Is An Au Pair Right For Your Family? Not if you need a Housekeeper …

by cv harquail on August 22, 2016

When people ask me whether an Au Pair might be right for them, I sometimes forget to ask them what kinds of help they *already* have, that they are aiming to replace.

2303555607_45a4f6462f_mIf a family currently uses a childcare center or a home-based center, then switching to an Au Pair offers more schedule flexibility, care in their own home, and a young person to join their household and add to the learning and growing of the family.

If a family currently uses a live-out nanny, then the argument for an au pair — along with scheduling flexibility —  is perhaps a lower cost, and perhaps less competition with the nanny’s life and priorities outside of work.

When a family currently employs a live in nanny, however, a few more questions pop up.  With live-in nannies, families have a more experienced childcare provider, who is often older and often has a life of her own outside the home.  Also, live-in nannies much more commonly perform household tasks in addition to childcare.  They might cook for the parents as well as the kids,  do the laundry for the parents as well as the kids, iron sheets and shirts, grocery shop and run errands, and clean the house. They might even walk the dog every day and/ or clean the cat litter box.

All of these tasks fall outside the duties of an au pair.

Au Pairs can only be asked to do Childcare-Related Tasks. 

If you currently have a live-in nanny who also serves as a housekeeper and a family administrative assistant, as does the mom whose email is below, I’d hesitate to recommend an au pair to you. Even when an Au Pair isn’t needed for 45 hours of childcare, those ‘extra’ on duty hours can not be used for non-childcare-related work.   

It’s just too hard to rein in your expectations to just childcare, when you’re used to having one person do all of these tasks.  

Certainly, a nanny, a housekeeper who keeps an eye on the (older) kids, and a parent are all able to do both child-minding and housecleaning at the same time… but that level of multitasking requires a different set of experiences and a very different set of expectations.

For my family, when we had just the one child, I was more or less able to keep it together with a demanding full-time job, a spouse who was away most of the week, a cleaning lady who came once a week, and an au pair who worked a full 45 hour week caring for our baby.  When baby number two arrived,  more stuff began falling through the cracks… and when my best friend suggested that we add a person who could do 3 hours a day of “homekeeping”, I found just the right person for that job.  Lou was a semi-retired woman who needed some light, part time work and a chance to be with other people. She shopped, cooked, did laundry, went to the dry cleaners, stayed in with the sleeping baby while the Au Pair and toddler went to the park, and helped me drop the car off to be serviced. It was a luxurious level of help that — it turned out– my family really needed. We had Lou, and later Mariella, for the three years between  the arrival of baby #2 and the move into kindergarten of baby #1.

Looking back I see this as almost-but-not-quite a luxury, because my husband and I could not have done our jobs and had a safe, loving, clean, not insane home life without that level and variety of help. It’s also a testament to what full time working-in-the-home moms and dads are expected to do, god bless them.

So, when I look at the situation of the mom, below, I want to say —

Sure, get an au pair. Also, get a part time housekeeper, or a cleaning person who will come twice a week to clean and also do errands. Or, expect to shoulder a bit more of the household work yourself.

But, don’t expect that an au pair can do all of these things for your family.

Here’s FromNannyToAuPair?‘s  email–

Hi Au Pair Mom. I’m trying to determine whether an Au Pair is right for us. I am a stay-at-home Mom with 3 children, aged 10, almost 8, and almost 6. I currently have a live in non-driving nanny/housekeeper m-F. She works from 7am until whenever she is finished, which ends up roughly around 8 pm.
During the day, my children are all in school and she spends her days cleaning and doing laundry. I do not have additional household help, as she handles all of it. We also have a dog. We currently pay her $760 a week. My children are super active after school, and a driver would be enormously helpful.
My nanny also can’t really help with homework, so it is very difficult for me to be out at an activity with one child, when I really want to be at home helping my elementary school aged children with homework.
I ADORE my nanny, as she has been with our family for 5 years, but I think there may be a more cost effective way to address my childcare and housekeeping needs. I am curious if an au pair is right for us…but there are no children home during the day, and it’s my understanding that an au pair can only work a certain # of hours? I’m very confused and hoping you can help shed some light on the situation. Thank you! ~ FromNannyToAuPair?

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Frankfurt AP Boy August 22, 2016 at 10:49 am

Hmm.. why cant an au pair do the housework the same as a nanny / housekeeper does? Is it against the regulations in the US? If they are doing a 45 hour week, and you have school aged children, it would be difficult to fill all those hours with childcare alone wouldnt it?

