Does Your Au Pair Car Have A Curfew? (poll)

by cv harquail on May 14, 2015

 Back in 2010, we had poll to see what percent of au pair blog readers had a curfew on the car that the au pair uses.    60% of host families  who responded to that poll had a curfew on their au pair car

il_570xN.361490806_ly2u[ Check out that post: Au Pair Guidelines: Does your car have a curfew? (Poll) ]

 Host Mom KLG  wonders what happened to all those other families. It seems to her like she’s the only host mom who has a curfew for her car. She writes:

We are now hosting our 5th au pair. Our first 3  au pairs were wonderful.  For all of them, we had a car curfew –the car had to be home in the driveway on the weekends by Midnight.   

The car rules state “No drinking or driving”.  This means that our au pairs should not be driving the car to go out drinking at bars.   

I have noticed, however, that most other host parents do not regularly the car use.  It is difficult for us as host parents to have such strict rules when most of the au pairs are able to have the cars all night and drive to and from bars (probably not sober!!).   I am just surprised by this.  

Our new au pair arrived from Mexico a week ago.  She met some girls in her cluster who told her they go to DC every weekend to the bars.   I told her that I would be happy to drop her off  At the home of whichever au pair is driving that night.   I was clear that we would not allow her to drive our car into DC  to go out to bars.  I also explained that she could not drive the car to the Metro station and leave it in the parking lot there. That just meant that she would have to drive it home from the Metro station after an evening of drinking– which is just as bad as driving the whole way home from the city.

Our 4th au pair was 25,  and I thought she would be mature enough to make safe decisions with the car.   After several months of taking it every single weekend and leaving it at the metro and coming home late on Sunday nights we had to ask her to not take it anymore.   It had become a problem and she had been lying to us.   That caused a lot of hurt feelings on both sides.   

 Our new au pair seems okay with our car rules. However, it is really hard for me to imagine that all of these other families don’t realize the risk they are taking by letting these girls drive the cars to bars and parties on the weekends and drink.  

If you have taken a more recent poll on this, it would be great to see.  

Anyway, I am trying to be fair and to trust our new young lady so am hoping to get some perspective and advice.  Thanks, Host Mom KLG

Does the car your Au Pair uses have a curfew?

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Host Mom in the City May 14, 2015 at 5:41 pm

I don’t think “has no car curfew” necessarily equals “totally fine with au pair taking car into the city, drinking all night, and then driving home.” We don’t have a car curfew, but we do share a car, so our au pair rarely has it over night. Maybe because we don’t live in a car-dependent area, our au pairs have only rarely even asked to take the car out at night and most certainly would never have expected to take it if they were going to be drinking. My au pairs have all known that drinking and driving is a very bad thing and I got the feeling they wouldn’t have even done it in their own cars. It’s just not something we’ve experienced, but I most certainly would not be ok with my car going to a bar and sitting there all night and then driving home at 4am. An au pair that expected me to allow that would be quickly rematched.

AlwaysHopeful HM May 14, 2015 at 6:31 pm

Agree. We have no curfew on our car, but we do have parameters on where it can be driven, and an absolute prohibition on drinking and driving or allowing passengers with open containers to ride along. Having no curfew is not the equivalent of having no rules.

Dorsi May 15, 2015 at 11:53 am

I have to explain the no open containers rule a few times – it is really a foreign concept to my APs from countries where drinking and driving is less of a big deal. APs have a hard time understanding that they can get in trouble for a 22 year old friend drinking in the back seat.

NoVA Twin Mom May 14, 2015 at 7:46 pm

I voted “No Car Curfew” but agree that we have parameters.

We explain during matching that if our au pairs go into DC we expect them to take metro, the same way we do. We explain upfront that parking in DC is a royal pain and that we would rather they park at a metro station and take the train/bus in. And we do the same. If they go out of town for the weekend we will drive them to a bus station or the airport because we don’t want our car to sit in a parking lot all weekend. (What we don’t mention is that exceptions can be made for special occasions – and clubbing is not a special occasion.)

