Can you say “exploited” in French? Au Pair asks what to do

by cv harquail on June 8, 2010

Dear Au Pair Moms & Readers,

I need serious advice and thought you would give me great advice as I love your blog! I’m 21 and am working in France as an Au Pair. I arrived last Wednesday (a week ago tomorrow) and have enjoyed it so far as I love the family and feel really welcome, but there is something that I don’t know how to handle at the moment.

Firstly, and most importantly, I feel like I’m being taken advantage of in a way.

I was told I would work 7.30am-5pm Monday to Friday- which is already a lot (just over 52 hours a week). The host father arrives back from work at 4.30pm and I expected at 5 he would take over taking care of the kids. However, he just sits in the garden smoking and talking on the phone, leaving me to look after their hyperactive 5 year old daughter and their 10month old daughter until 7.30-8pm when the host mother arrives home from work again (however, the 5year old is in school from 9-12, then I pick her up for lunch and she returns 1.30-4.30 so it’s not too busy in the day).

This has resulted in me so far having 12+hour days EVERYDAY. I get really tired and have no time to do other things I’d like to do such as explore the village, read, or even Skype my family and friends back home. As by the time 10-11pm comes and I have dinner (they eat really late) I’m almost ready to pass out and fall asleep almost straight away knowing that I have to get up at 6.45 again the next day to do another 12hr+shift!

201006081321.jpgI spoke to my brother yesterday and he said that as soon as my shift is up, I should tell the father that I am going into town. It’s a good idea but I can’t drive and they live in a tiny village with no shops or commerce or even buses, and the nearest town is 18km away!!! They had told me they lived in a village but I didn’t expect it to be this small!

The thing is I feel bad to just sit in my room and read as the 5 year old always comes and knocks on my door asking me to play– she really likes me and has taken to me really quickly despite the fact that my french isn’t great. Also I can hear the baby crying and I find it hard to ignore her or to tell the 5year old to play alone! And then even when the mother comes home, I feel bad to stop helping as she’s so tired after work and although she’ll take charge of the baby, that still leaves the 5year old in need of someone to play with. She has become my shadow, and although it’s nice to know that she likes me, it means I get no time to myself. Also the room is barely private as the door doesn’t shut properly and the 5 year old comes in as she pleases.

I really don’t know what to do as I want to help the family out as they’ve been so hospitable. I genuinely want a break from looking after kids all day. But it’s difficult to just sit in my room because 1) it seems rude, and 2) the 5year old always disturbs me anyway. As I can’t get out of the village without asking them for a lift, I have to stay in the house and if I stay in the house, not helping out doesn’t seem too nice. However, what I do now will set a pattern for the rest of my stay so it is important that I clear things up now. I even was working on Saturday even though it was my day off- the host mother needed to pop out for a while and asked if I could watch the kids but she didnt come back for 2hours and even when she returned she was very busy so I ended up braiding the 5year olds hair, playing with her and watching the baby!!

Have you got any advice on what I should do? Do you want more background info? I’m a student from England; I learnt french at school though I don’t speak it too well but it has already improved a lot from spending a week in france and I can communicate with the family; I am here for 3 months for the summer; I am being paid 300euros per month; I get on with the family really well and I know they really like me (I went to a family function on Sunday with them and I heard the host mother telling someone that she likes me a lot because I make and effort and have a great personality).

Any advice or ideas for me? Thank you!

Photo: dejeuner en la terrasse from globevisions

{ 46 comments }

J June 8, 2010 at 2:08 pm

This site is amazing! I have asked for advice before, so believe me…
It helps! I was in a very similar experience as you…
and if you don’t feel things changing…don’t stay if you think is going to compromise your experience as well… I’m not telling you to be radical, but as you said if they get used to one thing and you see that this is not what you’re expecting, is going to be very hard after to set the records right! As au pair we tend to stick together, but if the family have different plans for you, ask them to tell you in advance, because you need to be prepared too. Make appointments and find a friend close to your house, so you can socialize and practice french

Ife June 8, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Hi there, you need to sit down and have a good conversation with them. I suggest that you start with when the dad gets home you give him a summary of how the day went. Do this about 30mins after he has arrived and ask if there is anything else that needs doing then say, ok well ‘je vais me reposer’ (I’m just going to relax now.)