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New to This August 22, 2016 at 11:56 am

The childcare-only rule is US law. Child-related chores are allowed, general household tasks are not. It’s true that families whose kids are all school-age often don’t use the full 45 hours.

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New to This August 22, 2016 at 11:07 am

Keep the nanny; she sounds like a dream. Add a part-time driver. Others here have often suggested advertising among local college students. Or, if the nanny’s willing and able to learn to drive, invest in some professional lessons for her — our au pair (who doesn’t drive for us, but wanted to drive for vacations) ended up needing lessons even though she had years of experience at home, simply because the rules of the road are so different here. In general, it sounds like what you’ve set up is close enough to working for you that you’re better off just patching the weak spots than starting from the ground up with a new arrangement that will come with a whole new set of limitations to address.

Unless, of course, you started thinking about this not for the reasons that come through in this post, but because you really want the exchange experience from the AP program, and the talk of logistics is about whether it could work at all (not about whether it would work better). Then the answer is yes, it could work, but do expect to have to arrange lots of extra support along with the au pair to fully replace what you have now.

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Should be working August 22, 2016 at 12:39 pm

In the USA the max hours are 45/week and 10/day. If this mom can imagine an AP working 7a-9am to get the kids to ready and to school, plus doing kids’ laundry, kid-related cleanup and kid errands maybe 9-11 2-3 days a week, and then kid-related driving around 3-7pm, then an AP could work out.

The mom should keep in mind: The AP cannot be made responsible for animals; and as CV said cannot do parent-related laundry or chores.

And here’s a biggie: The AP is not an experienced nanny. You will have to train her/him, and there is no guarantee that s/he is a good cook, a good driver, an experienced laundry-doer. You need to take care of the AP some, not just imagine her/him as a worker. So once a year you have an orientation week, sometimes there are crises that come up, once inawhile the AP doesn’t work out, selecting an AP is a delicate task.

So if the mom really wants to save $300/week, yes it could work. But like CV said, the mom’s housework load will likely increase AND there is less stability and experience with an AP.

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2 kids and a cat August 22, 2016 at 4:13 pm

One of the things I value most in the au pair program is the flexibility. We had a live-out part-time nanny, but I couldn’t ever change up her schedule. Now, I can go to soccer with kid A, or do homework with kid B while the au pair takes on the other, and it can change week-to-week.

If you can re-organize some of the tasks so that the au pair is only doing child-related chores (which can include their laundry and meals) while you take on home-specific tasks, then it could work.

be mindful, though that it is a cultural exchange program, so you should also be looking to expand your family’s global horizon, but just have transportation.

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German Au-Pair August 22, 2016 at 5:36 pm

My HM hired a local college student to drive one kid to her activities while I was out with the others. I also don’t think the adjustment from a super nanny to an AP that clearly does not work 11 hours a day would be hard. I’d add the driver and keep the nanny.

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Sydney mum August 22, 2016 at 11:41 pm

I am on my 4th AP & would love a live-in nanny but probably can’t make the budget stretch, so we live with the gaps. The HP bedding gets changed less frequently (because we just cant git everything in) & there are home admin & organisation tasks that get left for a while, but we prioritise that the kids get what they need with AP getting them ready, taking them where they need to go & keeping their clothes & rooms tidy etc

One great benefit of your current setup is continuity. You get to have the same person for years at a time, you don’t need to re-interview just as you were feeling settled & you probably don’t need to provide a lot of emotional support or job guidance.

I agree with others, if you stop the nanny/housekeeper then you will either need to get other help or find a way to fit it into your tasks, but it would save you money.
Or replace your current housekeeper/nanny with someone who drives or as someone else said, support this one to drive.

I think you would find your week gets a lot busier if you change to an AP.

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NBHostMom August 23, 2016 at 9:26 am

For me, both au pairs and nannies have their pros and cons. Because I’m a list maker, I’d sit down and list my top 5 requirements for childcare, then all the “nice to haves” below. If flexibility, driving, swimming, cultural enrichment and a young energetic pair of hands are near the top, sounds like an au pair. If stability/long-term commitment, maturity/experience, long hours but set schedule and housekeeping are at the top, sounds more like a nanny to me.

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Julie August 23, 2016 at 10:33 am

As a 9-time host mom & LCC, I think this is great advice!

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Fortysomething HM August 24, 2016 at 11:43 am

I think this a great general practice.

