Open Thread: Here we go!

by cv harquail on March 15, 2014


Welcome to our first Saturday Open Thread/ Experiment!  

Open threads are for comments on any subject at all, including past posts, things we haven’t posted on, what you’ve been thinking or doing, etc as long as it follows our basic comments policy.

Each thread will be open for a full week, from Saturday morning (EST) to the following Friday evening, when the comments will close. Then, the next day, we’ll open up a new open thread.

I hope that this system will take some of the pressure off readers who want to bring up something that’s outside the topic of any of the posts of the day, but who don’t want to hijack that day’s post.  We can also use these open threads to bring to the surface topics that you’d like to discuss in a more focused way in a later post.

Let’s see how this works. Let me know what you think….. cvh/aupairmom

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Update ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Well that was fun. Over 50 comments, and at least 3, 289 topics were fielded :-)

Going forward with the experimental part of the experiment, I’m now going to queue up posts specifically about the topics that you generated, so that we can have a focused (and searchable/findable) conversation about it.  Had there been an ’emergency question’ posted, I’d either keep this open just for that conversation or set up a solo post right away. Looking ahead to Saturday morning, I’ll set that open thread to close on Monday am, and then process ideas from there.   cvh


See also:  Comments Policy for Au Pair Mom


Image: Thread, by splityarn, on Flickr


Always Hopeful HM March 15, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Oh oh oh!! I got so excited when I saw this, because I have so many “loose” items to discuss. Of course, I froze up as soon as I sat down to write…!

I did want to add a note about perspective. At least for me, I’ve found that it’s really easy to get swept into the danger of comparing a situation that’s not working for someone else to my own, similar situation and think “maybe I should be dissatisfied with this arrangement.” I have to make a point of reminding myself of my own family’s priorities and limitations and accept that everyone sees through the prism of what is important to her.

We are currently on AP #2. Our first AP was textbook perfect. She was an extraordinaire with tons of teaching and child care experience. She was organized and responsible and took her job very seriously. She was pleasant and mature. Ultimately, we were all unhappy, though. My son really disliked her (I can’t believe I made him go through the whole year), and while I liked her, I really felt like she was more of a roommate than a part of the family. She, in turn tried her level best to turn our disorganized, semi-chaotic home into a place of structure and peace, but we’re just not those people.

For our second au pair, I focused a lot on personality and the role the au pair would play in our family. I did that the first time, too, but didn’t have a clear enough sense of who we are to really know what/who we needed. We now have an au pair who is absolutely wonderful for our family, but may have been intolerable for many of the folks I’ve seen post here (primarily on the issues of chores and general ditziness). Even knowing how much I appreciate #2.

I sometimes get a twinge of nervousness when I read a complaint about or rematch from an au pair who has a quality that our au pair shares, but that either works for our family,or that we decided wasn’t that important. For example, in many ways, au pair #2 is like another child in our home. I know that makes some shudder, but honestly, I’m a manager at work, and a mom at home. I like the mom part much better, so I’d rather handle issues at home from that vantage point. Granted, AP2 has a great attitude. Might not be as much fun with someone else, but my child is safe, and we are all happy. Dishes are sometimes on the counter when I come home, or I may have to give 3 reminders of an appointment, or hunt down clean underwear for my child when AP2 is gone for the weekend, but everybody is happy.

For me, that really is what makes my life easier. For me, right now, happiness is all I want for my family!

German Au-Pair March 15, 2014 at 9:40 pm

Personality matters! Little anecdote (open threads are really dangerous for me…I already tend to write too much).
I was friends with three au pairs of the same HF (met first one 6 mo in, saw 2nd one her whole year and 3rd one her first 6mo). The first one was what I would call a great au pair. She went out of her way to make HM happy (including washing HM’s laundry and against-the-rules-stuff), loved the kids dearly, was really responsible. However, HM was aweful to her. Kept pressuring her into doing what she wanted, attacked her to the point of her crying and would have meltdowns whenever she brought something up.
Second au pair was a great person but probably a not-so-good au pair. She did get along with the HM in a way that she just didn’t care what HM said on a personal level, Hm would attack her in the silliest ways (like commenting on her style and so on) but she just didn’t care.
3rd au pair seems to be the perfect match. She LOVES the HM and the HM loves her back. HM doesn’t attack her but she also doesn’t let HM treat her badly. She can bring up problems and HM is much more relaxed about compromising. It was astonishing to see this. This is what you have said just from the different perspective: what works perfectly for one au pair, would be unaccaptable for others. I could not live with that person, just like others might not be able to live with your au pair, but as long as she’s a good fit for your family, what does it matter?

Also, I know it was your old au pair you’re talking about but on a general note: if AP and kid don’t connect, like seriously don’t connect, and not just because of transition, then I would rematch. I know one or two children from work I know I could not au pair for. I instantly didn’t like them (and instantly saw it was mutual) and while you can totally stay objective about this as a professional, it would be really hard in a live-in situation. My guess is that au pairs wouldn’t dare to bring it up because the general opinion is “give it time” but I am convinced that some relationships can’t be given a positive spin.
So if you do have the feeling as a HP, it would probably be a good idea to gently address that.

