Extra Hours: What’s fair pay when you break this taboo?

by cv harquail on February 13, 2010

Many parents find that 45 hours a week is not enough childcare.

Either you have an emergency late night at work, a kid home sick, a snow day, or a bookclub meeting. Some parents have work + commute combos that mean they’re away from home 10 hours a day, m-f, even if they stagger their departures and returns.

In a perfect world, we’d have low cost back-up childcare — a friend or parent, a high school babysitter, or even a second au pair — who could pick up the childcare hours that go above and beyond your au pair’s 45 hour limit.


But we don’t live in a perfect world, and so host parents (and au pairs) break or bend the 45 hour/week rule.

Let’s agree that we know that this rule exists, and the reasons why it exists. Given that some parents feel they need to break this rule, and given that many au pairs would be happy to earn some extra pocket money — let’s tawk:

Is there a fair way to ask for & pay for extra on-duty hours?

The host parent who emailed to ask that we discuss this has two key questions.

One question is easier– what to pay per hour?

The second question is a bit dicier — how to make it fair?

Here’s the email from the parent who suggested this post:

Dear APM readers-    My question is about extra hours.

I know this subject may be a little taboo, but I have spoken with my current Au Pair and many of her friends, and I’ve learned that many families have made arrangements for their Au Pairs who work over the 45 hour limit.

My spouse and I both commute to NYC and even working 9-5, the commuting makes a typical week 52-55 hours long. During our interviews with prospective au pairs, we discussed our longer work week and also discussed how we would compensate her monetarily for this. We also discussed what other ‘perks’ we would offer an Au Pair – things such as:

  • Full car use on weekends
  • Her own private bathroom and tv room (for the most part)
  • Cell phone and texting plan
  • A computer for her use only
  • Almost never having to work weekends (unless she was off a bit during the week – and we always try to clear this with her first)
  • Only one really sweet baby to watch — our now 10 month old daughter, who lucky for all of us is an angel, never crying, fussing, etc. Compared to the many au pairs we know who are in charge of two or three hyperactive 6-10 year olds, our one baby seems to be easier work

What we tried to make clear was that we were offering a somewhat cushy set-up. In addition, we felt with my wife and I being young (31) and in our eyes, relatively cool, we offered an all around good deal for a prospective Au pair, short of the extra hours.

Our Au Pair agreed to this arrangement before matching, and it’s been working well for us. That said, she is also a fabulous au pair in every way.

Here are my main questions:

What do you think is fair to pay your au pair for these extra hours?

What are other families who require north of 45 hours paying their au pairs?

201002131448.jpgIf you simply offer the Au Pair her hourly rate for the extra hours (weekly pocket money divided by 45 hrs), it comes out to $4.33. I feel like that is taking advantage a bit, but I don’t have a different way to assess what other amount might be ‘better’.

I’m looking looking to hear other host parents’ (and au pairs’) thoughts.

What makes this Host Dad’s concern ‘unique’ is that this arrangement is not temporary or occasional — it’s an ongoing thing. So, I expect that host parents will have some specific & different concerns about this arrangement as opposed to ad hoc extra hours here and there.

Some concerns I had–

What if the au pair changes her mind about the arrangement?
What if your work schedules change and she stops earning ‘extra’ money?
What if your au pair ends up chronically tired, or grumpy?

Okay host parents and au pairs, off we go.

Just ONE request– if you want to comment anonymously, choose & use a pseudonym. We need to keep track of all the participants as we unfold our conversation.

spazimal rainbow from jek in the box
spazimal pink spotted splat from jek in the box

See also:

Do you pay your Au Pair for her orientation days?
Should you share your au pair?


Mom of 3 February 13, 2010 at 4:11 pm

We tried to go by the book for a while and asked alternate sitters to come over and watch the kids once our au pair’s hours reached the limit. But a few months into it, the topic came up and she said she would like the extra hours and to ask her first (sort of a right of first refusal thing). We had previously been paying around $13-14 for 3 kids to some very experienced sitters. But we offered to pay our au pair $10, mostly to keep it simple. We felt this was generous compared to the $4-5 rate they normally take home, but still a little bit of a bargain compared to a US sitter with higher expectations, transportation considerations, and more.

It worked for us. But we did not abuse it, and maybe gave her 5 hours max extra a month. It was not like the family’s example of needing 2-5 hours every single week.

Anonymous February 15, 2010 at 9:17 pm

We are the same. We usually only need overtime help a few times a year and only offer the AP overtime after she has been with our family for many months. She gets the “first right of refusal” before we get a sitter. $10/hr is the OT rate for our AP for either over 10 hours in a day or over 45 hours in a week. With a really great AP we’ve even had a weekend overnight.
We stick strictly to the rules for several months with every AP and juggle like crazy when one parent is traveling. I am glad we have done this since we have had a few rematches where such OT would have been mis-respresented to the agency by a sour AP.

mom23 February 13, 2010 at 4:45 pm

We have only needed extra time a few times and mostly during the summer. We have always made it optional and always paid the going rate for our area ($15/hour). We had one au pair who said no and we dealt with that. Our au pairs have a 20-25 hour work week during the school year so we don’t feel that going over once or twice during the summer should be an issue.

HRHM February 13, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Our AP routinely works a 30 hour week. Having said that, T & R are usually 10+ hour days. She stated early on that she is ok with that and we have never offerred to compensate since her overall hours are light. We also have, on more than one occasion, given her off on Friday once the kids are in school so that she can take a long weekend and travel. So on the couple of times that she had long weeks (last week as a matter of fact, due to the snow) I did not offer her any direct compensation. I did, however, get her a $40 gift certificate from the mani/pedi place she likes as a thank you for working so hard and being so flexible.

I would be hesitant to leave any AP with a baby for 12 hours a day. After 3 APs, I’ve come to the conclusion that the rules exist for a reason. An AP is much more likely to burnout if she is working these kinds of hours, and after Louise Woodward, I wouldn’t want to take any chances. I love my kids and I have a hard time going 12 hours straight without any relief! LOL.

If you need to do it on a regular basis and want to compensate her fairly, you should at least be paying minimum wage – it’s what her stipend is based on (minus room & board which don’t increase when she works more). Most APs will talk to their friends and realize quickly that the going rate is 10-15 per hour depending on where you live and how many kids.

A Host Mom February 13, 2010 at 5:40 pm

There are weeks when our AP works more than 45 hours a week/10 hours a day – not on a regular basis, but once in awhile. If she has to work longer than a 10 hour day, we make sure to stay within the 45 hours for the week – so she may work a really long day one day, but then has the next day off, or just works a half day. Her typical work week is about 35 hours, sometimes even less, so on the rare occasions we go over 45 hours, we do not offer extra compensation.

We have also left her for a weekend on a couple occasions – overnight on a Saturday night – taboo, I know, but we have. Our kids are older, so it isn’t as though she’s caring for an infant or toddler. We pay her $100 for that.

Our au pair does get extra perks – a lot of travel with us, all expenses paid, a car to use in her free time, a personal computer and cell phone, and I regularly give her a thank you card with some cash or a gift card in it – so she’s hardly abused.

We are honest in the interview process that we don’t/can’t count hours to the minute – we just can’t. Typically she works much less than 45 hours, sometimes it is more, in the end it balances out in her favor, and she’s never complained – she has been with us nearly two years.

Amelie ex au pair February 13, 2010 at 6:36 pm

I used to work 2.5 extra hours every week, for 40 extra dollars.

I wouldn’t work 5 extra hours everyweek. Too much (specially for 10 bucks/hour…)!

PA au pair mom February 13, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Our AP typically only works 30-35 hours per week and no weekends. Because of that, one month a week when I have book club, she is willing to put in a longer day. I always ask 2 weeks in advance. She refused additional compensation so I filled her gas tank in her car and also gave her a gift card for her favorite shop.

I think if you are going to be going over regularly, then you should offer $10-15/ hour. Think of it as overtime for her.

I would be careful too. If your au pair changes her mind about your arrangement and goes to the LCC it could definitely get ugly!

Sara Duke February 13, 2010 at 9:09 pm

There are only a couple of occasions when I’ve asked an au pair to work more than 10 hours a day: once, after working all day, my au pair noticed that a screw holding the titanium rods in my daughter’s neck were breaking through her skin. I was very apologetic, but she knew I had no choice – my daughter had to go to the ER immediately and I couldn’t take my son with me. (My daughter had emergency surgery the next day, by which time my parents had arrived to help out.) The AP got extra money, a phone card, and some of her favorite foods.

Recently, an AP agreed to work 10 1/2 hours to cover some scheduling issues. We were going to cancel a PM appt, but she said it was fine. Both of our kids are school age, and even my medically fragile child doesn’t usually require constant attention (she can play on her own for an hour or two at a time, but needs an ear cocked in case she needs a diaper change or attention).

Our first AP worked 45 hours a week for us, and we hired other sitters when we wanted to go out on a Saturday night (the AP only worked M-F). Like a previous poster, our AP made it clear that she wanted the money (she was supporting a brother in college), so we paid her the going rate for special needs children/infants, which was $15 then.

It hasn’t been an issue since our kids have started school. We rarely have our AP work more than 25 hours a week, although we had her working more recently when we were all snowed in so my husband could work from home and I could shovel the snow (DH is not allowed to shovel).

