New baby, New Challenges for your Au Pair

by cv harquail on October 19, 2010

When a new baby arrives, so do lots of new family dynamics. We’ve discussed so of these already, in the conversation about Having another baby? How to tell your au pair. But, we recently got this request from an au pair, who’d like some help in thinking about the challenges of a new baby in a family that an au pair might face:

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Dear AuPair Moms– I searched for this topic and found something from about this concern from the parent’s point of view, and I’ve some comments on situation as an au pair.

I am pretty sure my Au Pair Host Mom is pregnant.

She hasn’t said anything at all. But I’m thinking she might be pregnant, because:
— A letter came from a prenatal clinic. This might seem like snooping but the name was right on the envelope in plain sight. I’m the one who collects the mail.
— My Host Mom is not drinking.
— She sort of looks pregnant (which could go either way, to be honest). I realized it can be downright offensive to ask her, just for that reason alone

I am not sure if I even should ask my Host Mom about her being pregnant, but I am concerned.

I have a several concerns about what a new baby means for my work and my pay.

First, I am honestly not qualified to care for infants.
My childcare experience is minimal, which the family knew when they hired me. I’ve been my host family for a little over two months now. In general I like the family, and I love being around the kids. … Of course there are also things I am really not happy about (like my hours being more than I was told about, etc).

I’m also worried about how my Host Mom’s maternity leave would effect my responsibilities.
My Host Mom would have extensive time off thanks to government benefits. I have found that it’s much harder to do my job well with a parent around.

And, I am concerned that her being home would effect my pay (and my hours).
The au pair before me was only making 300 euro a month when the Host Mom was not working. Once the Host Mom started working her pay was bumped up.

Should I bring any of this up with my Host Mom? Or, should I just wait (and worry) until she says something?

Parents and Au Pairs, keep in mind that this Au Pair is outside the USA. Thus, she is not covered by the regulations around a stable, fixed amount of pocket money regardless of her schedule (up to 40 hours). And, she may not be subject to the requirement that the baby be 3 months old before being left in the care of an Au Pair.

With these specifics in mind, what do you advise?

See also:

Having another baby? How to tell your au pair

image: Adorable Infant album-1997-089 from Paul-W

{ 7 comments }

My 2 cents October 19, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Given that you are outside the U.S., I cannot offer as much insight but here goes:

I would focus your time and energy toward honestly assessing whether you can adapt and, if so, to what degree, if it turns out she is pregnant and you will, in fact, be expected to care for the baby. I assume your stay is 1 year. If so, we are only talking about a few months, right? Honestly assess the situation so you can prepare for whatever the outcome is and whatever new challenges may or may not come along with it. Are you willing to take more pay for more hours and stress or are you just not interested whatever the additional perks, etc.?

That’s really all you can do right now. Your HM will have to say something eventually. Bear in mind it could be she’s experienced miscarriage and does not want to share until she really has to.

usa au pair October 19, 2010 at 2:55 pm

You said you’ve been there for 2 months, so I’ll consider you still have 10 to go…even if your host mom’s been pregnant for one or two months, it’s gonna take at least more 7 months for the baby to get home. Which means it’s mostly gonna affect and change your life there for 3 months or so. I would not worry about it right now. If your host mom is really pregnant she’ll tell you when it’s time. Meanwhile, enjoy your stay :)

Aupairgal October 19, 2010 at 3:21 pm

To be honest, your host mom is probably worrying about the exact same thing. I would wait a bit longer to say anything, because she is probably also trying to figure out herself how everything will be and if asked very early on may not be prepared to answer what you would like to know.

Dorsi October 19, 2010 at 9:04 pm

First of all, I would not ask your HM about the pregnancy. Other than the obvious “fat or pregnant” misunderstanding, there may be other very sensitive issues that you are not aware of – like a history of repeated early pregnancy loss, concern about genetic testing, etc. The good thing about a pregnancy is that it will make itself known in relatively short amount of time. (1-2 months may seem like an eternity to you, but if you are otherwise generally satisfied with your situation, you should try to wait patiently.)

