do that. I am an adult and if I want to postpone everything to the very last day or get everything done on the first, it should be possible for me to do that.

As Melissa has said, just because you technically CAN, doesn’t mean you should. We just had the topic of the au pair watching the HM juggle twins and making dinner in her off time. Even though she is within her rights to do that, the host mum felt resentment.
An au pair is not JUST an employer and therefore micromanaging would show little trust in my judgement and little respect for my needs as a family member.
ESPECIALLY when the underlying reason for the micromanaging is to keep me home to take care of the dog, which is not my job.
I think one can make relationships unnecessary harder by being that inflexible.

Should be working January 11, 2013 at 1:40 pm

East Coast HM: What a great record! Can you describe your screening techniques?

EastCoastHM January 13, 2013 at 6:17 pm

SBW – I would say that my “technique” is probably exactly what some folks here don’t like about what I’ve said. I am very specific, very black and white direct, put everthing in writing, and then stick to the parameters that I communicated directly and in writing.

I know exactly what I want, I am a very specific, organized, precise type person. I hire for a specific, detailed job and I express this very directly to the AP candidates. I tell them exactly what their responsibilities will be, what their schedule will be, what chores will be required daily and weekly(with a weekly calendar designating days for certain chores). I lay it all out in the interviewing process.

In my “day job” I hire many, many people, ALL of whom are non-native English speakers from about 25 different countries in a certain region of the world. A high standard of work is expected in my profession, and thus from the consultants and outside legal counsel I hire from this region. I have found that approaching hiring and working with an AP in the same way works well for us.

And before I am flamed for saying the above, I will say that 9 of our 11 APs were members of the family, joined us for vacations, holidays, spent free time with us. The other two were friendly and joined us upon occasion for dinners etc., but were more independent, largely spending their free time not with our family, but who were happy and pleasant housemates during their off duty time and who joined for kids birthdays or major holidays.

HostMomw/Cute Puppy January 13, 2013 at 4:29 pm

I guess that’s one way of looking at it. But the way we see if we could require her to take her vacation when we take ours but we didn’t because we wanted to allow her the flexibility to travel with her friends. So we’re away but it’s still a paid, working week. AP has already agreed to take care of the dog (and two cats, by the way) the week we’re away. I was asking the question more just out of curiosity as to how others would handle the situation.

TiredMama January 13, 2013 at 5:38 pm

I’m confused. Don’t most families set it up so that the family chooses one week of vacation and the AP chooses when to take her other week?

EastCoastHM January 13, 2013 at 6:08 pm

I don’t know if most families do that? There are not any specific rules in this regard.

We let our AP choose both weeks, with reasonable/significant notice. We can do this because I work from home and can make this work.

Some families tell the AP she must take both weeks a specified times, as in week X and week Y. Still others, like our neighbors, tell their AP that she must take vacation when they take theirs and that they will let her know about any vaction with at least 6 weeks prior notice. (They disclose this when they match, so it isn’t a surprise for their AP that she will be “forced” to take vacation during certain weeks).

Taking a Computer Lunch January 13, 2013 at 11:34 pm

In the past we had a mandatory 4-day off period (with an option to take a 5th day off) when both kids were in sleep-away camp during the same week. However, something happened to child #2 last year so he won’t be returning to that camp, ever.

This year we’re going to let our AP choose – but she has to give me 6 weeks noticed. We’re so short-staffed at work that I’m twinned with other colleagues, and are required to balance our vacation time. The AP is required to take her holidays when the children are in school, unless we’re already taking time off. I warn in advance not to expect to take long weekends in the summer or plan to languish on a beach in July.

HRHM January 14, 2013 at 10:28 am

We don’t give our AP a choice – she has to take her vaca the same weeks we do. She can travel with friends, stay home or go with us as a family member. She knows before she matches which weeks they will be (always one specific week in Sept and one in March). Often there will be additional weeks that we have off that we will give as freebie vaca weeks (I’ve never required my AP to stay home and work just because I was paying, since I figure it’s my choice not to make her come along and work). They know this all prior to matching and if they don’t like it, they don’t have to match. This year, our AP went with us to Disney in Sept, went with us to Sanibel for Christmas (her choice for the freebie week) and will travel with friends in March. She did ask for a week either in Jan or Feb (can’t remember which) instead but I said nope and she said “I thought so but I just thought it couldn’t hurt to ask”

Melissa January 14, 2013 at 10:41 am

We let our APs choose both weeks. But I work from home and have a very flexible work schedule; if I was at my prior job, which had very set hours and limited flexibility, we likely would have had to dictate vacation time to our APs or plan with them very far in advance. Many of our APs have chosen to take several long weekends, rather than one week at a time, which works well for us. I tell them that if they want to take a week or longer, they need to request it at least 6 weeks ahead.

