Open Thread: March 29

by cv harquail on March 29, 2014



Welcome to our Weekend Open Thread!  

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. You can even let me know if there’s a topic you think I should queue up for the coming week.

Just be sure to follow our basic comments policy.

This thread will be open for a full weekend, from today until the evening of Monday, March 31st, or when we hit 100 comments, or whenever I get organized to close it. Or not.  We’ll open up a new thread on Saturday, April 5th.

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Momma Gadget March 29, 2014 at 12:36 pm

How long does everyone think they will stay with the AP program? What will you do plan to do for child related coverage when you stop hosting?

As I mentioned before we have older children, But since both we HPs work, we hired APs to cover pickup and drip off, help with homework,kids laundry, and cook for the kids. Due to some issues with the DH job we have not yet signed up with another AP even though our current APs departure is quickly approaching.

We may be a bit jaded having just hosted a nice enough , but mediocre AP. Through this program we have met some truly wonderful people and learned about other countries and cultures. But I am having a hard time justifying the expense as a necessity as apposed to a convenience.

Should be working March 29, 2014 at 1:35 pm

MG, we struggle with this question. We have preteens and teens and live in an area where they need to be driven around. They have weird days off school and school breaks when no one else has them. If I did breakfast/lunch prep and kid drop off at school, we could mostly get by with afterschool care 3-6pm, except for those pesky days off. It is harder and harder to justify the AP but it is the flexibility that brings me back for at least one more year.

One thing we are doing (see more in my comment I will write in a few minute) is to try to use the AP ‘smarter’. Like she can fill out camp forms. She can make appts for kids of all kinds, manage their afterschool activities, go grocery shopping, get the car washed.

WestMom March 29, 2014 at 4:00 pm

We are in the same boat. Kids are getting older and are much more independent. They can fix their own breakfast and could also make their own lunch. We don’t need help with bedtime routine. As I reported also in a previous comment, I am starting to feel that AP is getting bored with less to do. I take it as a sign that It might be one of our last years…
We have matched for August, so definitely in the program one more year. By then, our three children will all be in middle high school. I think we will be looking for a local college student to help cover 2:30-6pm, and the occasional Saturday night.

Seattle Mom March 30, 2014 at 1:09 am

We’re always wondering how long we’ll be in the program. DH thinks that once both kids are in public school we can get by without an AP and save money. I look at the costs of before and after care, and full-time summer camps, and realize that we will save some money but then we’ll have to figure out what to do when the kids are sick, random off-days, etc. And not to mention we’ll have to drag them out of bed and all over the place!

I have yet to tell DH but I really think we’ll host APs until maybe the kids are in 5th & 3rd grade… by that point it’s possible to imagine them walking themselves to school in the morning. But I don’t know. Certainly by middle school we’ll be out of the program. We live in an area with decent transit, and I am going to raise my kids to take the bus by themselves.

Caring HP March 30, 2014 at 7:21 am

At $14 per hour or $27-29,000 per year to us we will not be able to justify the AP Program beyond Elementary School.
We LOVE the cultural aspects of the program and hearing about the dreams and plans of the APs we meet, host or interview.
However as we need to save for Kids college and budget like most families, we had to calculate the real cost to us of hosting an AP. It runs around $27-29,000 a year and based on the number of hours/weeks our AP works per year, it is about $13.50 to 14 per hour of childcare for the luxury of hosting an HF. Regular sitters around here charge $10 per hour plus sitters use their own cars, so we would not have to pay for an extra car (which per the AAA Cost of Driving 2013 Survey/Report runs us around $11-15,000 a year taking into account 15,000 miles a year average, plus cost of tires, oil, maintenance, tag, registration, and depreciation per mile) or pay cost of living/food/education/$500-2500 AP Car Insurance (depending on age/driving record of AP)/AP Cell/AP Cable TV/AP travel and $9000+ agency and match fees as well as the inevitable extras that come up with every AP (driving lessons, ruined furniture or carpets in AP Room, helping them with various costs or buying them treats like a member of the family which we like to do, but it adds a lot of expense we would not have as much with live out nannies).
As soon as the Kids are around end of Elementary School we cannot justify the many many thousands extra the AP Program costs us and in our case we will be forced to redeploy our focus to College & Retirement savings.