I think it easy to fall into the trap of thinking its okay to stretch the boundaries, and while if it happens very occasionally, it’s one thing. If it happens routinely, and there is no recompense, it’s abuse.

Anonmom February 13, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Not my experience, but a relative needed (before her kids started school, for 2 years in a row) an au pair to work regularly more than 45 hour weeks. She had a Wall Street job with long hours and long commute, it was impossible to ever fit within 45 hour limit.
She discussed it with au pairs upon matching, and the first year was OK, the second year one of the prospects she was interviewing reported her to the agency.
She compensated well for extra hours, the market rate for a babysitter in her area. The au pairs she got were happy with this arrangement.

'sota gal February 13, 2010 at 11:40 pm

I personally can’t speak to over-scheduling on a regular basis given our schedule, but when we have needed the extra help we pay $10-15 per hour depending on the time of year. We usually pay $10 but will increase to $15 if most of the extra time working is during the day when all 3 kids are awake or a holiday vs if we need an extra night out and most of the hours worked will be when the kids are in bed. We once had our old sitters come over because AP had plans and our AP at the time felt strange having some one else come over to watch “her kids” (she ended up being home all night as her plans cancelled. Our AP’s have all found out the we pay her more than our old sitters as they are neighbors and have been friends with all of our AP’s – 19 YO twins that babysit as a pair and will do it for $8/hour total.

I too would be concerned about an AP working a 12 hour day, even with an easy baby. I remember how lonely and isolated I felt as a new mother when DH was out of the house for 12-14 hours a day and our 1st was a super easy, always happy baby. I also know thru our AP’s friends that they often feel frustrated, resentful and taken advantage of when constantly over scheduled.

Sara Duke February 13, 2010 at 11:45 pm

In my experience, having seen some au pairs work iron weeks along with high achieving HP, it is very hard on the AP. They have difficulty fulfilling their mandatory education requirement and are often late to meet friends because they never know when they will be “done.” We once held up a Chanukah celebration for such an AP – she never showed up because her HM had an emergency. (The AP went into rematch a couple of days later.)

I have worked from 6:30-3:00 since we got our first AP. Our APs get to take college classes that start at 5:00 and my kids get to have a long evening with me. Somehow I managed to crash only once every couple of weeks. My husband works 8:30-5:00, so he spends some time with the kids in the morning and in the evening. I think I can count on both hands the number of days in the year when we both have to be out in the evening for work or meetings.

I know that not everyone has this flexibility in their workplace. I know that no everyone can get on a bus to commute at 5:30 in the morning (for me, getting upright is half the battle). I intend to continue until my son graduates from high school.

Personally, I take the cultural exchange as seriously as I take the childcare. I want my kids to be well-cared for, and part of that care comes from a happy au pair (I don’t mean kow-towing to her every whim, but permitting her to fulfill the obligations of the program and to have fun with peers, too). My husband and I tend to give time off if we are around – because we want to spend time with our children (so no, our AP will not be working on President’s Day).

The only way I work full-time and come home and be the best Mom I can for my kids, is a serious power nap during my commute. Believe me, there have been times when I have been sleepwalking (especially when DD screams inconsolably for hours at night because she can’t talk and tell us what is wrong). But I am the Mom and DH is the Dad. My au pair is not-the-Mom or the Dad, and I don’t expect her to make the sacrifices that we do.

I definitely was on the Mommy Track for a while, and that was okay. Now that my kids are in school (and DD mostly sleeps through the night), I can take on more responsibility at work, including working a couple of extra hours here and there – and still keep my AP’s hours around 5-7 per weekday.

Au Pair in CO February 14, 2010 at 1:18 am

When I work evenings, I get a couple of hours off in the afternoon, or get to start later in the morning, so I don’t work more than 10 hours that day. I would much rather just work the extra hours and get money for it though, but I understand that my host parents want to stick to the rules :)

Hostmom February 14, 2010 at 8:13 am

We definitely stick to the rules. My life is hurried and hectic and i’m tired, so i don’t want my AP to be. I want her to be rested and happy – which also includes her free time to visit friends, use the computer or what have you. We have a babysitter for anytimes that we do need the extra hours.

I think an occasional need for extra hours is one thing, but i think if the need is 50-55hrs per week every week, that is not for an AP. The family needs to hire a local nanny.

I have heard from my APs about families who routinely don’t follow the hour rule, and doesn’t sound like they are very happy. maybe they don’t get extra money???

I also think the extra money is a slippery slope. Since they don’t make what a locally hired babysitter would, working extra hours can be very appealing for the money alone (also letting AP babysit for friends/others) and not necessarily because they can handle it. They may agree even if they are tired, need a break….

CT Mom of 2 February 14, 2010 at 8:24 am

We try to stay within the 45 hours, and generally only have our au pair working M-F during business hours. We are lucky that HD is a school teacher and can be home easily by 5:00 p.m. most days.

We do occasionally need weekend or evening babysitting, especially during the charity fundraising season — I am a corporation foundation program manager and go to charity events very often. I try to cut my hours short during the work week so I can swap them with the au pair and she can cover the weekend/evening event. When this doesn’t work out, we will pay a sitter $10 to $12 an hour plus a bit extra. We try to give the au pair right of first refusal at the $10 rate (since she has no living expenses, it seems very reasonable to pay her the lower end of that range). However, we are finding that our girls (now 5 and nearly 3) really enjoy having a different babysitter “to play with” on the weekends, so we only now only swap hours when it really makes a difference, and rarely have our au pairs working any extra hours.

Talliecat February 14, 2010 at 9:15 am

We have a good relationship with our au pair and there is a lot of give and take. She has 3 long days during the week and two short ones and usually prepares to work on Saturdays. I usually try and adjust the weekly schedule to accomodate the number of hours we would need on the weekend. I guess if we went way over this we would pay her 8$ an hour which would be around what the agencies say that you pay. We have also had other babysitters when our au pair was off who we pay 10- 12$ an hour for. I would say that it is an individual situation.. but our au pair sees how busy we are and doesn’t ever complain about having to help out extra. I should be more aware of this in the future.

StephinBoston February 14, 2010 at 10:21 am

This is our 3rd au pair and she has a much easier schedule than the 2 past ones since both kids are in school 2 days a week so she doesn’t start her day until 12:30PM on those days. I haven’t had to ask her to work extra like a did a few times with previous au pairs when they work 8-5PM everyday with 2 kids full time. I always paid $10/hour when I did ask them. It was very seldom and just for us to get a bit of couple time and the kids were asleep. I never asked them to stay up or anything so it was compensation for ruining a potential night out :-) I also try to stay away from asking those things on weekends. I think its something that has to be VERY clear with the au pair before she comes and you have to be fair, I know a lot of au pairs who were taken advantage of because they couldn’t speak up and tell their host family about the situations, not everyone is comfortable with conflicts, APs and HPs alike.

Anon-y-Mom February 14, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Maybe it’s because I’m over 40 and apparently no longer qualify as a cool host mom, but the idea of being in sole charge of a baby–no matter how angelic–55 hours a week gives me the shivers. Even if you gave me my own bathroom and a laptop. In fact, I think I would be on that computer a lot.

I’m confused–you already discussed the issue during matching with this AP and she is apparently here already and working out great, but you are now trying to figure out compensation?

I agree that you risk burning her out. When she starts to make more friends and has to miss get-togethers often because of her work schedule or just plain being tired, you may encounter problems. If you give her carte blanche with the car when she hasn’t been getting enough sleep, you’d better be sure to have her on your car insurance, and hope she isn’t driving your angel around town!

Should be working February 14, 2010 at 12:50 pm

We got a very stern warning at our first LCC meeting that going over 45 hrs is grounds for being dismissed from the program, including paid extra hours. Does anyone know anyone to whom that has happened? Or is that only if the AP complains (which I take to be her right)?

Anonymous2 February 15, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Yes. I know of more than a few families that have been dismissed for this after being warned. The State Department rules are very clear. If you want to chance being dismissed from the program and losing any money you have paid then you can take this chance. The rules are not arbitrary – they were created with the best interest of your children and your au pair in mind.

Anonymous2 February 16, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Yes. Personally.

Dorsi February 14, 2010 at 1:14 pm

I try to give my AP extra rewards for working extra, but not money. I like to try to not make the whole thing a purely financial transaction. I think it is easy to slip into a mode where this is purely a job and not an exchange.

For example. last fall my AP worked some 12 hour days and did some work travelling with me. We had an intense few weeks. As a reward (and I was explicit: “I know you have worked hard lately, an I want to do something special for you”) I sent her to a special event in another city that was very important to her. (I paid for tickets, airfare, and my family picked her up at the airport and housed her).

I think it sets a better tone — you do me a favor, I do you a favor.

Regarding LCCs — mine said to me (and I was kind of shocked) “You know some families talk about how much they pay for the extra hours with me. And I am like, Oh no! Don’t tell me! Do whatever you want but I don’t want to hear about it.” I think she was trying to say that whatever we do is cool with her, but don’t involve her. Not the attitude I was expecting.

Anonymous February 14, 2010 at 5:07 pm

I think this attitude among LCCs may be more prevalent than you think. I went to our current LCC about our AP underage drinking (she was out of town and posted it on her FB!) and she basically said, that’s why I’m not friends with them on FB, I don’t want to have to be responsible for things I find out about!

