Keeping Au Pair To 45 Hours When Kids are Not In School : Ideas to Offset Time?

by cv harquail on June 9, 2016

I need suggestions on what I can do to off set my Au Pair’s hours!

With the summer months upon us and the end of the school year, I am stressed out about how to off set my Au Pair’s hours so she does not exceed the 45 hours a week.

choosing an au pairBoth my husband and I are active duty and work long hours. Our Au Pair’s hours have never been an issue when the kids are in school.

What I don’t want to do it throw money at the problem by enrolling the kids in summer camps and other programs. We already pay a lot towards the Au Pair program and don’t have additional money for more childcare.

I have checked with the local libraries and schools but most of the programs offered at an hour or less and requires an adult to accompany the kids.

What ideas do you have that are within the guidelines of the Au Pair Program, that might help my family? 

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Aupair in MN June 9, 2016 at 9:01 am

When I was an au pair, my host family faced the same problem. They were usually gone for work 7am-7pm. While it never became a problem during the school year, summer was tricky. I didn’t mind to work extra, but they wanted to follow the rules. They ended up hiring a highschool student (my kids were 6 and 9, so no infant present) that would come for a couple hours in the afternoon. I think they paid her $12/h, which was still cheaper than the camps they offered in our area. Grandparents helped out, and play dates with cousins would be set up prior so I would be off. They also did occasional sports camps at the community center. In the end I always worked exactly 45h and I think they did a good job in keeping the cost fairly reasonable. You probably wont get around extra childcare cost in the summer, but isn’t it cheaper that way than if you put them in full camp and have no au pair all year? I don’t know , I’m just asking. My kids went to private school, and it was cheaper for my host family to get an au pair instead of a nanny and after school care, not to mention the decreased stress they had by having an au pair. Just my thoughts. Good luck to you and your family.

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Taking a Computer Lunch June 9, 2016 at 9:42 am

There are all sorts of ways around summer fun. I’m not military, so I don’t know how much my advice will work for you – but as the parent of a child with special needs, I make it clear that I have to follow rules and that there are days I have to been inflexible about arrival and departure.

1) Tag team parent – I work from 6:30-3:00 and DH from 8:30-5:00. However, if I need to work a long evening, then I take the morning shift with the kids and he goes in early (generally frowned upon in his job, but okay once or twice a week). Same for him – he gets to play catch up – he stays late – and it’s okay, because I’m already home with the kids. Our AP works 7:30-4:30 during the summer. And if she ends up working one 10 hour day, then one of us takes leave to compensate. What doesn’t happen is making her work more than 10 hours – because it’s her summer, too. If you and your husband are accustomed to commuting together – forget it – time to find a commuting partner or other means of transportation for the summer.

2) Each parent takes one day off a week. Your AP works 4-10 hour days and the kids get parent-time, too.

3) Enroll your kids in half-day camps.Our county has inexpensive half-day camps that my kids loved because they got to practice the sports they loved, make robots, etc.

4) I know this won’t work for you, but I sometimes have my AP meet me at work – especially if it’s a night she wants to do something in town. I take the kids home (well, now that they’re teenagers, I only take the children who is handicapped home, the other teenager is now capable of meeting me at work on his own).

5) Ask family or friends to take the kids one day a week and have the AP work 4 10-hour days.

6) Be honest with your supervisor. It’s only 10 weeks! And really – only for a few years before the oldest will be capable of “babysitting” for an hour or two to cover for you.

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NoVA Twin Mom June 9, 2016 at 10:58 am

I agree – pretty much the only way to work this will be to stagger departure/arrival times with your spouse or find supplemental care (unless you’re willing to take leave). The only “supplemental care” that is long enough to be of any help tends to be camp.

There may be some cheaper “supplemental care” options though, depending where in the country you are and how religious you are. Many churches in our area have Vacation Bible School (VBS) – which does tend to last multiple hours and allow drop offs – and with some research you could string together enough weeks of VBS to cover most of the summer. That does require that you live in a fairly densely populated area, but also that you’re willing to send the kids to church. Some VBS does cost money, but the one at our church is $40 a week for two kids, and I think it’s capped overall at $50 per family. So cheaper than camp.

