Doubling Up on Au Pairs: Two Times the Challenge

by cv harquail on June 27, 2010

I’ve been hoping to get the host moms who have two au pairs at a time to write guest posts for us explaining how they make this work for them. It’s hard to find the energy and mind space to write reflectively about your au pair experiences… so believe me I understand the gap between having something to say and getting a chance to write it down and post it. (Story ofr my life, professionally and blogalisciously.)

Lucky for us, though, some of these Host Moms wrote about their their experience in the Who’s Hoo conversation. So, I’ve stolen these comments (rearranged them a bit) and put them here to start a post on “Doubling Up”.

The idea of having two au pairs at a time just overwhelms me. I’ve struggled to welcome, organize, support, and provide for one… but to do that for two? When we’ve needed extra on-duty hours for a span of time (long trip, heavy workload) I’ve always hired a back up sitter or leaned on another parent for help. But the idea of having all the help you need, all the time? Hmmm….

Each of these host moms has said that having two au pairs does not usually get them 2x the amount of help– significant energy gets lost or used up in the coordination and just in the general “whose job is it?” dynamic.

201006271001.jpgPA Mom of Two Au Pairs

Howdy friends… wondering why we have two au-pairs?

HD and I have been together for 10 years, upon us meeting we both had two children from a previous relationship. For many years we were able to caring for the 4 children together, since hosting our first au-pair 3 years ago (Thai) we have since had two more children. So yes, we have the Brady Bunch family … 16, 15, 13, 12, 3 and 16 months…(6 kids + 4 adults = 10 in our family).

And boy are they all in different directions. …

In regards to scheduling the APs we do alternate the weekly schedule. HD starts at 6:00 am and I don’t start work until 9:00am . So the 45 hours a week do not cover our childcare that is needed. With all 6 going in different directions, we need the help from 6:00 am til 7:00 pm regardless if we stop working at 5 or 7 pm.

I recently hired a part time American girl to help assist on Saturdays for 5 hours and if HD and I elect to travel she would be able to spend the night with the children. We found that even if you want to plan a weekend get-a-way you need back up help. I once did what others have done ask the AP’s to help (with extra pay) out for the weekend with my sister helping for a full day and by the time we came back from the short trip they were both complaining how tired they were.

In regards to my recent experience hosting two girls from the same country, it has been awful.

I never look to see if they are from the same country, I generally based my decision on the AP’s profile likes/dislikes. My AP #1 arrived in Jan and AP #2 arrived late in March. Both German, both very young and both immature. They don’t seem to have understood that they were here to work. Instead they seem to have acted more like guests.

AP #2 seemed to have no energy at all, she even took naps at 2pm in the afternoon. She never went out to meet other au-pairs and in fact sat in her room after work. ( She had full use of a car ).

AP#1 has always seemed needy. After a short trip in Feb, AP #1 was upset with us when we returned home. I asked “What’s going on?” and she said “When you Skyped your 3 year old

I was so tired from the trip out that I didn’t think to ask about her.  I was thinking about my 3 years old and my 1 year old at the time. I apologized to her and said I was sorry.

For two weeks we were given an attitude. Wee went into mediation, and then moved forward with her planning to stay. She even planned her week vacation.

We did try to praise her efforts and what was going well but twice we spoke to her about concerns. She seemed to try to hold it over our head that she would leave .. and that did it for me. Not long after, we went into a rematch.

You know how the saying goes….Monkey see, monkey do.

AP #2 left as well. As I mentioned, she didn’t do much work at all. Without the help of AP #1 she was feeling like she couldn’t do this job herself, according to the exit interview. But even with the two of them, they never seemed to get all their tasks done. They were supposed to care directly for the two small children.  We never asked the AP’s to clean, do laundry or make meals for the older ones, just supervise and ask them to remind them of their tasks. But it was never done. Caring for two children is not too much work for one au pair, much less two.

So as I sit here we are in 2 rematches.. Our Area Director said that she was confident that AP #1 made AP #2 decide to leave as well. Every time the AD tried to talk AP #2, she was crying about AP #1 leaving.  (The girls were from two different agencies).

So hosting two AP does have it disadvantages, when even together they can’t seem to get the work done. And, they do have the time to talk with each other and influence each other… positively or negatively.

