I’m a believer that different members of a family have different privileges and responsibilities, depending on their roles and their ages. Parents have more privileges than do children, and employers have more privileges than do employees. The rules that we follow can be different, as long as they are fair.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, uses my chef’s knife. When I’m driving, I get to choose the music. And guess what– if I want to leave my lunch dishes in the sink until dinner, I do.
I also have different expectation for myself when the kids are with me than I’ve had for our au pairs when they are on duty with the kids. I’m usually doing many other things in addition to being with my kids (like, oh, cooking, cleaning, laundry, paying bills, stuff like that). I don’t ignore my kids, but I don’t spend all of my time engaging them in educational play.
However, when our au pair is on duty, I do expect her to focus her attention on the kids, since that’s her job.
And, yes, in can be awkward when I expect her to focus 95% on the kids, when some times I focus only 65% on the kids. I think it’s fair, but it is also awkward, precisely because the differences in privileges point out that parents, au pairs and children have different roles in a family.
Host Mom-with-The View sends in this question, hoping for some advice on how to work this out a specific situation, where she wants a different set of privileges for herself vs. her au pair.
I am expecting my first au pair in 3 weeks. She is 22, German and speaks great English. I have a 21 month old son who is extremely active, and I am expecting a new baby in March. I work 3 days a week outside the home, full time, 12 hours days. As I know her now, I like my au pair very much. I am very eager to start with a positive, fair, respectful relationship.
I am writing out family handbook, and trying to decide if it is fair to tell the au pair that she may not watch TV while the children are awake. I almost always have the TV on when I’m home. I don’t watch shows I have to pay attention to, but I like to have the Today show, or the news on in the background while my son and I play or do other things.
Occasionally, when my son is occupied, I will watch a show I have recorded that does not require much attention, or I will just rewind if I miss a part because I’ve been paying attention to my son. My son rarely watches TV, just the occasional 20 minutes of Sesame Street if I need to remove him from my leg to cook dinner or iron clothes.
My concern is that the au pair will half-ignore the kids if the TV is on and she really wants to pay attention to what is on TV. I know how I am with my son, and that he does not lack for attention or engagement while I have the TV on. I don’t know if this is something the au pair will be able to do.
I want to be fair, but I also think of this as her job, where she should follow the rules, but I’m afraid of the concequences of setting such an obvious double standard. I imagine this double standard will be very evident to her since I will be home for 12 weeks on maternity leave about 4 weeks after she arrives, in addition to the 2 weekdays days every week I’m home with her.
Can I ask her to do something I am not willing to do myself? Thank you for your help!