Where in France are you? I am an aupair in Lyon and have had a really good time but find that if you do not address the issue straight on it will only get worse. People will take advantage if you let them so don’t.

Do you close the door when you do not want to be disturbed?
Do you have access to a bike so that you can go into town (all French people ride so it should be ok)

They do eat really late here and although you are not ‘working’ I find that when we eat at 9pm I am still on duty and do not have time to talk to friends and family or just relax.

Sorry to say but 5.30 is definitely not a realistic time that they have given you as you are normally expected to eat with the family. Bring this up and ask if they mind if you eat with the children a bit earlier (some families let the children eat earlier, most likely will be 8pm).

Do you have a schedule, if kindly ask for one or draw one up together.

Count your lucky stars that you do not have the intercom in your room as I do. If you ever get time to yourself read my blog (aupairmonologues.blogspot.com) being an aupair can be great but you have to address the issues now.

Good luck

Nikola June 30, 2010 at 12:42 pm

HEY!
Omg i am an aupair in lyon too …well its charbonnieres les bains but its like 10 minutes with the train

do you want to maybe meet up because i have the exact same problem like you
ive only been here for two days but i just cant take it ! i literally have to take care of the kids morning until evening and even when the parents are here i still have to take care of them
reply back asap :) i really need to talk to soemone english-speaking….ive had way too much french !!! lol
xoxox

Niki

Calif Mom June 8, 2010 at 2:26 pm

You sound very very sweet. Of *course* they are thrilled with your willingness and attitude!

Being an au pair is going to be a year of growth, right? Well….here’s lesson one. Sorry it has come so soon! You need to set some boundaries.

The little girls need to respect your privacy.
The door to your room needs to have an actual latch that works.
You need to be “off the clock” when Dad comes home. The children have survived this long without you, right? If he is out chatting instead of supervising, you might consider sending the kids out onto the patio.

Really? There is no bus, no store to go to? Nothing at all? Wow, that sounds super remote. I’m not sure I could deal with that…are there any other au pairs around that you have heard of? Maybe the family can loan you a bike? Still, that sounds like not a great solution. Unless you can get some space so you can de-isolate yourself with Skype and find some friends quickly, this is going to be a long year.

In the short term, what about suddenly having a compelling need to go for exercise walks right when the Dad comes home each day? At least until this habit is broken.

Did they have an au pair or babysitter before? Can you ask to talk to them? (risky strategy, I know, but I’m trying to find any kind of hope for you here…)

You do need to have a conversation with them. You are absolutely correct that how things settle out now is how they will continue, with a little ebbing and flowing over time as you meet new friends, etc. That part concerns me, because I think at least in the States, it’s really helpful for au pairs to meet other au pairs or local 20 year olds to hang out with and explore life. It makes the childcare aspects a lot easier to deal with.

At least you are having no problems with the children; but it would be an easier decision if you were, wouldn’t it?….

franzi June 8, 2010 at 2:53 pm

you need to address these issues with them. the fact that you’re there for a week now is a good starting point to sit down and talk about basically everything – kids, schedule, how to get to town etc.

write down the vocab you would need for this conversation so that you can get your point across.

you are doing way too much work! with a schedule like this you will not be able to function very much longer. they will probably say that you have off/less work during the day when the 5yo is in school. however, i assume they want you to do some housework as well so really, you are not off.

tell them that you feel comfortable with them, bonded with the kids, but that you wish that the family would stick to the schedule more. if it says 7:30-5 it should be 5 and not 8 or 9 or even later. yes, you are flexible and willing to help out, but there is a limit to everything.
how many hours of work does your contract state?

is there a way you can get a bike and just bike around (thus being out of the house by 5)? are there any au pairs in your neighborhood/next village? did you try to connect with other youth in town?

i think it’s important that you speak up now. otherwise they will not change their way of going about you working for them.

oh, and the late dinner is very french. maybe you can address that as well and say that you would prefer to eat a little earlier yourself and then just join them for the first course maybe. you know, be social, interact with them, but get the rest you need.

