Child Care Chores Quiz: Are any chores on this list off limits?

by cv harquail on January 16, 2013

What actually counts as a legitimate Child Care Chore?

Do we routinely ask our Au Pairs to do chores that are not really legitimate Child Care Chores?

owl chore chart.jpg
HostMcMom sent me a list of things on her  au pair’s ChildCare Chores list. As I looked over her list, I wondered about an item or two that I wouldn’t have included as a legitimate child care chore.

So, I’ve made us a bit of a quiz. I started with the items on HostMcMom’s list and added a few more items — some legit, some questionable. Remember that she has a baby/toddler and preschoolers. YMMV if your children are different ages.

Take the Quiz– are any of these ‘off limits’?

If you think so, tell us which ones and why!

  1. Make children’s beds
  2. Tidy/straighten their rooms (pick up/put away clothes and toys, wipe dressers and nightstands, close doors/drawers)
  3. Refill and clean vaporizers
  4. Wash sheets and change linens 1x a week
  5. Tidy and wipe sinks in children’s bathroom
  6. Mop or sweep children’s bathroom floor, as needed
  7. Iron daughter’s dresses
  8. Iron children’s pillowcases
  9. Check toilet cleanliness (toddlers) daily
  10. Refill toilet paper as needed,
  11. Wash and replace towels as needed.
  12. Occasionally wash small rugs in children’s bathroom.
  13. Vacuum children’s rooms once a week between cleaning service visits.
  14. Keep children’s closets and dressers neat and organized.
  15. Pack up outgrown toddler/preschooler’s clothes as needed.
  16. Wash, fold and put away children’s laundry
  17. Clean, sort and pack up for storage outgrown baby clothes
  18. Take outgrown clothes to donation bin at CVS
  19. Clean the shelves and cushion on the changing table
  20. Keep children’s toys and games picked up and put away and organized (make sure pieces are put away properly and not lost)
  21. Organize playroom as needed.
  22. Put away and organize children’s books
  23. Mix formula and prepare bottles daily; wash and sterilize bottles daily
  24. Prepare breakfast, lunch and snacks
  25. Clean and put away all food, dishes and pans from children’s meals and snacks
  26. Wipe table, stove and counters as needed from preparing children’s meals and snacks
  27. Sweep and/or mop as needed after children’s meals and snacks
  28. Rinse out baby food jars for recycling
  29. Keep the children’s coats, boots, hats, mittens, etc. organized in mud room
  30. Remove notes and papers from backpacks after school for me to see when I get home
  31. Pack backpacks with needed items for the next day
  32. Lay out the older children’s clothes for the next day
  33. Pack ‘activity’ bags for preschooler’s ballet and soccer classes
  34. Keep diaper bag clean, organized, packed and stocked with sippy cups, juice boxes and snacks
  35. Bring in sippy cups/snack trash from car daily
  36. Clean (vacuum and wipe inside, wash windows) the au pair car weekly (used by au pair to drive children and for personal use)
  37. Keep strollers crumb free and clean

Member of the family tasks:

  1. Help out with clearing table, doing dishes, cleaning up table/floor after dinner when she joins us.

Pitch In tasks (We want her to help occasionally, but without being asked):

  1. Taking out the trash and recycling,
  2. Vacuuming the family room and mud room rugs between cleaning service visits,
  3. Wiping down powder room, empty dishwasher, etc. In addition, we ask that she
  4. Keep her own room and bathroom clean and neat (i.e bed made, clothes put away,etc)

Image: Printable Personalized Children’s Reward/Chore Chart – Owls – Available from TagAlongAdventures on Etsy.


Lina January 16, 2013 at 11:43 am

There are a couple things in there I think is not for the au pair, but for the kids. It depends on the age, but after they turn 5, I am not cleaning their room, put out their clothes for the next day, clean up table after lunch (they can bring it over to the sink themselve) clean up playroom, ( I might assist them, but I try to teach them to put things away right after they are done playing with it) maybe it’s just me, but I feel like if we would do all those things for our host kids age 5 and older, they probably still don’t know how to make their bed in college. If the kids are under 5, then yes I think those are ok tasks for an au pair to do.

SAmaleAuPair January 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Lina I absolutely agree with you. Children need to learn how to do things on their own, otherwise when they hit their teens and even varsity years, they will not know how to cope on their own, because they are to used to everything being done for them. I would gradually start telling them to take their plates to the kitchen, pack their toys away when done etc, so that they learn to be responsible for their mess, and will most likely end up being very neat, well brought up young adults.

CA Host Mom January 16, 2013 at 1:34 pm

While I personally agree – 100% with Lina and SAmaleAuPair, about children needing to learn to do these things themselves as they are old enough, I think that we might be missing the point of the Quiz. Seems we are trying to identify whether or not these things (listed above) are acceptable to ask an AP to do and why/why not.

I also would mention that (good or bad) it is up to the HF how they want to raise their children. While I want my boys to know how to make their beds as soon as possible, I certainly don’t think that it is up to my AP to dictate when these things should be happening. That is a good point to discuss during the matching process so that you don’t find yourself matched with a family where you strongly disagree with how they have chosen to raise their children.

My oldest is 3 y/o and I ask our AP to please ask him and help him do things like take dishes to kitchen, pick up toys, put shoes away, etc. But the bottom line is that if these things are not done at the end of the day, I am not going to the 3 y/o to ask why. It is up to my AP to teach and coach, but the final accountability lies with her.