Somehow, I don’t think this was what the State Dept had in mind for the LCC – tell everyone how to correctly answer the questions and try to avoid finding out about the truth! We are about to switch agencies and I keep hoping it’s this LCC (or agency) and not the way they all operate.

Anonymous February 17, 2010 at 5:17 pm

We are in the process of switching agencies as it is nearly time to match with a new au pair. During our home interview, we were told “the State Department says you can’t pay your au pair for extra hours or housework – so if you do it, I don’t want to know.”

HM in VA February 14, 2010 at 3:09 pm

I’m out of the house 47-50 hours each week (working 9-5 plus commuting). My AP never works weekends unless there was a 4-day work week because of a public holiday. I pay $8.00 per hour for all hours over 45 and any hours over 10 in a single day (even if the overall weekly total is less than 45). I have young twins. When they were infants I tried much harder to keep the hours to 45 because the AP’s job was so tiring. Now that they are older, less exhausting to care for, and yet still take a 2 hour nap every day, I feel much better about the 47-50 hour work week. Once they start preschool, and the AP works 38 hours on average, I will not bat an eye at a the occasional 10 hour day.

Anon HM February 14, 2010 at 5:43 pm

A little off topic–but we are expecting twins and our first AP in a few weeks! Good to hear from another HM who had an AP with young twins.. And no, I cannot imagine having an AP provide more than 45 hours of care to an infant.. I think 45 hours might be stretching it during those first few months, even though I will be on maternity leave.

Long Island Host mom February 14, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Except in an emergency situation I would never have my au pair work more than the regulated 45 hrs. Often she works less hrs than that per week since my one daughter is in school all day and she has some after school classes. I have another person that helps me around the house that I pay extra $ and more to help with the extra hrs with my daughter. This keeps things clean and my au pair doesnt feel taken advantage of…knowing this isnt allowed – if things dont work out with your au pair – do you really want to have the agency cancel if they find out ? Also there are many other reasons for not doing it. I have heard alot of stories from our current au pair and her au pair friends of Host families taking advantage of the au pairs and basically putting them in a position of not being abel to say no once they are here…the au pairs are afraid to say something to the LCC for fear the host family will find out and then there will be problems between then and then they will ask to go into transition and try to match with another au pair. Basically its blackmail. And then there are other au pairs that just care about making $$ and they clean the house, do the family laundry and lots of other jobs they arent supposed to be doing – just so they can make extra $. I just know I dont want to put myself or my au pair in a compromised position – where we feel threatened or taken advantage of…it’s cleaner and we can continue a great relationship based on mutual respect, trust and care. If you are willing to give the au pair more $ – then hire someone else for those extra hrs…

LM February 14, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Wow. I think this is grossly unfair and the AP is being taken advantage of. Even if you discuss your situation prior to the AP excepting your family how many do it simply because they want/need the AP position? A standard work week in the U.S. is 40 and the AP is already working 45. Taking care of an infant for over 10 hours a day is extremely hard work. Personally, I feel it is asking too much, but if it is done, then she needs to be given overtime pay. The extra things that you offer are nice. I offer mine the very same thing with the exception that she does work on some Saturdays and she has two children to watch. I don’t feel that because she has use of a car whenever she needs it, a cell, unlimited txting, her own room, bathroom and one of our computers to use for her own (until she bought her own) gives me the right to take ask her for more than what the program provides for. No American would except that. You may not just be breaking the rules of your au pair contract, but perhaps also breaking labor laws. I’d rethink the situation. Maybe you would be better off with a nanny. It would cost more, but it would seem the au pair program is not good in your situation.

Anon Host Mom February 14, 2010 at 7:57 pm

I think it sends a bad message to any Au Pair that you as a host family intend to purposefully violate a key part of the program requirements. If an Au Pair were to tell us that she intended to violate any key part of her end of the Au Pair arrangement, I’d be on the phone with the LCC in a heartbeat. We follow the rules and expect the Au Pair to as well. Our LCC knows this after 7 Au Pairs, and has always backed us up. We have heard plenty of stories from Au Pair friends of our Au Pairs where host families routinely violate different rules. This may work for a while, but just as soon as the Au Pair is displeased or feels the need, she seems to have a “Get out of Jail Free” card to play with the LCC! For example, if you can’t resolve an issue with the Au Pair directly, it makes it difficult to utilize the LCC to problem-solve. When confronted by the LCC, the Au Pair is likely to bring up the family’s failure to follow the rules. I don’t believe all the “pluses” of any host family situation can justify scheduled excessive hours. Every host family has pluses and minuses!

Dorsi February 14, 2010 at 8:52 pm

I am not sure why people keep suggesting a nanny as a better solution. While nannies are a diverse group, it would still be one person taking care of your child 12-13 hours/day, five days/week. Just because they commute to your house and are Americans, doesn’t resolve some of the basic issues (the isolation of being with infants all day long, etc).

I really don’t think the AP agencies care — you are a paying customer and they want to have as many paying customers as possible. Maybe this isn’t fair, but I don’t think anyone is going to get kicked out of the program or that it is some big trump card that the AP has in her pocket.

So what do people think is the bigger problem: 11hr day or 55 hr/wk? If it is a long day, maybe you can look into staggered start times like Sarah Duke mentioned. Or, find daily care for 7a-10a or 3p-6p. If it is the 55 hr week, maybe you can have separate childcare for 1 day/week (find a college student, grandma, etc) for every Friday. These options are not likely cheap, but they probably cost the same as paying the AP fairly for extra hours. That would still likely be cheaper than live-out care and give the AP a little more space.

I think the AP program is wonderful, including for infant care. I do think keeping your APs hours to 45 (at least most of the time) will create a better experience for all involved — including your kids who need a rested, happy childcare provider.

Does anyone else have any solution-focused advice?

HRHM February 15, 2010 at 8:27 am

When we first got an AP, I was in a surgical fellowship with a 4 yo and a 3 mo old and DH was stationed 4 hours away (Thanks Uncle Sam ). So we had AP who was there in the am after I left at 6, would get the girls up and going, drop them off at preschool/daycare at 9, pick them back up at 3 and take care of them until I got home (sometimes 5:30, sometimes 10pm). Because we had the 6 hour break in the middle of the day, we never went over hours. In addition, it exposed DD3mos to english speakers during a time when it was crucial for her language development, and allowed DD4 to prepare for kindergarten. Needless to say, this is an expensive option – but it works. Now that DH and I are back in the same state and I am working a more normal schedule, we still send them to preschool/school from 8:30 to 3, both to allow more hours flexibility (weekend dates ocassionally) and because even if we never worked more than 8 hours (not really possible in our professions) with the commute we would still go over.

So, there’s one solution.

Busy Mom February 14, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Dorsi, the difference in hiring a nanny is both that one is not breaking rules by having them work longer hours (all my previous live-in nannies worked 55-60 hours weeks) and that one can find a nanny with past infant nanny experience and therefore have some assurance that she’s going to deal well with the isolation of watching an infant. An American nanny will also have the driving skills (and past experience driving kids) right from the get-go that will help lessen that isolation – trips to the library, park, grocery store, etc.

I think your ideas, like finding another person for Fridays, are excellent ones.

I think the 11 hour days are an issue b/c of the isolation (and lack of break) in having someone who has probably never cared for a child in a 1-on-1 10+ hour, day after day situation provide this type of care. The >45 hours is an issue b/c it breaks the rules. Sorry, I’m just a mostly rule abiding kind of gal (paid my nannies on the books and everything…). I wouldn’t want to be in that situation if things started to go wrong…

To the original poster, many families offer the same “perks” that you do. We offer everything on your list except the texting plan, which our AP pays for herself. Your AP will quickly realize that these perks don’t really compensate for her extra time.

To be blunt, I don’t think that being on the younger side of the HP spectrum will be perceived as a benefit to an au pair when she’s working longer hours than her friends.

PA HOST mom of TWO Au-Pairs February 14, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Anno Mom and Lm mom sums this topic up! They are right by saying you are taking advantage of your au-pair! The AP might agree to this at first but in time , if something goes wrong they will report it! I dont think I would risk being dismissed from the porgram. If you are already willing to pay extra money than find another childcare provider to cover your working hours. My work hours and my husbands working hours, do not cover the 45 hour work week. We are not paying the au-pair to work extra hours we had to get a second au-pair. I can’t image having her care for the children 10 -12 hours a day. It way to much, working early in the morning until late in the evening. I find myself extremely tired and on edge after chasing my 1 year old around all day and having my 3 year old running in different directions, when my au-pairs are off duty. In addition to 4 teenagers children going in 4 different directions and operating two businesses.
I actually knew another au-pair that agreed to doing extra chores like washing the host parents clothing for extra $$$ after 2 months the girl was complaining to my au-pair how tired and exhausted she was at the end of the day. Quite frankly I think any host parent that ask the AP to wash their clothing is just plan laziness.

ANONHM February 14, 2010 at 11:43 pm

On the occasions we require extra hrs. (probably 1-2 times per month…usually just 3-5 hrs over the 45 permitted) we offer our AP the opportunity to work those hrs at $10/hr or tell her we are happy to hire a local sitter to cover the hrs if she has plans/no interest in working the extra that week (they are usually week-end hrs). She has said yes more often than no, but has said no on occasion when she has plans and that has been just fine.