skny March 30, 2014 at 8:11 am

We will keep an au pair until my now 2yo is in first grade. MAYBE until baby (who is due in 2 weeks) is in pre-k. but could never justify past that.
We live in a rural poorer area where day care and sitters are quite affordable (reason why the closest au pair from us is more than 1.5hs away, and we have our own LCC, which is a dear friend who volunteered just to help me).
We took a 6mo break from program and were paying for 2 kids (ages 1 and 3) $240 a week for GREAT care from 7 to 5, with all meals included. 3 kids would cost us 310 only (but I have our au pairs speak their native language to the kids, and language learning is how I justify the extra expense).
BUT once kids are all in pre-k it will be impossible to justify. Our pre-k program is free and full time. My husband is a teacher (teaches in the school our kids go to). So he will have their same schedule, can drop them off, pick them up… has same vacation days, snow days… and enough sick days in a year to stay home with a sick child.
Our teen daughter will be going to a community college for first 2ys, and could stay home with her younger sisters on those few conferences days when hubby is working but kids are off (and has babysat for us in multiple occasions). If she is busy, or goes away to college, hubby teaches 12 grade and know all the good reliable seniors to babysit on those conference days, or date nights.

Multitasking Host Mom March 30, 2014 at 9:26 am

I work in the medical field. I am not scheduled off if it is a minor federal holiday (I do get the big ones off). And no matter what the weather, I have to be there by a certain time. We use to have a college age sitter cover the after school hours, and I would drop them off for before school care at their school. It worked fine until I needed babysitting time not with in those set hours. I would get out my list of people to call, and it would normally take asking 5 people before I was begging someone to take my kids so I could go to work. It totally stressed me out! The random days off school, monthly late starts for teacher in-service, and the many many snow days this year are big reasons I stick with the program for now even though my kids are now in upper elementary.

SingleHM March 30, 2014 at 10:02 pm

I am stuck on this as well. My kids are 8 and 6 and I hardly use my AP hours during the school year (minus any holidays, snow days, sick days, teacher days and all breaks). I find that in a pinch I can use after care and camps to cover it, but since their school adds extra weeks to Spring and Winter break, I’m more in a pinch there.

Local care around where I live is hard to find…especially reliable or part-time. While I can work from home in a pinch, it’s not a long term thing.

I really don’t know when I can stop using the program.

HRHM March 31, 2014 at 2:20 am

Unfortunately,I’m not sure how soon we’d be able to give it up, although I would love to. DD9 is already more mature and responsible than any of our APs have ever been. She can make an omelet, run the vacuum, use the washer, dryer and dishwasher. However, she can’t DRIVE. So, for the after school music lessons, sports, art classes, etc we are stuck. And by the time I would pay for someone else to do that PLUS the date nights a couple times a month, plus the snow days, sick days, holidays when I have to work, we would probably be close to the cost of an AP but with twice the stress of trying to coordinate the many players. This way, it’s one-stop shopping.
My AP asked me if we would be getting a house cleaner and although I didn’t say it, my first thought is “No, it’s why I have you here. I can keep my own space clean, and your job is to keep the kids spaces clean” If I had to pay a cleaning service, I REALLY couldn’t justify the expense.

Host Mom in the City March 31, 2014 at 9:00 am

We’d also like to give it up, but keep coming back to it for a few reasons – mostly, I’ll be honest, the coverage on snow/sick/teacher work days/holidays. I also really and truly do like the cultural exchange aspect of it – I like modeling for my children welcoming someone into our lives and being kind and flexible toward their varying needs. I like opening up my home to her friends and relatives and letting the kids see us be trusting and welcoming towards strangers who soon become friends. I like my children spending time with someone who really gets to know THEM as individuals. I like having “family members” all over the world – I love getting and sending packages with our first au pair and seeing her grow and settle into adulthood.

But everything else – the time commitment, the huge expense, the little inconveniences of sharing a house with someone, and honestly, the attitude all three of my au pairs adopted during their years that host families are typically in the program to take advantage of cheap childcare, is getting overwhelming to me.