Host Mom in the City March 17, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Finally got a chance to check in on this thread and wow – lots of different questions! My first question on this was why you went with a non-extraordinaire after having such a good experience with an extraordinaire? We’d love not to have to spend the money, obviously, but in our experience, that extra official childcare experience made a world of difference and we will probably always have extraordinaires.

But I agree with German Au-Pair – personality is huge. My two wonderful au pairs were people that I just simply LIKED. My second one, which I’m sure was colored a bit by how poor an au pair she was, I couldn’t hardly talk to her by about mid-year. She was really shallow and immature and un-self-aware. It made me realize how important just plain enjoying your au pair’s company is (and likewise, I’m sure). I agree with you totally that other things can slide and battles can be picked when you know your au pair is doing her best and you enjoy your time with her.

AlwaysHopefulHM March 15, 2014 at 11:27 pm

Totally agree with you, German Au Pair. As much as Au Pair #1 was not the right fit for us, we were not the right family for her. I’m older and wiser now (by one year), and I realize now that I should have rematched over the not-bonding issue, and we could have all had a better year. I kept thinking “we’re adjusting, I don’t want my son to feel he has the power to wish away a caregiver, she’s doing everything I ask and more” etc. I think when we matched with her, I was thinking of our family as the family we would like to be, and not so much who (I’ve discovered) we really are. That’s the same trap I fall into when I compare my life to some of the posts I read, so I’m just trying to stay mindful of that. Live and learn. :)

Peachtree Mom March 16, 2014 at 9:16 am

In one of the past posts, someone stated figure out what is important to you and your family….let the rest go. What works for Always Hopeful will/may not work with someone else’s family. We always say upfront during the interview that our house is a controlled chaos. We do the best that we can. Works for some au pairs but not for others.

anon this time March 16, 2014 at 9:39 am

A certain agency has on their application an option – a checkbox – to describe the state of your house, from immaculate to something like “controlled chaos”. Ours is never on the immaculate side and I was honest in answering the question. Guess what, the agency got rid of us (“fired ” our family essentially) because the state of our house was not good enough for the au pair, according to their judgement, and no recourse option from us. This was absolutely not true. We have moved during that period and for some time there were boxes everywhere, but it got under control long before they decided to “fire” us. THere were no warnings whatsoever from the agency and no requests to improve things. This was our second year with this agency, and they told us that they reviewed our file and we had a history of this even in the first year? So if we were not suitable to host the au pairs from the very beginning why they placed one with us in the second year? The story just didn’t add up. They let us go when the second au pair flaked out on us in the second year (two in the same year), and we stopped being a profitable customer. This way they recovered some money because if they let the family go because they are “unsuitable”, decided by the agency alone, they don’t owe a refund. They did let the second rematch au pair stay with us during the two rematch weeks, even asking her if she needed more time at our house, while not letting us get a replacement because of our “unsuitability”. So we were plenty suitable when it was convenient for them, but not when it was not.
I am not putting this under my own name and not giving all the details because I still hope to go after this agency for a full refund by trying to hit them where it hurts. And just to think I have referred countless families to them during my first year, got no promised reward for it, because apparently I was supposed to follow each family myself and keep asking if they got the au pair…. and then bug the agency for the money. They claim they don’t track the referrals. Of course this doesn’t work if you refer an acquiantance of a a friend, which of course they count on when promising a generous referral reward…. Another agency kept sending me referral checks even after I stopped being their customer, for families whose names I barely recognized…. So while I recognize that most agencies are in it for profit, this one – unabashedly more than others, and in the end I am paying for it both monetarily and by the well being of my kids, courtesy of two unsuitable au pairs they sent my way this year.

icsamerica March 17, 2014 at 8:56 am

Sounds like you are the problem. Clean up your mess and get yourself and your home in order. Stop blaming other for your short comings. This isn’t a bad host family support group. Listen to what others are politely trying to tell you. Most Au Pairs are young and idealistic and come with good intentions and want to fit in and do so with in reason.

TexasHM March 17, 2014 at 9:08 am

That’s not at all what others are saying and this is not at all the tone of this group. Troll? CV?

anon this time March 17, 2014 at 9:21 am

I have been with the au pair program for 7 years and have hosted many happy au pairs, my housekeeping skills didn’t change with this agency… obviously other agencies and au pairs didn’t think I was a “bad” host mom. The young idealistic au pairs who come here expecting to live in a palace and drive a mercedes are not for me, we are a typical, albeit untypically warm, american family.

icsamerica March 17, 2014 at 10:40 am

Why Anon then? Why not name the agency?

anon this time March 17, 2014 at 10:50 am

because as I explained, I plan to go after my refund from this agency possibly involving lawyers, and I don’t want to give much information away in case representatives of this agency are reading the blog.