ANONHM February 15, 2010 at 9:47 am

And we pay $10/hr because in our area that is the going rate for a local sitter. I pay our AP what I would pay someone I would hire to come in and do the extra hrs. That is only fair in my opinion. In the NYC area, I imagine the going rate for a sitter is higher than $10/hr.

My 2 cents February 16, 2010 at 2:56 pm

This is what we do in the rare situation it comes up.

I personally do know a few families that regularly go over 45 hours and pay per hour as they would a sitter. They and their au pairs are happy with the arrangement. If it suits them, so be it. These aren’t situations where au pairs are working 60+ hours and over weekends.

To OP: Just be aware that even if your AP originally agrees to be paid extra for extra time, that she can change her mind, and you will have to find another way.

Anon Aus AP February 15, 2010 at 12:50 am

I regularly work more than 45 a week, and get paid double time like i would at any other job back home working overtime. I look after twin almost toddlers and so even though i’m working 10 days normally i have time during the day while the kids are sleeping to unwind and have a bit of me time if i need it.
I don’t feel taken advantage of and working a bit extra doesn’t make me any more tired at the end of the day.
I’m a repeat and have au paired for 3 families. The first family i went to as a shy, not assertive 18 year old had me working 12+ hour days at least once a week and for this and other reasons i ended up transitioning after 5 months where i went to a lovely family and worked 20-25 hours during school time and then probably 50ish during the summer. This time when i was being matched with families i was more cautious and asked a lot more questions before saying yes and as a result have a great family that i love as my own and treat me more like a family member than an employee. So i don’t mind working a few extra hours during the week to help out :)

CA mom of twins February 15, 2010 at 2:31 am

My husband and I tried really hard to keep our au pair working no more than 45 hours a week by staggering our work times. But due to business travel and such, we asked our au pair if she mind working a few extra hours here and there for $10 an hour. She said she liked the extra pocket money. In the last couple of weeks, our work schedule has just been crazy, so we asked her again if we could just pay her an extra $50 a week for a possible extra 5 hours of work. Our deal is that she would get paid that extra whether we do use it or not.

I check in with her every week to see how she is doing. I have always emphasized that if she is not happy with any arrangement, we can address it.

7Month.HostMom February 15, 2010 at 5:30 am

-Big difference here between occassional overtime AP hours and a set schedule every week over 45 hours. Don’t kid yourself – both violate AP regulations. If you’re always going over 45 hours/week, your family needs additional care. Don’t make it awkward (or take advantage) by showing your AP that rules can be broken if money takes care of it.

-Keep in mind that what you consider “perks” may not be a “perk” to your AP. You are at a huge advantage in “negotiating” with the AP which is why there are limits set to how many hours per day and per week they work.

-With such hours, when and how does the AP complete her educational requirement?

-For occasional overtime, what is fair is simple. What would it cost to hire a babysitter to cover those extra hours? Offer the AP the going rate but in the end, it has to be a free choice by the AP.

TXMom February 15, 2010 at 10:22 pm

This is a good point. When we knew we would regularly need more than 45 hours of child care / week we enrolled the youngest into a school for a few hours each week primarily to buy us a few more hours. This helped tremendously for the weeks one of us traveled, plus we get an occasional weekend date.

HRHM February 15, 2010 at 8:33 am

Just a question for the OP HD – In the original post he says ” I have spoken with my current Au Pair”. Did they do this with the first AP? Or is HM just returning to work? And if AP1 did it, is she ok with it or is she leaving early (my math says 7 months but some people start looking early etc)

HostDadinNJ February 15, 2010 at 11:20 am

I appreciate everyones comments, and just for some added detail, our current AP has been with us since June, and is a second year, so she will be returning home after this year is up. She hasn’t once expressed issues of being burnt out, etc. Her mom stayed with us for a week, and expressed how happy her daughter was, and how much she loved living with us and caring for the baby, so I am not at all concerned that she is unhappy. Her days are typically 8-6:30, Mon-Friday, so the days are only 30 minutes over the limit, it is the aggregate hours that start to add up.

That being said, I obviously brought this up because I am having some second thoughts about it. I hear the posters talking about us being advantaged in any negotiations. Additionally, when i spent all day caring for my daughter, I definitely need a stiff drink come 6:30!

She is taking on-line classes which was her choice, we pushed her to go to real live classes to meet others, but she wasn’t interested. She has made friends on her own, so she is also not lonely.

I find it interesting though, that it doesn’t appear any or many comments are from the tri-state area from commuting parents. I know for a fact that this is not because dual commuting parents don’t have Au Pairs, many families in our neighborhood do.

Anyway, good advice all around and we will have to consider what to do going forward because we love the program and plan on continuing to have another Au Pair this coming year.

Sara Duke February 15, 2010 at 4:13 pm

While we’re from the tri-state area, we no longer live there anymore. Both my husband and I commute 45-65 minutes each way. That’s why we chose to stagger our schedules (I leave the house at 5:30, he at 7:30, I return around 4:00, he 6:00). When I have to work late, then we flip schedules. When we hired our first au pair, I had fantasies of commuting with my husband, but the LCC quickly pointed out that our AP would be working at least 10 1/2 hours a day, 5 days a week.

When our first AP decided she wanted to take evening classes, we agreed that I would work from 6:30-4:00 to accommodate her schedule. I like the long evening with my kids, and I think I have a much better relationship with my son, with whom I get to play or chat before I have to make dinner, while my AP feeds my special needs child (on the days she doesn’t have class — otherwise, I get to feed the special needs child and then make dinner, but I still get to chat with my son).

Now that our kids are in school, we have much more flexible hours with our AP, and aren’t always pushing the 45-hour limit. We have made the staggered departures work because my DH is a very involved parent – in fact he quit his job to care for our special needs child for 21 months after I went back to work!

Europhile February 16, 2010 at 6:38 am

HostDadinNJ — my suggestion would be to enroll your child in a daycare program (one or two days a week) in the near future. Your child will be old enough to truly enjoy the interaction provided by kids who are her peers, and it frees up some of the stresses you have to deal with now. We have had three APs and I wouldn’t have wanted any one of them work more than 45 hours — it’s a tough job day in day out. Both our kids are preschoolers and are enrolled in part-time programs. While that might add to the bill at the end of the day, I think it provides a much better balance for everyone involved, including the child, the AP and the parents!

JJ February 26, 2010 at 4:42 pm

I looked into just such a part-time program and decided against it because 1) all daycare programs were a mix of full-time kids and part-time kids, and the parents of part-time kids told me that their kids have a harder time getting established because they’re not there as much and 2) 1 full day of daycare a week would add up to almost the same thing as we pay for the au pair, excluding room and board. Have you had a better experience, Europhile?

Sara Duke February 26, 2010 at 11:56 pm

When my son was 3, we enrolled him not in daycare, but in a preschool program. He attended for a half-day, which included lunchtime, and then my APs picked him up and brought him home. Because he has an October birthday, he attended the program for 2 1/2 years (he started in a January, which was a bit of a trick finding a place that had open slots). I would not have considered anything earlier than that, personally, because he wasn’t ready. It worked out particularly well for him, because he got to go home and play instead of being forced to take a nap, and our APs had a couple hours of down time.

AFHostMom January 25, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Bumping yet another old one, and we’re not from the tri-state area but we do live in the NCR so my husband and I deal with commuting issues pushing us over 45 hrs a week. Our solution is what others have suggested–offsetting the hours. My husband works 6:30-3:30, gets home and is changed and takes over by 4. I leave with him at 6, get on my train, am at work by 7:30, and work until 5. He and the kids pick me up at the station at 6. I work a 9-10 hour day so that I can have every other Friday off, and the rest of the time….we just juggle, and pray for snow days and federal holidays. It’s tough (I loathe, loathe, loathe waking up at 5 am), but that’s the choice I made when I decided to go back to work.

Emmiejane January 25, 2011 at 5:32 pm

We are a fairly new host family. I realized that I broke a rule last week without realizing it, which is that I thought the au pair couldn’t work more than 10 hours in a row, not 10 hours a day. It was a Friday. She worked from 8:30-4:30 and then from 6p-9:30p. We wanted to go out to grab some dinner and a movie.

It is interesting because I realize that I broke a rule, but our AP would almost certainly prefer us to go out on Friday night and let her have the entire rest of the weekend off, than have us go out on Saturday and break up her weekend. She loves to hang out with other au pairs, and they sort of disappear for the weekend.

We do not use all 45 hours. We probably used maybe 38 last week, and four of those hours were hours in which she did not have the children, but could do their laundry in peace etc… We are not facing the hours issue that many of the posters on this thread face, but still have found ourselves in violation of the rules.

I had the intention of not breaking the program rules at all unless it was an emergency, but now I am not sure. It is actually nicer for our au pair for us to have “date night” on Friday night. She prefers it. The kids go to bed at 7p, so she spends most of the time on Friday night skyping and doing whatever she wants. Then she is free for the rest of the weekend. The au pairs go out late, so we try to go early to get back in plenty of time for her to hit the town, otherwise would have given her a longer break. Once again, I think she would rather have a shorter break and us home earlier for her to go out.

I think there are definitely shades of gray here. I’m debating about whether or not to go out on Friday night in the future or just save it for Saturdays to be in compliance even thought it actually is not as desirable for our AP.

Dorsi January 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm

This seems like a situation where it is totally fair to ask the AP what she wants. As long as you are both satisfied with the situation, I think you are keeping with the spirit of the program.