I’m starting to think about starting our search for our next au pair who would arrive in September, but I’m finding myself running the numbers and schedules trying to come up with an alternative. The au pair we have now is truly wonderful, but it’s still a lot of work and it’s so much money! The au pair program costs us thousands more per year than any other childcare method would, but I have felt like the peace of mind it adds for us in that we have back-up care available for all these days off has been worth it.

We rarely use more than 30 hours a week, and really could stagger our schedules more to only need a handful of hours a week. Our kids are both in elementary school, so our au pair gets a huge break in the middle of the day. I’m lately wondering if perhaps a live-in student nanny might be a better option – one that could take classes during the day. I think I’m going to hold off on starting the matching process for a few months until I get my head around whether we can do this again.

I’m also wondering if my children can do this again – get used to yet another au pair. They both adore our au pair and are both now old enough to really feel sad that she’s going to leave. I don’t think they want to work on another attachment to someone who will leave again in a year. I worry about that too. We’ll see.

Emerald City HM March 31, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Our girls are still young, 3 and 1, so I think we still have a few more years in the program at least.

We really aren’t sure though when we will stop hosting. I can definitely see the advantage when they are older even. Especially to take some of the load off of us as far as driving the girls to activities goes.

We aren’t at the point yet where we are thinking about leaving the program, but if this question gets asked in two years again, I might have a different answer.

Returning HM March 31, 2014 at 12:58 pm

If you had asked me five weeks ago, I would have said we were years away from being done with hosting. Although we have elementary school-aged children, both of them go to private school in opposite directions, one is a competitive swimmer so needs to get to practice after school that is far away, and the other requires multiple therapies (speech, OT) each week, as well as regular playdates, so an AP really makes sense for us. Plus I travel regularly for work and really need someone at 7am on some days and again at 8pm on other days…and our efforts to cobble these early and late hours didn’t work well during the two years we took off (2009-2011) from the AP program.

But then our beloved AP injured himself and had to go home, and we ended up in rematch, and now, even though the new AP is good and all is fine, I am just tired and frankly a bit burned out. I simply cannot envision transitioning again this summer, when yet another new AP comes in August. I have very little excitement now and feel jaded, even though all of our APs, since we returned to the program in 2011, have been good. I think it’s the starting over/acclimating someone to our family/training and retraining to help them do a good job/waiting with held breath to see if they will be smart and capable/wondering if they really do have the patience to work with my very needy son/wondering if they will actually be a help or more of a hassle to me that is just so exhausting. The last time around with hosting (2005-2009), we loved the program very much, until we had a couple of snafus in selection (an AP who didn’t drive the way she said she did and another who did not have the energy or physical capacity to push a double stroller or run around after two active then-toddlers) ended us in rematch. And then I picked so quickly that I picked badly…and ended up in rematch again both times. One of my friends likened my attitude toward hosting to mercury poisoning: It was odorless and colorless, and I didn’t know I was getting sick until I was really, really sick. After these rematches, I was so burned out and tired – and so was one of my children – that we had to take a break, and the two years off really recharged us. As I said, I really thought we were in it for the longhaul now, but after this past month and my exhaustion at training and acclimating everyone to a new AP (not to mention all the work it took getting the agency and insurance company to do the right thing by our outgoing AP, whom we hosted for three weeks after his injury, until they could get their stories straight and decide whether they would cover surgery here but not at home – their first tune – or back in Switzerland but not here – their eventual story) have really worn on me.

So I am not sure how long we will host now. We are matched already for next year, and I hope I can get my energy and excitement back by the time the next AP comes in August. Current AP has decided to extend so will be leaving on his end-date exactly, rather than staying on and off through travel month as he had said earlier, so we will now have 5 weeks between when he leaves and next Ap comes. I am hoping I can get my enthusiasm back (and hoping the children don’t end up feeling as jaded as I do also). If anyone has tips on getting the excitement back, I am all ears!