I never had two au-pairs that didn’t get along.

Things are changing… we welcome are male Ap in July… and expect to get a second, female AP.. any thoughts?

201006271001.jpgFrom DarthaStewart, in reply:

That is the kind of situation I had when I had two au-pairs for a while. I swear… I didn’t get 2X the coverage/help. More like 1.2X.. They even would say how well they got along, yet they’d eat two different lunches during the day. OMG. And, honestly with 4 kids, and activities in 4 different directions some days, we could use the help, but nope.

A snippet from Deb Schwartz:

I have hosted 16 au pairs (does that make me the “grandma”?) and without sounding too schmaltzy, I really do believe that our lives would not have been the same without the influence of these wonderful girls (….still working on my husband on getting a male au pair….). I promise I will write a guest post on how we got to 16 au pairs, but suffice it to say that we overshot the mark on kid #2 and got #2,#3 and #4 all at once (yup, I had a litter) – so with four babes under the age of 2, we hired two au pairs at the same time until they all went to school.

We’ve hosted two au pairs at the same time for years……I’m going to write a guest blog about this (I swear!), but I think the most important thing is that they be similar culturally so that they at least have something in common and get along.

I know some host parents like them to speak two different languages so that they don’t get so chummy – but I think that’s sad – why wouldn’t you want them to be friends? It helps with homesickness, and give a general positive vibe to the house if they all get along. I also usually get one first – and involve them in picking #2.

Good luck! Keep us posted on how it all goes.

Parents and Au Pairs, what other things would you just love to know about Doubling Up?

Photos:

Altri esercizi di Gatto… from One From RM
Pay attention to ME from darrendavid

{ 22 comments }

NC AP June 27, 2010 at 12:01 pm

It seems like there are host families where the two-au pairs-thing works, so I know that my story might not be typical for everyone, but I would still like to share it.

In one of my host families, I was one of two au pairs, and I hated it! (This was one reason why I went into rematch.) When I arrived in the family, the other au pair had already been there for about 2 months, so it was extremely hard for me to be accepted by the children because they loved her so much and always told me that they wanted her instead of me (we were working in two shifts). Also, the other au pair always made me feel like she knew everything better and I did everything wrong. I think in a different situation we could have been friends (I liked her, we were from the same country), but in this situation it always felt like a competition, who does things better, whom do the kids like better, who has to clean up/ wash the kids’ clothes (“I did it yesterday, now it’s your turn” – “But last week I did it more often than you!” … I know, it sounds childish!) … Also, with the two shifts, we had a really strange schedule, and of course I could never use the au pair car in my free time because when I was off, the other au pair worked and needed the car for the kids, so I was mainly stuck in the house.
There were other things about this situation I disliked that I can’t think of right now, maybe I’ll add them later!

As I said, this was just my personal experience, so I hope it doesn’t sound like I want to badmouth anyone!

AP-CA June 27, 2010 at 3:34 pm

after arriving in the US about three month ago I am in rematch right now. well, i am in rematch since two month but decided to stay with the family for two more month till the new AUPAIRS arrive. My hostfamily has very little children (nearly 2 and 3 month old babies) and another “lifestyle” than you expect people to have who have children that age (don’t get me wrong – i got no problem with people going out at night, playing golf or meeting friends for lunch. but does it have to be every day??). So i am about to leave. I can not imagine that the thing with two au pairs would be the right thing for me. Sure, it could be helpful and a great experience to have someone else with you who is in exactly the same situation but – I think there are just more things about it that would bother me.

Used to be an AP June 28, 2010 at 2:00 am

Hi, I was an AP a while ago (don’t want to be too specific) and for different reasons overlapped with the old AP of my HF for close to four weeks. I know this isn’t really the situation you are asking for but it was close it. It was horrible. Of course, she wasn’t on duty for three of those weeks and could be the “nice AP” to play with, while I was the “bad AP” who enforced rules. The kids (3 girls) tried everything to get us to give them what they wanted and succeeded as well, as I could never be sure what the other AP had allowed them to do/eat/etc. I was very happy when she was gone. We spoke the same language (we were from neighbouring countries) but one issue was our different levels of English (upon arriving my English was better than her’s was when she left).