One difference is that our au pairs have nearly all been under 21. The one au pair we had that was over 21 would often go on Hotwire or a similar website and rent a hotel room near the club with a number of (same sex) friends so that they COULD drink without risk of driving afterward. We thought that was a great idea!

NJmama May 14, 2015 at 8:34 pm

Early on one of my au pairs gave me a hard time about the car curfew. Then at one point she asked if she could drive a car load of friends to some big event 6-7 hours away. I sensed there would be lots of drinking and I said no — but felt badly about it because I felt like I was the annoying host mom with the too strict rules.

But you know what? That weekend came and they didn’t take the trip. Turned out that I was a lot more lax than her friends host families were, and they thought I would be the one who could be convinced. That was also when my au pair confessed that she was tired of always driving her friends around.

This au pair was one of my under 21 ones. So I think that was a big part of it.

I think at the end of the day this is all good practice for us for when our own kids are teenagers. As kids get older the different rules in different families become a lot more apparent and distinct. If your gut says don’t bend the rules then don’t. If you’re at a point where you feel you can be more flex then test the waters.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 15, 2015 at 7:13 am

I’m pretty lenient as HMs go – no car curfew unless an AP blows it (so far 1 out of 11 – although we did also host one very weak driver from China, who went she took the car overnight had to give us a telephone number where she could be reached). I do hold fast to one rule, however, and that is no AP leaves the greater Metro area without holding a US driver’s license (for most of the APs I have hosted that means surrendering their national license and exchanging it for the one in my state). That hoop comes with a few hours of coursework, for which I pay.

I do think APs tend to rush into matches – whether they are pushed by their agency or their own dread that they won’t find “the perfect family,” and don’t think about all of the ramifications of their decision. If an AP matches with a family that has a car curfew then it’s not fair to her HP if she constantly pushes against it. (Same holds with an AP who agrees to a personal curfew.)

We don’t have a car curfew, but then our APs do change diapers for a teenage girl who also has to be dressed and fed, so we tend to get more mature APs anyway. I know that no AP chooses us because we don’t have a curfew!

Peachtree Mom May 15, 2015 at 6:11 am

We make the midnight car curfew clear during matching. No road trips either. If it is a problem, they are free to move onto a different family. Our aupairs do not have a curfew but the car does. On weekends I will pick up and drop off if needed.

DCBurbTwinMomma May 15, 2015 at 6:41 am

We’re quite close to the Metro to get into DC and when the au pairs go out (the neighbor across the street also has an au pair and a few others are within walking distance), they will either share a $15 taxi home or someone has been the designated driver and parks at the Metro lot. Once, my au pair took a taxi even though she had the car at the Metro because she was tipsy. I applauded and supported that mature decision making. Isn’t that what we want? They’ve never wanted to take the car *into* DC because parking in the city is horrific, expensive and prohibits bar hopping. Not having either a car curfew or personal curfew (on non-work days) has worked for us over the years. The au pair knows I will, without hesitation, go into rematch if she drives under the influence. Au pairs in the past have used the car for beach vacations and trips to Philly, Atlantic City and New York City with no problem. I just don’t equate a night out with drunk driving. Just as I go out in the city often, park at the Metro and use safe judgment if drinking is involved to have a designated driver or indeed taxi home and get the car in the morning.

An au pair is free during his or her free time. They can borrow the car to go to the gym, run into friends and end up at a local happy hour (or is often the case with my neighborhood–in my basement dancing, watching soccer and drinking margaritas). So it’s about their maturity level to know when to get a ride or walk and when to refrain from drinking. Not just the lure of weekend club hopping.