We’ve always taken our APs on vacation with us. We’ve also always required them to work part of the time, so it was never an issue of having to use her vacation time. Having an AP who is willing to go on vacation with us and is both pleasant and helpful (i.e., they help make our vacation more relaxing and enjoyable, not less!) is very important to us and something we talk at length about during matching.

EXAUPAIRCA January 23, 2013 at 5:10 pm

is it ok to ask me as an order or obligation, to take care of the dogs or pets while you are gone? I don’t think so. One thing is if you ask me if I could do it, another thing is make it part of my duties or job, I am au pair to take care of your kids no your pets and if you are gone and you are not taking me in your trip it is not my business. If you want me to take care of the pets while you are gone, ask me nicely as a favor if I can do it, and I probably I will. But Au pairs are not pet sitters and housesitt or petsitt are not part of our jobs. If she does not want to take the 2nd week of vacation and you are not capable or you don;t want to take her in your trip, you need to pay her anyway and you can make her work on child related duties. According to the sleep in the house, if you don;t have a curfew and you never established one, I think is unfair make one only because you will be gone and you need her to take care of the house. I took care of my family pets, I feed them on my workdays at least once per day and I stayed with them while my hm was on vacation, but was not my job, was a favor.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 23, 2013 at 11:02 pm

What I tell my AP, who intends to stay home while we are away. “You have a choice, you can feed and care for X, or I will hire someone else to do it at their convenience.” It usually takes her a minute to realize a stranger could enter the house while she is sleeping in (because we are away) and to decide that she would be better off caring for the pets while we are away. Not necessarily a favor, but an opportunity to have more privacy, more alone time, to control when the pets receive their care.

German Au-Pair January 10, 2013 at 2:14 am

One point that a host family might want to consider is not whether or not it is LEGAL, but what it will do to the relationship.
Some au pairs might feel taken advantage of when their host family simply requires them to take care of the pet.
Doing some kid-related chores is absolutely fine, but TACL made a good point there: what if she feel like doing all those chores in one day and spend the rest of the time away?
Technically it’s probably okay to require her to stay at home at night, as many au pairs have a curfew. However, as TACL mentioned, there is no real reason when the kids are away, right? So requiring her to stay for the pet’s sake could lead to a negative atmosphere -especially, because pet care is not one of the duties of an au pair.

I think it’s reasonable to ask the au pair if she is okay with taking care of the dog while the host family is gone and then requiring her to live up to that promise.
However, simply telling her that it will be her job to be home at certain times because the dog needs to go out, could make her feel resentment. To me it would not be worth creating issues in an otherwise good relationship over this. (And if we want to get REALLY technical here, one could argue that if she has to be home 3 times a day for the dog over 10 days she does not get her 1.5 days off…)

I’d just ask her if she mind being home for the dog because it would save you the trouble of finding a pet sitter. If she agrees, show her that you appreciate her doing that even though it’s not technically her job and everything will be fine.

Melissa January 10, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I think German Au-Pair makes some excellent points. While you could technically make her stay home overnight if she is working and doing child relate tasks, you can’t technically make her care for the pet. If she is willing to help out and watch the dog, in the spirit of being part of the household and family, I wouldn’t jeopardize that by enforcing unnecessary rules around it.

Also, something to think about is how comfortable the AP is with staying home all by herself. If she has a friend who is able to stay with her that is nice, but if not then she may be scared to be all alone at home. Some of our prior au pairs were, and I don’t really blame them.

EastCoastHM January 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Really? APs are adults. I would have no patience whatsoever for an AP who was “scared” to stay home alone! If she can’t be home alone-alone, then she certainly can’t be home alone-with my kids!

Taking a Computer Lunch January 10, 2013 at 4:12 pm

I have neighbors who will not stay in their homes alone. Some adult women feel vulnerable alone in an otherwise empty house. The trick is not to belittle them for their fear, but to figure out what the sleeping arrangement will be while you are gone. Will they invite friends in? Will they sleep over at a friends house? Guidelines need to be established for what is acceptable under both circumstances.