NC AP June 29, 2010 at 12:05 pm

I’m surprised that there are so few replies to this topic, I thought that there would be more to discuss and ask! I hope this is not because of the rather negative replies that have been written so far?

I would be really interested in reading other stories/opinions/discussions! :)

Host Mommy Dearest June 29, 2010 at 1:19 pm

I only think about hosting 2 APs when I dream about winning the lottery. Then again, I do like my job, but would not likely work full time if there were no financial need, so one AP would be enough coverage for things I need to do/want to do either with or without the kids? Lukily (unfortunately?), I don’t need to ponder this situation too much.

Calif Mom June 29, 2010 at 10:01 pm

I’m with you, HMD!

If I won the lottery, there would be no career job, but there would probably be a mom up all night writing, so an AP would be extremely valuable. Besides, I really like having them around the house. We’ve already learned new idiom from our not-even-here-yet Next AP. Dad would definitely still work. I wouldn’t want an AP for full time, though. Just those blurry morning rushes out the door, making sure they have clean underwear before the weekend, help when the afternoon crankiness sets in, and to cover for me so *I* could be a field trip mom for both kids, too. (sigh)

Dorsi June 29, 2010 at 1:20 pm

I would like to hear more as well. I can’t imagine it will ever happen to us, but it seems like you would get some great benefits (as many hours a week as you needed) as well as some pretty big challenges. You also must have a huge house….

Should be working June 29, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Managing one AP is taking more of my time than I ever expected, so yeah, I can’t imagine taking on two. My job would have to be far more time-consuming, and lucrative, than it is. But it’s a fascinating thing to hear about!

NewAPMama June 29, 2010 at 7:17 pm

I’m curious as to how many hours you needed for childcare in order to need two aupairs?

DarthaStewart June 29, 2010 at 11:15 pm

When I’ve done it, it was only about 50 or so. the problem was that I had a high maintenance baby, and older children. Baby just needed one person all the time- he still- at the age of 3- still wants near constant attention.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 29, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Some of my APs have had friends who have been one of two, however, the most exhausted AP I ever met was one who cared for 6 children alone. One of my best friends from grad school has 4 kids (now between 17 and 7), and my AP at the time asked him how many APs he had. He just laughed, because he didn’t have the finances for any.

Me, I just want to be with my kids too much – in fact having just finished 8 weeks coaching baseball, I just signed up for another 7 in the Fall… The benefit is that the Fall league plays on Sunday afternoons, so I get to take The Camel to her adapted aquatics course :-)

I wouldn’t want two APs – I figure in 10 years I’ll have more than enough time to work long hours. I wouldn’t miss my kids being kids for anything!

Az. June 30, 2010 at 10:32 am

How did she end up looking after 6 children? I thought the limit was 4 per au pair?

anonymous June 30, 2010 at 10:52 am

Is that an agency rule? Which agency? It’s not a state dept rule. We’re with CC and have 5 children, and only 1 AP. Granted, HM works part time from home and AP rarely has sole charge of 5 children (in fact, rarely has sole charge of 4 — more often has 1, 2 or 3 children under her care, while HM has the the others and/or the older ones are in school.) We make this clear in matching so that APs won’t be daunted by the notion of 5 children (working for us is likely easier childcare wise/responsibility wise than an AP who has sole charge 45hrs/week of the life mgmt of 2-3 children with FT work-ouside-the-home HM and HD)– BUT we don’t guarantee that the AP will *never* have sole charge of all 5 – this happens a few times/year, and usually during an evening when the children are already all fed, bathed and PJ’d, ready for bed and watching a film while HM and HD go out. CC never expressed that our having 5 children was a problem or a bar to having an AP (although they did caveat that it might be more difficult to find APs willing to come to a family with 5 children…but we’ve actually not found that to be the case in practice.)

Vivi_AP July 5, 2010 at 11:32 am

This is a rule in the Au Pair Care. EF (CC) does not impose this limit.

Pa Host mom of two au-pairs June 29, 2010 at 9:50 pm

I must say, they we miss somethings but not everything! Since I work from home I am able to see the children whenever I like. I walk through two doors and their I am. Today, since I was not as busy I was able to spend about 45 min away from my working kissing the babies..

