Blended Family Challenge: Half-Time Custody but Full Time Au Pair?

by cv harquail on March 20, 2014

My partner and I have three daughters between us and are looking into the AuPair Educare program. All three of are girls are in school full time and we would essentially only need before and after care.


The question is: We have our daughters every other week. We attempt to have all three of them one week, then none of them the next, then all three the next, etc. Because of that, we would really only need the AuPair for 30 hours every other week. Can this type of schedule be worked out with an Au Pair Educare?

Thanks for your help and advice!


Image: Two Houses Near Hangzhou, available on Etsy


Host Mom in the City March 20, 2014 at 11:22 am

I would suggest first that you read about educare au pairs and ensure that you’re getting one for the right reasons. I think they end up being almost as expensive, you have very very few candidates to choose from, and many of the educare au pairs apparently get upset when they come and find out that many of the regular au pairs only work 30-35 hours themselves and still get paid $50 more per week. Based on my research anyway, educare does not seem to be a program that really makes sense from any angle – better to get a regular au pair and just have her work fewer hours than the maximum and then to have those extra hours if you need them.

But anyway, yes, I know two families who do this every other week schedule. Obviously it would be very attractive for an au pair, who then only works 26 weeks out of the year and basically has 26 weeks of vacation. They could travel or take classes or whatever during all that free time. Or, as with the two families I know that had this set-up, they could be bored to tears during those weeks (all their other friends are working) and feel useless and in the way. I think they also might attract the wrong candidate – one that basically wants to work as little as possible no matter what else about the match feels right. I think you’d really have to explore with the au pair what they would do with all this free time and why they want to match with your family.

I do wonder, if you only need 30 hours every other week, does an au pair really make sense? Maybe it does, certainly, but it seems awfully expensive and time-consuming to pay for 52 weeks of care when you only need 26.

Gretchen March 20, 2014 at 11:35 am

I know of one family in which the au pair goes with the children and changes back & forth between the households. The hours remain essentially the same between the two households and the cost is then split in half. It works well for them, but does require a high level of cooperation with the other parent. The biggest benefit? It really helps with consistency.

Should be working March 20, 2014 at 11:44 am

I have wondered about this: does the AP sleep at both parents’ houses? So she has her own room etc.? In principle that would be doable but I can imagine the AP might not like it much.

If the AP is not sleeping at the “other parent’s house” the parents don’t live too far apart the AP could be “on duty” for several hours a day at the house at which she does not reside and then drive herself back “home”. I would do that if possible, then that “other parent” would for instance only have mornings to him/herself and the AP would be around for afternoon/evening.

Gretchen March 20, 2014 at 8:41 pm

In the case of the family I know, they live only 10 minutes apart (in the same school district so as to not cause an issue there). The parents have a good relationship with each other and communicate well. The au pair has her own bedroom in both homes and moves with the children, but because they live so close together, it does not cause any issues with her own ability to attend classes and meet her friends.

I think this could only work in a situation where both parents communicate well with each other and have a friendly relationship.

Momma Gadget March 21, 2014 at 10:37 am

“I think this could only work in a situation where both parents communicate well with each other and have a friendly relationship.”

This is critical! One of our APs who came to us through extension, got caught in a custody battle that grew ugly and dangerous very quickly. She had to be removed from the home immediately ( thanks to the experience and action of our LC). Her own LC had allowed multiple violations, and didn’t even inform the Agency that the family had split. Luckily the AP had called our outgoing AP who spoke her native language when she was scared and afraid to go back to the other home. The Old AP had the foresight to call our LC and get the poor girl removed from the volatile situation.

Should be working March 21, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Wow. It’s true, an AP in a split family with hostility could end up uncomfortable at best and scared at worst, like you mention. I feel so sad for the kids in this. The AP can be removed, but for the kids to be removed is a whole other scenario.

Momma Gadget March 21, 2014 at 12:34 pm

It was awful for the HC!
This AP stuck it out in a horrible situation for a year because of the poor 11yr old.The parents were so blinded by hatred for each other that they practically ignored the child’s ( and the AP’s) needs. The situation started effecting the APs health and she felt physically threatened which is the ‘real’ she decided to extend elsewhere. When she was removed, she was advised by the agency to severe all contact with the family.
I hope that social service removed the child also.I know that this still haunts the APs conscience years later.

FutureAuPair March 20, 2014 at 2:30 pm

I know that if this was a potential situation for myself (moving once a week) I would probably steer well away. This may come from seeing friends whose parents divorced and they then had totally different rules in their two homes though.