EastCoastHM January 10, 2013 at 4:17 pm

I understand that some women/people might feel that way, but as I said, I would have no patience for that. An AP who felt that way would be the wrong AP for me. I wouldn’t spend any time figuring out the sleeping arrangement – I would simply say deal with it, or rematch.

If a woman is afraid being home alone late in the evening/night, then I wouldn’t consider her mature enough to be home alone with my small children in my house in the evening/night.

Melissa January 10, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Really. My husband travels frequently for work and so I am often home alone overnight with my children. I don’t worry that there are monsters in my closet, but I sometimes sleep a bit lighter and put more exterior lights on. Being home alone is not my preference, but of course I do it and manage it just fine. Just like I don’t like going to the dentist, but I do it.
I’m sure an au pair would likely manage it just fine too, but I was just suggesting that it might be nice to think of her comfort level. Particularly since it is not really the AP’s house, and she is likely not aware of what every noise and creak is (which she might be much more aware of when home alone for a week).
And somehow I do consider myself mature enough to be home alone with my own small children in my house in the evening.

HRHM January 11, 2013 at 9:01 am

My AP was home alone and I found out after the fact that she was scared. I promised that I would never put her in that position again. I am totally comfortable being home alone but I’m 43 and in my own home and my own country. I remember being pretty nervous when DH and I first moved to CO and he had to work overnight, leaving me alone in the house. We got 2 BIG dobes just because of that fear.

There is nothing abnormal about a young woman away from home for the first time not being comfortable all alone in a house at night.

German Au-Pair January 12, 2013 at 1:14 am

I’m super afraid to be home alone but when my host parents travelled over the weekend and left me home alone with the kids (I volunteered for that), I simply had to deal.
Even at my own home I don’t go to the basement at night without a knife. Not because I actually think something is going to happen, but because I do get scared so it’s just a nice way to avoid it.
I have put a knife in my nightstand when I was alone -again, just to make me feel better- and I simply had to get over it.
It was especially creepy because the house is so big and you never know if the cats are making the noise or something else. The ice machine sounds very similar to the garage door…super creepy.
But I do agree with EastCoastHM: I would not take that into account. A grown up could and should certainly be able to get over it.

TiredMama January 13, 2013 at 8:50 pm

We have multiple firearms in our home because of this very reason. I guess I’m not mature enough to have kids, either, because I can feel scared at night in my own home.

EastCoast HM January 13, 2013 at 9:40 pm

My point isn’t about what an AP (or HM) feels; it is that an adult gets over it and deals with it, and not that an AP’s fear of being home alone is something that I have to work around or accommodate.

Melissa January 14, 2013 at 10:56 am

Thank you for your clarification EastCoast HM. Your comment seemed to imply a judgment of a person who feels fearful being home alone and an assumption about how that relates to whether she is capable/mature enough to care for children, rather than simply how she deals with it. So thank you for adding additional thoughts.

I think how a HF chooses, if at all, to accommodate an AP who might be anxious about staying home all alone for an extended period, is up to the HF. My point was that it was something that might be nice to take into account and goes toward showing consideration to your AP.

EastCoastHM January 14, 2013 at 11:55 am

This is OT, but related to TiredMama’s comment above re firearms.

To be clear – I am *NOT* raising the question of whether firearms in the home are good/bad, or any issues regarding gun control. That is clearly an issue outside the remit of this forum.

Rather, my question is whether HP who have firearms in the home disclose this to their (potential) APs? Do you tell the AP that you have guns in your home? Do you tell them where you keep them? Do you teach them (assuming they do not already know how) how to safely handle the gun(s)? (in this regard I have in mind a situation where a child finds the gun or otherwise gains access to it, do you teach the AP how to safely take it away/put it away/unload the gun?) Do you tell them at the time of matching? After? Never?

Full disclosure – I am not a gun owner, we do not have any firearms in the home and I grew up in a country where there is strict gun control such that private ownership of firearms is essentially prohibited in all circumstances. Thus, I am not familiar with or comfortable with guns. I ask the above question because I know that *I* would not be comfortable living in a home with guns, no matter how/where they were kept. I could imagine that some? many? APs might feel the same way, bc they similarly grew up in countries like mine, that have strict gun control (I am just making a statistical assumption, given the countries APs come from and how the US is quite different from Europe or South America re gun laws/ownership). Thus I am wondering how HP who have guns address this issue (if at all) with their APs.