HRHM January 16, 2013 at 6:39 pm

“But the bottom line is that if these things are not done at the end of the day, I am not going to the 3 y/o to ask why. It is up to my AP to teach and coach, but the final accountability lies with her.”

Totally agree with this point.

HostMomDP January 16, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Lina and SAmaleAuPair, I agree with both of you that there is “an age” after which children can/should be expected to take more responsibility, but (with all due respect), I think the decision about when “that age” is, is up to the child’s parents. Certainly, if you as the au pair have an opinion on the issue, you should share it with your host parents. But if they disagree, it’s not for you to override that decision.

In terms of the list above, I think that most of the items listed in the first set of tasks are probably okay, assuming that they can legitimately be done within the allotted 45 hours. I don’t think it’s fair (or allowed) to assign your au pair more work than they can reasonably be expected to do during their work hours. (Although if they choose to take advantage of “breaks” during their day to rest and relax, and then take care of undone chores later, that’s their prerogative, assuming it’s okay with the host family. Some tasks are more time-sensitive than others, obviously.)

A couple of things on the list seemed (to me) to be stretching things a bit, but nothing struck me as completely out-of-line.

German Au-Pair January 17, 2013 at 1:11 am

Yes, generally it is the parents’s decision, but there comes a point when an au pair needs to make own decisions how to handle the life with the kids.
My host kids were 9 and 13 when I came and still thought it was normal to just leave their plates there for someone else to clean up.
Their parents had said before matching that they encourage the kids taking responsibility for things but they would need guidance as they have Asperger’s.
Still no one has ever come up with letting the kids put away their own stuff (frankly, I think that is because the parents don’t put away their own stuff right away, too…so there’s no good role modeling in that department.)
I did not ask my host parents if it was okay for me to make the kids do it. I simply decided that I was not playing their butler. I introduced cleaning up after yourself on my own and I am the only one who enforces it.
I think regarding certain things parents should give the au pair some kind of freedom to do things her way. If she teaches the toddler to clean after himself, isn’t that something positive? ItÄs not hurtful to the kid’s development, but it is helpful for the family’s every day life. Why dictate stuff like that?
Things like that usually don’t make the au pair’s life easier, too. It is MUCH easier for me to put a plate in the dishwasher than to remind a crabby teenager to do it. I don’t do it for my benefit but for the kid’s and I think as long as the au pair is not doing something horrible, some trust and freedom can help a lot.

HRHM January 17, 2013 at 6:56 am

I think in general, most American families fall in to one of three camps. Either they are complete slobs and don’t care (no offense to the most “relaxed” house keepers out there), they are “crazy clean” , keeping their house spotless and expecting the AP to do the same, OR they are more middle ground, what I refer to as “clean but cluttered” meaning that they may not be the tidiest house on the block, but you can safely eat off thier dishes or use their toilet without fear of disease.

If the host family is sloppy and disorganized, then they shouldn’t expect their AP to move the entire family into the “crazy clean” category! If they are CC to begin with, they need to tell the AP this prior to matching, because some APs are perfectly fine with this and others just don’t have it in them.

I have no problem with my AP asking my kids to take on more of “her” work as they get bigger, in fact I appreciate it – some day she’ll be gone and if she’s helped get them trained, I won’t have to pick up the slack. BUT – when I come home and there are rice crispies everywhere from breakfast, don’t blame the kids when I ask why the kitchen is a mess. In the end, it’s still the AP’s responsibility.

German Au-Pair January 17, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Oh yes, I totally agree! It’s the au pairs repsonsibility that certain things get done.
But just because the parents don’t care if the kids clean up after themselves that shouldn’t mean that the au pair is not allowed to make them. My comment was just relating to the parents being the ones who decide when the age comes that the kids help taking care of things. Parents make the excutive decisions about the important things but when I’m alone with a kid who’s old enough to actually do something, I don’t think the parents should keep the au pair from finding her own rythm with the kids. My kids know very well that some things are different when I’m around. My host parents are great but try to avoid conflict if possible. I however have certaib things I won’t let the kids get away with and the kids only try to resist that when they know they’re parents are going to take over soon. When I’m alone with them until bedtime, I tell them “your parents are going to be home very late, so you will have to deal with me the whole day”. You cannot believe how much easier it is. And not in the way that the kids fear the consequences, they just know there’s little point in arguing with me.
I really think parents should give their au pairs some decision-making-power on their own. After all, host parents do want the au pair to be a responsible grown up.

Seattle Mom January 22, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Hehe, I totally agree with this. We fall into the middle ground, but in some ways some people would probably have issues with what we consider clean.

We had an AP who we considered a clean freak. She would literally scrub the kitchen and ignore the kids. It wasn’t specifically the reason for the eventual re-match, but I think it was an indication of the overall problem and difference in values.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 16, 2013 at 1:45 pm

One thing that struck me in reading all of the above tasks, is “Does she get to play with the kids?”

Some of these items on the list, like packing activity bags, are probably done by au pairs without thinking, but as a HM, my typically developing child has packed her own activity bags since she was 6. However, my special needs child needs to have everything done for her, and the APs usually “get it” within days of their arrival.

Some of the work strikes me as work-to-make-work. Any AP matching with this family would need to know up front that the HF preferred a very clean and orderly house and that they would have prioritize their day to make sure the HP came home to the house they way they wanted it. Personally, when my kids were toddlers, I chose to have my APs do activities with them rather than vacuuming the floor (I still chose to play a board game over cleaning my house – I figure I’ve only got a few years left before they stop speaking to me altogether). My typically developing child was absolutely bilingual and had a very rich vocabulary in both languages by the time she was 4 – it was clear that the AP had made spending time with her a priority.