As far as working every other week – an EduCare au pair might be a better fit as they will be more interested in taking classes and can use the weeks off to do more work for this, but after a while it may get a little wearing.

And after all of that… I think it really depends on the au pair themselves as to whether or not it would work!

Host Mom in the City March 20, 2014 at 3:04 pm

This was my initial reaction too with the EduCare au pair, but honestly, I’ve never heard of a class schedule that is only every other week, so I think this would work less then you would think.

exaupair March 20, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Personally I would be ok with moving houses every other week provided both sets of parents didn’t live too far apart – for example 1hr drive from one house to another + the hour I’m commuting is counted into my on duty time.
If it wasn’t the case and I would be assigned to look after children only every other week, then I would have to ask what exactly my duties would be when the children were not around. If they required me to make it up during summer break (where I would have the children for more than 10hrs each day, or maybe some light house chores during the “no kids week” I would be happy to do that, but I certainly would not sign up for for example cleaning the house from top to bottom during those “empty” weeks. Forgive the language, but no-one is stupid enough to pay for X knowing they will only get only half of it, therefor I would be kind of suspicious….

Amelie March 20, 2014 at 6:32 pm

There are a lot (maybe not a lot, but a handful) of au pairs who work for divorced parents and only work every other week. I’ve heard about it in the facebook groups I’m in.

Most fo them do kid-related chores during the weeks they’re not with the kids. Some of then simply do nothing.

They’re mostly ok with with, from what I’ve read, but sometimes feel bored (and feel like they spend a lot of money, since they have many extra days off).

I don’t know if any of them make up for the off weeks working beyond the 45 hours during the summer.

Skny March 20, 2014 at 6:02 pm

As long as parents realize even though Au pair only works 26 weeks she is to be paid 52, I see no problems. Some people might not realize it (new in the program I mean)

HRHM March 20, 2014 at 6:44 pm

My current AP is looking at an extension family where she would be moving back and forth every 2 days (parents live 15 minutes apart). She has very little detail (will she sleep in one house and drive back in the am, or stay wherever the kids are for instance) The family are first time hosts, so I think THEY don’t really have it all sorted out just yet. My gut feeling is that it would take a very flexible personality to handle the back and forth, especially since the rules/schedules/parenting styles are bound to be different depending on who’s house you’re at.

As for the every other week off scenario, it invites slacker applicants and I’m not sure most APs would be happy (even though they think they would love to have off all the time) OP, if you can find another child care method, my advice would be to skip APs. If you can’t, try to find some way to keep her busy or let her leave/travel on her off weeks (an AP with a boyfriend or cousin or sibling in a different city might be a good choice)

Seattle Mom March 21, 2014 at 12:53 am

I wonder if there are any rules or agency policies on this type of scenario. I’m sure it’s not kosher to have your AP “make up” hours during the summer (not that the OP was suggesting that). Personally I wouldn’t like to switch houses from week to week, even if they are only 10 minutes apart. If they are that close the AP could still live in one house and arrive at the other to take care of the kids in the morning… maybe for some families it could be up to the AP.

WestMom March 21, 2014 at 7:08 am

I would have no concern finding an Au Pair with this arrangement. Actually I would think it would be very attractive, although I don’t think the candidates we normally pick would do well with this arrangement (the ones who seek a strong family experience). On the selfish side, this is the kind of situation that also gets other Au Pairs envious about other APs’ situation and who develop resentment against their family for working ‘too many hours’ (i.e.- 40-45)!

Momma Gadget March 21, 2014 at 10:28 am

I think this arrangement is difficult at best. I think other options would be more suitable maybe a couple of part time sitters? Even if the stipend is no problem, you still have to house and feed the AP when she is not working.
Although it would be great to be able to have a vacation week every other week, traveling is expensive and the cost of activities can really add up. I sincerely doubt that most people are so adept a budgeting that they could do it regularly on under 200$ a week.
IMHO without the perfect match, it is a recipe for a bored AP, and a resentful HF.

exaupair March 21, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Totally off topic, but I’m sure potential APs know that the role doesn’t come with an actual salary, it’s only a stipend, sure they bring money with them as well, in case they really wanted something they couldn’t possibly afford relying on the stipend only?