EXAUPAIRCA January 23, 2013 at 5:14 pm

It can be scared, it is ok to be. The place where I used to live with my host family it is close to a bad bad city and the crime rate is suuuuper high. You can check that on line. Besides that, I had an incident with a man on the backyard door, ready to come into the house. So, yes you can be scared, it is ok.

Anna January 10, 2013 at 6:56 am

I don’t think you can call this house-sitting.

She is not taking vacation, you are paying her for this week, and she lives in your home for the year – your home is her home now. This is just responsibly staying alone in the house while you are gone, and having much more free time in her working week than she would ever have.

So this is part and parcel of just living in your home when you are gone.

When I just saw the title of the post I thought it may be “illegal” i.e. outside au pair’s responsibilites, but I think it is part and parcel of a match. She came to a house with a pet, willingly, too.

Any January 10, 2013 at 11:28 am

Stay in house is at least OK.

LuvCheetos January 10, 2013 at 5:46 pm

We had an AP last year who agreed to watch our dogs while we went on a 5 day vacation. We were going to give her what we woul dhave paid a pet sittter as a thank you. She changed her mind at the last minute (like less than a week before) and we were stuck scrambling for a dog sitter. Luckily, we found one.

So it turned out that the AP was at home with the dogs and the dog sitter came in 3 times a day. The dog sitter earned about $300, AP earned just her regular salary instead of earning the extra $300, but that’s her choice.

I don’t think you can “make” the AP take care of the dog. It’s not a child, it’s a dog and that doesn’t fall under State Dept. regs. If she’s nice and she wants to, that’s great.

I didn’t care that our AP didn’t want to take care of our dogs as that’s her choice. I did care that she said yes and waited a long time to change her mind, which caused a lot of extra work for us to find someone that was still available at the last minute. I think she was upset with us for not taking her on the trip, so she didn’t feel bad inconveniencing us. I didn’t feel bad not taking her on the trip because she was Debbie Downer and we wanted to spend time together as a family and not be weighed down by her sour mood.

We’re going on the trip agian this year and taking the AP (because she’s positive and a joy to be around and we think she’ll have a blast), so we’ll get a dog sitter again.

Posie January 11, 2013 at 1:52 am

I think it depends a lot on how high-maintainance the pet is…but unless its pretty intensely high-maintainance I consider it “part of the family” to house/pet sit during paid weeks. We’ve only ever done this for long weekends and only have 2 cats…but we left the AP lots of extra food and goodies, encouraged her to have a friend over, and gave her a little extra spending money while we were away (as a thank you…)

Honestly, if I ever had an AP balk at this, at least in our situation, I think I’d have a serious problem with that attitude….

Host Mom in the City January 11, 2013 at 10:37 am

I’ll admit that I’m not a pet person at all, so maybe that’s where my feelings on this come from. But I would be totally uncomfortable asking my AP to pet sit our house sit while I was away. I would be comfortable asking her to tell me if she was spending the night away so I could ask another neighbor to watch the house and pick up the paper, I would be comfortable asking my au pair to generally keep an eye on things if she was going to be home, and I would be comfortable asking her to let me know if she was having friends over (we’re a family with a fairly open-door friend policy) and reminding her that any underage drinking would be unacceptable (not that I’d have to remind her – she’s super responsible).

I would not feel comfortable requiring her to be home or telling her she can’t have any guests or requiring her to do any kind of pet-sitting. I think au pair duties need to be kept to kid-related things with other household duties only as relates to the au pair herself (so I cook her dinner, she helps clean up; she has friends over in the basement, she vacuums down there, etc). Asking her to take care of the pet for a week seems to me like taking advantage. It’s totally unrelated to her duties, does not benefit her at all, she would feel uncomfortable saying no. Really I would think people only ask this because it is easier and cheaper for the host family, but I kind of feel like if you have a dog, you need to arrange and pay for care for it while you’re gone. This is one of the many reasons we don’t have a dog :)

Host Mom in the City January 11, 2013 at 10:45 am

It sounds like a lot of people think asking her to take care of the dog would fall under “normal household duties” but I disagree that “normal duties” for an au pair includes anything that comes with living in the house. I get that it stinks to pay someone for a week you’re not using for childcare, but I don’t think you can then make up other stuff for those hours that week. Like I wouldn’t ask my au pair to clean the house that week with her hours. Sure, she could accomplish lots in her 45 hours that week – my house would be sparkling clean for once! And she does live in the house, so doing a thorough cleaning would be something that someone living in a house would normally do, right? And then I wouldn’t have to pay my housekeeper for the week (not that I have one…!). But no, obviously you wouldn’t ask your au pair to do this just because you didn’t need her for the kids that week. I don’t see the difference between asking her to clean your whole house and asking her to take care of a dog. It feels like taking advantage to me.