OpinionatedHM March 31, 2014 at 1:21 pm

We usually try to arrange a four to six week break between AP’s on purpose. I found that I was burned out and I was questioning the whole program. Having those weeks without an AP give us time to get used to the AP being gone and reconnect as a family unit. We usually try to schedule a vacation or visit from relatives during that time, we reduce business travel as much as possible, and we use aftercare and play date trading to get us through.
By the time the new AP arrives, we have had time to properly miss our outgoing AP, recognize and reset any bad habits the kids picked up from the prior AP, get our house in order, spend a lot of time together, and remember how hard it is to juggle it all without an AP.
It’s nice to be able to greet each new AP with appreciation and excitement. I’m glad we’ve been able to manage it.

Should be working March 31, 2014 at 1:22 pm

The advantage to my being exhausted and depleted after a recent rematch/restart is that it made me MUCH better than I usually am about setting limits and expectations. I treated the incoming AP (out of rematch) more like a worker, and put less of my emotional energy into it. I expressed more clearly what I need, what I expect, quickly commented where something needed adjusting.

Maybe having less patience and exuberance about the AP’s arrival to start with will prevent you from investing too much. You’ll still need to invest enough, but not too much. Warm welcome and offers of support where needed, yes. Worrying about whether AP is happy, no.

I hope you update on this, Returning HM. I know there is a post somewhere about reenergizing HM mojo but I am curious whether it is really possible.

Momma Gadget March 31, 2014 at 1:50 pm

“reenergizing HM mojo but I am curious whether it is really possible.”

Yeah I am so fried lately, I am not sure I will ever recover. We will se How it goes the next few months Sans AP.

HRHM March 31, 2014 at 3:35 pm

I have to say, this is actually my baseline stand at this juncture. I have stopped looking at them like lovely young ladies coming to be a part of my family and they are now my employees. Well treated, respected, employees but still…

With each AP, I have given less and less because I realized that none of it improved their performance, outlook, attitude or gratitude. They were thrilled to take, but didn’t seem to see the corollary that they should give as well. We’ve taken them on expensive vacations (cruises, disney) paid for gas, given extra days off, allowed long car trips, hosted friends and family AND gotten nothing in return. Not better care, not more attention to the details of their work, not even consistent completion of assigned tasks without reminding.

So, now that I’m doing less, they don’t seem to notice or mind (I donwgrade between APs, not mid-cycle with the same AP). No more vacations with us (“we need time as a family”) cheap dumb-phone with 1200 minutes for the year, they have to top up as needed, they pay gas, no more gift cards or random treats, no more gym membership, no more theme park passes, no more netflix account, etc. What they do get is a fairly easy job, a steady paycheck, any reasonable food that they want from the grocery and a car to use within limits.
Performance actually seems to be better with this model. Maybe because it does feel more like a job to them, or maybe it’s just coincidence.

I have no Mojo left, FWIW…

TexasHM March 31, 2014 at 3:38 pm

I actually completely agree. Our last transition was a rematch due to family emergency and I think our smoothest transition because I didn’t have the time or energy to overthink everything and it was sink or swim without a safety net. I think I tend to lean toward guesting the APs a bit at first and this time I couldn’t. We get along great, she was fully trained in 3 days and it was great because I didn’t have the bandwidth to coddle so we got all the business out of the way quickly and her fast learning gave me bandwidth but by then she didn’t need me. ;)

Should be working March 29, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Having some ethical/financial quandaries related to what I wrote to MG above. Trying to figure out how to make more use of AP within program guidelines and while being fair, because the expense–mostly the perks–add up to more than the $360/week. I guess also my question has to do with how wrong it is to “change the terms” of our casual arrangements with the current AP or is it only ok with the next one.

Detail: We give the AP little perks because we want to be generous and hate to feel like nickel-and-diming types. So we don’t make her pay gas (but in return ask her to keep both cars filled up using our ATM card), we pay for the toll-bridge electronic payment (about $10/wk), a cheap gym membership, little local trips with us, I pay her phone as part of a bundled contract with my phone. But I’m wondering if maybe we should rethink this because it makes the program borderline too-expensive for us.

