I firmly believe that working on your au pair relationship makes you a better parent, directly and indirectly. Any time you have to stop and reflect on your parenting principles and your priorities for your kid(s), you have the opportunity to become more mindful about what you’re up to with your family.
Here’s one of those questions that’s as much about parenting as it is about working with an au pair.
How much responsibility/freedom should we give to the AP’s for arranging playdates?
In general, I have given the option to coordinating schedules to the kids and my (great) AP, because they know what needs to be done during the week and all seems to have worked out.
My 2 kids have been having playdates with the same kids all the time. My older son (9) has a balance of playdates at our house as well as those at his established group of friends. My younger son (age 6) is more of a homebody and prefers to have his friends come to our house. Today though, a parent of a child that has come to our house a few times invited my son over to his house. The AP said “sure” and dropped my son at their house and returned home with my older son.
Reports from the playdate are very mixed … Dad (divorced) is a heavy smoker and was smoking around my son (I am an avid-anti-smoker) … my son exclaimed how smoke comes out of his nose when he breathes! My son also commented on the fact that Dad “Has his own Bar!” as if that was something super cool. When I asked what they did, he said they played a game where Dad tried to hit them with a stick while they ran away.
Perhaps I’m too protective, but I think I’ll be telling the AP that playdates with that child will be at our house in the future.
Other Moms around here suggested that I might have asked the AP to stay at the house for the first playdate. I don’t know that I would have done that myself (by 6 that seems like overkill), so feel it’s a bit of a double standard.
I’m thinking that I will discuss with the AP and not place any blame on her (she did text me about the arrangement as I had asked). I’m thinking, however, that in the future, I should be the one making arrangements for playdates with any “new” kids and “new” locations.
Activities at our house and “well established friends” are fine to continue as usual.
What does everyone else think? Thanks! OB Mom
Here’s what I think, as a place to start:
Playdates are a deceptively complex part of your Au Pair & kids’ world.
What looks like just a chance for you child to have some fun company comes with questions like:
- Is their house safe?
- Am I comfortable with the other family’s caregiver/ caregiver situation?
- Do they lock their handguns in a gun safe?
- Does my child actually enjoy the company of this child?
- Whose turn is it to host?
- Can I leave my child alone with these people?
- How might I discipline/feed/comfort the other kid if that seems warranted?
- Is anyone taking advantage of playdates to get some free baby sitting?
- Are the playdates being scheduled for the kids’ advantage or for someone else’s?
With all these questions, I think it’s important to come up with some explicit guidelines to help your au pair make playdates that work for your child and your family. When I say guidelines, I’m not talking about rules (e.g., no playdates at the pool) so much as I’m talking about principles.
For example, you might want to give your au pair something she can say as an “easy way out” when she feels like she’s being taken advantage of my some parent who wants to dump a kid with her. ….(“My host parents think that Sam needs more downtime, so I’m scheduling fewer playdates. May I call you when he’s ready?”
Here’s what we’ve got in the sample Guidelines about playdates:
- Take charge of arranging playdates. You can be the authority with regard to planning activities.
- Put all playdates on the calendar to avoid scheduling conflicts.
- Only agree to have someone come over if it makes sense and feels comfortable to you and to the children.
- Also, only schedule playdates for days in the children don’t have other activities, and make sure that the children do their homework and their music practicing before the play begins.
What else do you recommended? How can you help your au pair make playdates that work for everyone?
When you comment, if you are an au pair please let us know so that we can appreciate your perspective.
See also: Scheduling your kid(s) week: Can the AP be in charge?
IBoy With Stick 2 from jemsweb