Julie January 11, 2013 at 1:32 pm

An au pair is permitted to share in the responsibility of a dog (as they can share in adult responsibilities of the house), but they cannot have full responsibility ALL the time–walking a dog each day should never be a requirement of an au pair, but if they like to, that’s a different story. I think each family is different on this one. Our au pair has stayed with our dog before for only a few days–but we’ve asked her to do it. We never tell her to. She’s gets a lot more paid vacation than most other au pairs, so we all are okay with the situation. I do know of families where they ask the au pair to stay with the pets for a long time and I think that’s unfair.

Keep in mind that the State Department also requires that an au pair not get paid extra to do extra tasks for the family. You can give a gift card or do something special for them, but you can’t pay them extra to do extra tasks for you.

Host Mom in the City January 11, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Completely agree that if you have an au pair who you know really and truly WANTS to take care of your dog, then sure, go ahead if it works for everyone.

But I feel like even asking is inappropriate. A lot of people would say yes even if they really didn’t want to – when you’re an employer, it’s never just “asking” your employee to do something. Even if you truly mean just to ask and would truly be fine if the answer is no, many au pairs would say yes just because they think it’s expected or they want to be nice or they don’t know how to say no or whatever. Even asking puts them in a tough place.

Again, I don’t know your family obviously, so what works for you might be totally fine. But my general opinion is that it’s not appropriate even to ask your au pair to pet sit for a longer-term period, especially if you’re not 100% sure she is the type of person that would happily say no even if she technically was able.

I also don’t think it’s appropriate to use this kind of thing as justification: “She’s gets a lot more paid vacation than most other au pairs, so we all are okay with the situation.” Again, it sounds like it’s working for your family and that, as you said, you are “all” ok with it and I’ll take you at your word.

But again generally, I don’t think choosing to offer extra benefits means you can then justify asking for things that aren’t allowed or aren’t appropriate (again, not that you necessarily are here – obviously there are differing opinions about pet sitting). Even if your au pair is getting paid more or getting extra vacation or your just extra nice to her, it still means that asking her to do something that is beyond her job is inappropriate.

It also assumes that your au pair takes as much value out of the extra benefit as you think she should. For example, maybe a host mom feels like since she gives extra vacation each year, that she’s justified in asking her au pair to dog and house sit for a few long weekends a year or something. What if the au pair would prefer not to dog and house sit so much that she would rather not have the extra vacation? I think it starts down a slippery slope. The rules are the rules regardless of how well you treat your au pair.

Julie January 11, 2013 at 5:10 pm

I would agree with many of your points. Our agency has confirmed it’s okay to share in the responsibility with the au pair, including on short vacations if the au pair will stay home. I think it’s tricky–a dog is a lot of work! I am an LCC as well and had an au pair from another agency call me because she was taking care of the family’s dog while they were gone for 5 days. The dog had pooped on the floor and was very anxious. The host parents were upset with her because the dog didn’t poop on the floor when the family was around. Many animals react poorly when their families are not there. A host family must understand that it can be tough for the au pair and it can be a lot of work.

Like everything, while keeping within the rules (and I am a stickler for the rules), I think it all comes down to the relationship you have and the communication you have between you. A host family should never say “we are going away and you are expected to stay here and take care of the dog.” I know it happens, but I would never support that for a family I’m working with and would recommend to an au pair that they not do it either.

German Au-Pair January 12, 2013 at 1:24 am

When my HF went away they asked me what my plans for this week were (it was an extra oaid vacation because I couldn’t tag along). They asked me if I wanted to go away and if I would be in the house. They would have gotten a house sitter for the house and the pets, but I said I will be staying. Only then did they ask me if I could take care of the home business -mail, paper, packages, plants, pet care.
If you ask that way you give your au pair the chance to say she doesn’t want to without putting her in the position of having to say no.
Another option would be to say “Hey, if we ever go on vacation without you, you can choose if you want to take care of the pets and make some extra cash or not” in no direct realtion to an actual vacation. Maybe in the handbook or just a talk much earlier than the plannes vacation. That way there is no pressure for her and she can make a decision in advance.