I think OP needs to understand, though, that getting an AP is not necessarily – to use her words ” a more cost effective way to address [her family’s] childcare and housekeeping needs.” Since as noted by others, the AP can’t really handle non-kid housekeeping stuff, choosing an AP will just leave DIFFERENT gaps than the gaps she currently has – but there will be gaps if she goes with an AP and doesn’t add in a housekeeper or some other helper.

For example, she currently needs a driver and/or home work helper for the kids, but has someone who does non-kid chores. With an AP she might get a driver (though not necessarily and she needs to screen hard for that with AP population) and/or a homework helper (in my experience with a 10 year old HK, that’s hard to come by in an AP), but she will not then have someone to take care of non-kid chores unless she hires someone to do that (or does it herself with DH).

So if OP utilizes the pro/con chart, she needs to understand that if the “more AP-ish” needs (i.e. kid related) fall near the top of her list, and the other non-kid stuff (non-kid cleaning, dog care, etc) fall near the bottom – the stuff on the bottom is where she will have gaps if she switches to an AP.

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LuckyHM#3 August 23, 2016 at 11:35 am

I dont see why an AP wont work for this family. She is a SAHM, she has free time during the day when the kids are in school. In your situation, I would get an AP and then get a cleaner who would do laundry 2x a month. AP does child related routine cleaning (kid’s bedrooms, playroom etc) and laundry and driving and all the other child related stuff. Cleaner does deep cleaning of the house 2x a month and adult laundry. HM does routine cleaning of the non-kid parts of the house, cooking and other admin stuff for the family while still being able to help kids with HW and activities.

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New to This August 23, 2016 at 4:53 pm

SAHM doesn’t necessarily translate to free time during the day. Volunteer commitments can eat up a lot of time (including activities related to the kids’ schools, or other community involvement), or she may have chronic health issues that translate into time at doctors’ offices and going through treatments, and/or needing extra rest during the day. Shopping and cooking for a kid with multiple severe food allergies can also be a huge timesink and may not leave a lot of time for other chores. She could even be homeschooling one of the kids.

Or, maybe she’s using her free time for “luxuries,” but they’re things she values and would prefer not to give up. Presumably if doing more housework herself were an appealing option, she wouldn’t be paying someone else for it in the first place…

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Jennc August 23, 2016 at 12:11 pm

Personally , yikes and no. Im not sure by post if the mom Just has a súper busy life or What. My thoughts are she needs way moré than What an Aupair can provide. I’ve seen and heard too many situations where the Aupair is treated like a servant , and this is a set up for failure. I think this mom would be unsatisfied with Aupair program . It’s risky for an Aupair and herself . She’s looking for a “cheaper option” but not necessarily for child care . So to me this is the wrong reason to look at an Aupair. I can’t imagine a house with a stay at home mom that requires a 13 hour work day …… I have 3 kids , and younger so more clothes, lots of kid activities as well as working outside the house 35-50 hours a week …. I have a housekeeper once every 2 weeks ,,Aupair does kids clothes rooms, toys etc. she picks up , drops off etc …. I think if she is willing to hire a housekeeper to do house 1-2 days a week and that person can do adult laundry , an Aupair can work and do kids laundry and help with off to school activities ,,,,,, however if she has this much work for a live in nanny then her cleaning expectations may border on the obsessive side , I have no idea , just throwing it out there. I think getting an Aupair is risky .

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LuckyHM#3 August 23, 2016 at 4:04 pm

I too am curious about what the housekeeper does for 11 hours a day with all the kids at school. I just cant envision the work. I cant even imagine needing a housekeeper 2x a week and DH and I both work long hours.

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Anonymous in CA August 23, 2016 at 4:56 pm

I think maybe the nanny is only without kids from probably 9 am to 2:30 ish (7-9 getting ready for school, breakfast, lunches, etc;); then I imagine the first ones are finished with school mid-afternoon and back home. So, that’s more like 5.5 hours, not 11. And there’s a dog (so, let’s say she walks the dog for an hour), and then there’s maybe a load of laundry each day, daily cleaning kitchen and one other room, maybe she preps dinner and shops if there’s a market within walking distance; then before you know it, the first of the kids trickles in mid-afternoon. It’s actually easy for me to see how the time flies by when the kids aren’t home. And I’ll bet OP’s house is waaaayyyy cleaner than mine!

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Nicole August 28, 2016 at 8:11 am

LuckyHM#3, I’m also curious what she is doing for 11 hours a day, which is why I’m exploring other options.