I would think the AP would be doing her job well if she trained the kids to help her while she did these tasks, rather than putting them in front of a TV so she could accomplish them. AP #8 came without knowing how to do a lot of what I would call “routine” AP tasks – she had never done a load of wash. That reinforced for me, the need to make sure the typically developing child learns basic life skills – laundry, preparing a simple meal, keeping her space clean before she heads off to college.

CA Host Mom January 16, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Very good point, well made. I didn’t even think to mention that spending quality time with our children is more important that almost anything on my ‘list of chores’.

CA Host Mom January 16, 2013 at 1:59 pm

After reading through the list, I can only see these few that seem questionable to me. For me, personally, I think it would be a bit much to require that our AP do the following tasks that I copied from the list:

Iron daughter’s dresses
Iron children’s pillowcases
Wash and replace towels as needed
Take outgrown clothes to donation bin at CVS

But we don’t take the time to iron our pillow cases anyway. I think that donating children’s clothes is something I should do – not our AP. And I also feel that washing and replacing towels in the common bathrooms in our house should be my responsibility.

I can’t really present compelling arguments for any of these things, it’s just how I would do it in our home.

I also strongly agree with HostMomDP that we, as host parents, have to be realistic about the abilities of our APs and not assign more work than they can realistically complete during the allotted time. I struggle with this at times because I can be (because I want to I guess) 5 times as productive as my AP can be in the same amount of time, but if I look back to when I was 19 or 20, I can’t say that I would have been. I expect our AP to try and do her best, learn and become more efficient over time, but I don’t expect her to do exactly what I do.

I have learned from this post (and the previous one on the same topic) that I need to produce a much more detailed list of chores for our APs to use so that they are clear on what needs to get down and how they need to do it.

AboutToBeHD January 16, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Agree on your four items, and all the comments so far.

I think ironing pillowcases is a dead giveaway on the HM’s priorities.

On the charity donation front, I did wonder what would happen if the AP donated something the HP wouldn’t have… “I can’t believe you gave away our DD’s favorite dress!”

TiredMama January 16, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Ya, ironing pillow cases is a bit too much. An au pair is here to help out, yes, but come on! I’d rather have my AP playing with my children over ironing.

While I feel everything else is AP related, I do have to agree with most of everyone else here that it is too much.

Should be working January 17, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Our most recent AP asked, on her first day, where the ironing board was. I told her we didn’t have one. She asked, “So how will I iron the children’s clothes?” I slapped my own head and responded, “Good question–I have wondered about this for years now!” She also offered to iron ALL our clothes, which I said was not allowed, but we would pay her to do my husband’s shirts. Otherwise only iron what she wants.

kat January 16, 2013 at 7:38 pm

if i am doing any sorting out in a job, i sort it out by the best of my judgement, then hand the bag to the parents. if i was asked to give it away i would asked them to check quickly for anything they want to keep.

EastCoast HM January 16, 2013 at 11:15 pm

TiredMama- I tried to respond to your recent response to me re the weapons question I asked but our exchange seems to have “disappeared”? I guess CV took it down? Well, in any case I wanted to say thank you for responding and sharing how you discuss this with potential APs. I was really, genuinely interested in if/how gun owning HP address this and appreciated your thoughtful response.

Cv January 18, 2013 at 7:33 am

I tried to reply to you about it and why i postponed it, but you didn’t leave a working email address so my two emails bounced back. Email me for deets. cv

Former NOVA host Mum January 17, 2013 at 3:55 am

I agree with those 4 esp ironing pillowcases!!! I think that some of those jobs are the duty of the HF(at least to be sharing those). What is the HF doing if the Au Pair is taking care of the kids, all those chores and all that cleaning?

JJ Host Mom January 16, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I am currently a full-time SAHM and have to say that there is no way I would be able to get everything on this list done. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do that and spend any time at all with the kids. I think you’re going to have to pick your battles here.

Most of the childcare tasks listed are okay, but I’d agree with CA Host Mom that the ironing and other tasks she listed are kind of over the top.

I think that frequency should be re-evaluated; maybe the au pair needs to wipe around the toilet and sweep under the table once a week or so, but every day seems to be excessive. Maybe the car only needs to be cleaned once a month, and when it does, it can just be taken to the carwash to have someone else do it.

Maybe some of the occasional cleaning tasks, like washing the rugs in the kids’ rooms, are best given to the housekeeper instead.

I agree with au pairs that kids can help with these tasks (and for the record, would prefer an au pair who felt that way too, but would want him/her to talk with me about it first) BUT I can tell you that getting my four year olds to put their toys away takes me at least three times as long as doing it myself. I still do it every day, but it is definitely not a time saver.

The member of the family tasks and pitch in tasks listed are along the right lines, but pushing it. It’s okay to ask her to help clear the table and load the dishwasher, but sweeping the floor is too much. IMHO one “family chore” like unloading the dishwasher or emptying the trash is okay, but not both, and not on a regular basis. Au pairs should not be asked to clean common areas like mud rooms, family rooms, or common bathrooms. And while I think it’s okay to ask an au pair to keep his/her room in good repair and reasonably neat so she/he doesn’t do damage or attract vermin, I think that forcing her to make her bed every day is too much. That’s her space.

Honestly looking at this I see the previous post in a whole new light. I think the au pair is well within her limits to be pushing back on this list of chores, and that the host mom is probably not going to find an au pair who is capable of and willing to do all of these chores, AND is good with children.