Host Mom in the City March 17, 2014 at 12:16 pm

I remember your story and am sorry to hear it’s ongoing. So weird because usually it seems like the complete opposite is true. I know two host families that have gone through 10-20 au pairs in a really short time period, I know a host dad that slept with his au pair, I know a family whose house is absolutely filthy and falling apart – all four families still in the program. I hope it gets sorted out soon!

Momma Gadget March 16, 2014 at 12:19 pm

We have a saying in our house- if you want to come see us, come anytime. If you want to see my house, I need a months notice.
Our house is always creative chaos. House keeping has never been one of my strenghts. Our house is clean, but cluttered with many projects in various states of completion. Our LC describes our home as “comfortably lived in”.
I’ve always wanted one of those pristine decorator homes, but it is just not in my nature.
I’m sure if we had a neatnic LC looking for a reason to get rid of us, we’d be trouble.

TexasHM March 16, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Are you with APIA? We recently had a regional director there go rogue and among other things – froze our profile right when we went into rematch (ap had family emergency) so we had no choice but to go to another agency. I later spoke with her boss and not only did she say that wasn’t procedure but that there were no notes in our file on it and that we had a spotless record (4 yrs). I know two other families currently having issues with this same regional director and I have to wonder if yours is one in the same. If it’s APIA post an email for me to send you the higher ups contact info (if you want it). I can give you one in particular that was very apologetic and helpful and I would think could definitely talk refund with you.

anon this time March 16, 2014 at 9:11 pm

No, it is not APIA. In fact after that agency “fired” us , I switched to APIA… Our new au pair is with us for one and a half months now and she is from APIA, the counselor came to our home several times – first to interview us and then to do an orientation once the au pair arrived – and no peep about the “unsuitable” state of our house…. everyone is happy.

WestMom March 16, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Question about the Open Thread… Is this one single post per week, or can we all post a questions? I’ll go ahead anyway, but let me know if this should go on the next thread…

After 5 years in the program, our kids are older (12, 9, 9) and need less and less supervision. I am just wondering what are other moms expectations during ‘down time’ (i.e.- kids watching tv, or playing video games, or even doing homework to a certain extent). Our current AP has been really wonderful, but I sense that sometimes she is just bored. Sometimes (especially before dinner, once all homework is done and the kids are relaxing), she will just retrieve to her room, and come up every once in a while to see if we need help. Some of our previous APs were a bit more motivated to organize activities with the kids, but let’s face it, they don’t need to be entertained ALL the time. (Note that AP does has a small list of weekly chores and these are all performed as expected, so when she retreats to her room, there is really nothing for her to do unless I make something up).

Tangential question out of this… After one AP years ago had a difficult time putting her iPhone down during the day, I have been very strict about guidelines for Internet and phone usage during the day. But since our kids don’t need constant supervision, I am wondering what is the right balance here. Should I slack a bit?

Should be working March 16, 2014 at 2:43 pm

What a great question. We have all similar issues–what to expect of an AP when kids are older and manage themselves more.

About the slacking on iPhone: I say NO, do not slack. The AP is a role model as well, and thus she can model “how to amuse yourself” without turning to the screen. And a little texting can turn into a lot. And then just at the moment that a kid would like to approach her she is texting.

It is hard to not let the AP withdraw into her room if she’s on duty and no one needs her. But the slippery slope is a problem: our AP is listed on duty until 6pm. I like having her around after I get home at 5:30pm, even though I don’t “need” her, but suddenly someone wants help with homework or remembers some thing s/he needs for the next day, and if the AP is upstairs it seems ridiculous to call her down to do that…except that the extra help is why I have an AP.

We have a related problem: Yes I could all by myself do morning lunch/breakfast-making and get my older kids out the door. I could. But since we have an AP I like the help, even while I put in an appearance and help move things along. Eventually most of our APs have asked to skip some mornings (after a late night out) “because you don’t really need me”. It seems so petty for me to say, “Yes, but I want the help for those 45 minutes anyway”. So sometimes I give them the morning off, and then I fume that I would just like that extra set of hands to empty the dishwasher, check the water bottles for kids, etc.

TexasHM March 16, 2014 at 3:34 pm

I have a related question. In about 18mos all my kids will be in school. This will be a huge shift for our current AP (or next) as right now she has two at home, one in school. Do HP with all school age kids find the AP program to still be a good fit? Don’t get me wrong, we love the cultural exchange but it is a major investment of time and money. I’m curious how many stay with the program (vs go to a sitter or nanny or after school scenario) and the ones that stay – do you have them do mornings, evenings and weekend date nights to make it worth it? I’m not saying 45 hrs necessarily but I bet most would agree it doesn’t make sense to have an AP for 10-15hrs per week but obviously when the kids are out of school (summer, sick, etc) it’s a huge advantage. Any pitfalls to avoid when making the switch? Do they help out with extra kids stuff (like help manage closets, bag up stuff to donate, shop for school supplies, pickup sports equipment, etc) to help justify an AP vs part time sitter? I have a HM friend that says having the AP cook dinner weeknights justifies it for them, what keeps you in the program?

au pair P March 16, 2014 at 5:02 pm

I just want to throw out there something that popped to mind while reading this response.