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SA_Au Pair August 24, 2016 at 10:43 am

I can’t seem to wrap my mind around why a stay at home mom would need 13 hour help 5 days a week.

I’m from a culture where if someone is cleaning (for example) your house and you’re not doing anything you’re expected to help out, to not do anything is seen as a huge sign of disrespect. I’ve been in situations where I was visiting relatives and helped the housekeeper with laundry, cleaning or anything else that I could possibly help her with – and I do the same thing whenever I visit one of my friends who’s family has a housekeeper. I’m all about helping out, kid related chores don’t faze me, I don’t mind cooking a couple of times a week for the whole family, I don’t even mind taking out the trash and cleaning up/doing dishes or giving the kids baths/supervising before bed even if I’ve already worked 10 hours.

With all of that said; for some reason if I found myself in a situation where everything seems to fall on me I’d grow resentful and would want to either go into rematch or forget about the program and just go home. I can’t see such a situation ending well for most au pairs; I personally would start feeling like a slave. Now I’m not saying that the OP’s intention is to mistreat or overwork an au pair if she was to have one I’m just saying that from a cultural and personal point of view I wouldn’t be happy in a situation like that, perhaps some au pairs wouldn’t mind. There are university students who need some extra cash and would be more than happy to help your kids with their homework and take them to activities.

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2 kids and a cat August 24, 2016 at 2:51 pm

It doesn’t seem productive to judge someone else’s household needs and bask on SAHMs. Host families need au pairs for all sorts of reasons, and even in the original post CV cites having an extra “homekeeper”. Personally, given our scheduling constraints and the fact that we live very far from family, I couldn’t be a successful professional without one. Yet, no one else here has one and I know the other parents at the playground think it’s a pretty cushy parenting arrangement. Today our au pair is working from 7:30am-8pm, with a 4.5 hour break in the day. It’s not 13 hours straight, but it’s what today requires, whether I WAH, SAH or am a full-time out of the house professional.

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SA_Au Pair August 24, 2016 at 4:58 pm

comment wasn’t judging people who have housekeepers (I went back and re-read what I wrote and nowhere did I say having one is a problem or that people shouldn’t have extra help). After my mother passed away we had a housekeeper to help around the house while we were trying to deal with what had happened. My mother was also a stay at home mom and I have a lot of respect for mothers who choose to stay home and those who go to work – life isn’t a one size fits all. Maybe you misinterpreted what I wrote (or I misinterpreted what the OP wrote).

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Anonymous in CA August 24, 2016 at 7:58 pm

@SA_Au Pair, I think it may have been this from your post:

“I can’t seem to wrap my mind around why a stay at home mom would need 13 hour help 5 days a week.”

I can see how this might be interpreted as judgmental of a SAHM who has additional help. As New To This pointed out, being a SAHM doesn’t necessarily translate to loads of free time. All kinds of factors could be present, or none; the point is that if OP has this level of help, that’s what she has and it’s not productive or relevant to speculate about the “why.”

New to This August 24, 2016 at 9:31 pm

What Anonymous in CA said, with the added note that in particular, the bit about “not doing anything” seemed to reflect an assumption that the SAHM whose kids are at school must either be cleaning house or doing nothing. Running a household/family can be a lot more complicated than that, and I think pretty much any parents (stay-at-home or not) can find all sorts of worthwhile ways beyond cleaning to invest time in their kids/families/communities, if the opportunity is available to them. That doesn’t mean some aren’t simply lounging around all day — but nothing I’ve seen leads me to think that’s particularly likely to be the case here.

SA_Au Pair August 25, 2016 at 1:12 am

I also specifically said I’m from a culture where if someone is doing some kind of chore and you’re not doing anything you’re expected to help – this doesn’t apply if whoever is in the house with you is busy with her own things. I was merely offering an opinion from my own cultural and personal experience and since part of this program is sold as a “cultural exchange program” I just thought I’d share how culturally that situation would be uncomfortable for me. At this point I’ll just apologise for offending anyone and tap out of this conversation.

New to This August 25, 2016 at 8:35 am

For what it’s worth, I think that situation would be uncomfortable for most people in the US, too. I just didn’t know why that situation came to mind in the context of this discussion, unless it was via an assumption that SAHMs aren’t likely to have anything to do besides clean house. I appreciate the clarification.

