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?
If 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.