I’m aupairing for a family with two kids, one in kindergarten, the other just about sixteen months. What I wanted to say was, that from the beginning, I’ve been helping with those things you mention as “help to justify an AP once the kids are older” –It has always been within my duties to keep up with the kiddos’ closets -make sure all outgrown clothes are put away once they can not wear them anymore. Every few months HM and I go through those big bins of kids’s clothes and sort through them deciding what still fits the kids, or what should be given away or what not. it always seemed to be as part of the job, and never felt to be like something extra I was doing. Same with shopping for groceries, or kiddie things, taking them for haircuts, buying stuff for the house, etc etc…It had always been part of the job, even with small children to take care of…

Just a thought….

HappyHMinMD March 16, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Hubby was a SAHD until youngest kiddo hit kindergarten, so we didn’t have this transition. But I definitely understand the question. We started with part-time nannies, but finding someone to do a split-shift schedule required a herculean effort and no amount of tap-dancing. The first year we ended up sharing a nanny with a single parent down the block, so nanny was responsible for four kiddos at once but making $20 an hour. No complaints and it worked fine. All four kiddos were within one year in age (4-5) and there weren’t any diapers or baby care issues. It worked, but it was sloppy. Heaven forbid there was a snow day or one of the four kids was sick but the rest weren’t. Argh. Disaster. We survived, but the friendship with that parent decidedly did not.

Next we managed to find a series of college students who were willing to work for $14 an hour doing the split-shift thing. Wasn’t always easy but we managed. We had very little flexibility but we dealt with it.

Then a few friends of ours started getting au pairs. Suddenly we realized that we’d had friends all along with au pairs. The families seemed to have a lot more flexibility than we had.

The more I researched, the more I decided an au pair was the way to go. DH was skeptical but he allowed me to pursue it.

I actually think an au pair is MORE useful to school-age parents. My experience is that if there is a snow day, AP is there. If there is an administrative day, AP is right there and ready to work. Early morning chorus practice? AP gets up and takes the kiddo. After school science bowl team pratice? AP picks up other kid from school, they go to the park, then swing back to pick up science kid. Summertime? AP switches gears and takes them swimming all day, or to a park, or to wherever.

It’s heaven. We ADORE our au pair and do everything we can to give her a fair, happy experience that makes her feel like part of the family. After a handful of years juggling schedules and freaking out about nannies giving notice (my favorite nanny had been with us 2 years and then gave us 48 hours notice on the day before we left for Disney World — awesome), this situation has been great.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 16, 2014 at 10:47 pm

We have teenagers (albeit one is severely mentally retarded and handicapped). Our AP gets The Camel up, baths, diapers, dresses, and feeds her (DH makes her lunch and packs her school bag, and gets our typically developing teenager ready to go out the door). Our typical teen makes his own breakfast and lunch and needs coaching on cleaning up. She is off for 6 1/2 hours before the Camel returns, although a couple of days a week she does the carpool run for the typical teen. She takes her for a walk, feeds her dinner, and plays with her until DH or I return home (usually by 5:30). Occasionally, when DH or I have an evening activity, she works a little later. Because we do a split shift 5 days a week, we try to limit her weekend hours to 5 (unless it’s a holiday week). In addition, I ask her to do three loads of the kids’ laundry, and light cleaning in the Camel’s bedroom and bathroom on her own time (but to consider it as work time).

I have known APs of school-age kids whose HPs’ booked them to work well into the evening, but then never really gave them anything to do (and quite frankly, kids want to be with their parents in the evening – not sloughed off on to the AP). They found it frustrating. I think it’s okay to assign concrete and useful work – and to give warning before a schedule change (after all the AP won’t have that wonderful quite time in the middle of the day once the school year ends!).

WestMom March 17, 2014 at 6:29 am

We have 3 school aged kids and make good use of our 45hrs. Depends in the needs of your family of course. But here’s a typical routine for us:
– Everyone is up at 6:15, AP helps with breakfast and prepares lunches, while parents get ready for work. Everyone is gone by 7:45.
– AP is home after school starting at 2:30 and she is on duty until 8:30: help win homework, drive to activities, help with dinner preparation. Parents are home somewhat late (7pm?) and we eat together as a family. Then bedtime.
– On weekends, parents both train at various sports. AP holds the fork during that time, and assists with homework.
– Occasionally AP is asked to bbsit at night.

All depends what you need, but the AP program offers so much more flexibility than the regular 8-5 would might be experiencing now. With our kids being older, it also allows us parents to have our own hobbies for which having available childcare is so helpful!