My advice to that host mom is to really cut down this list to utter necessities, and find other ways to get the other things done, such as having the housekeeper come every week instead, and take on other responsibilities.

cv harquail January 16, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Remember, I made some of these up. Not all of them came from our previous poster. ;-)

Returning HM January 17, 2013 at 12:58 pm

This is true, but the way you listed it, CV – each item individually numbered – may actually be easier for many people (especially non-native English speakers) to process than the grouped-together list of running things to do that OP offered (and honestly, there wasn’t that much difference – more in degree than in kind – between the two lists).

kat January 16, 2013 at 7:40 pm

sweeping under the table once a week? did you mean a kitchen table/dining table , where all the meals are eaten?

Returning HM January 16, 2013 at 4:21 pm

JJ HM wrote: “Honestly looking at this I see the previous post in a whole new light. I think the au pair is well within her limits to be pushing back on this list of chores, and that the host mom is probably not going to find an au pair who is capable of and willing to do all of these chores, AND is good with children.”

I had the exact same reaction. The OP included this list in her posting (otherwise the same as the one CV posted last week, in which she removed OP’s list of tasks asked) on DCUrbanmom, and it was fascinating how different the responses there were to the responses here. In the posting where we saw the list of tasks she was asking the AP to complete, it was very clear to many of us HMs that this wasn’t the usual “my AP won’t help with household tasks” kind of complaint. Most of us noted to her there that it may well be the overwhelming list, more so than any of the individual tasks, that the AP is balking against, whether consciously or unconsciously, and that OP might want to rethink whether she really wants to ask all of this of her AP (and whether she wants to do so in a list like that). Someone on DCUM asked OP whether she had ever had an AP successfully handle all of the tasks required in addition to taking excellent care of OP’s children, but I don’t believe OP answered. I would say that our AP#2 maybe could have done so, but none of the other largely excellent mostly self-starting APs we have hosted could have at all.

EastCoastHM January 16, 2013 at 4:23 pm

I think a few things on the list are going a bit beyond, but that generally this list is fine. It actually fairly closely reflects what we ask our au pair to do. We are a wipe the toilet every day/sweep the floor after each meal/ vacuum the kids cubbies in the mudroom weekly/clean up all toys before end of shift every day – kind of family. And I think it is do-able, with the frequence noted, if one is organized, efficient and focused. (In our family, as our children are school age, the above jobs are actually mostly done by the kids WITH THE AP AS SUPERVISOR/WHIP CRACKER/SLAVE DRIVER/ENSURER THAT IT ALL GETS DONE -which frankly I think is harder than the AP just doing it herself!)

We have an extremely organized, clean tidy house. I am a WAHM and have 5 kids. Cleanliness and organization are paramount for me and I express that to our APs. I also tell them that we expect their (the APs) bed made every day, their room kept clean, and their sheets washed each week (we once had an AP who never washed her sheets and her room began to take on an terrible odor!). we ask our AP to keep her door open when NOT in her room, bc it lets light into the front hallway, so I really do care how the room looks. Yes, I absolutely know that this wouldn’t work for some/many APs, and that is exactly why I lay this all out in matching. It matters to me, a lot, and I think it is my responsibility to tell the AP this BEFORE we match.

I agree with folks such as TACL that this list reflects the HM’s priorities, but I disagree with others who say that the HM should prioritize playing with the kids or change her priorities. If these *are* her priorities, then they are. And so be it. It is incumbant upon HP to make these priorities clear in the matching process. If a family prioritizes a clean, orderly house over playtime, we can of course judge that families priorities/parenting, but I don’t think it means that the family’s priorities are contrary to the rules of the AP program.

I agree with others that the tasks should absolutely fit within the 45h/week; no more than 10h/day rules. The above list will definitely mean that the AP is spending less time playing with kids (and depending on whether the kids are preschool/toddler versus older school-age children will determine the impact of this lack of playing), but if what the HM needs is lots of help with childcare related tasks in order for her life to run smoothly, and perhaps to free her up so that she herself can play with the children, and as long as she respects the program rules, (and in my opinion as long as she gives full disclosure prior to/when matching), then that is what being an AP means for her family.

JJ Host Mom January 16, 2013 at 5:40 pm

You make a good point that it really depends on the age of the kids. Perhaps this wouldn’t be an overwhelming list for au pairs of school age kids who aren’t working anywhere near their 40 hours anyway. I don’t know, because my kids aren’t school aged yet.

I looked at the list on DCUrbanMom. It’s not as daunting as I thought, but it still seems excessive. Maybe with a more organized presentation it would be more palatable.

kat January 16, 2013 at 7:49 pm

just wondering – would you not match with an otherwise good candidate, who would not want to change their sheet every week? it may be cultural but in my family for example we change sheets every 4 weeks and as much i would love to have new crispy sheets every week, i am not going into the trouble of changing the bed that often. no even if i skip the starching and perhaps the ironing.
i imagine a very young aupair who is leaving home for the first time will agree to it to please you but maybe someone who has lived on their own will stop and think before (not) agreeing to it.
ups, a bit long, sorry.

HRHM January 17, 2013 at 7:04 am

Maybe sheet changing is different in other countries, but in our house it’s a pretty simple process.
Pull the sheets (one fitted, one flat) off your bed and remove pillowcase.
Throw them into the laundry basket.
Pull clean set out of closet and put it back on your bed.
When you wash your clothes, wash the sheets in your clothes laundry, dry, fold, shove in the closet for next week.