CS Nanny June 8, 2010 at 2:55 pm

I faced this same problem with my host family when I was an AP in Europe. One of the bad things about APing in Europe is the agencies are ZERO help when it comes to inforcing the regulations and county’s laws. It is going to be a miserable summer if you do not stand up for yourself now. If you have a contract, you need to bring it to them and show them the hours you agreed to work. Don’t feel bad about this. They knew what they agreed to upon accepting you into their family. As far as the 5 year old, and your privacy, you need to gently, but firmly tell her to go find her parents. I know it seems mean, but if not, then you do not get the down time that you deserve. I had to do this with the little 6 year old girl I had, and I felt bad, but she was not my child, and I didn’t agree to entertain her while her parents were home. And do not feel bad about not helping out. As my employer told me a couple of weeks ago, when I try to help when they are home, it underminds their authority as parents and ultimately shows that mommy needs help from the nanny, and cannot handle problems herself. As soon as you are off, tell the little girl you are leaving so that she doesn’t feel like you just up and left, and then go for a walk. It’s a great way to clear your head, and it forces the parents to care for their children as you are not there. Good luck. I loved living in Europe, but it was very difficult being an AP there at times because I found that most countries took advantage of their AP’s because of the lack of consequence from the agencies.

Sephanie June 29, 2010 at 5:44 am

Hi.
I do not agree with the fact that agencies are zero help.
I went to my host family with the Almondbury Aupair Agency ( http://www.aupair-agency.com ) and they really helped me when I needed. They are really great and if I leave again in September, I’ll go with tem.

That is for those kind of problems that you need to go with an agency.

Stephanie.

CS Nanny June 29, 2010 at 8:29 am

They are not a reconized agency in Switzerland, Stephanie. So that doesn’t really help. Thanks though.

Anon Nanny June 8, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Hey, I know the feeling! you love your HF and the kids so don’t want to disappoint, and it can be hard to state what you want when they’re being hospitable. As I always say, the relationship as servant and family member is a strange one!

if you don’t feel comfortable just saying it, make sure you’re ready to leave as soon as 5 o’clock ticks round and go somewhere. it doesn’t matter where. do this for a week and they’ll get the message or ask you about it and then they’ve brought it up and not you.

I would check about your pay. I don’t think that’s enough. not for the hours you do. greataupair.com has advice about legalities and so forth.

definitely ask for a bike! mobilisation is a win. tricky living in a tiny village! try to find a community newspaper or anything to see if you can meet some people or do something. Or you WILL go crazy. I’ve lived in the same town for 3 years, and never met anyone here (can’t follow my own advice…) but do have friends in other towns who I see regularly. on weeks when I don’t see anyone, I go nuts.

If all else fails – talk to the parents frankly and tell them that you’re feeling burnt out already.

:)

Nicola aupair June 8, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Oh dear. You simply cannot continue like this :(. Not only is it unfair to you, you might actually end up very sick from such long hours. Keep in mind that families in Europe struggle to find aupairs. This means you can put your foot down and set boundaries without having to worry about them kicking you out. They might even respect you more for it.

This is the legal limit in France: up to 5 hours per day and not more than 30 hours per week
The working hours should be arranged in a way that allows the au pair to take part in his/her language course.

I seriously suggest that you remind them of that. To be honest I am disgusted that they would treat you like that. It’s shameful, lazy and rude. You need to stand up for yourself, right now. If they don’t listen to you, stop working after 5 hours every day. I am serious about this- go into your room, close the door, and if the 5 year old comes in, just say “I can’t play with you right now, I’m busy.” She might be disappointed but I’m telling you right now that she doesn’t love you yet, she views you as another “toy” and you have to stop that perception otherwise there will be no real relationship.