Jasmin May 15, 2015 at 8:58 am

We have a car curfew and also have parameters that they can drive. We do not live in the country and have lots to do locally. I try to be willing to drop off and pick up when needed and especially if anyone has been drinking. I think it’s better to have rules in place and if they show they are responsible let them do more rather than have to “have the talk” when they are here. This has all come from experiences.

momo4 May 15, 2015 at 9:11 am

I live in a urban area that does not have good public transportation so we allow our APs to use one of our cars when they need to. In 8 years we have never had a curfew for either our APs or cars, but we have always made it clear that these are shared cars, our APs have always been very respectful of this, and we have never had a problem. Might they go out, drink, and then drive drunk? Of course they might. Would they lie about it? Most likely. Might I never even know? Certainly. But it’s a calculated risk.
Ultimately, I am expecting my AP to show good judgement and be responsible for something infinitely more precious than my car: my children. If I can’t trust her with a car, what am I doing leaving my children in her care?
That said, all my APs (except one lovely Thai woman who had no problems driving and never had an accident in 2 years) were from European countries, and although they went out a lot with friends, I wouldn’t categorize them as “partiers”.

momo4 May 15, 2015 at 10:07 am

I should also add, that I think my decision on whether to have a curfew might well be different if I lived in a different city/region, had nicer cars (we have a 2005 Accord and a 2008 Sienna both of which have suffered the ravages of small children) or had bad experiences. Living in a city that is never a vacation destination for Europeans and having multiple children has no doubt affected the selection of APs interested in matching with us, and most of our APs have been sensible and down to earth.
Over the years my approach to being a HP has evolved though, so it may be that someday I will have a bad experience and change my mind :)

SKNY May 15, 2015 at 11:07 am

agreed. No curfews because we live in the middle of nowhere, there is no au pair within close to an hr from us, and no public transportation. My experience is that to enjoy and have friends our au pairs have to drive 1h to 1:30hs from us, and a curfew might make it impossible.
NOW, we are considering relocating to a big area and will consider a car curfew if we move.

American Host Mom in Europe May 15, 2015 at 7:06 pm

I could have written this post; only exception is we actually do live out in the countryside. I feel very much the same about trust — if I trust this young lady with my kids, why wouldn’t I trust her with my car.

Some of my au pairs have asked us to pick them up at the train if they are planning to drink; others make arrangements to stay overnight in town with friends. We’re cool with either, and just ask that they park responsibly if they e driven into town.

Mimi May 15, 2015 at 10:20 am

No car curfew here for a dedicated third vehicle. We have no public transportation at all by us (or even rideshares/ Uber) and are in a spread out area so having transportation is important. We have rules about car use and restrict new APs until they have proven to be good drivers and earned privileges like travel outside the immediate area.

SeatleHD May 15, 2015 at 11:17 am

We’re closer to the (small) ski hills than Seattle and very rural (walkability score of our place is 3/100 and I’m surprised it’s that high), so our au pairs need a car just for the basics of getting out to the store. Our policy is no drinking and driving at all. Has that been violated? Mmm, yeah, I found three beer bottle caps in the rear door storage once. That was when I had the open container law discussion (driver is responsible and will get a ticket if pulled over even if not drinking) and it got added to the handbook. That’s been one minor incident in three years.

Our APs have all had regular sleepovers both at other APs and here, so I feel like I know the main friends and they have all seemed pretty reasonable, so I don’t mind the car being out for that.

There was that one time I told an AP that snow was coming and it might be best to get the car home, but she ignored me, then tried to rectify the situation by trying to bring it home the next morning in the snow. That didn’t work so well (but no damage, except to ego).

Mimi May 15, 2015 at 4:54 pm

We’re a 12/100 and it’s deceptive because there’s a school and a church a few houses down but everything else is several miles away on a main route road that is dangerous to walk along.