AnonymousMom February 15, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I think those of us with dual commutes who need a little more time are reading the very judgmental comments about how we clearly are the wrong families for APs and should really just hire nannies because we are unworthy and exploitative – and we just aren’t interested in posting our stories because it clearly won’t be a constructive forum where we could simply discuss this.

Anonymous February 15, 2010 at 3:37 pm

I wouldn’t say it’s a case of being judgemental…there are rules, and going over 45 hours is breaking them. End of.

My 2 cents February 16, 2010 at 3:10 pm

No, I think some of these comments are getting pretty judgmental.

The dual commute thing is a bear, especially if you are a working professional or a manager and cannot punch in and punch out with your boss or your subordinates.

I don’t see anything wrong myself Host Dad. As I said somewhere above, I know several families with dual commutes that essentially pay per hour to commute, every week, all year. Their au pairs are happy with the bonus cash — they are all repeat families with at least 3 au pairs under their wings over the years. They make a quarter of their salary for the commute hours.

But the preschool suggestion is an excellent one. Not exceeding the 45 hours requirements is part of it, but a much larger part is familiarizing the kids with a class room setting and structure, socialization, and giving the AP a break so she’s stronger when she is “on.” And financially you may be surprised at the cost. I think ours works about to $10/hour — or what we would pay the au pair. Have you looked into this??

Sara Duke February 18, 2010 at 12:17 am

I disagree. If you as a professional or manager make it clear that family comes first, then your subordinates will feel that they work in place that permits them to be flexible about caring for a family member (whether it be an elderly mom, a hospitalized spouse, a sick child or an infant/toddler).

My boss took time off to care for his wife who has ongoing, and serious, health issues. Another supervisor cared for a parent with Alzheimers in the serious decline. The message they sent to the rest of us was “It is okay.” I recently encouraged a supervisor in my caregivers group to take time off to give his sister a break to care for his elderly mother, because he would be telling his employees that it is okay to say “I need time off to deal with this.” When my son was born, this supervisor went out of her way to give me a work-at-home project so I could stay home with him for 6 months instead of 6 weeks (and he needed it – he had bacterial meningitis at 4 weeks and that is when I learned that having one special needs child doesn’t give you any guarantees). I really needed that time, and wouldn’t have had it, had she not insisted.

By creating a flexible schedule to care for your children in the infant and toddler years, you would be sending a fantastic message to your staff – it’s okay to juggle your schedule as long as the work gets done. Kids are not infants and toddlers forever (although it might seem like it at the time). They grow up and require less supervision, less attention, and then they grunt at you.

My DH quit his job to care for our special needs child for 21 months. A male friend, who was caring for his typical daughter at the same time, gave him this advice, “You are never going to get this time back.” DH and DD have a special bond (which is why she falls asleep on our bed, next to him, every night).

It was okay for me to put on the breaks for a couple of years. Sure, I didn’t get top honors at work. Sure, my projects weren’t always completed on time (it wasn’t brain surgery, no one was going to die if I was a little late). The result was that my kids got loving attention from 3 important adults in their lives, our AP, DH and me.

When they were young and my husband needed to travel, then I requested a family member to come and stay to help me balance the time when my AP was off. Whenever DD is hospitalized, family members regularly come and give the AP a break from the chaos of dealing with a healthy child who’s angry that his sister gets all the attention.

I have found that if I go out of my way to make sure my AP does not work more than 45 hours a week, when I am in an absolute crisis (usually DD’s doing, sweet thing), every single AP has been willing to be flexible “for this one time.”

My 2 cents February 18, 2010 at 12:46 pm

In the contexts you are providing, I agree. But that’s not the context I’m talking about or the OP as I understand it. We are not talking family emergencies, hospitalizations, maternity leave, etc. Of course, as a supervisor, I’m going to allow people enormous flexibility when the circumstances are dire, and I expect the same in return.

There’s definitely only so far as a professional you can go with “family first” in the daily work environment. Your colleagues, supervisors, and staff in particular will not appreciate being left at the office at 5 to finish whatever it is has to be done, or picking up your slack, because you needed to leave for personal business (and that includes kids). Every rare moment, sure, everyone gets cut a break. But a regular pattern, no way. That’s not a professional.

JJ February 26, 2010 at 4:44 pm

I agree with what My 2 cents said. Workplace flexibility, although nice, isn’t an option for everyone. You should give people the benefit of a doubt that they’re spending as much time with their kids as they possibly can, given the realities of their lives.

Anon HM in NV February 27, 2010 at 3:47 am

As a manager, I have some flexibility and try to present and support work-family balance to my employees. However, I work in a large organization where I don’t get to make the rules, and although I am a manager, I also have a manager, who reports to a VP, and Sr VP, and CEO and so on. If it were purely up to me and were that simple of an equation, sure, I would offer unlimited flexibility to my employees when family situations warranted it. However, although I have some discretion in one-off, emergency type situations (such as a newborn illness), that would not be tolerated (and I don’t think it should be in a professional environment) on an on-going basis.

Should be working February 15, 2010 at 2:46 pm

I, on the other hand, am surprised at how many families are breaking the rules on the 45 hrs. I am SO careful to count the hours each week and not go over. I once had a tiny exception and really thought over how to avoid that happening again. I don’t think anyone is unworthy and exploitative for having the AP work over time, but I do feel like the power balance in the HP/AP relation is such that a self-employed nanny might be in a better to position to negotiate for what she really is willing to accept. An AP has fewer options, since she has a high stake in the arrangement working out–it’s her home, her deposit, her year on the line.

hostdadinnj February 15, 2010 at 3:38 pm

See should be working, the reason I sought advice is because I agree with you on the negotiation aspect of things. That being said, we went with a second year Au Pair, who definitely has a better sense of what to expect and look for in a host family than a first year.

And to AnonymousMom, I am looking for advice and to share ideas with and from people like you – would appreciate it you didn’t keep your comments to yourself.

Anonymom February 16, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Parents with kids in school face these same issues during the summer. What we do:
1) schedule camps to break up the long stretches of weeks that go above 45 hrs (this would be similar to putting your little one in childcare, though I think a one day a week schedule for a 1 year old is more disruptive than it is useful)
2) hire local college kids for a few mornings or afternoons, or
3) hire someone to come in one day/week (our housecleaner loves our kids, and will watch them while cleaning — it’s her day to be at our house anyway, and I love that she teaches the kids to clean. Would not apply to a 1 year old, but looking ahead.)

There are ways to be creative and stay within the guideline. That said, I certainly don’t think you are being exploitive if your AP is happy!

Anonmom February 15, 2010 at 3:53 pm

I am the person who wrote about a relative who had a successful arrangement with an au pair to regularly work extra for extra pay, for two years, with two successive au pairs each of whom stayed a year.

I understand what everyone wrote about the goals of the program etc., but I still feel it could work. To answer some objections: her au pairs could choose classes easily, they ended their day early enough for that or they were accomodated, so it was not a hindrance for the educational aspect. The same with cluster meetings. Their weekends were ALWAYS off, unlike most their 45-hour week peers.

I feel it can work with a person who knows what they are getting into, who were a professional childcare worker or a teacher in training in their own country. Caring for just 2 kids 10-11 hours day (who are young enough to nap), with access to a car, can be easier than caring for a class of 20 with one assistant, in one room, for the same shift. Also a person who cares more than other au pairs about money and less about partying can really be happy with this arrangement. It depends sometimes on the country of origin, for some the extra money is really a significant thing. If a person has worked before in a real world, and worked hard, as an au pair it might work for them. I overheard many au pairs wishing their families would “bend” the rules and hire them to babysit at $10/hour rather than somebody else, because they would appreciate the money and don’t find the work so difficult. Also in my experience (my au pairs) didn’t go out so much on weeknights, almost never, but almost always had lots of weekend plans. So for a working family who need longer hours on weekdays, the weekends for the au pair would always be off. Those families usually don’t use the au pair for datenight babysitting also, because of the hours she already regularly works…

The thought about local nannies being more suited for this than au pairs – some local nannies I had were LESS capable than au pairs to handle the work. They were older, less energetic, in general got tired easier and didn’t have as much fun with the kids as my young enthusiastic au pairs had. It all depends.

sunnyvah February 15, 2010 at 3:55 pm

I can understand host parents who need more than 45hrs. Really. World is busy and in such an economy everyone has to give 150% at work. But in my opinion 45hrs are the most you should let your Au pair work regularly (in emergency cases or now and then- I could live with that). This regulations are there for a reason. Most au pairs are young and taking care of children is taking a toll of you.
I think there is a difference between your own children and someone elses children. You love your kids more than everything and that´s why parents would go beyond everything for them. But in general taking care of kids for more than 10hrs a day/45 hrs a week, it will exhaust you, make you angry, be a potential rematch issue and it will- and that´s the worst in my eyes- weak the relationship between the Au pair and the children.
I know that it is common to work sometimes a little longer and if the HF-AP relationship is good, the au pair won´t count every hour if she sees that it is needed. But in general I think it is not good and is a potential thread!
I do hope you can find a solution and I don´t think you´re not worthy of having!
Good luck

Busy Mom February 15, 2010 at 4:40 pm


We live in NJ as well. In the days when both DH and I commuted into the city and our kids were little, we would not have been able to make it work on 45 hours/week (or even the 10.5 hour days that you have). So, we used live-in nannies. Now that kids are in school full-time, DH commutes 40 minutes by car, and I commute in the city only 3 days/week, the au pair 45 hours per week is doable. The turning point was really when our youngest entered 1st grade. Sorry that this doesn’t exactly help you with your current situation, but you asked about other tri-state families and this was our experience. The commute to mid-town for me is about 1 1/4 hours door to desk when I leave my house at 6:30.