Please, please, please, stick up for yourself. I didn’t and I regret it. You don’t deserve any of this crap.

cv harquail June 8, 2010 at 4:01 pm

It’s really only 5 hours in France! That makes whole thing even worse, and it was already bad!

i was waiting to chime in with an action step, but here it is,
In addition to having the talk as recommended, at the end of the day–

Leave the house.

Take a book or cell phone, go for a walk, sit in a field, just be GONE physically for at least 45 minutes. Nothing speaks louder than actions, and leaving the hose, even for a short time, makes it impossible for anyone to expect you to work. (The host mom did it, and you can too).

Noga September 14, 2010 at 1:25 pm

@cv harquail

There is an European Aupair Agreement which says that the weekly time on duty for aupairs is thirty hours. Many French families tend to have “summer holiday aupairs” for three month which they take to their summer residence in rural parts of the country with no public transportation. As long as they are there, they exspect their aupairs to work much longer than the contract is. As soon as they are back in Paris or whereever it works about the 30 hours.

Pia Aupair June 8, 2010 at 4:03 pm

are you sure the max is 5hours a day?
that would me no parent could work full time.

even though that would be the only way that a pay of 300euro per month seems reasonable.

CS Nanny June 8, 2010 at 4:09 pm

In Switzerland, an AP cannot “legally” work more than 6 hours a day, 30 hours a week. And if the AP is younger than 22, a parent (generally the mom) must be in the home at least half the time. You have to understand that in most Western European countries, women generally do not work full-time. In Switzerland, it is very common for stay at home moms to have an AP just so they can go shopping, etc. The entire system is very different, and worse in some ways, than the AP system in the U.S. At least here, the AP has somewhere she can complain to regarding hours, pay, etc. There were many AP’s, myself included, being worked 1.5-2x more than what we were supposed to be. We tried complaining to the agencies, but they basically told us to make it work or go back home. The parents pay huge fees, as they do here, and so it is not in the agencies interest to lose families. That is partly why I wanted to write a book. In some cases, and I am not saying this is true of any parents here, but it can be considered akin to modern day slavery. Foreign girls are brought over to do the housekeeping and child minding for much longer hours than are allowed, and there is really no one to help them if their are problems. I was paid the equivalent of $800 a month for up to 60 hours a week of childcare. In the U.S., where you can work up to 45, this may not sound too bad. But in a country where you are legally not supposed to work more than 30, it can be a very hard life. I had friends who were told to scrub the floors with brushes, iron thongs, etc. And trust me, this is no exaggeration.

Nicola aupair June 8, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Yup, completely agree. I too have to iron everything… including tea-towels and napkins. Think I already mentioned that I sleep on the couch in the kid’s playroom… just adding my own experiences there.

Here’s a link to all the different working hours of each country http://www.aupair-world.net/index.php/au_pair/working_hours/

Previous Au Pair June 13, 2010 at 3:41 am

I’d be glad to read that
oh do I have horror stories..
the main thing is you have to stick up for yourself
cuz no one else is going to do it for you
arrange a talk with the parents
dont brush around the subject
it doesnt work and can become hurtful and confusing for both you and the host family
and if they are as nice as you say they are then thats great and im sure they will listen to where you are coming from
however if they are disregarding your opinion of the situation and not even considering it.. then you have to ask yourself do you really want to stay with a family who doesnt really listen to you for the next 12 months?

Aupairgal June 8, 2010 at 6:36 pm

The idea of an aupair as being a cultural exchange is taken a bit more seriously in Europe rather than cheap labour. Most countries put such laws in place to encourage this. This also gives you time to realistically take a language course and experience are large amount of culture in the respective country. It’s unfortunate that many think that the agencies can do nothing. I have not found that to be true at all…at least in Germany. Families can actually get black listed and will not be permitted to get aupairs. This is done initially by the agency but the family is listed by (I don’t know what it is in English) the place where you get a visa and register where you live.