LuckyHM#3 August 25, 2016 at 3:49 pm

I honestly dont thing SA_AP is trying to be judgmental. I have been a SAHM (for a short time while transitioning to a new city), WAH and most of the time working mom. To be honest, it is hard for me to understand outside of a medical/ disability situation, what a housekeeper could do for 13 hours a day with school age children. With infants and toddlers, i can totally see that.. I too have had live-in and live-out nannies, housekeeper and currently APs. For most people, there really isn’t enough work to fill 13 hours a day that also doesnt include homework help and driving to activities and it would make the average person pause a bit.

Having said that, I dont know the specific situation of the OP. I’m just talking about averages here

DCBurbTwinMomma August 27, 2016 at 7:37 am

Ha! I have a housekeeper and expect her to do the job she’s paid to do whether I’m home or not. Clearly we are from different cultures because I will happily catch up on TiVo while she cleans. I’ve had the same housekeeper and other house staff for more than a decade. It is judgmental through your cultural lens. Paid staff is here to do their job regardless if I could help out or not. I have to pay the same salary whether I help or not. I also don’t help cut the grass when the lawn people are here, I don’t help garden when that guy comes and I don’t help the animal caretaker or the garbage person (we have free city recycling but not trash–this is a private service so similar). This is all true if I’m working from home or if I’m sitting around reading a magazine. If they’d all agree to work for less pay when I chip in maybe, but my family have already done a cost benefit analysis and hire these folks to have the benefit of a nice yard and clean house without having to spend the time doing it. It defeats the purpose to do it and pay someone full rate at the same time. This is true of the two au pairs I have now. Sometimes they’re working and I’m drinking wine with my hubby watching Olympics. (True recent story). Could I be doing that puzzle or that art project? Sure, but if I wanted to do that at that time, I would have scheduled them off.

Being judgy is saying “what is she doing?” My answer is that she’s prioritizing things she wants or needs to do. It’s her money. If you’d get resentful doing the job you’re paid to do, then you’re not cut out for that line of work. Feel free to pitch in as you wish with the people you employ. However, I would not expect many employers to pay you and do your job with you as if you’re doing a favor and not actual work.

Frankfurt AP Boy August 30, 2016 at 5:16 pm

@DCBurbTwinMomma

I have never been employed by anyone to do a job just because they simply rather not bother themselves with doing it. Wouldn’t you find that degrading yourself? Would you clean someones house just because they have more money than you and dont want to do it themselves? It is surely not surprising to you that an au pair would find the idea upsetting. My current family has a cleaner. She is employed because she cleans better than anyone else does and in a shorter space of time.

Being an au pair for me is doing something to enhance family life. It has never been because the parents don’t feel that childcare and caring for the household is worth the effort – and they’d rather just pay for someone else to do it. I have always felt like a team with the parents. The household is in a better state because we are pulling together to that end, any of us isn’t then it is not as good as it could be. There is a sense of pride in that.

I agree with others, that it is not productive to speculate why a SAHM would want or need 13 hours per day help. There are lots of reasons for this. However, I think if it were just so that, despite having loads of free time, she didnt want to make any effort with the house nor the childcare, then it would be okay to point out that there’s something amiss.

WarmStateMomma August 31, 2016 at 12:20 pm

@Frankfurt:

There are only 24 hours in a day. We have to spend them wisely. If we’d rather hire someone to cook, clean or take care of the lawn than do those tasks ourselves, it means we’re prioritizing how we spend our 24 hours. It doesn’t mean that we think the outsourced tasks aren’t worth doing, just that we have decided to allocate our 24 hours to other activities. At the end of the day, reading a book (alone or to my kids) is a higher and better use of my time than cleaning will ever be.

Dorsi August 31, 2016 at 4:52 pm

@Frankfurt – my AP takes care of my kids all the time because I would rather not be doing it. When my husband and I go out for dinner, we could certainly take our kids along, but we would rather not. I pay a housecleaner and a lawn service because I would rather not. I even buy food prepared that I could make myself (and pay the labor of the person who prepared it) because I would rather not do it myself. If you seriously examine your own activities, you are paying for other people to do things all the time that you simply would rather not do.

Have you read “The Communist Manifesto”? It’s a good intro to thinking about the relationship between money, labor and power.

