Mom of Au Pair Asks: How Can I Offer Support from Afar?

by cv harquail on June 27, 2017

For the first time ever, we’ve heard from the mom of a brand new Au Pair.   Her daughter is running into problems with her Host Family, and the au pair’s Mom wants to know– how can she help?

12808611393_059d7ec1b9_mI’ve wanted to ignore the possibility that an pair’s parents would be offering her real-time advice on how to manage kids, how to interact with host parents, and the like. I’ve always focused just on the au pair him/herself, not thinking about a larger circle of influence.  But since it’s so easy to WhatsApp and Skype internationally, it makes sense that au pair parents would feel closer to the action AND want to help.

Assuming that some long-distance parental advice is unavoidable, how might we coach an au pair’s mom to support her daughter or son?

As AuPair’sRealMom writes —

My daughter was so excited to leave for America to start her year as an Au Pair!  But within the first month of being with her host family, she’s hit some obstacles.    I don’t want to get too involved in giving my daughter advice, since she needs to learn how to stand up for herself. Sorting out her concerns on her own is part of the learning process, I believe.

However, at the moment my daughter is not being paid as agreed. For example, she is not getting paid on time each Friday. She does not know how to ask her Host Mother for her pay, without upsetting the Host Mother.   She is also working 10 hours each day and isn’t getting any time off.

My daughter is a hard worker and she really loves the children she’s in charge of, but she needs a break.  What advice do you have for her and how she should approach this?

Thank you, AuPair’sRealMom

AuPair’sRealMom, the first thing you should do is make sure that your daughter is well aware of the actual Au Pair Program regulations. She needs to know the difference between what’s required and what her host parents are doing, so that she can focus her conversation on the right things. ( You too can check out the regulations, here. )

Readers, what next?



Image by Brian Spiekerman on Flickr


Spanishaupaur June 27, 2017 at 6:42 pm

I would advice talking with lcc and thinking about rematch. Sounds tough and probably is way worse, i dont know any aupair that tells all their problems to their parents and usually try to soften a bit whats going on to not worry them

TexasHM June 28, 2017 at 12:19 am

She is lucky to have a mom like you! You can be of great support for her even if that’s in the form of a listening ear. Unfortunately like you said, she is going to need to learn to advocate for herself.

As a host mom that regularly fields calls or visits from other APs and host families in the area, the one thing that’s really struck me over the years is how many issues / obstacles are due to lack of communication or miscommunication! The first thing I always ask is “did you talk to AP/HF about this?” 99% of the time the answer is no. I usually then coach them through a mock conversation until they feel comfortable enough to do it on their own.

I also strongly encourage them to put themselves in the others shoes. So in this instance perhaps it’s not an intentional slight on the late payments but moreso a busy and tired host family and the AP doesn’t have a bank account so they’ve got to make a trip to the ATM which isn’t convenient…you see where I am going. On that point I’d probably tell AP to approach the HM like this – “hey HM, I know you are super busy and I definitely don’t want to add additional stress by hounding you every week for the stipend – is there a way to set it up for autopay or something I can do to help you like sending a reminder text every Friday morning?” Anyone frankly that gets angry over that your daughter shouldn’t spend a year with. To CVs point, there are certain clear rules (pay, hours, time off etc) that are black and white requirements and bare minimum expected of the HF. If those aren’t being followed/ respected she’s got big problems.

The hours one is trickier as that isn’t enough information. She can legally work 10 hours a day, up to 45 per week. But you also say that she doesn’t have any time off. Those statements seem to contradict each other unless you are trying to say that she works 10 hours a day seven days a week = 70 hours in which case she needs to have a conversation to have it stop immediately or go to another family.

I’ve also heard APs say they never have any time off because they weren’t getting schedules in advance so they felt like they could never truly plan anything in their free time because they never knew when I was going to be. Is that what she’s experiencing? If it is then the conversation would be something like ” I love the kids and I absolutely want to be here to do a good job and contribute to the family but I’m really struggling with knowing when I’m going to be on duty and because I don’t have a schedule I’m not able to plan for college courses or any social time – how can I know when I’ll be off in advance? Can I create a draft schedule based on last week and we discuss it Sunday nights for the upcoming week?”