A second thought would be a high school age or college age neighbor that would be willing to work a few hours a day (or one full day a week, allowing you to use 10 hours a day the other days that week). While this would likely cost money, it would also probably be cheaper than camp.

Finally, I echo looking at county-run camps. They are much cheaper than private camps.

And I too have had an au pair meet me at work if she’s headed into the city for an evening or weekend – then her shift ends when I take the kids instead of when I get home at the end of my commute. But the catch is she truly has to be free to leave then – so either she switches cars with me or we drop her off at the nearest metro station. It wouldn’t really be fair to use this solution only to have her ride home with you or follow you home in another car. Your au pair might not be able to meet you on base, but she likely can meet you at the McDonalds nearest to the base entrance, then leave for the weekend.

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WestMom June 9, 2016 at 11:19 am

I have had a hard time finding a solution to this problem. And like you, camp is not really an end-all be-all solution… If I put 3 kids in camp, why would I need an AP?

I generally dislike summer hours, because as TACL mentioned, it usually means staggering hours, but in our case, my husband doesn’t always meet his end of the bargain, so I often would end up being late to work AND having to leave early.

Now our kids are old enough so I can schedule AP for 9hrs per day and not worry about leaving before she starts or coming back after she ends bc the kids can take care of themselves.

But I’ll admit that for the last 2 summers, I negotiated with AP to work 4x 11hr days in exchange for all F-S-S off for the summer (I work from home on Fridays). I know, I know, this is breaking the program rules, but I’ll tell you that any AP in their right mind would agree to this arrangement! (I really wish the program could be a bit more flexible on the number of hours per day- tough to manage with 2 working parents with long commutes…).

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ExAupairNowHM June 9, 2016 at 1:18 pm

You are not alone. We usually have 4 x 10/11hr days in the summer to with the au pair having every summer weekend F-S-S off. While we break the rules some days on the daily hours, we have never exceeded the 45hrs/wk, never. All six of our au pairs have loved that arrangement.

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WarmStateMomma June 11, 2016 at 8:05 am

We used to do 3 11 hour shifts per week – total of 33 hours and no working on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. AP had my car to herself since I carpooled with HD. The AP considered it a much better arrangement than the 4-5 10 hour shifts she would be working with no car if we adhered to the 10-hour rule. The rules are there to protect the AP but sometimes there is a better option.

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Dorsi June 9, 2016 at 11:48 am

Just to clarify – you cannot find a one hour program for your kids and extend the daily hours to 11. That is definitely a violation of the spirit of the program, and likely would be considered a violation by the agency. It is not fair to give the AP short, midday breaks. We have had a conversation about this on here before, and most people agree it needs to be 3 hours to count as “off” time.

Could you exchange some childcare with another family? Maybe they could take your kids for a 5 hour morning once per week, and you could take their kids for a five-hour evening on the weekends? If you choose to do this, you absolutely cannot require your AP to be part of the childcare exchange.

It seems that your time is very limited – so it may be better to throw money at this problem rather than your weekend time. I know you pay a lot for the program, but you pay for 45 hours of work. If you need more than that, you will need to pay elsewhere. There are a lot of teenagers who can provide an afternoon per week of care, and may free up your schedule enough. We had a period where we needed 48-50 hours per week. I would find a 4-5 hour sitter and schedule my AP around that – the benefit of the flexibility of the AP program is that I could work around the sitter, and have the AP fill in the gaps.

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mom of 3 June 13, 2016 at 8:28 am

During the school year the midday break for our au pairs is 2 hours, because that’s all that is possible during preschool hours. It has worked fine.

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Dorsi June 9, 2016 at 11:49 am

One other thought: if one of you can occasionally work from home, you may be able to tolerate a much lower-qualified sitter during that time. A local 12 year-old can effectively supervise my kids, if I am in the house to trouble shoot.

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Mimi June 9, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Can you rotate library programs with another parent who has more schedule flexibility? We don’t have an issue with hours in the summer, but having all 4 at home is stressful for the AP as they don’t always get along or behave. We use VBS, town camps (inexpensive and price capped), play dates, and grandparents to help break up the time that AP will be stuck with all 4. I think that there are also YMCA camps (and probably others) that offer scholarships for active duty families, you would have to ask.