In 1.5 years of hosting an au pair, we’ve gone over the 45 twice because of a snow day in a week with late evening commitments that could not be moved. We gave our au pair a bonus Friday off of her choice to compensate. If we had had any additional unexpected occasionaly overages, I would probably handle with a bit extra cash. Babysitters in our area (college age or older) are $12-$14/hour.

It sounds like you may already stagger your schedules to be gone 8-6:30, but if each of you had the ability at work to shift slightly more or had the ability to work at home a day a week or every other week you could probably get it down to the requisite 45 hours on a more regular basis. Think creatively about one of you heading in really early (bonus is that the commute is faster!) and leaving promptly at 5. Or alternate days that you do this. I realize that this is not possible with every employer – I’m self-employed so am able to carve out incredibly flexible arrangments with my consulting clients. Because of this flexibility and my part-time work, I can always find ways to shift around hours to ensure that we stay under 45 – I realize that this is not possible or feasible for everyone.

If your au pair is truly okay with the arrangment, I think it’s only fair to compensate her with cash. In the tri-state area, $10/hour would be the minimum and that is what we used to give our live-in nannies for babysitting over and above their work house.

I certainly won’t accuse a family for being exploitative for having an arrangement like this, but I do think that you put yourself in a risky position of having an au pair agree to the arrangement during the match and then start to resent it/back out/report you. I personally think it would be better to come up with some sort of schedule that sticks to 45 hours (day care for 8 hours on a Friday?) and then, after a month or two, explain to the au pair that that extra arrangment is costing you money and that you’d be happy to give that money to her if she were willing to cover those extra hours.

Good luck.

CV February 15, 2010 at 4:41 pm

HostDadinNJ, I really appreciate your openness to the perspectives of other host parents– not just the ones who think overtime is okay, but also to the ones who don’t.

Will you let us know how you sort out these comments, and come to an understanding of what you and your family might do the same or differently?

HostdadinNJ February 16, 2010 at 10:47 am

Interesting reading all the posts on this topic. I think I have learned that 1 – we are extremely lucky to have found out current Au Pair (we already knew this) and have just been fortunate at how well everything has worked for all of us.

What we had always planne don doing once the baby was a little older, was either one day a week, or a few hours a few days a week in a day care program, to both give us some flexibiltiy on hours and for the baby to interact with other kids. We wanted her to be past her first birthday since part of the reason we chose at-home care, was to avoid the monthly illness’ that are inevitable when infants are in day-care settings.

TX Mom February 16, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Our pre-schooler misses a lot of school due to illnesses so I view the pre-school/AP overlap as a necessity for some period of time. Some churches offer “mother’s day out” which is very reasonably priced and offers limited hours. In my experience parents tend to keep the sick kids home more often for MDO than daycare, so maybe it’s a more gradual exposure to the bugs.

StephinBoston February 16, 2010 at 10:52 am

An interesting point here is that there is only 1 child and she’s very young, which means she’s spending a lot of time napping (3-4 hours per day). I’m not saying it’s not a long day, and au pair IS working while the baby is napping but it does give her breaks. I know a lot of families around here who have their au pairs work split shifts ie. 7-8:30 then off until school ends at 11:30AM (we have 1/2 day kinder) and then on until 7PM. I’d say that’s close to the same type of schedule, maybe more work than one baby and it’s perfectly “legal”. That being said, I would absolutely compensate her for the extra hours at the going rate, and offer up perks. I’d try to give her days off whenever you can to make up for the long weeks and try to make the days shorter whenever you can.
As she gets a little older, having your child in some sort of preschool/daycare a few mornings a week could help alleviate the long days. When my kids stopped their morning naps, I sent them to “preschool” 2 days a week, it is a nice break for AP (and for me, I telecommute out of my house). I think you need to be creative and try to do everything you can to make it easier on your au pair (and yourself too :-)

Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 10:40 pm

What about parents who have an au pair that doesn’t want any change in her routine and refuses to be flexible. This week my husband and I were off on Monday. We asked our au pair to work for 3 hours so that we could run some errands together. Today (Tuesday) there was snow. The kids had a two hour delayed opening. The kids just sleep two additional hours. My husband and I left for work and the au pair was still asleep. The kids got home later than usual because the buses were delayed due to bad weather. My husband took the car the au pair usually uses during the day because it has four wheel drive. We do not allow our au pair to drive in bad conditions. Nothing is that important. When we got home she wasn’t there. A neighbor came over to watch the kid. The neighbor indicated that the au pair was furious because we had a snow day. She only worked five hours and seven if you included the time she was sleeping. The day before she worked three hours. She usually works around 35 hours per week, sometimes less. How is this being overworked? Since she didn’t have a car someone came and picked her up during working hours. How are these girls qualified to be au pairs? It is time for a rematch or maybe I will find some other form of daycare.

new HM February 16, 2010 at 11:12 pm

You raise a very good point. We have unpredictable schedules and over the last few months AP has not had to work more than 25 or 30 hrs on average. We are concerned that it will be difficult to increase her hours since she has no doubt gotten used to this reduced schedule. Having flexibility with hours and scheduling was something that really attracted us to the program, but what happens when AP is introduced to a 25-30 hour week and then transitioned to more of a 40-45 hr schedule…We have of course discussed that busier months are ahead for both myself and DH; however, talking about it and adjusting to it are two different things..

Sara Duke February 17, 2010 at 8:09 am

We state up front that while we try to post the following month’s schedule by the 20th of the current month, that everything is up for change: children get sick, snow happens in the winter, electricity goes out in the school, and that we need the au pair to be flexible. While on an average week our au pair works 25-29 hours, when these things happen, her work week increases up to 40 hours. When she hits about 35 hours, we start canceling weekend plans (e.g. we intended to celebrate Valentine’s Day on Feb. 12, but after having her work 40 hours due to endless snow days, including a full-day on the 12th while we finally went to work out of the house, we canceled our dinner plans). We make it clear to the au pair that there is give and take.

If your au pair is so inflexible that she leaves your child with a neighbor without calling you first, it’s time to get a new au pair. You need someone mature enough to handle an imperfect world.

I try to sit down with APs when the schedule is about to change (e.g. school is out and longer hours are needed). I find that mature APs can handle schedule changes, even if they aren’t happy about it.

Mom23 February 17, 2010 at 10:54 am

I agree with Sara an au pair who leaves a child with a neighbor because she couldn’t handle a schedule change should not be an au pair. I would request a meeting with your local coordinator and discuss the issue. I would explain that there is a maximum of ten hours per day that she can work under the program and that some changes in the schedule are inevitable. If she doesn’t agree then I would ask for a rematch.

MommyMia February 17, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Exactly right – it is give & take and as long as the AP sees that you also must sometimes change plans or give up something, any mature person would be fine. Just remember to thank her and tell her how much you appreciate her flexibility and try to do little unexpected kindnesses for her in return, and everyone should be happy!

Calif Mom February 16, 2010 at 11:32 pm

New HM–

Yep. Not easy. You might want to look at some of our old discussions about summer schedules, because this is the same thing that happens to au pairs who arrive during the school year, but then have to face 50 hour weeks with all the kids at home (or some variation of this) for weeks on end; the livin’ ain’t easy! :-)

The key, of course, is to establish now your regular discussion times so that you can easily address issues as they come up. Another idea is to make this upcoming schedule more concrete so it won’t be such a big shock–keep talking about it in passing, put up a calendar and mark it up NOW. Try to anticipate the problems and figure out work-arounds.

And you might be surprised–our favorite two au pairs (who were rematches!) both handled changes in schedule just fine. It’s the ones who are whiny to start with that this can force a rematch.

Sounds like immaturity screaming out. She had made plans for the school day and is sick and tired of all the snow days you guys have been having. Spring Fever. Long cold winter, combined with immaturity. I think the au pairs probably all have cabin fever about now. Especially since she can’t drive, either.

But you NEVER get to abandon your charges like that or be unreliable about picking them up when you’re on duty. Never ever. A good au pair wouldn’t even imagine putting the kids in this position. Did your neighbor offer to stay and the au pair took her up on it? (I assume they were waiting for the late busses together.) Or did the au pair go seek out the neighbor? Makes a difference in just how po’d you get about this event.

Soccer Mom February 17, 2010 at 5:59 pm

I am not judging how others schedule their au pair, but I am and have always been a rule follower (maybe it’s the Catholic guilt), so I beg, borrow, and steal hours from ad hoc sitters, family members, and regular preschool and vacation/summer preschool program offerings when they have it in order to stay under the 10hrs/day 45hrs/week limit. I am halfway through my 5th year of au pairs, and every weekend dig deep to cover all the hours needed and give our AP shedule ahead. She knows no two weeks are the same, because her breaks fall whenever we could get option B,C, or D to cover, and it’s usually not at the beginning or end of the shift. Those breaks are truly off time as our AP can go to the PO, out to lunch, shopping if the break is long enough, or just take a nap (our APs have all liked to sleep). In the event that something comes up like sickness, snow day, whatever, we may have to adjust her schedule to a later start/earlier finish with no break, and then HD & I work from home to eliminate commute time, or shorten our work hours. My sister has her kids in day care and when they are sick she has no other option than for her or her husband to stay home with them all day. At least I can actually get work done when my kids are sick – even if the day is a little shorter or it needs to be remote.