Anonymous this post March 17, 2014 at 8:55 am

This has all been great thanks ladies! I guess I more worry about the AP feeling like a housekeeper or errand runner than childcare provider once the kids are in school and I worry how attractive that schedule would be to candidates (will they feel they couldn’t explore enough if their nights and some weekends they were working). I’m sure I’m overthinking it and our APs are truly family members so that will help lessen the chore feel, just trying to figure out how we are going to balance it all. If our current AP extends she would only have that schedule her last few months and she’s super flexible so that would be nice to interview with that schedule being the “norm” already.

WestMom March 17, 2014 at 1:43 pm

I think the attractiveness of the schedule really depends on the candidates. APs with infants and toddlers do get the flexibility of evenings and weekends, but from our experience, most APs in our area work with school aged kids. I have actually heard of APs being bored between 5-8PM because none of their AP friends are available to go out until their shift is over. Also, our AP often gets together with local friends for coffee/lunch during the day, and also takes her classes with friends during that time, which the all-day AP cannot really do.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 16, 2014 at 10:38 pm

I agree about phone and computer use while working. In general, I ask that my APs be brief in their use. No matter what APs think about it being okay, because the kids just want to be by themselves anyway, nothing closes the door to a child faster than appearing unavailable. Sure, it’s fine to ignore teens and tweens – that’s exactly what they want – and they’re probably using more media time than their parents would like. As a parent of teenagers, I want my kids homework done by the time I get home – after a long day at work, I don’t really want to make dinner AND fight my teenager about a rush to finish loads of homework. Personally, I would prefer that my teenagers exercised, too. A great AP might organize an activity, “Would you prefer to walk to the Library or walk in the park?” “Would you prefer to shoot a basketball or play soccer with me.” A mediocre one will do as she pleases because they don’t appear to need her help.

Host Mom in the City March 17, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Agree with TACL. Ours are young elementary school aged, and we’re definitely this year seeing longer portions of time that they play on their own. It’s hard to imagine how it will be when they’re much older, but I know I’d be mad if our au pair went up to her room during “on duty” time and shut the door and went on Skype or whatever. I know it would probably be frustrating to feel like you’re just sitting around waiting, but you really never know when a kid will want to open up or do something. I guarantee a kid’s not going to go seek out the au pair, knock on her door, and wait for her to be done Skyping.

I’d rather she at least sit on the couch and model something I’d like the kids to be doing – maybe reading a book. A great au pair would step up to the plate and make herself useful – organizing kid’s stuff, involving the kids in baking, sitting down and assisting with homework, prepping an activity for later, etc. Our awesome current au pair uses downtime for this kind of stuff – and we reciprocate in kind. Guess who gets tons of extra time off and a big cash bonus for her birthday? Guess who didn’t – the au pair who spent all her time (even when the kids actually DID want to engage with her) on her iPhone.

If an au pair doesn’t feel useful during her on-duty time, I’d suggest she simply asking how she can help. Asking if she can go upstairs to her room and be on the internet tells me exactly where her mindset is.

German Au-Pair March 16, 2014 at 4:12 pm

I was expected to be there when kids come home and organize stuff but in that time between snack and homework they just didn’t need -or what- me around so I was basically off while being on duty. I was on my phone a lot during work hours because my kids were pre-teen and real teen so they really wanted their time by themselves and I could do whatever I wanted. I never ignored them when they needed me obviously. But I watched TV, read or played with my phone and it was never a problem.
Honestly, I don’t see a real reason behind prohibiting phone usage while the children are doing something else by their own choice.
Plus, if she retreats to her room, how does it make sense that she’s not supposed to use the phone while in her room? Is ne not allowed on the computer while being in her room either?
I personally think that you could slack on this if you talked to au pair and have her talk to the kids to make clear that while she is on duty, no matter if she is in her room or on her phone, the children are always encouraged to come to her and ask for her time whenever they want. You could tell the children that it’s okay for her to be on her phone so she doesn’t get bored and can use the time to chat with friends at home (because of the time difference to Europe for example, the afternoon is the prime time to talk to family and friends) but that they are always her priority and should never hesitate to approach her.

WestMom March 17, 2014 at 6:16 am

Problem with hanging in her room German AP, is that there is no proactivity. AP is just being reactive when she is needed. I am not sure that is the best way to bond with tweens/teens.
I also think Internet use while on duty is a slippery slope. I know very few responsible teens, young adults, or even adults for that matter that show any control when using electronics. Responsible use would be great, but once you open the floodgate, how can you make sure it is not excessive?
Lastly, I might sound heartless, but our AP is free most of the day to Skype and hang out online. I would find it inappropriate to Skype during her shift, though we have made exceptions for special occasions (‘family celebrating grandma’s birthday and they’d like me to call to wish happy birthday’ kinda thing).