New to This August 27, 2016 at 4:57 pm

Veering in a different direction with this topic, I was thinking yesterday about SA_AuPair’s point about the awkwardness many people feel relaxing while someone is working, in connection with the fact that my AP always offers to help if the kid is napping while I’m working in the kitchen. (Which I often am — elaborate from-scratch meals are one of the luxuries my family gets to enjoy because I’m a part-time SAHM with extra household help…) I always decline, partly just because it’s not her job, and as an employer as well as just a housemate, I feel like I have to be careful about not taking unfair advantage — but also, I think taking care of my high-energy toddler all day earns her some downtime while he naps, and I don’t want to impinge on that. But one of the tricks, I think, of living in a household with small kids is battling that sense of “I shouldn’t be relaxing while someone else is working” — because really, the only way anyone around here EVER gets to relax is if we take turns. But thinking about SA_AuPair’s point is helping me put a finger on why I often feel so weird about taking time to relax while the AP is on duty, and also leading me to wonder how I can make sure the AP is able to take her breaks without feeling too uncomfortable to enjoy them… No obvious solutions yet, but it feels like a useful perspective to be considering; thank you!

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FirstTimeHM August 28, 2016 at 4:11 pm

Yes, relaxing while someone else is working is something I’m not likely to do either. For me it feels like being the boss and being a princess who has people to do her bidding, I’m not comfortable with it either and I had to learn to relax a bit while she was getting the kids ready for school and I was getting ready to go to work.
Our AP is scheduled for work for half an hour after either my husband or I have returned home (depends on the day). My husband simply makes himself a cup of coffee and relaxes a bit before jumping in, unless he sees that she’s swamped with picking up kids from their playdates or bringing kids to their houses, then he’ll share the load. Our AP is about to return home (unfortunately extension isn’t possible in our country) and she told us that that was something she had to get used to first and that it helped her later to feel relaxed while we were putting the kids to bed.

I see your point. I try to model the behaviour I want to see (being busy while working), but every now and then I’m exhausted when I come home from work, and I don’t want to cause resentment. My husband will simply take the time for himself that he needs, I struggle with that.

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exaupair August 30, 2016 at 10:35 am

@DCBurbTwinMomma, I’m with you on this one, I don’t really see why you should be under any obligation to pitch in while you’re paying someone to do their job. Either you want to save money and do chores yourself or you don’t – then you pay someone to do it for you while you’re doing whatever else you feel like doing. This is in no way disrespectful.
A bit of OT, but back to the original post, I’d say stick to your live-in nanny, she clearly is a gem. The nanny can do all sorts of housework, that you can’t have AP do, also works from 7am until she is finished (!!!), so I smell unspecified hours. This alone isn’t something everyone would commit to.

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DCBurbTwinMomma August 30, 2016 at 9:32 pm

It might be cultural but that is exactly why I hire the people who clean my house, who do my gardening, who do the other lawn work and pick up the trash. I do not want to do it, although I could, and therefore pay the price to get it done. It’s quite easy to find housekeeping at the price point I’m willing to pay so if my housekeeper felt degraded after a decade in and didn’t want to do her job solo when I’m around then I’d find someone who would. I have no problem whatsoever paying someone for their labor, and not doing it myself, as evidenced by the fact that 4 of the 6 people I employ do just that–their jobs and I do not pitch in.

What’s different about childcare is that I love my kiddos and want to be around them. Unlike my feelings toward vacuuming or dishes. We all hang out and have fun. Including times when we could be helping the housekeeper while we do fun stuff. The housekeeper cleans for the au pairs as well so they can focus on childcare. It works for us. However, if I want a down night and an au pair is scheduled, then that is her job and she’s on her own. It’s the luxury of having awesome au pairs. If they didn’t like it, they can rematch. However one of the current au pairs is actually our first ever au pair returning. I guess she’s okay with doing her job solo. The other is an extension who is staying with us on a visa we’re sponsoring–she could likewise leave if the rules were too onerous.

I am indeed hired to do work that my boss is not going to do for me or pitch in when she has time. I’m expected to write regulations and assist in adjudication discussions without her input because that’s what I’m paid to do. I don’t feel degraded, it’s well within my description. Similar to “clean my house” in the housekeeper’s job description. I feel zero guilt over asking people to actually do the work I’ve hired them to do–whether I’m eating chips and catching up on Facebook or when I’m reading a brief. Same feelings.

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NZ HM August 31, 2016 at 12:24 am

Cultural and probably also age related (the idealism of youth; ‘bless’ I thought when I read the comment)!