EXAUPAIRCA January 23, 2013 at 5:23 pm

i think you are right, if she offers is different, or asked nicely if she could as a favor or for extra pay.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 11, 2013 at 9:01 pm

While we always invite our au pair to join us on family trips, there are times when they decline – we’re visiting family without sufficient spare bedrooms, it’s the kid’s Spring Break but they have a midterm, or they want to travel somewhere else with friends. We sit down and come up with a mutually agreeable plan. Since we don’t ask our APs to work on most of the federal holidays, we don’t hold it against them when they choose not to travel with us for a short weekend. If they have a midterm or their instructor says no to a couple of days off from their required class, then we don’t hold it against them when they don’t join us for a week with family (but we do ask them to do kid-related work – they choose the schedule and if they complete it one day, then fine). If the AP is headed in another direction, then it’s her vacation, and clear cut.

When the AP stays home we ask if they intend to stay the entire week. Some equivocate, and we say we will get in a pet sitter who will come and go at her or his convenience, or if they prefer to have complete privacy, they can assume the task of pet sitting. Most choose the latter, but some choose a mixed week and others don’t mind the pet sitter and don’t want the responsibility. I don’t feel that I could force an AP to house sit just because she chooses — or cannot — join us. I would feel guilty those few times we have been in a position where we could not invite the AP to join us about forcing her to stay at home and care for our pets.

For my money, we’re in a power relationship. Most APs, if asked if they could stay home and care for pets would say yes because they didn’t feel they could say no. Personally, I would find it difficult to care for a dog by myself for a week – you’re not on for a mere 45 hours – you’re forced to come and go to follow the dog’s schedule (and pay the price if you don’t). It may not add up to 45 hours of physical care for an animal, but by following the animal’s schedule, it’s not free time either.

sweet au pair January 20, 2013 at 10:48 pm

well, I once had a similar situation but HF and I agreed nicely, so it was not a big deal. I personally love dogs and since I am a little girl I have always have one, so I always volunteer to feed her, walk her and take care of her as the 4th child she is to the family :).

They have NEVER seriously, NEVER asked me to do something related to the dog, I just do it because I feel like and it does not take my free time. So one day they needed to go out of town and they could not taken me with them so they asked me if I could be with the dog they also told if you don’t want to, we send her to a pet sitter. I was fine to be with the dog, she keeps me company and HF saves money, so it works great for both sides. They also know I am a chicken when it comes to stay home alone at night and that I am afraid of darkness, so they suggested me to have a friend staying with me…I accepted, we ordered some pizza and my HD got us beers haha, so basically all the fun we had was my HF’S idea. They even told me to feel free to go out anytime and even stay at my friend’s place but I chose to stay home.

So my point is every HF and every AP are different even if the job consist on doing the same things, but if you need your AP to do something that you may feel that is out of her responsibilities, you need to talk to her and discuss the situation with open comunication and flexibility so It does not turn into an imposition, misunderstood or even worst troubles. Good luck..

EXAUPAIRCA January 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm

is it ok to ask me as an order or obligation, to take care of the dogs or pets while you are gone? I don’t think so. One thing is if you ask me if I could do it, another thing is make it part of my duties or job, I am au pair to take care of your kids no your pets and if you are gone and you are not taking me in your trip or for a besed circumstance I can not go (like classes or tests) it is not my business. If you want me to take care of the pets while you are gone, you need to ask me nicely as a favor if I can do it, and I probably I will. But Au pairs are not pet sitters and housesitt or petsitt are not part of our jobs. If she does not want to take the 2nd week of vacation and you are not capable or you don;t want to take her in your trip, you need to pay her anyway and you can make her work on child related duties. According to the sleep in the house, if you don;t have a curfew and you never established one, I think is unfair make one only because you will be gone and you need her to take care of the house and in the case that your curfew is be at home x hours before work time, you can not expect her to be there the days that she is off or she will be next day. I took care of my family pets, I feed them on my workdays at least once per day and I stayed with them while my hm was on vacation, but was not my job, was a favor.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 23, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Again, as I commented elsewhere, I make it a choice, “Either you may take care of the pets, or I will hire someone else to come in at their convenience.” If my AP relishes her privacy and her position as member of the household, then she will care for them. If not, she might find herself awakened at the crack of dawn by someone else caring for the pets at their convenience. Either way, I offer her first crack at the task and don’t hold it against her if she says no (I also don’t sympathize when she complains).