Not exactly an onerous task and certainly easier than vaccuuming and dusting her room, which we also ask she do every week. Our AP washes her own and the girls clothes together each Thursday, including all their sheets and bath towels and the bath rugs anyway. No starch or ironing involved – you can iron them with your back while you are sleeping LOL!

So yes, I would fail to match with an AP who was unwilling to live up to my standards of cleanliness.

CA Host Mom January 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Yes – we don’t iron or starch sheets and our process is the same as HRHM lists above … But if a potential AP was taking issue with that in the matching process, I would not match with that AP. Not really because of the disagreement about the process, but mostly because it speaks to a greater issue of the AP challenging the practice that we have implemented in our home because “she did it differently in her home”.

kat January 24, 2013 at 2:35 pm

i dont think it would necessarily have to lead to practices in your home to be challenged. doing chores etc for the family the way they like to have it done is one thing and looking after ap’s own room are two different things imho.
if you required me to change the kids sheets every week for example i would do it without a wink , as well as doing what ever else is the norm in your household (and i do it in families i work for, its part of my job) but giving rules about my own bed is something i would feel the family is going too far as it does not effect the family in any way.

by the sounds of it you dont have duvet covers in the US, which does indeed make changing beds easier. on the other hand most of the aupairs in the UK have double beds or even kingsize beds (with duvet covers and several pillowcases) which are a pain to change. even hanging out a doublesize duvetcover on a washing line is somewhat challenging. perhaps most of american folks use a tumbledryer?

i just came up with a thought that perhaps changing sheets every week seems excessive to some people in a way that it would be ridiculous changing sheets everyday to you?

i am not trying to argue or to be rude (just in case it sounds like it, its not intended), just trying to explain my views. there seem to be a lot of differences in european and american minds which is why i love to read this forum :)

Should be working January 17, 2013 at 1:30 pm

We had an AP who REFUSED to change the sheets every week. She said at home they did it every two weeks, and that was all she would do at our house. I never understood why. As HRHM said, it’s not an onerous procedure.

She was the perfect example of the “high D [dominance]” personality as described on the DiSC personality test that CCAP has applicants take. Great leader, very motivating to kids to do cool fun things, figured out how to get us ALL to the Grand Canyon on a low budget because she wanted to go, lots of initiative . . . AND stubborn and headstrong. Since then we’ve had “low D” types. Much more compliant, but also not as take-charge-fun.

Should be working January 17, 2013 at 1:30 pm

p.s. There was no ironing involved in our situation.

kat January 24, 2013 at 2:55 pm

this is interesting. i searched for the test and my score was 45% compliance, 43% steadiness, 12% influence and 0% dominance. yet i would refuse to change my sheets every week :D

SAmaleAuPair January 16, 2013 at 4:41 pm

I totally agree with CA Host mom, and HostmomDP. I will certainly first discuss this with the HF if I am allowed to teach the children to pack toys away etc, and will certainly not leave everything a mess. I will ask the child to help me, even if he/she packs one toy into the box or so, by praising them for doing it, will also give them some feeling of achievement. Thereafter I will tidy up. I just found, when I had a classroom full of 8 year olds, that by asking them to help every once in a while, gets them into the rhythm of being more aware of what they are doing, and where they otherwise would not care for papers (eg) on the floor around them, they will eventually keep their space tidy.

kat January 16, 2013 at 7:32 pm

i havent read any answers but i personally dont see any problem with any of these. perhaps an aupair (not a nanny) needs telling when to do the once in a while sorting out clothes or cleaning out wardrobes.
certainly all aupair tasks in the UK.

PA AP Mom January 16, 2013 at 8:41 pm

I think that taking the outgrown clothing donations to the drop off bin is not really an AP type responsibility. Not that it’s against any “rules” per se, but I just think that is more a host mom (or dad) responsibility.

Vacuuming the common areas between visits by the housecleaner also seems a little much, unless of course the kids make a mess in those areas.

My boys are old enough to do a lot of things on their own and I strongly encourage the AP to supervise them doing them.

Host Mom in the City January 16, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Hmmmmm tough one. Nothing on this list strikes me as totally out-of-bounds, but something about the way the host mom has all this listed out makes me think she’s a micro-managing perfectionist. Now I’m a perfectionist myself – we are a clean up at the end of every day, totally organized family ourselves. But with two young kids, I don’t ask my AP to do hardly any of this. And it sounds like the AP here has two preschoolers and a baby?

We ask our AP to clean up at the end of her shift and to help the kids to clean up as they go along. Any room cleaning, laundry, bathroom cleaning, room organizing stuff I do myself and I would feel weird asking my AP to do it. Not that I couldn’t, and I think many host parents do ask for that kind of stuff. But I just feel like that kind of stuff is my job as the parent and I want my AP doing fun stuff with the kids and really forming a relationship with them, not ignoring them while she’s struggling to keep the house in perfect condition.

I also wonder why the host mom has a need to spell all this out so explicitly and require stuff like changing the AP’s own sheets once a week. I just can’t imagine caring about that unless of course you have a smell issue like the PP. And the way this is written makes me think that the host mom is going to lay into the AP if she changes the sheets in the 8th day or doesn’t totally wash out a baby food jar or forgets to rush the rugs in the kids rooms (which wouldn’t even occur to me). I would hope that the host mom tells the AP all this up front, tells her why she wants it done, and appreciates her when she’s doing her best but perhaps doesn’t quite meet the standards for that day braise she’s exhausted from watching an infant and two preschoolers.