CS Nanny June 8, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Germany sees AP’s very differently. I had friends who were very happy here. Of course, the salary is really low, but cost of living is low, too. I went to Germany 2-3x a month and loved it. I am glad that things there are good for you. But for the dozens of AP’s I knew in Switzerland, our experience was a bit different. I would say at least half went home early due to work conditions in their host families. And no, our agencies didn’t do anything for us.

CS Nanny June 8, 2010 at 6:47 pm

I meant the girls I knew were very happy there. I looked at jobs there, but couldn’t afford to pay bills back here if I took a job in Germany. Like America, they have a set salary, which is 260 euros. And I wish Swiss families took the cultural exchange seriously. Of the girls I knew, almost half went home before their year was up because of the working conditions and their HF. And I feel like the agencies didn’t do anything, because they didn’t. Not for me or the other couple dozen girls I knew. We even wrote a letter to the Swiss labor board asking for stricter laws for AP’s. We never heard back.

Aupairgal June 9, 2010 at 4:51 pm

That’s unfortunate that you had a bad experience, but at least you did something about it(even if it didn’t result in anything). I have heard of too many people that just suck it up and don’t say anything and when that happens nothing will ever change.

Noga September 14, 2010 at 1:31 pm

You work thirty hours per week – five or six days. Families are obliged to give you one day off and once during the month it has to be Sunday. At least four evenings have to be kept free. 260 Euro is the average pocket money in Central and Western Europe. In France most women work full time and the childcare and school system enables them to do so. However in German speaking countries it is as CS Nanny describes.

M in NY June 8, 2010 at 4:15 pm

I think this sounds like a very unhealthy situation. You are working too much, and they haven’t provided you with any outside activities, it seems like. Or have they told you about clubs/organisations you might be able to join, places to go or people you might want to hang out with?

Also, the pay seems very low. That’s only about $400 a month, and I get paid the double for less work. You need to sit down and have a serious conversation with the parents, and tell them ALL your concerns. If you are supposed to be off at 5, you should be off. And they should provide you with some kind of transportation to the nearest city in the evenings, at least on day during the week and on the weekends.
That, to me, is not too unreasonable.

If things don’t change, I doubt that you will last the three months, and I don’t think you should, either.

aria June 8, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Where in France are you!!! I’m constantly on the lookout for fellow au pairs (though there are a LOT in my area)!

I learned this in my year as an au pair- if you allow it, you WILL be taken advantage of. It doesn’t matter if the family is mean, or if they’re sweet as pie- if they see that they can get away with something, they will continue to do it until you do/say something.

I agree with the other comments- get out of the house. I bought rollerblades and started using that as my excuse (‘want to get as much sunlight as possible’). However, I know how awkward it can be to get out when you live in the buttcrack of nowhere. You can also start making Skype appointments (something else I’ve done)- inform them the day before that you’ve made an absolutely life or death important appointment to speak to your mom/boyfriend/best friend/pastor/rabbi at 5:30 on the dot “since that IS my contracted end duty time and all” and RUN to your room as soon as that time hits so you don’t miss your meeting. Make this meeting last as long as necessary (read: as long as it takes for the little girl to get the hint that you’re not budging). Make it your mom’s fault. “Je sais, ma petite coquine, je veux bien jouer avec toi, mais ma maman va se facher si je suis pas là dans 2 minutes. Tu veux pas qu’elle se fache avec moi, n’est-ce pas??”

If all else fails, you should LEAVE! You’ll find ten million families who pay a lot more who would die to have a British nanny with a posh British accent, fo’sure. -.- Good luck!

AuPairinFrance June 9, 2010 at 5:35 am

I just saw the comments last night and was up really late reading them! Thanks so much for your advice everyone- this site really is the best! I think what I’ve taken from this is that I will have a talk with the family as I’d rather be straightforward, and after the talk I’m going to go for long walks as soon as it hits 5pm/ or as soon as the dad is home, just to make sure that things change.