That being said, almost all of my APs have preferred to care for our pets on their schedule…

Not a favor, not a job, but mutually convenient…

Former Au Pair February 5, 2013 at 9:12 pm

During the two years I was Au Pair for the same HF, they planned always the vacation in advance, I was invited to go with them in couple times, which made me feel so welcomed. For the week of July 4, I stayed at home because I still was going to school to the finals and could not miss my tests. They had a cat, but they always had the pet sitter who would come daily to check on him. The next time when they left for another week, I told them I could watch their cat (again, because of classes I couldn’t go), but HM said that I should not worry about it because they had already their pet sitter. It doesn’t mean that I did not pay attention to the things around the house, because one of those days the cat accidentally spread the water of his plate and it was a mess. Yes, I cleaned but never told the family. It happens! Also, if they would leave on vacation, they always would asked me if I had plans to come with them or to travel by myself. They never expected I would be at home while they were away on vacation.

Momma Gadget February 6, 2013 at 11:30 am

We would never expect our au pair to alter his plans to take care of the dog if he were not coming with us on vacation.But if he were staying home, I would ask that he take care of the dog while we are away. I would of course give him a thank you bonus- train tickets into the city, Starbucks card.. etc.
I also need to point out that our dog is very well trained ( a novelty for us!) and easy to take care of. For dog loving APs it has truly been no big deal to pet sit for her if we have gone away and not brought the pup and AP with us. I would feel differently if I had an unruly,sick or high maintenance pet.

We are a family of animal enthusiasts, and will never (again) match with an au pair who doesn’t truly love animals, had pets in their own home and understand how important these selfless, devoted, four legged friends are to a family.
We had an AP who claimed to like animals, but in truth only liked them from a distance. Our dog suddenly became sick within a week of her arrival. We spent over 800$ in tests to find our what was wrong. Miraculously, all the dogs symptoms disappeared with this AP’s departure. It was determined that the cause was stress.
Our current AP misses his dogs at home and really enjoys ours. He enjoys taking her with him on his hikes at the park and likes her keeping his feet warm while he skypes with family & friends when the HCs are in school.

Ruth May 1, 2013 at 6:44 pm

We are encountering this for the first time since we have a quick 3 days trip we need to take. We asked our Au Pair if she will be staying home or be traveling during that time, but we understood we booked our trip quickly for a family event. She wants to stay home and now I can’t remember if she offered to watch our dog or if it was implied she would since she was home. As others have stated, our dog is VERY low maintenance and easy to care for – just place food and water out, make sure he’s been outside, but can wait until late morning, if need be, etc. That’s it. He would love to be walked and our Au Pair graciously offers during her off time b/c he’s so good, but we don’t require it while we’re away – he has full reign of the house.

I would like to know more so how much you leave your Au Pair if you’re not around to make dinner for them since we do make dinner every night and our Au Pair joins us. Granted, we always have lots of food in the house, but we provide her with her own credit card and I know she will probably go to the store and I want to know what is a reasonable amount I should let her know is okay to spend above the basic grocery items for 3 days. We are first time host parents and this is our first out of town excursion while leaving the Au Pair at home. She is quite a homebody, so I think she’s looking forward to just cruising throughout the house on her own, coming and going.

Host Mom in the City May 1, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Hi Ruth – I can say what our experience has been. I also cook dinner every night and we have lots of ingredients in the house always. If we were only leaving for 3 days, I would ask my au pair if she needed any groceries before we left, but I wouldn’t leave her any extra money as long as there was the typical food in the house that she could cook with. If we were leaving for a week or more, I would probably give her money to buy basic groceries. But I would expect that she can eat just like we would if we were home, except that she would have to do the cooking instead of me! If she ended up wanting to eat out all weekend instead of cook with the food I left in the house, then that’s on her IMO.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 2, 2013 at 7:14 am

Agreed. Our APs tend to want the same items week after week all year, so it has been pretty easy over the years to stock up on items that they enjoyed eating and to leave with a good conscience. If we’re gone for a long weekend, we’ll often leave $20 (in addition to the stocked house) and ask for a receipt and change. Occasionally, when we don’t have time to go shopping first, we leave $40 and tell her to buy her own special groceries for the following week as well (and if she blows the money on restaurant food and pizza for friends, then she’ll eat what we eat the following week).