I do think she would be resentful if, every time something came up we said – oh, we have an au pair so she can cover it. There was an instance a few years ago where a family member went to the ER and our AP offered to watch the kids longer than her shift because she cared about us and saw how worried we were about our family member. We took her up on her offer and went to the hospital. Conversely, our current AP chose to not even ask how our family member was who was in the hospital recently, and instead high fived me (our expression for a quick departure) at the end of her shift and annouced she was headed to Starbucks. I did not expect her to offer to work longer, but she could at least act like she cared about our family.

Calif Mom February 18, 2010 at 1:27 am

Soccer mom, if you just had snow days, sickness, and electricity out, well, that danged Punxsatawney Phil cursed us all right when he saw his shadow! The au pairs are all burned out and dying for Spring to come.

kat February 21, 2010 at 1:33 pm

i feel that if your ap does more hours, she should be definitely offered either time off in-lieu or payed. and not at ‘lower end of scale because she has no expenses’ /or whatever the wording was in some of the earlier posting/. her room and board are already ‘payed for’ within the weekly pay she gets so cant see why should she be disadvantaged to other babysitters in this way. she is someone who knows your children better then most people, knows your house etc so paying her less while she is one of the most convenient babysitters seems unfair to me.

Poor AuPair February 22, 2010 at 9:23 pm

My story sad but true! I work M-F from 6AM to 8PM, I have 2 kids at school and infant twins, so it doesn’t really matter if the kids are in school or on an all day camp there are always diapers to change. And if finally they decide to take a nap at the same time, there is always laundry to do, or clean the bathroom or pick up the toys. Saturdays, I work 7 to 3.
I agreed to receive $8/hour because I was supposed to work 15 hours more (plus the 45) I used to have 2 hours off every day during the day but not anymore, because there is no one to come to take care of them, so now I am not working 60 hours/week. We agreed to do it up to June, even if I work more of less hour. I thought if I work 65 and not 60 is still fine for me, they are taking advantage but I love the kids, but now I am working up to 76 hours per week! Even with a stay home mom who doesn’t work at all.
So, I don’t really know what to do, I really need the extra money, and when we started I just worked 10 extra hours, they pay me 15 so I work now 16 extra hours for free!it is fair, it is not? I should ask for at least my 2 hours off during the day?or just wait to June and said I just want to work 45 hours and they need to get a nanny?sometimes one comes when I have my Sunday off and they pay her $10/hour.

ANONHM February 23, 2010 at 12:10 am

If this is true…..you absolutely need assistance. You are being taken advantage of, and your HF has to know it. Please seek the help of your LCC. 68 hrs a week is ridiculous.

JJ February 26, 2010 at 4:48 pm

This is too much. June is a long way away. Since the mom stays home, can you tell her you’re overhwhelmed by the hours and this is affecting your ability to be a good caretaker for the kids, and that you need to be keeping it to X hours a week? I think 60 is still way too much but you know your limits.

Anonymous February 26, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Why on earth does the HM need you to work so many hours if she doesn’t work?! What does she DO all day?

Dorsi February 27, 2010 at 2:15 am

Which makes me wonder…does the HM think that you work 6a-8p every day? Does she consider all of that “on-duty”? Have you ever had a conversation about this?

Melissa February 27, 2010 at 3:38 am

I was wondering the same thing — does the HM think that you are working all day 6am-8pm? I wonder if maybe it is a difference in perception? Not that that makes it ok, of course, but if you haven’t already, it sounds like it you should probably have a very honest conversation with her about it. I wonder if she considers some of it as ‘non-working’ time? If not, and she expects you to work all day 6am-8pm, well… that is just ridiculous and unacceptable.

Tulai- www.aupair2be.com February 28, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Currently a mother and au pair in a former life, I think having an au pair look after your children overtime on a REGULAR basis, is plain and simply unethical (not to mention a violation of legal regulations).
Many parents here and elsewhere put forth a number of arguments to justify this behaviour :

1. “we compensate her financially”, “we buy her gifts”…
Some parents are justifying the extra hours by claiming that au pairs are always eager to make extra money and gladly welcome the overtime hours. What I wish to point out in relation to this is that firstly, it is wrong to generalize across au pairs. Like anyone else, au pairs have different personal and different family backgrounds; some are socially privileged, others are not, or much less. Some have dependants in their home countries, some are financially independent, while others still depend and can count on the financial support of their parents and families in their home countries. Some are extroverted, others are introverted. Some enjoy going out regularly, others prefer to stay in. Some are ambitious, others are not… But the baseline here is, nobody, no au pair I know or knew is/was thrilled to have his or her host family overwork her in exchange for money and other material perks. Quite the contrary: they complain(ed), because they were exhausted and it deprived them of opportunities that were meant to be part of the cultural exchange – free time and leisure activities attending language class, interacting with fellow au pairs or other people, beyond the family… Secondly, let us not forget that as in any employer employee host- hosted relation a POWER RELATION exists between the host family/ parents and the au- pair, and this no matter how free you are with your au pair and no matter how much you effort you put in to make her “feel at home.

2. “she has access to a fully fuelled car”, “she has a nice room and bathroom to herself, a computer and full time internet access, and TV in her room”,
In the part of the world that you and I live in, having a TV, a computer and internet access in our homes has become banal; there’s nothing super exceptional about it. If you can afford to hire an au pair, a nanny, a live in house help etc, then it goes without arguing that you are expected to provide a decent room for your au pair . That she has her personal bathroom, TV, and computer is fine, but not absolutely indispensable. And let’s face it, in as much as it is convenient for her to have private access to these commonly shared household spaces and facilities, it is also convenient for the parents and the family.
Moreover, what is the use of offering her all these when she hardly has the time and energy to enjoy them??

3. “Only one really sweet baby to watch — our now 10 month old daughter, who lucky for all of us is an angel, never crying, fussing”

That your child or children are the easiest and the most fuss-free to look after in the entire world, does not in anyway justify you regularly overworking your au pair. As Anon-y-Mom and others have pointed out, having your au pair look after your child or children for so many hours a day is not good for any of the persons involved. Not for her, not for your child, and not for you.
An au pair is expected to have a cultural exchange which involves meeting people beyond her host family and beyond the confines of her working hours, interacting with other au pairs. Working for over 45 hrs a week barely leaves her the energy and time for that! Memories of my exhaustion as an au pair are still fresh: and I was not an abused au pair, since I worked 30-35 hours a week. But I can still remember how exhausted I was after 5-6 hours of looking after three children aged below 5 years. I can only imagine what those overworked au pairs are going through! Needless to say, the quality of child care offered by an exhausted and overworked au pair, always takes the downward direction.

It is my opinion, (one that is shared by many au pairs and former au pairs I know) that : No, it is NOT OK to have au pairs work overtime on a regular basis in exchange for financial or material compensation, or whatever arguments you put forth.

An au pair is neither a nanny, nor a house helps. She should not be the one to carry our parental responsibilities. Her working hours and responsibilities assigned to her should reflect her au pair status.

Possible solutions could involve having two au pairs (as one parent here is doing ); employing a (full time/ part time ) nanny and an au pair; you and your spouse cutting back on your working hours etc.

Anonymous2 February 28, 2010 at 3:53 pm

AMEN! I wish I had the font big enough to emphasize how right on this post is. As a former au pair and a host mom, you have experienced both sides of it. Being on one side or another makes it very difficult to see things from the other perspective.

I’m sure that other host mom’s will find fault with your reply, but the majority have not walked in the shoes of an au pair and will never be able to understand what it is like.

Thank you for writing such an appropriate and right on target response.

Caley-Working mom March 23, 2010 at 8:27 am

I used to work in consulting and there was a full year where I worked 80+ hour/week – almost every week. I had only been working for 3 years, so I was no where near “management” status and getting paid peanuts. However, I wanted to further my career and I was getting straight line overtime. So, I was determined to do what I needed to do and saved enough money that year to buy a house. I am now married in a fairly demanding career with a husband who is in the same position. This story is meant to say that it is a personal choice and everyone is different with different needs and motivations.