First, the issue of qualification: I think this is somewhat irrelevant. Most women (and men) have done very little tiny baby care until they have their own tiny babies (see TACL’s recent post on bringing home her daughter, when she had nearly no infant care experience and no special need experience). IF there is a baby and IF you are there when it is born, I can’t imagine that the expectations will not be for you to spend hours alone with the baby. While newborns are certainly taxing – the constant neediness, crying often without explanation, the frequent wakings, etc., their requirements are simple. Especially if your HM is breastfeeding, she will spend very little time away from her infant. If you are willing to help with the infant, then I think your qualifications are mostly irrelevant.

The issue of hours and pay will have to be negotiated when/if you are confronted with sure news of the pregnancy. There is plenty of time for you to decide what you are willing to accept and stay with that. If you want more hours/more money than the HF is willing to provide, there is adequate time for everyone to find alternate arrangements (you to find a new family, the HF to find a new AP). In the meantime, if this is a situation you would like to remain in, focus your energy on making yourself helpful. If I was having a second child, I would still want my AP to be working nearly as much as she does now – so that I could focus on the infant, while assuring that my other child/children get the attention and supervision they need. I can afford to do this, and that is not true of everyone.

Finally, I have always thought it was a bit brilliant of the US AP regs to have a 3 month exclusion for infants. It makes sense for planning all around – if a HM becomes pregnant it is 12 months before the AP will care for the infant, meaning it is always a new AP (or an AP who goes into extension knowing about the pregnancy) who would care for the baby, and both parties know what they are getting into.

HMinNL October 20, 2010 at 7:48 am

Hi there

As others have said, I would neither ask her about her possible pregnancy nor worry much about the outcome and the implications. In the first three months of a pregnancy – if she is even pregnant – there is a great deal of uncertainty about how it will go. Many moms (me included) do not want to discuss the pregnancy with anyone until it is “real.” Personally I would not share the situation with my au pair until I was ready to share with everyone else – particularly for the reason of not wantin to have to discuss any sort of logistics until there is certainty in the situation.

Regarding pay and location – are you in Europe? If so, rules for pay and employment tend to be WAY more favorable to an employee than they are in the US, despite the fact that you do not need to go through an agency for an au pair. Within EU, you cannot lower someone’s pay and change their work responsibilities in the middle of a contracted period. If you are in EU, you would be contracted in order to have received your work permit. The host family can reduce your hours and responsibilities, but they cannot reduce your pay during the contract period.

I would not worry about having to do intensive care for a newborn because if you are outside US then the mom is almost certain to have at least 4 months off and will be around. In such an early infancy stage, it is really more likely she will want your help with getting dinner on the table, covering a little while so she can nap, etc. But in those early days – infants really need their mamas so I cannot imagine you will be doing any kind of intensive newborn care!

Should be working October 20, 2010 at 8:49 am

Agree with the above, wait and see. And when my second was born, it would have been worth GOLD to have someone around that the older child was comfortable with, who could take the older child and give her/him ‘special’ time while I was napping, nursing, etc. If the family has been happy with you, they might be even happier to have you if there is a new baby–for the sake of the older kid.

Euromom October 20, 2010 at 9:45 am

Hey there – as you can tell I am also in Europe and I enjoyed nearly 8 months off work for my maternity leave but asked my AP to arrive just 8 weeks after I had my second baby. It allowed me to concentrate totally on baby and the AP helped in the care of my older child. Many moms in Europe like to have a second pair for hands around (as sometimes grandparents do not live close by) and I personally loved the freedom and the company of having my AP there with me throughout the day. It was such a relief to be able to sleep when the baby slept and know that my older child was in the park or getting help with her homework.

So I hope this and the above posts might put your mind at ease somewhat.

Good luck and hope all goes well.

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