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cv harquail June 10, 2016 at 7:41 am

I’m so glad someone suggested Vacation Bible School — signing my girls up for VBS at two different churches really “saved” me one summer… I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I did it as much for the childcare as for the spiritual instruction.

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NoVA Twin Mom June 10, 2016 at 8:34 am

As a VBS teacher – send them even if it IS just for the childcare! We love having new families join VBS – and there’s no expectation that you’ll come to services or anything else, just that the kids (halfway) behave while they’re there.

If a kid wanted to start a spiritual debate while they were there, as long as they’re polite, have at it. We might pull in the minister to talk to them – she’d love it!

I’m a Sunday School teacher too and taught the same grade in VBS last year as I have in Sunday School (which more often is mostly church attendee kids) – I knew about half the kids in my VBS class when we started, so the other half was from the community. We’d love to see them back this summer, and certainly invited them to come to church, but we’re OK with it if the only contact you want with church is to send the kids to three hours of VBS for a week in the summer.

If you wonder if you’re invited even though you don’t attend – if there’s a big sign out in front of the building telling you about something – you’re invited. If they only wanted the church attendees to come they’d advertise it only in the bulletin.

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German Au-Pair June 11, 2016 at 9:10 pm

OT: THIS right here is what I love about American church culture. I bet if I had grown up with that I might have actually cared about the subject. Love this!

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HRHM June 10, 2016 at 11:25 am

DH and I were both AD (two different branches) until very recently and frequently not co-located so I feel your pain. Unfortunately your choices with almost any problem are a) throw money at it or b) throw time at it. You and only you can decide which it will be. While I get being busy and career driven, I also know that the military is generally family friendly and flexible, especially for people who are willing to work harder/longer the other 9.5 months of the year. When I deployed and DH had the kids by himself with an AP, he gave his commander advance notice that he had an hours requirement he couldn’t exceed due to state department regulations. His CO understood although he wasn’t overjoyed. If you haven’t asked, you should, you might be surprised how flexible your boss might be.

I will also note, that I have used AP PLUS some other care ever since our first AP, even during the school year (AP plus daycare, AP plus Montessori preschool, AP plus camps) until this year when DH retired and is staying home all summer. I have never wanted to relinquish every hour of my help for the daytime, I love having some time in the evening for DH and I to go out for a ride together or a date night, or to be able to attend a book club or go get a massage. I also think that few APs are equipped to keep 2 little kids happy, occupied and out of trouble for 9 hours a day for 12 weeks. Heck, even I’m not equipped for that! Was it pricey, yes. But the kids were happier, the AP happier and I was happier. We’ll see if Dad can fill the gap this year! LOL

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Taking a Computer Lunch June 10, 2016 at 1:53 pm

Giving your time to your kids for a few hours in the summer, if your CO or supervisor will permit, is never a bad thing. It doesn’t take long for them to turn into snarky teenagers who think they don’t need you at all. If I had known that when my kids were little, my mantra would have been, “It’s just a few years!” Now that my youngest is nearly done with his freshman year in high school (although The Camel is still in diapers, hence the AP), I can feel his childhood slipping through my fingers.

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Texas5TimeHostMom June 10, 2016 at 11:48 am

I have a teenager in the neighborhood coming for some Friday afternoons so we can use 10 hours on the other days and not go over 45 hours. It’s not too expensive and we don’t need a driver most Friday afternoons. My older child has some camps for enrichment but not my 2.5 year old. It will probably cost me $40 extra on weeks that we need it. Not too bad!

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5kids=aupair June 10, 2016 at 12:10 pm

Is there any sort of barter situation you can arrange with friends or neighbors? If you have a skill set that others don’t? I would love to swap arrange some things with other people. I love to cook and bake and take photographs and would love for someone to teach my kids more physical skills like fishing, or such. Can you cook dinner for a neighbor in exchange for a few hours childcare? On the weekends, you could batch-cook freezer meals or the like. Is there any skill you or your husband have? If you’re in the military, maybe run a 1-hour boot camp workout at night or on the weekend? I know it sounds silly, but that sounds cool to me!

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txmom June 12, 2016 at 11:34 pm

New to the au pair world, our first arrives in August. My husband travels for a living, and I work 12 hour shifts in a hospital. I’m required to work every other weekend, year round. The reality is that our au pair will probably only work 25-30 hours a week. We’re hoping she will be flexible and willing to work the long days on the weekends when I’m working and my husband is gone. That said, if she isn’t, we plan on hiring a high school student for the last few hours. The time restrictions are rough. I wish there was an option for <30 hours a week, with no daily max.