I don’t know. I guess I could be totally wrong and like I said I don’t think any of it would be totally wrong to ask an AP to do within the hour requirements, but something about the post rubs me the wrong way.

HRHM January 17, 2013 at 7:10 am

I wouldn’t ask the AP to sort clothes for donation, but I’d have no heartburn about leaving a box ready to go and asking her to drop it at Goodwill or the consignment store.

Looking at the list overall, even if there is no “playing” involved, I don’t see how an AP watching an infant all day and preschoolers part of the day could be expected to get all this done. We all know how “helpful” preschoolers are with cleaning up. :) I think if she had older kids, it would be much more possible but also a lot less neccessary since they should be doing a lot of this themselves.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 17, 2013 at 8:00 am

For those of you who have never seen children in a nursing home, this scenario sounds similar to me. You can keep a child in a clean environment and never pick it up – or only pick it up to change it’s diaper and feed it – and it won’t thrive. If the OP has an au pair who apologizes for not presenting her with a spotless house at the end of the day because the baby needed attention, then I think she should be grateful. That AP spends hours with the baby, who if it feels save and loved with her, will thrive far better than if her sheets have been ironed. You can tell when APs really talk and play with children.

While the baby may nap 3-4 hours a day, is it contiguous or in two separate spurts. That makes a big difference! How much an AP can get down in a 45 minute morning nap and a 2-3 hour PM nap is very different than having a 3-4 hour single stretch.

Finally, pick those tasks that you REALLY want to have done and help your AP to understand that they are priorities – because once that baby starts walking, how much she’s going to get done every day will drop drastically!

If having a clean house is a HP priority and the AP cannot physically get it done in time, then either invest more money in a cleaning lady or give in on standards of cleanliness. Having small children is not permanent – they do grow up and stop playing with Legos (so the Sisyphysian task of putting their toys away does ease up).

Melissa January 17, 2013 at 10:13 am

I think it’s important to point out that CV added items to this list, so I don’t think the point of this post is focused on whether it is reasonable that an AP be presented with this entire list of duties and whether she actually get it all done, but rather, are the individual items on this list reasonable.

I don’t really have a problem with any of the items when looked at individually. Some of them are more frequent or micro than my preferences — e.g., we change sheets every other week, not every week, and don’t iron linens or kids clothes, but if that’s another HMs preference, that’s fine. Also, I think the list may come across as a bit nit-picky or petty because it is very detailed – like, ‘replace toilet paper roll’. Seems instinctual and for most of my APs, it is. But, we’ve had the one or two APs that seem like they could go on forever without noticing that the TP roll is out or the napkin holder needs refilling. Taking the clothes to donate could be a stretch I suppose, if we look at the rules in a very technical way, but doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. Especially if HM is providing the car, gas money and work time to get it done. I’ve often assigned tasks that fall in the “errand” category to my AP, such as light grocery or Target shopping, and usually my APs are happy to get out of the house on my dime. However, this has always been during times when they have less childcare hours during the week, such as when the kids have had longer school hours or activities.

I do think this list is rather long and probably impossible to complete if an AP is home with children most of the day. If kids are in school majority of the time, then it is likely doable. But again, not sure that is the question being asked here.

Regarding priorities, I think TACL’s question about whether there is time to actually play with the kids is a good one and an important reminder (it’s a question that I need to remind myself about sometimes!). However, I also very much agree with EastCoastHM that if a very orderly house is a HM’s priority, then so be it. We can pose questions, make suggestions and share our own experiences about the value of spending time with the kids vs. household tasks, but I think it best to hold off on the judgment. We are a pretty neat & organized household (although our AP doesn’t have anywhere near this list of chores). Having my AP handle some of the child-related chores allows me to have more time to spend with my kiddos (nothing bugs me more than watching my AP playing on the floor with my kids while I am running around cleaning up after them – a habit that I learned to identify and try to curb early on in our years of hosting). And it means that I am also less stressed while I am spending time with my kids because I am not sitting there thinking about all the chores I need to do after they go to bed.

Cv January 18, 2013 at 7:37 am

Thanks for clarifying! You’re right, this is a list of possible chores –NOT to be read as a list of what one particular ap ought to do, OR as a list of an ap’s only or main priorities! :-)

SAmaleAuPair January 18, 2013 at 2:36 am

I honestly don’t see the huge issue with changing sheets once a week. I would prefer that to sleeping on dirty sheets for 4 weeks. I think the HM has every right to request it be done.

didis January 18, 2013 at 2:57 am

I would like to point out that some HF have requests or expectations from their Au Pairs, but they don’t do the same thing as well.
If my hosts ask me to clean table, floor, kitchen after kids, but they haven’t clean after themselves, that means I am cleaning for the whole family.

If they want me to teach ids to be neat and clean, but they are being relaxed when it comes to teaching them the same, it will always lead to resentment.

I think most of things from the list are good, except when it comes to cleaning aupairs room. that is the one and only place I have my peace, and if I need it to be little messy, it should be my decision.

AuPair123 January 18, 2013 at 3:16 am

I think the majority of the above tasks are all suitable to ask of your aupair however, I agree with didis, I dont think it is right to specify how neat the aupairs room should be. Its her space she should be able to decide whether she wants to make her bed or not. I think having rules in regards to how clean the aupairs room is different though… i.e. not leaving dirty dishes in there that might attract bugs.