Things have improved slightly since I sent the email (I have now been in France 2 weeks and I now normally work till 7pm then go to my room) but not as much as I’d want it too so the advice is definitely what I needed. It’s too tiring working this long and I’m finding my personality’s changing…normally I’m really happy, fun and positive but now I’m finding that I’m becoming less patient, more irritable and less talkative. Even the mother noticed and asked me what’s wrong because I don’t talk as much as I used to when I first arrived.

It really is the right time to have the talk tonight. I’m so nervous but it’s definitely the right thing to do. Thanks everyone!

NC AP June 9, 2010 at 6:04 am

Good luck for the talk tonight, let us know how it went!

Nikola June 30, 2010 at 12:52 pm

good luck !
good luck
good lukc

au pair in uk June 9, 2010 at 7:26 am

I also work long hours with 3 boys from 7.30am till 8.30pm 3 days a week, then till midnight 1 day a week and less 1 day a week as the mother is in and out of the house randomly that day. It’s hard work and more than I signed up for but to be honest I don’t mind. I love the family and feel I get a lot from them, I would like more time but I understand the single mum I work for is very busy. What I don’t agree with in your story is that of the father actually being in the house and not doing anything to ease your pressure or engage with the children. You need to address this before he becomes complacent and the situation escalates. However upon saying that you mentioned exploring, is it not possible for you to take the toddler on exploration days around local spots??? It would be good for both of you. Hope your situation improves x

x

NoVA Host Mom June 9, 2010 at 10:02 am

I am glad you are having a chat with them, and just in case you forget: remember to specify that the latch on your door MUST be repaired. Privacy is important to everyone. I’ll bet the latch on their bedroom door is just fine. ;)

Just keep being direct and communicating. At the very least, this is a great learning experience for you in personal interactions and working with others. Sometimes it is easy for young adults to not feel comfortable speaking with employers about matters. As you can see, it is very important to speak up (just keep it professional, not emotional). Good luck.

AnonaHM Europe June 9, 2010 at 10:05 am

The french law says no more than 5 hours a day and no more than 30 hours per week for au-pairs. And the family has to organize some sort of language course for the AP, yet the AP has to pay for it. (The AP has to attend a course). No possiblity to negotiate about payments – its mostly regulated by law in Europe, as far as I know that’s true for France, too. In France for children under 2 there has to be an additional care-giver – the AP is not supposed to be left alone with such small kids. Even though an Agency (as far as I understood you came without?) might not help, the french authorities may not allow the family to have another AP in the future if you point out the circumstances to them. Since you might not have a proper AP-status (after all you don’t need a visa for France and nobody will probably care about a work-permit for an english girl) – all you can do is tell them to stick to the rules or leave. (Be prepared to leave – they don’t seem able to stick to the rules due to their work-situation!). Check AP-World for a new family, since you are in France already you might be able to change families rather quickly. In your situation I wouldn’t mind about termination dates either – they broke the contract in a rather elementary way, so it’s your right to leave early if they are not willing/able to change.

CS Nanny June 9, 2010 at 10:10 am

You brought up a great point about not being able to change families. In many of the European countries, AP’s are not allowed to switch families if it doesn’t work out with the one they came to work for.

AnonHM Europe June 10, 2010 at 5:05 am

Honestly, I’ve never heard of that. Actually it’s rather easy for them to change family, they don’t even need to check with their agency. So some just drop out of the agency-programs (if they have any) and look for a family themselves and the agency has no chance to stop this. With APs who changed families more than twice some authorities refuse to give a new visa (the visa sticks to the family they work for!)