Momma Gadget March 21, 2014 at 3:17 pm

exaupair- this is unfortunately not usually the case

Depending on which country they come from they may not understand what things cost here in the US. In some cases they may have been purposefully mislead about how far their stipend will go by recruiters. A couple of my APs were unpleasantly surprised when they arrived here.
Depending on the financial status of their family, there may be no “extra” money to bring with them to finance 25 weeks of vacation.

Should be working March 21, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Momma Gadget is so right. And APs have to pay a lot to be in the program–1300 EUROS for Germans, which is like $1800! Someone is cleaning up on this, I tell you.

Plus some APs have to pay their own gas, public transport, phone charges above texting with HPs. They might really not understand how the stipend works out and will not have family back home to supplement them.

Skny March 22, 2014 at 1:27 pm

I agree. When I came to the program as an Au pair (in 2004) I sold my car to pay for it. The program cost all of the money and I arrived at the training with $50 my father was able to get for me.
That was it.
My parents would never be able to assist. Also, at the time Au pair salary was 139.05, which believe or not was more tha. Minimum wage in my country, so I thought I’d be “rich”.
Oh well… Nowadays I am a physical therapist, have an Au pair, and my husband and I always joke of how I arrived in this country with a bag and $50 in my pocket

German Au-Pair March 22, 2014 at 8:40 pm

I just double checked on the agencie’s websites and while I couldn’t find the prize for CC, which is the most expensive one, the other two big agencies go for 800 and 700€. Of course you have to add the visa costs but I did NOT pay 1800€ to be in the program.

Some au pairs are really good at managing their money. I have a close friend who went on the most outragous trips (think every possible weekend trip, one of those expensive organized tours plus a trip to Hawaii), bought several electronic gadgets and tons of clothes and also went to musicals and concerts a lot and did not earn or bring extra money. She should get a job at a travel agency or something.

AussiePair March 21, 2014 at 5:25 pm

I’m not sure about other au pairs, but I know for me all of my savings (barr $100) was spent on actually getting over here. Between the agency fees, passport, visa and insurance I spent roughly $2000AUD, there was just no feasible way to bring extra money over for vacations unfortunately.

exaupair March 21, 2014 at 6:06 pm

I have taken more than few months worth of my stipend, plus my credit card. But then again, I didn’t have to pay agency fees because there was no agency involved :-) and my flight was super cheap!
The family prepared me for the “absolutely no perks” reality when they said that whenever they would invite me go out anywhere together I will have to cover my own bill (sic! being part of the family spirit in all its glory :-) ), therefor I wanted to take more just in case!

AussiePair March 22, 2014 at 1:42 am

I wanted to take more, don’t get me wrong! But in the case of most Au Pairs coming to the U.S it’s just not an option unfortunately.

Also it is true what other host mom’s have pointed out, the agencies definitely lead you to believe that that stipend will go a lot further! Which I suppose it can if you only ever eat with your host family, and put every penny you earn towards vacation and do no other activities which cost money (virtually impossible if you want to have a social life!)

Taking a Computer Lunch March 22, 2014 at 1:11 pm

One penny-wise AP ate with us, took advantage of the designated driver program (tell a bartender that you’re the designated driver and your drinks, which must be non-alcoholic, are free), and spent her free time outdoors. She did join a gym and subscribed to a couple of magazines. She did purchase some electronics, but basically kept her expenses down to $50 a week (which included driving everywhere, but I think all the friends she drove pitched in for gas). She spent a week in Hawaii and did a two-week California trip at the end of her year. She also traveled extensively during her year – looking for public transportation, couch-surfing, and inconvenient flights that reduced her expenses. She had a close network of friends, one of which we drove to the airport at the end of the year because her own HF refused (how sad).

Some of our APs have ended their year absolutely broke and spent their “travel” month with us. One AP saved a ton of money and nearly cried when she converted it to Euros and realized how little was left (it was a very bad exchange-rate year).

Our LCC does counsel APs to save at least $50 every week for emergency expenses – the deductible in the event of a car accident, potential doctor expenses, taxes, extra luggage fees for the flight home, etc. And if the AP has a great year and touches little of the emergency money, then she has saved for a great trip at the end of her year.

AussiePair March 22, 2014 at 3:39 pm

I agree with you! There are definitely ways to save money, I’ve travelled a lot and think if I can continue being frugal I should be able to do all I want to. I was just trying to point out that bringing a lot if money with you is terribly hard. And for an au pair that has every other week off it would be extremely hard to save up that money for big trips when you’re spending it most other weeks.

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