Another point I agree on is how easy it is to build up resentment from your aupair when you ask her to sweep floor, wipe down table after meals ect but dont do this yourselves. Nothing is more annoying then coming down in the morning after you spent the previous evening out of the house to find the kitchen/dining room a complete state at which point you have to tidy/clean it yourself. I get that its your house and you can do what you want but just pointing out that this quickly builds up resentment.

CA Host Mom January 18, 2013 at 11:46 pm

I agree with you and Didis on the point you make about the building up of resentment when family is not held to the same expectations as the AP when it comes to picking up after yourself. It is something that I am very sensitive to in our home.

But if you are trying to teach children (I can only speak for my own family in this example) how to keep their room clean and picked up, how can you justify the AP being exempt and able to keep his/her room a mess while at the same time requiring that the kids clean theirs? If I am the kid (depending on age) I am going to say, “If AP is a slob, why do I have to clean my room?” Leading by example is pretty key with children. Nothing wrong with requiring an AP to keep his/her room clean in my opinion.

AP in Germany January 18, 2013 at 5:23 am

I really think a lot of those things on the list are unnecessary and/or could be put better. I was an Au Pair in Germany where I also currently work as a nanny for an American family so I have a bit of experience in both cultures and in both families most of those things were grouped together into one or two items on the list. For example instead of make meals, clean table, clean kitchen, put everything in dishwasher my job was simply “make the necessary meals for the children and clean up after yourself and them” and so on – get the kids to pick up toys, get the kids ready for anything on the schedule for today, etc.

Also, I feel that a lot of those tasks are ‘member of the family’ tasks – things like changing the towels (not necessarily washing, but bringing to the laundry at least) and refilling toilet paper is something everyone should be doing when it’s needed.

I also definitely think the packing away or donating of outgrown clothing is way outside of an Au Pairs duties. Maybe washing and folding and HELPING to sort is ok but that is not a job I would ever feel comfortable doing without my HM. No chance. I just think that’s something the mother needs to do – she knows what she wants to keep, what to get rid of, I would be afraid of donating the wrong thing or keeping unnecessary things.

The cleaning of the au pair car is fair enough, but I think weekly is a bit much. Perhaps as needed would be better – maybe it’s a cultural thing, but how many of you parents actually clean your own cars weekly?

I also agree with whoever said that this list makes it look like the writer is a micro-managing perfectionist and I know most of my au pair friends would not want to work for someone who had such a long, detailed list like this. I think that regardless of what tasks are on the list, the parents should consider how they would react if their bosses gave them a list like that of their tasks at work. Like I said at the start, I think the way the tasks are written is just as important as what tasks are written and the host parents should present it in a way that clearly outlines the work but also doesn’t make it look like you’re just the help.

CA Host Mom January 19, 2013 at 12:01 am

You sound like a very experienced AP who is quite mature. Not all APs come with the ability to read a high level “keep things clean” request and actually succeed. We had a 19 y/o AP who absolutely had no idea how to clean up after herself. It was an issue and one evening HD was discussing it with her and she admitted that her mom did everything at home and she didn’t know how to clean.

Also, answering your question about how HPs would feel if their bosses handed them a list like this … I work in a highly regulated environment where there are Standard Operating Procedures for almost every thing we do. Specific step by step processes that detail what is expected of us. I don’t get offended by it. I might not need such specific instructions in order to do my job, but what sense would it make for me to take offense?

Nikki7280 January 18, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I agree with several of the previous posters. Generally we try not to ask our au pair to do anything that we wouldn’t do or don’t currently do. We have 2 preschoolers and a first grader, we do ask the au pair to sweep or dustbuster under the table every afternoon but that’s because it needs it and we do it on the weekends or whenever we see it needs to be done. Many of the chores listed we “assign” to the kids but again, it’s the au pair’s job to manage/supervise/ensure that gets done and we strongly encourage her to teach the kids how to do them and expect them to participate. My 2 year old helps sort laundry (any kids that knows colors can put whites in one pile and colors in another), my 7 year old does the dishes completely by himself (au pair helps him position dishes in the dishwasher and supervises) and can run the Dyson as well or better than I can and our 4 year old can hang up her dresses, put her folded clothes in her drawers, clear off the table and dustbuster underneath.
Things on the list I would not ask my au pair to do – iron anything, manage my childrens wardrobe (sorting and managing donations) and washing windows. I might ask her to dropoff donations on the way to dance class as a favor just like she asks me to grab her something on my next Costco run but as the kids grow out of things we have a box in the closet I tell her to toss them in and I go through it a few times a year. I also throw outgrown things in there so again, something everyone does.
Ironing is too much of a “want” vs “need” in our house plus we rarely do it ourselves. Husband’s work clothes are dry cleaned so other than an occasional easter dress our iron is very lonely. We do ask her to carry trash and kids stuff in from the car (otherwise I would find all 19 sippy cups in there in two days) but deep cleaning tasks are again, something we definitely don’t do weekly and if it needs to be cleaned to that level we swing it by the full service car wash once or twice a year.
Household chores are exactly that – we always say if you use it, replace it, don’t want it, throw it away, see it, deal with it, etc. With 6 in our household everyone is expected to be active participants. I set suggestions for things like au pair sheets and ask them what they think is reasonable. I would say “I put change sheets every two weeks in the manual, if you think it should be more often than that you can obviously do it as much as you like” and making their bed is a hard ask because 90% of the time we don’t make ours. Eeek! I know. It’s usually all I can do to kick them all out of my bed and get morning routines going, let alone swat them all away long enough to get the bed made. I pull up the comforter and move on. :)