Aria June 9, 2010 at 11:18 am

I don’t know if I’ve been doing things wrong but I’m in France and after switching families, (how is it not possible to switch? What are they going to do, not let you leave??) I’m making double my previous salary, which was the same as the OP, and I definitely work more than 5 hours a day. That’s why I think if you have the option (as in Europe) it’s ten times better to forgo the agency- IMHO, they work to keep the families happy, not the ap.

cahostmom June 9, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I agree, you need to put your foot down and stop working 1/2 hour after the dad comes home. Tell the dad how the day went and go out for a walk! Even if he comes home tired from work, he needs to take care of his children, not sit down and smoke/talk on the phone! My husband and I come home tired from work, but after my au pair tells me how the day went and cleans up a little bit, it is our turn to take care of the kids. Why shouldn’t this father (and mother) do the same? And please: ask for a schedule and make sure they stick to it!

pia Aupair June 10, 2010 at 11:12 pm

hey Aupairin france just wanted to see if you have any updates for us?
how did it go?

i think some of you guys should take it a step down, though.
As far as i read she really likes the family and feels welcomed which i think is a very good thing and not to expect from every family.
Yes the schedule MUST change. but why leave right away?
I know how it is to love a family and trying to please them but at the same time to be frustrated cause things are not what you expected.
I think we grow with those challenges, we cant just run a way every time it gets difficult…

Primobabe July 22, 2010 at 11:22 am

I’ve never been an au pair, and I’ve never had an au pair in my home, but I’ve known plenty of people who have “hosted” au pairs as low-cost alternatives to daycare and nannies. I’m vehemently opposed to the arrangement and believe that it should be prohibited.

There were plenty of au pairs when I was a child (I’m now 54-years-old). The hosts were full-time wives and homemakers. An au pair was a “mother’s helper” who babysat for a reasonable number hours per week in exchange for free room and board, a small stipend, and an opportunity to experience a different culture. The arrangement was win-win; the mother got some help with her children, and the au pair had an adventure in new country.

Today, working couples often host au pairs in lieu of paying for daycare or nannies. The young women might have full responsibility for the care of 2 or 3 (or more) children and work 70-80 hours per week. Appallingly, this is permitted by U.S. labor laws.

Here’s a true example — a couple I know. The husband is a highly successful physician. The wife works as a corporate executive, not out of economic necessity, but because she enjoys her job. These people are very wealthy and live in luxury. But, instead of paying a nanny or governess to care for their 3 pre-school children, they exploit an au pair. Why cough up money when the same services can be found for free, all justified as a travel and learning opportunity for a young foreign woman? Disgusting.

NewAPMama July 22, 2010 at 3:13 pm

You are sadly mistaken there. Aupairs cannot work more than 45 hours a week, not your 70-80 like you claim. I think you should do more research before posting such rubbish. Not only are you wrong about 90% of what you said, you are also insulting pretty much every Host Parent/Family here.

Host Mommy Dearest July 22, 2010 at 3:20 pm

An AP is not permitted by US labor laws to work 70-80 hours per week. The AP program IS supposed to be win-win and I think it still can be and is for most. I don’t agree with you that the arrangement should be prohibited, but abuse of the arrangement should be. It is up to APs out there to speak up when they are being taken advantage of – some do speak up and some don’t.

DarthaStewart July 22, 2010 at 3:28 pm

I think I smell a troll.

LV HM July 22, 2010 at 7:47 pm

OMG, this is ridiculous! This is a very uninformed view of the au pair program. Also, I found in interesting that in your ‘true example’, you said that the wife “works as a corporate executive, not out of economic necessity, but because she enjoys her job”, but did not mention anything about “economic necessity” regarding the husband’s job (if the wife is a corporate exec, she probably makes good money and therefore the husband may not ‘have’ to work). Very out-of-date attitudes!

First Time HP July 22, 2010 at 8:32 pm

You really have no idea what you are talking about. You suggest that a nanny is a better option than an AP and families are only choosing APs because of cost. We love the AP program because we expose our kids to someone from a different culture, have someone young and energetic which is a must for my young kids, and develop a bond that, although not always, is stronger than a typical employee/employer relationship.

My AP has loved her experience and the family loves her yet you think you should decide if this arrangement is good or bad or allowed to continue, really?