German Au-Pair March 17, 2014 at 11:05 am

Yes, that is re-active but I think it depends on the individual whether or not this is a good strategy. My kids were at an age where they specifically asked for some alone-time to wind down from a long school day and do their thing. Due to their special needs they also pefered playing by themselves but I know others with teens who also wanted that alone time. I am also sure that I as a pre-teen and teen would not have wanted anyone actively trying to engage me between school and homework. So when the chores are done and the teen wants alone.time, the au pair has nothing to do and then I don’t see anything wrong with it.
I’m not saying she should be free to do what she wants instead of playing with the kids but when the kids don’t want to play with her. (Like when I would go to my girl after school she’d chat with me for a bit and then say “Can I maybe do this on my own now?”)

cv harquail March 16, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Hi WestMom– I dont really know how this will work– it’s an experiment… We might just let it all wander, or maybe we’ll stop a conversation that’s taking off so that we can put it in it’s own post. But for now, its whatever we make of it….cv

Dorsi March 17, 2014 at 1:58 am

Maybe someone can help with this, but there was a thread a few months ago where a host mom (who has like 6 or 8 kids and homeschools) had a list of what her Au Pair was supposed to do when she had free time (while scheduled to be working). They were all legitimate requests — organize library books, food prep, etc. If someone else remembers this, maybe they can point you to it.

Anyway, I think it is reasonable to have a list of things to be done, if your AP has significant daily downtime.

Dorsi March 17, 2014 at 2:04 am

JJ Host Mom has a good list in this thread — not exactly the one I was looking for, but might be helpful.

hOstCDmom March 17, 2014 at 7:51 am

It was me :)

It is about mid-way down in this thread: Should Au Pairs be expected to do Chores on their day off

Dorsi March 17, 2014 at 10:38 am

That is a level of organization and management I aspire to! Thanks!

Peachtree Mom March 16, 2014 at 3:56 pm

I wondered the same thing about the threads. I have an offshoot topic but will wait a bit as to not overwhelm this thread. We only have one 6yo child so diapers, feedings are long gone. She is in school all day with some late days for extracurricular activities. In the mornings if I go into work late I say good morning, maybe help for a few minutes and then jump on my treadmill or start a load of laundry. I show back up for all of us to go the bus stop. In the evening when everything is wrapped up I offer suggestions like organizing the toybox(s) to fill some time and after that she can take off to the gym or meet her buddies for coffee. Once she leaves or goes to her room (her door is closed) I would not call her back for things that were missed. It is so nice to have the extra help in the AM or evening…keeps me in a good, jovial mood instead of a running around maniac. So yes while there are many things I could manage on my own esp if I go to work late but I love the help. If she does have an event she wants to leave early for, fine with me, but by then our daughter is fed, bathed and dishes put away.

Another HM March 16, 2014 at 4:26 pm


I was with APiA for a relatively short period of time. When I asked for rematch and could not find a new AP with APiA, I went to another agency. Yes, I got a refund for the remaining months. Fast forward a few months, I re-applied to APiA to look for another AP. I got accepted, the selection process got initiated and… a regional manager stepped in and rejected my application. When I emailed her asking for reasons, I got a response without any answers. So I’m assuming my fault was asking for a rematch. Or maybe my fault was going to another agency. I don’t know. I honestly don’t recall bending any program rules, so I am quite confused. But it looks like I’m not the only one. Wanna get in touch? :)

TexasHM March 17, 2014 at 9:05 am

I setup an email –

German Au-Pair March 16, 2014 at 4:28 pm

I would like to figure out how many of the Hp on this board ask their au pairs to do things that are not technically allowed by state department or agency regulations. And I wonder about why and how. Does she work extra hours because you simply can’t manage to be at home on time or does she do them by choice and for cash? Does she walk the dog -again, by choice or because you need her to?
How do you make sure she knows that she can say no if she wants to? How do you compensate the little (and big) extras?

Just to be clear, it just interests me. I used to stay alone with the kids for a week or so because my host parents asked me and I didn’t mind. I never felt like I didn’t have the option of saying no. I did it because I wanted to help and I didn’t mind and I got payed for it even though we hadn’t had a discussion about that.

On the other hand: are you flexible when you can? Do you sometimes give her some extra off time when you don’t need her? I know a HM who was a lovely person with a great relationship with her AP but when she came home early and wanted to spend some time with her kid she offered the au pair to take the rest of the day off but would count that towards her vacation time. Of course thP declined, but that seemed somewhat weird to me.
Im curious of how others manage things like that.

Emerald City HM March 16, 2014 at 8:50 pm

I don’t know if I’m the ideal answer you are looking for, but HD and I do not break the state department regulations. It makes me sad that there are families out there that do, because it hurts other host families.

We had one au pair when we were interviewing that said we weren’t the right family for her because we had a 45 hour work week listed and she felt that plus overtime was too much (we have never done overtime). She may have had other reasons where she felt she wouldn’t fit in with our family, but she used that as an excuse.