She should absolutely talk with her HF first. Often times HFs are completely in the dark! Many many many times I have encouraged APs to talk to their host families and once they did, they realized that it was a miscommunication and got things resolved right away. Don’t let things fester. It’s especially important to get into good habits early in the AP year. Right now both sides are on their best behavior and settling in and it’s really important to start things right. If they are truly intentionally disregarding the rules then it is much better for her to escalate and find out who she’s really dealing with right now than to try and wait it out and wash things continue to get worse but again, that’s assuming that she talks with the host family and no changes are made.

HMof2 June 28, 2017 at 1:14 am

Regarding “not getting paid on time each Friday”, is she getting paid late and by how many days? There is no “rule” that says AP must be paid on Friday. It’s really just an agreed upon day of the week between HF and AP with expectation that it be consistent week after week. Was it clearly agreed upon that HF will pay on Friday or was it an assumption on the AP’s part because that’s what she “heard”? How is she getting paid – by cash, check, bank transfer etc.? Is it deliberate on the part of the HF or just forgetfulness (which can be easily remedied with auto-payments).

Working 10 hours a day is within program rules.

AP should be getting at least 1.5 days off each week and depending on the agency, it may need to be consecutive or not. Time off doesn’t have to be a weekend except for minimum once each month, AP must have the time off during the weekend. Ask the HF for a work schedule and clearly note which hours are officially “work” hours each day so there is no ambiguity. Maybe “being part of the family” time is perceived as “work” time by the AP and not “work” time by the HF. Clarifying these sometimes blurred and misinterpreted lines will require communicating openly with the HF to clear up any “part of the family” misunderstandings.

DMMom June 28, 2017 at 2:24 pm

I will also add that starting in the summer is always crazy. The schedules change a lot more, the kids are off the school year patterns, and there is more that the Au Pair needs to do (camps. beach, play dates). These are definately the most challenging 3 months in my house. These are very busy, jam-packed days.

To be honest, I tell my Au Pairs when they start that they may need to send me a text if I forget to transfer their money, and not to worry about offending me (I am just busy with 3 small kids). And depending on how they set their accounts (or not) auto-pay isn’t always an option.

Bitka June 28, 2017 at 7:33 pm

Please set pay days with HF and print it with dates so they could sign it after they sent you stipend and you could sign it after receiving the money. Imagine that HF doesn’t pay for a month and then again they pay after a month (instead of giving regular weekly stipend). In my case it was never regular. What if your child will get (for example) a car accident and has to pay deductible. HF might not want to pay money at all. Personally I would say during the conversation with the HF sth like ‘Please don’t ever make me ito ask for the money’. HF please don’t embarrass yourselves and pay on time. Organize yourself better. Its not the Au pair job to remind about those basics.

fromacounselor June 29, 2017 at 12:45 pm

To be a legal au pair in the U.S. means that your daughter came here via an agency. Please encourage her to reach out to her counselor, the local representative for her agency. That person is there to support both the host family and the au pair throughout the entire year. I’m a counselor myself and it would frustrate me greatly to learn that one of the young ladies in my area wasn’t getting paid correctly. As her counselor, I would guide her in how best to advocate for herself and would address it directly with the host family myself if necessary. Your daughter should also explain her average week’s schedule to her counselor to make sure that it follows the regulations (like someone else said, 10 hours a day with no break is actually acceptable as long as other rules are being followed). Your daughter should never feel alone and without an advocate while she is here.
As a mom of au-pair-age grown children myself, I know how hard it is when you want to support your child but also want to let her learn for herself. I struggle with this daily and my children aren’t hundreds of miles away! I think the best you can do is to give her an outlet to vent and encourage her to lean on her counselor and other au pairs near her for the day-to-day stuff. Send her the occasional link to useful articles, send her goodies from home, encourage her to travel or try new experiences here, and remind her of how much she’ll grow from this experience. Hopefully her year will improve soon.

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