MailysFormerFutureAP January 19, 2013 at 7:05 am

As an au pair I was asked to:
– Clean up the kitchen after meals with children
– Unload the dishwasher
– Help the kids clean up their room/the play room
– Do the laundry and put clothes away

In which extend I did:
– Clean up a bit more from time to time when I saw my host parents did not have the time
– Taught my 5 yo host kid how to fold a shirt as she would unfold 5 to 10 each morning. She got the choice: i would pick her outfit or she would clean up her mess, she chose clean up
– Played games with the twin girls so they would help with the laundry: they would close their eyes, i’d put socks all over their room and while i was folding the rest of the laundry they had fun finding pairs as quick as possible and put them together nicely
– I cleaned their bathroom from time to time although i wasnt asked to
– I did a “clean-deal” with one of the twin girl who felt like being a baby again and wasn’t dry. Instead of punishing when she had wet her self like my host paents did,i decided to make a deal with her as if she was dry 5 days in a row, we would leave the house earlier to go to school (she love to be first in line) and would always sho her how proud i was when she’d stop a game to ask to go to the bathroom.
– Told the kids to wear their PJs more than once before putting them in the laundry basket, which my host parents started to do as well

etc etc
I have been happy to not have a crazy amount of chores, and be able to leave it to my own judgement.

Valnyc January 19, 2013 at 10:09 am

I luv the chore games “Mailys” mentioned above…great motivation!

AP in Chicago January 23, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Hi! I think it is too much to ask an AP, my first thought was “so what will the mom do?” But I am nobody to judge and I don’t know how long she works or anything, so I wanna say, I do most of those chores and I didn’t mind at first but now it’s getting rough because everybody got used to me doing all the dishes, pans, cleaning the kitchen, sweeping, I mean everything after dinner, so now I find myself doing everything on my own and the kids are sleeping and the parents watching TV or in their computers. So I don’t feel like I’m doing that as a member of a family, cause in a family all the members help. I think I spend more time doing dishes and cleaning than playing with the kids, and the parents want me to teach the kids my language and I can’t find the time.
But in America, the common way to discipline the kids is not the same as in my home country (in South America). So sometimes I can’t handle them because if I talk to them as I would at home, they are going to think I’m mean… (sorry, off the topic)
Back to the chores, I think if the au pair know before matching, could be fine, but if not, it’s too much. When you are told about APs duties, they just tell you children’s dishes, laundry and rooms. When you get here you get it’s more, much more than that…

traveler February 5, 2013 at 10:57 pm

The chores I had to do while staying with my first family were (Three kids ages 11 months, 2 and 4 years old).
-Prepare breakfast, lunch and snack. Father made always dinner while mother and I would talk about the day.
-Clean the highchair after feeding baby. The other kids were already taught to bring their dishes to the sink, I would just clean the table and chairs off from crumbs.
-Help the kids to clean up after playing with toys.
-Get kids dressed, specially the baby and the 2 year old. The 4 year old already knew to get dressed, also to tie his shoes, and put the winter jacket on.
-Prepare and clean baby’s bottles
-Read books with the kids, play music, go to the park or other educational activities.
-Kept diaper trash clean
-Make beds (mostly the crib, and the 2 year old’s bed).

HP told me that they only want me to spend quality time with their kids, discipline them if needed, but mostly, keeping an organized and safe environment while they weren’t at home. I was never asked to do the laundry. When I asked them why I would not do that, HF answer was: We do that on weekends, we are teaching our kids what they will need to do eventually. (Yes, I was positively struck by this explanation).

With my second family there were additional chores like doing laundry of the kids, change weekly the bed clothes, fold them up and keep their closets organized. This time I did not require to drive because their ages were 2 and a newborn. Downtown was very close by and it was better to walk to the parks and library.

Aussieupair March 10, 2013 at 6:37 am

As an au pair, I would be happy to do all those chores, but within reason. I au pair for 6 kids (ages 14 to 13 months) and I do ALL the laundry, and I don’t mind doing this or cleaning/tidying the kitchen/lounge area, but I don’t like doing it 100 times a day. There have been instances with 6 kids wherei have made the room immaculate, gone upstairs to my room for 5 mins, come back downstairs, to find it completely wrecked. In this instance as an au pair I would be tempted to leave it and either get the kids to do it, or if I can’t Get them to do it (which is often the case), leave it for HM to get the kids to do it

On a different note, is it too much to ask an au pair to do chores on their day off? My HM has just put the 2 youngest in childcare 3 days a week to give me a break but I still have to do my chores on those days.

[note: I’ve made that a separate post/question. Goes up on Tuesday! ~ cv]

Taking a Computer Lunch March 10, 2013 at 1:31 pm

If the AP is working 45 hours a week, I feel it IS too much to ask her to do them in her off time. However, if the AP is working less than 45 hours per week, I feel that it is okay to ask her to set aside time to complete chores so they don’t compete with childcare duties.

For example, I usually ask my APs to work between 25 and 30 hours a week. I ask them to find time to some light cleaning (vaccuuming, dusting, and wiping down the kids’ bathroom) as well as a load or two of the kids’ laundry in the other 15-20 hours I could assign her to work. (My guess is that the actual amount of time it takes the AP to complete the activities – even if she were watching the washer run – would be less than 5 hours a week. Since she can Skype, sleep, do her homework, or hang out with friends while she does laundry, my guess is that the actual working time is less than 3 hours.)

Most of the time, the APs do it without an issue. Occasionally I have had to ask the AP whether she wants me to schedule the chores as work time or if she will manage to find time to do them when she wishes (but at a time that does not inconvenience the family).

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