For one, as you get older, have you own kids and are involved in kids’ related things and activities, you realise that there is indeed a lot of parents who don’t enjoy spending (too much) time with their kids and that their main reason for outsource childcare.
Moreover, doing work for someone because they don’t want to do it is what the service industry (and modern life) is based on. If everyone felt happy doing every kind of job and chore themselves we would all be subsistence farmers and pay in kind for jobs we CAN’T do ourselves…

The move from primarily production to service based economy, as has happened for most Western states over recent decades, is cause and consequence of modern life – if I can afford it why shouldn’t I pay someone to do jobs I don’t want to do myself? It happens in private life as well as my work life where there is a hierarchy and certain jobs I delegate to my staff, and yes, sometimes it’s because I can’t do them or don’t have time to do them but sometimes it’s simply because I don’t want to do them, or because it would be ill-spent money…
It also creates jobs and gives me the opportunity to do more of the things I want to do (family, recreation) and need to do (my job)!

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FormeraupairNowjustaMom August 26, 2016 at 9:50 pm

If I could, I would have it all. An Au Pair and a full-time housekeeper. I’m from a country where having those types of help full time is pretty normal for upper middle class, that’s how I grew up. What I can’t wrap my mind around is why as a SAHM I should be expected to clean, cook and tend to children full time. We don’t have house help besides the twice a month housekeeper and ocasionall date night baby sitter. I just came back from a 3 month vacation in my home country and had a hard time settling back in. I cook 3 meals a day, we only eat real food in all meals, that becomes my priority, the house is crazy, the laundry is done twice a month or whenever we run out of underwear whichever comes first, during this first week of school for my kindergarten I had to drag my toddler around town running mutiple errands, my poor toddler didn’t have a single activity exclusively hers with me this week, and that hit me hard this morning when I was doing the dishes in a rush to leave the house to get my oldest from school. I didn’t go to the gym one single day this week, all I did was a 20 minute run pushing a stroller, the hardest. The area we live (one of the most expensive if not the most in the USA) doesn’t allow us to have a house big enough to accommodate an AuPair and having a nanny would be very luxurious, and yet yes, we are part of the 2%. We are relatively young (I’m on my 30’s and he’s on his early 40’s) and our plan is want to retire very soon that’s why we chose not to spend much on help and make it work. I have a friend who’s going back home because she can’t settle into the lifestyle. We have NO family help around, we survive. So before judging, people should put themselves into other people shoes. I’m happy this woman have the means to afford all the help she feels she needs. I would probably feel happier and would be a much better mom if we had more consistent help. When I was an Au pair I would feel resentful when my host mom was “lazy napping” as I thought at the time, today as a mom I totally get it and wish I could go back in time. I wouldn’t have someone working 13 hours a day for me, but I could easily employ someone 8h/day to do all the mundane tasks (cooking, cleaning, organizing, helping with pick up and drop offs) while I PLAY and enjoy time really engaging with my kids and/or do things for myself like nails, hair, doctors appointments and having lunch with friends, because why not??? Ah! And I see no problem on resting or doing something else while someone is cleaning or busy around a household if that is their job they are paid to do.

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Nicole August 28, 2016 at 8:21 am

Thanks to everyone helping me figure out this situation, and I’m glad this has prompted such a lively discussion. As far as what I’m doing all day, I work out, I grocery shop and run errands for our home, my kids, etc., go to lunch with friends, or whatever else I have on my agenda for the day. I have my nanny doing all the cleaning because I hate cleaning, and because that’s her job. If the kids are around, she is focused on them. That being said, this has been the case for the last almost 8 years, but my children were much younger. They are now at an age where there is NO reason why I can’t clean up my own house more, but have a cleaning lady come in once a week for sheets/towel laundry and the deep cleaning. It’s just a fact that I have to face. Yes, I LOVE having someone else do it all, but I feel like it’s my turn now. Now that my kids are all over the place with sports and activities, my priorities have switched and I will deal with the housework in exchange for someone to help me with the driving/activities/after school care 3-8. In a perfect world, I would keep my nanny and hire a driver, but I’m not going to spend over $1,000/wk on household help. The more I learn about the AP program, the more appealing it is to me. I also think it’s high time my children learned that there won’t always be someone else cleaning up after them and they need to pitch in a lot more. I think a young woman coming in as a friend/caretaker/role model will benefit them greatly at this point in their development. As of now, my plan is to begin the AP process, hire a cleaning lady once a week, and frankly, get off my butt and pitch in a little more. Maybe in time I will have a housekeeper 2x a week, but for now that’s not an option for us.