TexasHM May 15, 2015 at 11:13 am

See momof4 you have hit on a point I really want to respond to and that is the “trust” angle (your example “If I can’t trust her with a car, what am I doing leaving my children in her care?”). Our first AP argued with me mercilessly in her second year about having to tell me roughly where she was going and when she would be back. She tried to turn it into me trying to parent her or be in her business when it was really about mutual respect and care. I finally had to tell her “at what time should I notify the police to look for your body?” that seemed to get the point across better. ;)

Keeping in mind I am just asking for a ballpark and they can just text me! It’s the same courtesy my parents show me when they visit and drive our cars and I am certainly not trying to parent them!

Going back to the trust issue – its not that I fear they are drinking and driving or making poor decisions, its that we have two options – let them do whatever they want and then be stressed about the much expanded wear and tear, higher risk of others damaging the asset or having to replace it, us having to deal with a situation late at night or with a damage situation (rental cars, medical bills, time lost taking off work to schlep to shop and rental place and whatnot) plus everything else CV mentioned in the previous post. I haven’t had conversations with any HPs that put curfews on the car because they thought their APs would drink and drive or because they don’t trust them!

NoVA Twin Mom May 15, 2015 at 11:22 am

The “look for your body” speech is the exact phrasing I had to use with our two “older” au pairs to get the same point across. Same problem. I’m NOT trying to be your mom or to “cramp your style.” I want to know when we should start notifying people that there’s a PROBLEM and we need to look for you. If I call the police, the first thing they’re going to ask is when you were supposed to be home. If I don’t know – they’re not going to be able to look for you in time to help you. If I have some idea – they might be able to find you in time to help you.

TexasHM May 15, 2015 at 11:39 am

Exactly! And piggybacking off that – WHERE to look for you! So if you say “I’ll be in town and back around 10pm” that is worlds better than “I will be somewhere in a major metro area of 7M people that spans (no joke) more than 9,500 square miles!” Plus as has been said, we have Uber and there are plenty of other APs in the area that drive so they aren’t shut in and we have had 3 out of 4 APs have accidents (minor thankfully but STILL!!) – jury is out on #5 she’s only two weeks in as of today (but doing well so far)!

Although, now that I think about it, the one AP that didn’t ever have an accident got far more driving privileges and bent rule exceptions than any of the others – not a coincidence I am sure. :) And as many have said – earn the trust/right is MUCH easier than free for all and then trying to institute new restrictions. I actually WISH I was chill enough to let the APs have the car free and clear, it would save me lots of explaining and headaches but at the end of the day it would cause me massive stress so sorry, for the sake of sanity my AP gets to be a little limited with her use of our expensive asset/liability.

Texas5TimeHostMom May 15, 2015 at 1:57 pm

TexasHM, totally get it. If my current au pair went missing I wouldn’t know it until Monday morning. She’s somewhere in our metro area with her boyfriend who I’ve never met, luckily, no longer with our car getting large dents since I changed the rules…We consistently ask for a heads up on what their plans are for the same reasons as you. I don’t always get much insight, though :) I think I’m in a smaller/safer metro area than you (not H-town) but still!

TexasHM May 15, 2015 at 6:54 pm

We aren’t in H town either but agreed, I think I know where you are at. ;). The bigger problem is I don’t know any HPs that allow their APs to drive downtown which is where the APs want to go clubbing here (vs pay cover closer to home) and if we waived car curfew I promise you our car would become the area AP clubbing shuttle overnight! I guess that could be added to the why have a car curfew list – because we won’t have our car be the local AP shuttle service. I have no doubt they would pay for gas and our AP would be responsible, it’s all the additional mileage and wear and tear and damage risk.

Our new AP is great (thank God!!) and no joke, THE day she passed her driving test she had 3 APs ask her for rides. Yes, she passed with some serious coaching (is it sad I know all the test routes and all the gotchas after hosting 5 years?) but it was her FOURTH day on the job! Luckily she told them all no, she’s still learning the area but sheesh!