Our first Au pair was from Thailand who was ok at taking care of our children. The Au pair was very social and constantly out exploring the city. She constantly would hint at working OT by telling us how her other Au pairs always work OT and only wanted to work OT. Culturally, this was her passive aggressive way of asking for OT (or so we were told). We were never comfortable enough to ask her to work OT due to the rules. Our second Au pair was from Brazil and was very warm, open, and wonderful to our children. There was an instance early on where my work schedule just needed 5 more hours from our Au pair. We asked another host family whom I worked with who did not have his Au pair work OT advise. The host dad said he had had a discussion with his Au pair, and she replied that OT is quite the standard and that $10/hour is also normal. So, we approached our Au pair about working OT, and she told us that OT is preferred for her. We once joked about getting a night nanny, so we could get some sleep. She very seriously told us that we didn’t need to do this, and that she would also take the night shift (we never took her up on this). We would write out the schedule every week and go over it with her – most of the time including OT – and ask her if she is ok with it. She was a very integrated part of our family and would often volunteer to watch the kids in addition to her schedule when she could see that we were a bit overwhelmed. On the occasion that we let her, she wouldn’t accept money for additional help here and there. Every family is different and has different needs. Some people are busy bodies and want to be busy all of the time. Other people need lots of downtime and taking care of children exhausts them. It really is dependent on the individual.

bec June 1, 2010 at 10:22 am

i was an au pair in 2005 and will be returning to the states in 10 days to do it all over again…. when i was there in 2005 i was working from about 630am to anywhere from 530pm to 630pm i never knew when the parents would be home they just rocked up… so made it hard to make plans there was 2 occassions when i asked them to be home by about 5pm to 530pm as i had made plans to go to concerts and things which i dint think was unfair since i helped them out as much as possible….. but they were late on them 2 occassions… i did work for a military family and i understood like everyone else they had to work hard the thing that makes it the hardest is u get so attached to the kids its hard to say no. i arrived in january and we were going on holidays in june so we agreed any extra time i worked between them months would pay for all my expenses and things as i was not working, but after june i never recieved any extra they did give me a cash bonus at the end of $500 but truthfully i am not into the extra pay all the time but maybe a giftcard or travel voucher sometimes would be nice…. i know you can get cheap bus tickets all the time

Natalia August 15, 2010 at 4:29 pm

As an au pair who just started working for a family, I can definitely say that working twelve hour days is not good for your children. I have worked from 8am to 8pm, 6 days a week. After about the first week, I started breaking down on a regular basis. I never went out because I was too tired after a long day and I always woke up at 6:30am so I had time to get shower and be completely ready for the day. Thus, I literally had zero time to myself wherein I wasn’t completely spent/exhausted. One day I even worked from 8am to 10:30pm because the family had a dinner party. My energy levels decreased steeply. When I took the kids to the park, I didn’t have the energy to run around and play with them. All I could bring myself to do was remain pleasant and push them on the swing. I just couldn’t give them my best self, and this broke my heart because I love these kids so much. The point is, when you overwork your au pair, she will become resentful and exhausted. She won’t express this outwardly, but it will affect her work performance.

I think I broke down crying in private five times last week. I did the best I could to make sure the children (a two and a four year old) were having a fun time while I was taking care of them, but I definitely was not able to give them my best self.

MommyMia August 16, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Natalia, It is good that you realize that you’re not able to give your best, and thank you for the courage to speak up here. I think you need to try to talk to your host family, and if it doesn’t seem to change anything, you should go to your AD/LCC right away. If you don’t, the long work hours are going to become an “accepted” practice, and things are only going to go downhill. Not even the best parent can be “on” for so long every day; if the family doesn’t have the resources for supplemental childcare to help cover the 72 hour workweeks, I think you should consider rematch. They are abusing the system and breaking the law.

melissa December 6, 2010 at 3:42 pm

i just had a question for some of you stay at home moms that babysit…im 23 years old i have a 3 year old son…now i babysit a 7month old and a 2 year old there mom drops them of and doesnt come back for about 6 to 9 hours now i only get 20 no matter how many hours i babysit i think its really unfair i just dont no how to confront her about it does anyone have any advice they could give me? thank you!!!

M.Aupair December 21, 2010 at 5:45 pm

I’m working as an au pair in Ireland and feel that I am been stretched from all sides. The husband works in the UK M-F so it is me, the mother, and the two kids (age 4 and 4 months). The mother is a stay at home but I still find myself working 12 hour days. I start work at 8am and end between 8pm and 9pm. During this time the mother sleeps, goes out, visits friends while I mind the two kids. I’m exhausted dealing with two kids all day long and then listen to her gripe about being up with the baby during the night and how she can’t bare to miss out on a nap. To add to it the mother has been “ill” since I started with them (2 months ago). It’s either mastitis, food poisoning, colds, flus, anything really. To top it all off I was promised to be put under their insurance because they live out in the country and it’s a 45 min walk to the nearest village…they refused to put me on the insurance once they found out how expensive it is to insure someone under 25. They promised me a guest house/apartment that was attached to the house with access to internet…they didn’t want to pay to heat the apartment and don’t have wireless internet. I was also told that I would only be minding the 4 year old and that the mother would be there at all times to mind the baby. I’m 19 years old and in way over my head. The family is pleasant enough but I’m finding it hard not to resent working for them after all of this.
Any suggestions?

Europhile December 21, 2010 at 6:32 pm

M.Aupair — sit down with your HM or HF and have a talk. Make sure you are prepared. It seems to me that you “let them do this to you” — the only way it can change is if you address all your issues factually. They are not willing (or able) to read your mind, and have probably not thought this through. In my opinion, they are clearly exploiting you. They should also come up with a suggestion for you to be more mobile.

After you have your talk, give them a couple of weeks to address your issues. If it then becomes clear that nothing is changing, you are best of to look for a new situation. But give yourself a chance first, and be mature about it. It’s a big step for a 19 year old, but you won’t regret it, and don’t make them abandon your AP time.

HRHM December 22, 2010 at 7:10 am

I agree that you really need to calmly address your complaints with the HM. But be prepared that it is unlikely that they will suddenly “come up” with the money for insurance, heat and wifi now. You may be able to get a more fair and fixed schedule, but with the stay home mom, she may not see you as “working” when she is present (half hour here, one there, etc) and so in her mind, she probably doesn’t see a problem. Not saying it’s right, but she may see it differently than you.
Realistically, you should also probably start looking for a new family to go to, maybe one in a less remote location or one who already has an AP and knows what to expect/how to budget. Hope it all works out for you.

Kirsty December 22, 2010 at 10:25 am

I was in a ridiculously similar situation to yourself and feel your pain.
All I can say, is make sure you have enough money set aside so if things go wrong after calmly and maturely addressing issues with the HF, you can get out of there. The woman I worked for, made my life hell after I bought up issues in the household/blatant abuses.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and more importantly, a happier and better New Year.

Euromom December 22, 2010 at 4:41 am

Hey there,
Unfortunately your experience is not unfamiliar. I have dealt with many APs in Ireland who have exactly the same issues, particularly when they are not close to the cities and you need a car to get around, the HF’s just don’t factor in the expense of additional insurance or especially if you are their first AP – the may not have adequately budgeted for your needs, i.e. heating your room.

My advice – if you are with an agency – let them know that you are having issues and that you intend to address them in an adult manner (see Europhile’s post above) but that you would like the agency support and if necessary the agency should be ready to find you an alternative host family.

If you are not with an agency, then I would start looking for alternatives myself – just to check the lay of the land and then have the talk.

But be very prepared – have your hours documented so there is no ambiguity about it and ask them to look at what was agreed in the matching process (car, internet, living quarters etc) and how that has changed, make it clear that you understand the reasons and would be prepared to compromise on one aspect, (i.e. the living quarters for insurance on car)
Let us know how you get on.

M.Aupair January 1, 2011 at 9:14 am

Thank you for all of the support. I find it extremely intimidating to talk to this family about working hours…I’m not sure that they understand that an au pair is not on 24-hours a day nanny. I did however talk to the mother one day after having spent 2 days with her kids while she was out on the town with friends and then hung over the next day. I asked her for a break sometime during the day and the horrified look she had on her face made me wanna crawl under the couch. I felt horrible asking for a break while she was sick but I truly needed to get out of that house. Sickness was nothing new with her. Two months of mastitis and other ailments let her play the sympathy card more than once. So I figured I would talk to the husband about the hours when yesterday he asked me whether I would prefer to have this Saturday or Sunday off. I was shocked to say the least that after the hell of a week I’ve had (helping the family pack up their house in Ireland, move with them to Wales, help unpack, and work over 12 hours a day with no free time, and babysit for them 3 nights during all of this, one of which including New Years Eve) he would ask me to work an extra day. When I asked him if I could have the whole weekend off he said “We will see if you change your mind on Sunday.” I’m only with them for 2 more weeks and have another family lined up back in Ireland but I’m worried that they are going to suck the life from me. I’ve never au paired before and am confused about how much I should be working. They are paying me 150 euro a week to “be flexible” but I don’t know that 60+ hours a week is justified by that. Does anyone have any tips on how I can bring about this talk? Conversation starters or anything to get the ball rolling with confidence and without them shooing me away?

HRHM January 1, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Seeing as you only have 2 weeks left with them, I don’t think you have much leverage to work with. Based on your story, it’s obvious that they know they are abusing you and are intent on continuing to do so until you are done. As I see it you have two choices: 1) Quit early without notice (not very nice, but then again, they are playing nice either) or 2) Start keeping track of your hours and just flat out saying “no” once you’ve gone to the agreed upon limit. At that point, they’ll either have to learn to work within the hours, or they’ll fire you straight off.
I know that you are loathe to have the “conversation” with them, but the are COUNTING on that to avoid treating you properly. There is NO special way to bring it up, you just have to come right out and say that you feel the work conditions are not as agreed upon. Be prepared for the horrified looks, patronizing talk of “flexibility” and a huge guilt trip about poor sick Mum. Stand your ground. No matter how this plays out, the next 2 weeks are bound to be highly uncomfortable. It’s up to you WHO they are more uncomfortable for – you or them.

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