Jan June 30, 2010 at 7:53 am

I can’t imagine having two au pair’s. It seems like a lot of work for the HF.

I e-mailed one of my previous au pair’s about this subject, but she did not have a good experience. Her first family was in NY, and they had three au pair’s plus two live in nannies (one for day and one for night). Each au pair took care of one child only. She had very little interaction with the host parents, lived in a different building from the family, and the au pair’s were pretty much on their own. She actually thought about dropping out of the au pair program because she was so un-happy. I think her situation is a little unique, though.

Pa host mom of two Au-pairs July 1, 2010 at 2:16 am

Thank you for the feedback from the au-pairs prospective. I never thought about two not getting along, or each complaining about the chores, or which au-pair the children like better. I think because my girls both got along. In fact, these last set of au-pairs that we had were very thankful to have each other. I think because when they arrived it’s so overwhelming to just get adjusted to any family. Many times I heard “I wouldn’t know what to do without XYZ” I think they were so relieved to have each other since my baby is like a pinball all over the place.
My two youngest ones really didn’t show favoritism, nor did the older ones. I think that it took about 3 weeks for the smaller children to adjust to another NEW girl but they welcomed her with open arms. Plus for the first two weeks, I had them work the same schedule so the children would adjust quicker. When we matched with the second AP the first AP was able to view the profile, speak to her and communicate several times before we matched. I was told by the area director to ensure that both girls communicated well before I matched.

In regards to hours that is used both girls worked 8-9 hours a day and sometimes less. We overlapped the schedule a lot because as my 3 year was in one section of the home the baby was going in a different direction. He was walking my 9.5 months and running full speed by 12 months. We never took the au-pairs off duty when the children napped, many of times they napped at different times. I understand that a lot of people can get their children to nap at the same time, but 4 out of the 5 days a week we could not, plus the 3 year old wakes up every night yelling for HD since he was born. And the baby wakes up at 5am- 6am. So…..we are beat… I think if we are lucky we might get 6 -7 hours a night to rest, we have not used any hours to keep the AP’s on duty through the night.
Both children attend a play/ educational/sports class once per week, so while AP #1 was driving to class, AP #2 stayed with the other sibling. The classes do not permit the other sibling to attend.
The hardest part of this program for us is the emotional aspect for my children’s sake, dealing with immaturity, being lied too, accidents, unsupportive families, and the AP’s not accepting this as work but more so like they are a guest in our home. We always want them to be a part of our family and encourage it from the start of the first conversation, when they step foot into our home & months to follow. However, we still need the AP’s to take charge and say, this is also my work and I love doing it.

The best part is if you have an excellent au-pair, you embrace her and wish her well after her stay and ball your eyes out at the airport. My first au-pair is very dear to us, when speaking to her the other day she said “I love you” that is the most rewarding aspect of hosting.

aria July 30, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Howdy!

I wanted to tell about my recent experience working with another au pair for a month. A while back, I mentioned on another topic that I would be alone with another au pair and the kids for a month, and I finally finished my time with the family this weekend.

My (now previous) HF has a system. Every summer, they invite a previous AP to come back to their country home and work with the current AP while the parents stay in the city and work.

To clarify, we were not alone with the kids for one entire month. AP2 and I took the kids on a train to the country and spent the first week taking care of them alone. HPs came that weekend and stayed until the next Wednesday- AP2 went back with them and traveled for that weekend, which means I was left alone with the kids. However, my HM did hire a local babysitter to help me during the day- the only real difference was that I was alone with them at night and in the mornings. That weekend, I took the kids on another train to their aunt’s house, where we met HM and later, AP2. AP2 and I took the kids back to the country house that week and HD joined us on Friday. HM arrived Saturday, and I left Sunday.

So all in all, we were only alone with the kids for about 10 ten days. We were *super* lucky to find that we got along really, really well, and my HKs are plain old good, sweet kids anyway. However- I definitely think that my HM will rethink her system before next summer:

The two times she used the same system before this summer, it was the same AP who came back both times. This “AP1” and my HM also had a verrrrry special relationship, for a lot of reasons I just don’t know. The bottom line is, they’re like best friends. My HM has given her money to pay for her schooling, the AP1 stayed with them for about 2 years, etc. My HF had good relationships with the rest of the APs they hosted, including AP2, who I worked with, but nothing like that first AP1.