Should be working May 2, 2013 at 1:48 pm

I would leave her gift cards or appreciation for taking care of the dog, since indeed it isn’t her job but it’s nice for her to help out.

I would also leave her some money for fresh fruit, vegs, and other fresh stuff (chicken, e.g.), if you normally have fresh stuff around.

Host Mom in the City May 2, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Oh I missed the dog watching thing. My comment above was just about food for the weekend. We don’t have a dog.

HRHM May 2, 2013 at 2:51 pm

I too would make sure the usual groceries were present in the house (we always have pasta, bag salad, fresh fruit, frozen shrimp and burgers, soups etc in the house) and then it’s up to her if she cooks for herself, pays on her own to eat out, or lives on cereal and microwave popcorn for three days (that’s what I’d do if I was home alone!LOL)

regarding the dog – I would first ascertain that she actually eagerly agreed to do it, not that she didn’t say no outright so you assumed it’d be ok. Then I would insist on giving her a little something as a thank you. Most appropriate would be a gift card or cash at or near the amount she is saving you by not having to hire a dog sitter or board the dog. I can’t say how much that is because it does vary so much by location, but if you don’t know from previous experience, call and get a quote. It’s only right, even if it’s an easy job since she’s saving you both the expense and the hassle. Plus, she may be inclined to be more attentive if she feels like she’s being compensated to do the job.

CA Host Mom May 1, 2013 at 11:22 pm

I agree – we have plenty of food in the house that our AP could cook if we left for a 3 day trip. I wouldn’t leave extra money in your case. I’d check in to see if there is anything that she needs, and pick those things up for her (or tell her that she can – if that’s your arrangement). And absolutely if she decides to eat out all weekend, I am with HMitC, that’s on her.

MidAtlantic Host Family May 13, 2013 at 10:41 am

We, like others, went away and did not expect our au pair to use her vacation time then but asked her to let the dog out and make sure there is food in the dog’s bowl while we were gone – no dog walking. We did not ask for any other household duties. We were told afterwards by our LCC that you cannot expect an au pair to do this and apparently our au pair had complained to the LCC about it because it limited her options to travel.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 13, 2013 at 1:15 pm

It sounds like you have some communication problems – and it’s a familiar one. The lack of communication about expectations between HF and APs when APs do not take vacation time and the HF departs creates problems and hurt feelings.

My recommendation, in the future, is when HFs depart and the AP does not wish to join them or use her vacation time, is to give her chores (not my idea, that of another HF here), like thoroughly cleaning and organizing the play room (putting toys back together and finding lost parts is a great help!); thoroughly cleaning the children’s rooms and tidying up their closets and dressers.

Secondly, I tell my APs if they do not wish to feed the pets, that I will make other arrangements. I do tell them that if I hire a petsitter they will not call first to make sure it’s okay to come over and they will not work around the APs intentions to entertain at home. Usually, when the AP considers the fact that one of my neighbors will be entering the house any time of the day, they’d rather have the privacy and agree to the pet sitting. I do tell them that I understand that they may want to change their plans, and that I need advance notice to find a pet-sitter.

The other is to sit down and discuss explicitly her plans while you’re away. She may get the idea that she has a bonus of vacation, while you have another idea. Make sure that you have communicated expectations before you roll away from the driveway.

It sounds like your AP thought she’d have a bonus holiday without being charged for vacation time and complained to the LCC. I have learned over time that it’s better to be up front about expectations.

MidAtlantic Host Family May 13, 2013 at 1:36 pm

We were up front and she agreed on the plan but said something afterwards. She used some of her vacation days for part of the time during which a neighbor took care of the dog. We thought/discussed she would prefer it over a neighbor coming in the house on their schedule for privacy reasons, which we discussed. Next time we are asking a neighbor to avoid looking like the bad guys afterwards – especially when we thought it was a pretty good result providing her some real down time.

We would have never thought to assign the other household chores but will discuss it next time.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 13, 2013 at 8:32 pm

I hadn’t either before another HM posted it here. It was a brilliant solution. I try not to assign so much work that the AP can’t get it done in a few hours (keeping in mind that it is likely to take her twice as long as I). For example, if she’s hanging out at home for a week I assign what I think will take her 10 hours (so some work so I feel like it’s not just another vacation week for her, without giving her so much that it’s a real drag).

Since learning about it, one AP embraced it while the other said she would prefer to take vacation time.

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