I’ve mentioned on here before that my husband and I are sort of in the public eye so there’s no way it would go over well if we were exploiting our au pairs, but I’d like to think that even if we weren’t, we would still have the same ethical standards and follow the rules.

Now, I guess all that said, when we travel with our au pair, I guess some of it is different. We do make sure she has her own room, but some of the work hours become more blurred, because she sometimes ends up being stuck in a car or in a plane with us past the “normal workday”. We do not count travel time as “work time”, I know some families kind of do like half time, but we also have never required our au pair to travel with us. Generally, when she does travel with us, she’s not really “working” her standard 9 hour days either.

The one “rule” DH and I would have a problem with following is a particular agency rule and the requirement that the 1.5 days off per week are consecutive. But so far, we haven’t even interviewed au pairs from that agency and I’m not sure we ever will.

Emerald City HM March 16, 2014 at 8:53 pm

Oh I did forget to say, not only does breaking the rules hurt other host families, it also hurts au pairs and the program in general. (In my opinion).

Host Mom in the City March 17, 2014 at 12:33 pm

We are a host family that 100% follows the rules of the State Department and our agency. I have, in three years, never broken a rule. I understand why some host parents do it – mostly because working two full-time jobs plus commute means more than 45 hours right there. And of course, it stinks to have to pay for a dog-walker when your au pair is right there all day. Honestly most of the au pairs I’ve talked to have said they’re happy to make the additional cash. Our second au pair actually brought that fact up complaining to us a few times – “can you believe so and so is making an extra week stipend for staying with the kids all weekend?”

Although I can understand it though, I personally don’t think it’s fair. We signed up for this program knowing the rules and I believe they are there for the au pair’s protection. I worry that au pairs wouldn’t want to say no for fear of upsetting their host parents. I typically don’t think it’s appropriate to ask someone to do the wrong thing in a power-imbalanced relationship.

To your other question, we are probably one of the more flexible families out there. I use our au pair when we really need her, and when we don’t, she gets off. If we have a snow day that we both don’t have to work, she’s off too. If we get home early (which is actually almost every day), she gets off early. I would never dream of asking her to take a vacation day for days I had already scheduled but ended up not needing her. That’s really inappropriate.

I would say our approach pays dividends in the case of our two excellent au pairs. They really feel like they got a great deal with us because they never work weekends and have more flexible schedules. I think they both did a great job with us because they know we’re willing to go above and beyond for them. Our second just took advantage and made sure it was clear how happy she was that she didn’t have to work. Man, that bugged me. I would tell her we didn’t need her whatever afternoon and she would be so happy and tell me how nice it was not to have to work.

Anonymous this post March 16, 2014 at 4:44 pm

I know several families (mine inc) with young kids that pay the APs extra for an occasional date night or hour or half hour here and there for a work event. With two working parents it’s hard to juggle the 45 hr req (mon-fri 8-5 is 45 hrs), we can because my husband and I are on slightly different schedules and commutes.

We did a sitter at first but our AP resented it, she was protective of the kids and didn’t want us using a sitter. She asked that we offer that time to her first, then if she couldn’t or didn’t want to we could call the sitter but she wanted the opportunity to earn the extra money and loved our kids dearly so she said it wasn’t work for her. Everything else we follow to the letter of the law – including vacations. Since our APs don’t work on vacation at all and so we don’t have to deal with getting her a separate private room we tell the APs they can join or not, up to them but it counts as vacation. All have gone on at least one trip with us (we go fun places) but if they said no we would just ask that they plan their own trip during the same time and they always have notice/details months in advance.

We tell them to think about it, stress it’s their decision and they know APs in the past have passed. We try to be super flexible, we don’t nickel and dime vacation or do the weird stuff you mentioned, we try to treat the APs as we would want to be treated. We would never ever leave an ap alone overnight with the kids. Not because they couldn’t handle it, but because there are too many risks and what ifs and because it’s against the program rules anyway.

We compensate extras with special gifts, flexibility, hosting friends/family members, thank yous, notes, time (listening, giving advice, helping APs plan trips), travel discounts, etc.

K L Former host mom March 16, 2014 at 9:23 pm

We have had several au pairs over the years, 7 in all, for our three children, presently ages 18 months, 5, and 10. We had one of our au pairs indicate that she was interested in making extra money because one of her friends was paid extra by her host family for sitting on the weekends. As a result of her coming to us regarding making some extra money, we gave her the chance to sit on a handful of evenings, making slightly more than we would have paid a high school-aged sitter. We always made it clear she didn’t have to sit on the extra nights we asked her to, and gave her plenty of advance notice. When she offered to do over nights as well, we discussed it, but decided to turn her down. That was going too far over the au pair regulations.