We know some families that limit their APs to one guest in the car to manage this issue. I would rather not do that but would if necessary. Believe it or not, we’ve actually had several of our APs say they LIKED having a car curfew because then they had an excuse not to be the shuttle! I asked why and they said they didn’t want to be responsible for damage, be the constant DD or be the bad guy turning down the other APs that want rides all the time. This way I’m the bad cop. :). One thing that is very apparent to me now is that this is SO variable and that if an AP doesn’t have other reasonable transportation options (ours does) then HFs might need to offer more in this area to offset.

momo4 May 16, 2015 at 9:15 pm

Excellent points, TexasHM. I should probably clarify that our APs actually have to ask each time they want use the car, and they always seem to tell me where they are going and roughly when they are expected back. I also impress on them that it is as much for their safety as anything else. I think I make it pretty clear in the beginning that I expect this communication. Once they have proven themselves reliable I don’t press the point any more. But the wear and tear is also a significant issue, as are the late night flat tires.
I think the issue of the car becoming a shuttle service is also a good point, but I think that depends a lot on the ever-shifting community of APs in your region and the personality of your AP. I admit it was an issue with out first AP years ago, but somehow is hasn’t been an issue since then. I’d be interested to hear how other people deal with this, other than the obvious and likely effective car curfew.

oldaupairmom May 24, 2015 at 1:08 am

I have no problem with my APs driving our dedicated AP car. I have a problem with families that don’t provide a vehicle and expected other families to provide transportation to their AP because the family is too cheap.

Hosting an AP is not a low cost enterprise, nor does it fall under the umbrella of “it takes a village” my APs have been pressed for rides from other APs and from other host parents.

I have always said my APs can have them call me (because most of our APs have been so dear and lovely) and I (because my car insurance bills are not for the faint of heart) would be happy to state my rules. I have always made my rules loud and clear to LCCs who also can be delighted that an AP with a car might solve their problems with cluster meeting attendance.

(I firmly believe the Dept of State does these young men and women no favors by not insisting on car availability, at least in the suburbs, where bus transportation can take over an hour to reach ESL class.)

TexasHM May 15, 2015 at 11:15 am

Option two was institute restrictions on the car (curfew or otherwise). :)

JassyinPG May 15, 2015 at 3:38 pm

I’m new to the au pair world (our first au pair just arrived a few weeks ago) and I’m probably a bit younger than most of the host moms I’ve seen, but no, we do not have a curfew on the car. I just ask that the au pair replenish the gas she uses but she can do what she wants…she is grown! I’m not going to treat an adult like a child. My au pair is 25 (soon to be 26) and is very mature. If I trust her enough to leave her with our most precious assets (our children) than I trust her with a car and to make wise decisions. BTW, I also live in the DC area and I think being that strict is too harsh, after all they are here to experience a typical American life, and that means freedom.

NNTexasHM May 15, 2015 at 9:41 pm

We have a car curfew because despite having 3 cars we switch them around and I just don’t want to worry about where the cars are, when they are home, where someone might be with my car. Period. I have a lot of stuff to stay on top of and I choose not to add this to my list!

My rule is 11:00 on week nights and 12:00 on midnight. I do this because my insurance company recently started a program where you get discounts based on safe driving and not driving after midnight is one of them. When I called my agent to ask about why that constituted safe driving, she explained that in the industry they know that a higher % of accidents happen on the road after midnight. So guess what, if insurance thinks it’s safer, well they should know!

We have Uber in our area and it’s remarkably affordable. In order to lesson the blow of not having access to a car I contribute $10 a week towards Uber as I noticed she was using it once every week when her friends wouldn’t go the trouble of picking her up (I couldn’t drive her because I was typically alone with my child at that point). Even though our Au Pair generally gets rides from friends it’s nice to know that if she needs to, she can use that extra amount.