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LuckyHM#3 September 1, 2016 at 11:16 am

@ Nicole – You totally addressed my question. I wont argue the need for help. I just couldn’t fathom what she did for 13 hours since the kids are in school. Sounds like you have a plan and I dont see why it wont work with an AP. I think you just got used to having your housekeeper around because she’s awesome and has been around for so long. I think getting a housekeeper/cleaner and any other help you need and also getting the kids more used to picking up a bit after themselves, you will be fine. I would be just like you as well in that situation.

In my situation, I honestly hate to clean so I have a cleaning service (typically 4 of them) come in 2x a month during school year and once a week during the summer when the house get dirty since the kiddos are home. If I’m home while they are there, I have to confess that I have never felt the need to help them ever. I pay them to do a service. They do deep cleaning and fold laundry ( i hate folding laundry even though i can do it – so i make sure to start the laundry before they arrive and have it all dry before they are done.

My husband is determined not to ever own a lawn mower so we have a landscape company that take care of all our landscaping needs based on whatever schedule they determined. They mow the lawn, trim the trees, service and reset the sprinklers, fertilize the lawn, weed the beds, replace plants as needed and send us a bill every month.

I have an AP to ensure that my children get to where they need to be after school while we are at work. In addition since my AP only works 20 – 25 hours during the week, she typically works on Saturdays for about 5 hours and DH and I get to sleep in sometimes or go to the gym, I have enough time to cook for the week, perhaps go grocery shopping without schlepping kids around or what ever i need.

All in all, you can do it. You just have to have well defined swim lanes for everyone.

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anonforthisone August 29, 2016 at 12:00 pm

While I agree that for this family, the level of work they are looking to replace with an AP will NOT fall within the guidelines, I also know from experience, especially with older kids and realistic expectations, an AP “housekeeper” of sorts can work.

We don’t have our AP clean up after the HPs, nor do our laundry, clean our room, etc. However, by having her clean both our kids’ rooms, their bathroom, their playroom, the AP room and bathroom, clean up the kitchen after breakfast (which she cooks – we’re at work already) and make sure that she and the kids keep their stuff picked up in the common areas, we are able to manage the other stuff (our own laundry, room and bath, living room, deep cleaning) without having to hire additional help. My kids are older and require only cooking, driving to activities, etc. Her direct childcare hours are probably less than 4 hours a weekday so I don’t feel at all bad asking her to do the housework the little darlings generate. She is also encouraged to enlist their help and frequently does, especially in the summer when she has them around more hours.

I think as long as you are clear in your job description, their are lots of APs out there who are actually fine with this work. We’ve had one who had been an AP in EU and she was actually WAY more interested in cleaning than kids. Turns out in London, that was the majority of her work as an AP for a 13 year old boy. With us, at least it was only the kids, in London she cleaned for the parents as well.

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Sleepytime September 8, 2016 at 5:57 am

I just want to point out that original poster ( Nicole?) mentioned homework help. We are on AP7 and none have been able to help with more than first grade level homework. None have been native English speakers but they have all had very proficient English. If you are looking for homework help you will not find it in the AP program, and may have to supervise the AP helping out your other child while you are doing homework with the first. I’ve had APs who dissapears rather than supervise my other child while I am doing homework with the first.

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Jennc September 15, 2016 at 10:20 pm

My middle child is in a Spanish immersion program , my Aupair does homework every day with her , and a Spanish speaking Aupair can continue that through all ages, but we do homework with our son who is in traditional school and older , it just depends on what you need .

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Sleepytime September 15, 2016 at 10:26 pm

After speaking to other host families about this, I’m finding many host families who do have their APs supervise hornworm as a primary function. These fanilies made it a major criteria during the search, not just an expectation. For many, they required levels by certain test ( like A levels)

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LatinaAuPair September 29, 2016 at 2:46 am

I help my kids with homework and I have 2 fifith graders. I think you just need to set what type of au pair you will need. It will be difficult for a 18 year old girl who just left high school and is not in the mood to study at all (that’s why she took a gap year) to concentrate or help the kids. As well she can not be a strong driver since outside america they only can drive when they are 18. But a college graduated older au pair (which is very common) might be useful with homework and driving skills. I have friends here who are engineers back in their country and they are working as au pairs just to improve/learn english. I went to school for economy and I help my fifth graders twins everyday. So it’s more about putting it as a priority and you will find an au pair who will suit you if you need them to help with homework.

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