WarmStateMomma March 16, 2014 at 11:08 pm

We do 11-hour days frequently because traffic makes 10-hour days challenging for us. We could stagger our work times most days, but that would cause HD and I to spend an extra 5 hours a week each in traffic and cost another $500/month in gas and tolls by driving two cars to work (and leaving none at home). Our AP only works 3 days a week and I can count on one hand how many times she’s worked on a weekend night in the last year. DD takes a 3-4 hour nap each day and it’s hard to count that as working since the AP doesn’t do anything during that time (no laundry, no dishes, etc.).

The alternative would be for the AP and I both to work 4 days a week instead of 3, but no one really likes that idea. I get the rationale behind the 10/5.5/45 rules, but they aren’t practical for working parents and 11/3/33 works for everyone in my house.

Emerald City HM March 17, 2014 at 1:32 am

That does actually seem like a pretty good situation. Are you straight forward about this when matching? Do you worry about the agency kicking you out for “breaking the rules”?

WarmStateMomma March 17, 2014 at 8:12 am

We explained the need to be flexible and that traffic is unpredictable here, making it difficult to be home on time. We try hard to be home within 10 hours, but sometimes work emergencies crop up or traffic is bad. With the outgoing AP, we told her she’d be working 4.5 days per week, the full 45 hours. So the current arrangement is far more lax than that.

The agency for the outgoing AP isn’t too interested in AP welfare and I’d be shocked if they reacted at all to this situation. I could be in compliance by working 4 days a week and having the new AP do the same if it becomes a problem for her or the new agency, but I don’t think that will happen.

Always Hopeful HM March 16, 2014 at 11:40 pm

We try very hard to stay within the hours, both daily and weekly, but traffic and unexpected issues (snow days, for example) sometimes make this tough. As a general rule, our AP works about 7-1/2 hours, M-F. Our family has one school-aged kid, so I don’t see it as a heavy lift. Weekends are generally free, but I have no qualms in scheduling work if I need it, and there are hours left in the week. I’m fortunate because we have family nearby that can pitch in. I have thought about getting a backup babysitter, but it is sort of awkward with AP there. Even offering AP babysitting money worries me, because our agreement specifies that we won’t have any side agreements, AND visa requirements state that AP cannot have any other employment. Plus, how do you account for the time? For example, if AP has put in 42 hours that week, and you ask him/her to babysit for 5 hours, do you pay for 5 hours? 2 hours? It feels somewhat petty to parse it that way, but unfair to “overpay.”

To answer the earlier question, I don’t have a problem with AP texting, etc. if my child is entertaining himself. I’m a texting addict myself, so I know how hard it can be to NOT text, and how much more distracted I feel trying to avoid texting than to just quickly check a message. Of course, my child comes first, so any distractions need to be put away if he needs attention, but I’m pretty flexible on that score. I don’t allow skyping during work, because I feel like that could be too engrossing. Also, I’m fine with AP retreating to his room periodically (door open) if not needed, as long as he is frequently popping out to affirmatively make sure he is not needed and my child is not burning the house down. Also, AP has to take initiative to engage my child in activities– this flexibility is just for in-between times, or after they’ve exhausted the list of joint activities.

And to answer the even earlier question, I think school age is the perfect age to have an au pair. Having someone to help in the morning is priceless to me. AP has the responsibility of getting my child up and ready which cuts down on my stress level immeasurably. And, AP makes lunches. Can’t tell you how much that helps me hang on to my sanity. We could probably have an afternoon sitter pick up from school, drive to activities, help with homework, etc., but that wouldn’t be a person that I’ve screened and trust like a member of my family. Plus, I’d be stuck with doing all of my child’s laundry, which nearly killed me before we had au pairs!

Anna March 17, 2014 at 10:28 am

This is more in response to “who do you confide in about your au pair challenges” thread, but I think this one is more friendly to off-topics and action suggestions. I miss having a host mom friend here. I live in an area literally swarming with au pairs, every agency had a sizable cluster here. I would love to meet with a few hostmoms for coffee sometimes. What do you think about setting up meetup groups for locales where moms may be interested? I am in metro DC area, Maryland side.
Agencies are not too interested IMHO in host parents meeting, and it is not their job to do that for families. I don’t want to actively seek host parents of my au pair’s friends because I don’t want to impose in case they are not into it so much….Meetup group would be better since interested parents would seek it out themselves. Any interest here?

Host Mom in the City March 17, 2014 at 12:37 pm

I’m interested, though not in that area. But maybe we can get some meetup groups going. Let us know if you create one!

AlwaysHopeful HM March 17, 2014 at 11:14 am

Someone mentioned meet up on the other thread as well. I think it’s a great idea, and would love to start or join one, but don’t know where to begin. I’m on the VA side of DC, so unfortunately, joining a MD group wouldn’t work for me. Does anyone know the logostics of how to get a meet up started?

Anna March 17, 2014 at 11:46 am

I’ve just tried the meetup group setup… the process is easy but it is not free.
So I’d rather try to start it informally. Anyone interested in host parents meetup in montgomery county md can email me at

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