My point is this- when AP2 and I were stuck together in that isolated country house away from HM, we ended up sharing a *lot* of complaints. I would mention something that bothered me about HM, and AP2 would agree with me, and vice versa. Things change when there’s somebody else who’s shared the exact same situation and had the exact same problems. And so I’m pretty sure that when my HM came back for her visits, she could clearly smell the mutiny in the air, which had never happened before.

I think having APs together can work, but there are definitely issues to think about. First is that APs *will* talk. Either about how much they love the family, or (in our case) about how much they don’t. Another issue we had was that for this entire month, we had no days off. Even when the HPs came to visit, we were expected to work 24/7. I ended up with a bad sinus infection and I had about a day and a half to recover, before I was back to work because my HM was too tired to bathe the boys after a day of sunbathing by the pool. My HM would try to ‘remotely micromanage’ us from the city, scolding us for feeding the kids cookies at snacktime, even though it was what they had eaten all year and she shoveled ice cream down their throats whenever she was nearby.

It’s one thing to have these issues when you’re alone, just 1 AP. But it makes a huge difference to have someone right next to you, agreeing that *yes*, HM is being ridiculous!! It was almost like constantly having an AuPairMom.com (for au pairs) around, to agree and offer advice and assure you that you’re actually not crazy. I don’t think I could’ve handled that month (weekends with HPs included) without AP2, and I’m extremely happy I met her. I hope my HM realizes that by having two APs together, they are not going to sit around and chat about how much they love her like I’m sure her AP1 did. For most of the moms on the site, I doubt they would have to fear mutiny. My HM only did because, well, you reap what you sow. Sorry about the LONG post!

pia aupair July 30, 2010 at 8:31 pm

that is sooooo funny. my previous aupair is here right now just to visit but we keep gossiping about the our hostfamily to a point were i actually feel bad for doing it.
but it just feels so good to talk to someone how had the same issues where i always thought it was just me.

cv harquail August 1, 2010 at 8:26 am

Aria-
Thank you so much for following up with the rest of the story! So many of us were worried that you might be taken advantage of with that kind of arrangement and that overwhelming amount of time ‘on duty’, so I’ll bet we’re all glad to hear that it went okay.

DId you and AP2 find any ways to use your shared understanding of what wasn’t working to get anything to change?

It’s interesting to note, as you do, how comforting it is to have someone say– “yeah, you’re right, this is ___” and to know you’re not crazy. I suppose that this happens more often around disappointments and bad situations, but it could also happen in you had a pretty great family & situation and also had someone else who recognized that.
Working in the home with the kids cna be lonely and isolating for an adult, whether the parent or a paid caregiver. It really makes a difference to have some kind of community.

Ami November 21, 2011 at 3:44 am

I just gonna say that I feel really uncomfortable working with other AP that takes naps when babies are napping too, and feel tired all the time with no reason, she doesn’t do anything, just eat, sleep, chat on the phone and put the babies on danger letting them dance on the stairs and play with scissors, because she doesn’t think this as a job, she thinks this is as a vacation time and this house is her hotel.

I feel like someone is getting paid for something that I am doing.
People wonder why HF choose her, well, because there were no one else, and she lied on her profile a lot.

They are rematching.

EuroXaupair November 24, 2011 at 6:13 pm

wow. I can’t even imagine what it’d be like sharing your Au pair duties with another girl. I was overlapping a month with the Au pair taking after me, and I hated it. It was fine the first couple of days, we would care for the kids together and hang out after work, go shopping and I’d show her places etc. However; after a while it got really competitive – we were not taking careof the kids “together” anymore; we were on different schedule. She would brag about the fun outings she had have with the kids during the day, and I’m pretty sure she felt like I was bragging after I’ve had the kids. Sure it sounds childish, but for me she was playing on my territory… I love the kids to death and it hurts way too much to see them getting so attached to another Au pair. Though I want them to be happy, I still couldn’t handle seeing her success :p as for overlapping a few days I think it’s fine, even great, but for a longer time…… Not so much.

For the one who wrote she’d get a male and a female Au pair, how did that work out? I’m curious, because I think that might be easier.

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