Mimi May 19, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Speaking of insurance…we have a new family in our cluster who is making the AP pay her own car insurance because they don’t require a driver. I didn’t think this was acceptable, but the jury is out and the LCC hasn’t weighed in yet…

3TimesAuPair May 17, 2015 at 11:31 pm

I am a 20 years old girl from Barcelona, used to live in the downtown.

I started to be an au pair when I was 17, in France, in a big town near Paris, I had no car at that point because I had no driver’s license. I used to be a big party girl, partying from Thursdays till Sundays, not when I was in France since I didn’t want to come back to the suburbs when it was dark.

I was an au pair in Australia after that. I had a car and not car curfew, host parents trusted me (Thanks god they trusted me… I was alone with their baby and toddler… If they trust me the children but not the car…), they knew that I used to be a big party girl, but also a mature girl and responsible, that’s what they said me that I could use the car as much as I wanted, but in case that someday, I had some drink, I could call them and they would pick me up, not because of the car or the insurance but because of me and the ones who would be in their car (I think we forget sometimes about people and we care too much about money)… Of course, I would never ever call them to pick me up, I would rather call a taxi.

I had never driven drunk, and I will never do it. As a big party girl, I prefer to don’t drink and come back safe than drink and choose between drive drunk or have to come back to any suburb by taxi, with an unknown person driving or by bus and having to walk from the bus stop to my house by myself.

They knew I was worried about this, they trusted me and they knew that I did never drive while drunk, that’s why they used to offer me to drop me off and pick me up, no matter the time, cause they wanted me to drink from time to time and feel safe anyways.

After all of this, what I was trying to say is… Why don’t you trust your au pairs? We are not all crazy girls going to the US just to get drunk and have sex. There’s people wanting to live the experience, who loves children and loves THEIR LIFES, and won’t drive drunk. Also… I know we all say that our neighborhood is really safe and it does never happen anything, but I would prefer to borrow the car to my au pair and trust her than trust the unknown people of the world and think she’s going to be safe walking at night time… I don’t know, maybe you have really immature au pairs and you can’t really trust them…

Mimi May 18, 2015 at 6:30 pm

Drunk driving isn’t only about the choices you make. Many peoples are killed or seriously injured by other drivers who have caused accidents because if their poor choices. I think that many here have also talked just as much about fatigue as they have other reasons for having car curfews. The bottom line is that it is a privilege and not a term of necessity for the program which leaves HFs well within their rights to set limits.

PacNWHostMom May 18, 2015 at 1:25 pm

We have never placed a curfew on our AuPair’s vehicle.
That said, there’s a few things that play into that….

We do not have AuPairs that are 21 or over. Although I know there’s a lot of mixed theories on that, it’s just not something I care to deal with at this point. Our cluster is currently dealing with some serious drinking & driving issues and I’m happy to say our AuPair is not involved. She doesn’t hang out with those AuPairs and is very critical of their poor decision-making.

I’m not naïve to the fact that most AuPairs, even under age, are probably drinking somewhere, since they do so in their home countries (most of them anyway). We have a very clear rule, that even if the AuPair is at a party, or drinking, or another AuPair’s house, that they are absolutely not to drive the vehicle after having a drink. They know, that they can call me at any time of the night to pick them up and I will not be upset. I’ve established that trust and relationship and have made it clear I’d be far more upset about them drinking and driving than being woke up to pick them up from somewhere.

We do have rules about the vehicle, such as not being the AuPair taxi and shuttling all the other AuPairs around town (because our AuPair has her own vehicle and it always happens), and that she’s not allowed to do road trips or drive outside our area without us first okaying that. Mostly because we want to check the oil, tires, etc..

Lastly, we always need to know where the car is. It’s fine to say “I’m going shopping, or I’m going to so-and-so’s for the day” and we don’t ask that they give us their itinerary or play-by-play of their entire outing, but just a general, “I’m headed into the city” type of comment so we know at least what to expect.

For us, it’s worked out really well (so far and knock-on-wood)!

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