Gianna July 22, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Based on what I hear from all of the aupairs I’ve ever met, nobody wants to work for a stay at home mom if they can help it. The aupairs all complain constantly about how hard it is to work for those women. What I have been hearing for a couple of years now is that the aupairs would rather work 50 to 60 hours each week and get weekends off than work 20- 30 for a mother was is around , in and out, all day everyday. I know, I know , it is illegal to work more than 45 hours but given their choice these young women would rather put in the extra hours and run their own show with little to no supervision. I recently heard an aupair say that her host mother wanted her to stay home, in the house , all day with one or another of the kids while the host mom accompanied the kids to various activities. Then , the host mother gave the aupair off while the children napped so that the hm could ” save ”
hours and go out to social events in the evening while the aupair bathed the children and put them to bed. Not very nice. But perfectly acceptable according to program rules. I think that might be a typical scenario for SAHMs

CS Nanny July 22, 2010 at 10:46 pm

I would never work for a SAHM. Who wants to feel like they have zero control, and their boss is watching over them every minute of the day? Not to mention it is extremely confusing and difficult for the kids! No thanks!

aupair21 July 22, 2010 at 11:39 pm

I’ve been working for stay at home parents for over 2 years now and while there are times when it drives me insane that the kids go ask the parents for something i have said no to, i think it’s been a great experience. me and my hostmom is super close and i dont feel watched at all. obviously it’s not for everyone, but I must say I absolutely do NOT think it is confusing/difficult for the kids..

Melissa July 23, 2010 at 2:43 am

I work part-time from home, and so while I am not a full SAHM, my daily schedule and household dynamic is somewhat similar to a SAHM, in that I am home and interact with my AP throughout the day. I think there are both good points and bad to working with a SAHM (or SAHD), just like there are in a household where both parents work FT out of the home. However, I’m really surprised at the generalizations about not wanting to work for a SAHM. I would never count my child’s naptime as “off duty” time for our AP, just so that I could “save” her hours for later in the day. Sometimes, our AP is the one who stays home with our napping child and gets some downtime (which counts as hours worked) while I drive my other child around to activities. Other times, I stay home and work while the AP takes the older child out. Yes, I am there off and on throughout the day and the AP has to deal with my presence, but on the plus side, she rarely has the kids full-time for 9 hours a day and rarely has to handle 100% of their needs all day long (often, I’m making breakfast while our AP gets them dressed, for example, which means that she gets to sleep til 7am instead of 6:30am). Also, I am VERY conscious of not contradicting my AP (if she says ‘no snacks before dinner’, I NEVER say, ‘it’s ok, you can have it’) and try my best to not interfere when she is ‘on duty.’ I’m sure there are some horrible SAHM stories out there, but the previous posts seem very one-sided. I try to establish a very good, mature relationship with our APs, not one in which she feels like she is being ‘watched over every minute of the day’.

CS Nanny – I’m assuming you worked for a SAHM before based on your opinion? I’m curious as to whether it was a very negative experience for you?

Gianna July 23, 2010 at 8:30 am

CS Nanny

Like Melissa, I am a mom who works from home. I spent some time as a SAHM and then I started working from home. As my business grew, I worked more and more hours. I wrote the above comment as a counterpoint to the criticism of executive women with successfull husbands. Over the years, I have heard aupairs complain constantly about SAHM for the reasons you and I just mentioned. I have even seen advise on aupair boards telling people to avoid SAHMs. Many years ago , I was a nanny. I worked for a high powered executive who bragged to all of her neighbors about great I was but never had a word of praise for me. Those neighbors were always trying to get me to work for them. So, no, I never worked for a SAHM. I am one and I am very conscious of the fact that it is harder to work for me. I am a very hands on mother and I do not want an aupair who is going to run my household. Their are plenty of people who do. I think that you sound like a fabulous nanny but you would probably be miserable living with me ; on the other hand, my sister is one of those high powered executives and has needed a nanny from day one. This board is a nice , safe place to vent but family holiday dinners are one place where I never discuss this topic – too many hurt feelings – too much guilt.

Arubi June 5, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Hello, any more experience someone ?:)

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