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Schnitzelpizza June 15, 2016 at 4:22 am

Even if she is flexible, you really shouldn’t be breaking the rules like that.
Yes, it would be great if there was a < 30 hrs/week option with no daily maximum hours but there isn't. She really can't work more than 10 hrs a day and you really should not plan on her working 12 hour days (longer? if you work 12 hrs you still need to get there and back). Hiring a baby sitter is an option but if you know there is a weekend coming up where you will have to work and your husband is traveling maybe your kids can spend the afternoon with a friend or maybe you have family around and your au pair can drop them off with aunt Larla from 10 to 2. If you can arrange for a reasonable break for her (2+ hours) that would work as well.
If you need very few hours see if an educare would work for you. You'd still face the max. working hours though.

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Dorsi June 16, 2016 at 4:05 am

Agree with what else has been written. Invest now in finding and retaining a high school student for weekend work. You need to have a plan in place so that it is easy to fill in the gaps. I work 12 hour shifts, I have been happy in the AP program for years. I have sometimes paid overtime – but I never want that to be the only option (for me or the AP). If it is just 2 weekends a month, and your husband is home for some of them, you are looking at 4 hours extra, 1-2 times per month? It will be totally worth the money and time to train someone local.

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SwissAuPair June 13, 2016 at 8:57 am

I’m sure you know those things better than I do, but as a fiancee of an active duty member, sitting through endless events telling you the same thing over and over again, I recommend to have a look into the free summer camps that the military offers (like “Operation Purple”). Check the website of One Source or the National Military Family Association, I’m sure they offer something for free or with a huge discount.

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TexasHM June 15, 2016 at 2:38 pm

We are in the midst of VBS June right now. :) Our kids have VBS this week, next and the week after and naturally only one of those is at our home church. Everyone is friendly, everyone does it as much as a social and daycare option as for religious reasons (we are religious don’t get me wrong – just saying VBS is a different speed and atmosphere than church as it should be). Kids are going to a methodist church this week and showed up and all 3 kids had friends from school in their VBS class. Next week is baptist church and week after is evangelical bible church. This helps kids socialize, AP get a break for a few hours in the middle of the hot long days and it gives us HPs back about 9-12 hours a week in AP hours to have a weekend date night or have AP do extracurricular pickups at 6pm a few nights that week so we are n’t having to scramble immediately from work. Wins all the way around!

As a sidenote to the topic above about a meaningful break – APIA used to publish that it had to be 2 hours to count and that included commute time (so if they dropoff but its 15 minutes away then you need to build in the drive time on pickup). Most VBSs in our area are 3 hours long. Actually all of them are that I looked up this year. As said some have a cost but we haven’t paid more than I think $10-15 per kid which again, if you average out over the hours is still something like $1 an hour so with 3 kids its $3 an hour – far cheaper than AP hours and worth its wait in sanity points. :) I too used to teach at VBS and the majority of the kids didn’t go to our church and we had a blast so don’t overthink it people! Sign em up!

We too know a HF here that has the sister (Aunt) come Fridays at noon and watch the kids until mom and dad get home so they can stay under the 45 hour requirement. Aunt loves it – gets weekly special kiddo time in moderation and AP gets a longer weekend. Win/win.

When ours were little we did option 1 that was mentioned – flex scheduling with my DH going in early and home by 430/5 and me a little later and home a little later.

As far as the medical profession scheduling – I have known many local doctor/nurse families that tried the AP program and didn’t make it even to the end of one year. The rules are the rules for a reason and more importantly, an AP that has a constantly changing schedule and short notice will be miserable no matter what the HF professions are. The APs asked for rematch from these families even when one was offering $20 an hour for anything over 10 hours a day and 45 a week. They said ok at first but over time it quickly deteriorated. They are here to work and have a cultural experience and not getting a schedule, having a constantly changing schedule or having a schedule that is consistently outside the rules is basically writing yourself a prescription for an unhappy AP. And as is often said on here – happy AP happy home! Save yourself the angst and schedule what you can and get backup for what you can’t. Just my two cents!

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