Here is the twist though: we do pay our au pair extra for things like ironing DH’s shirts (she offered to do it for free, she likes ironing and is grateful to us, but I insisted we compensate) and walking the dog. We pay her close to the same rate as a dog walker. All this adds up to about $100/week extra. And yes if we paid the drycleaner and a dogwalker we would pay this anyway, but meanwhile we are giving the AP the little perks–is it unethical to try to set these up as an exchange?

For the next AP, or for this one (and how do you change the rules midstream?) I am wondering if we can make this more of a quid pro quo. Like, “We won’t ask you to pay for gas, but in exchange we’d like 1 day of dog walking per week”; and “Fine if you use our toll-bridge-payer but can you pay us back with some of the ironing?”; “The insurance on the Smartphone you bought is $10/month–fine to add it to my contract, but can I ask for an hour of dogwalking in exchange?”

DH doesn’t want it to be so bit-by-bit. He thinks we should make it more of a package: “Hey, we’ll pay a gym membership, car gas, toll bridge, phone insurance, 2GB data (although we HP use much less), and so on, if you would consider walking dog 4 days/wk.”

Can we do this with our current AP (2 months left), whom we have been paying AND giving perks? Basically we are reducing her benefits greatly if we do.

Can we do this with the next AP? But I don’t want to set this up in advance of her arrival either, it seems too pushy and not in keeping with rules. Basically this arrangement evolved because the AP offered to iron and loves the dog and wanted the exercise. So we said, “If you want to iron, we’ll pay you instead of using the dry cleaner”, etc.

What is ethical here? Are we suckers for paying the AP for all these things WHILE paying these perks (that she is grateful for but, as it goes, she has gotten used to them as well)?

AmericanAP in Germany March 29, 2014 at 5:12 pm

You sound like extremely generous host parents! Frankly, I can’t believe all the perks your AP gets. I’m not saying it’s outlandish, just very kind of you :) If I were this AP, I would definitely be annoyed if you reduced my perks like you described. I don’t necessarily the AP deserves all that extra compensation, but I think anyone would be reasonably annoyed if it just went away. It is a LOT of money, but I would suggest you just stick it out for the next couple of months. Offering the next AP a “package deal” of perks sounds like a great idea. I would definitely be up for some ironing and dog walking if it meant a cell phone and free gas. I think she’ll be delighted at this arrangement.

Momma Gadget March 29, 2014 at 8:04 pm

I don’t think at this point your can renegotiate with the au pair with out causing resentment. It would be one thing if there was some event (god forbid) someone lost a job, or there was a huge expense like one of the cars died, then I think it would be perfectly reasonable to say “Hey we’re sorry, but we just cannot afford these things anymore. you will have to pay for them yourself. Nor can we afford to pay you extra for ironing so we will do it ourselves”.. I think it is best to keep perks as perks because it can get a little muddy assigning a ‘value’ to the other tasks the AP does outside of the regular child requirements. What happens if the dog eats something bad and needs to be walked more that usual, or if there is a business trip so there are more shirts that need to be ironed… will the AP understand or feel taken advantage of?
We offer similar perks- we pay a gym membership since my older son use to like to work out there.The AP and he would go to the gym together.We feel this is one of the perks we offered the AP in the beginning and cannot renege on it now that my son works out with his high school team.

We offer a dumb phone with unlimited text/talk, Our AP preferred to have a smart phone on his own plan, so we reimburse him the 20$ a month it would have cost us.
Our AP let’s the dog out, and occasionally enjoys a run/walk with him. Our Dog is part of our family, and we would not have matched with an AP who did not LOVE animals or was unwilling to do this.

I think you can reset the perks with the next AP

Multitasking Host Mom March 30, 2014 at 10:57 am

So to echo what every one else said…you can’t change this with your current au pair. Now for the next one….

We do offer a few of the same perks you do, in a way.
Gas and Tolls – We do not have a separate car for the au pair, so they have to share with us. Normally they will just be driving in town on their off hours (no more than 10 miles round trip), so I don’t make them pay for gas, just too complicated to divide out since multiple people are using the same car. Now that said, I don’t let them take the car into our nearby large city. They take the train, and they pay for that $4 one way ticket. This is something they are doing in their off time, so I don’t feel like I am responsible for it.
Gym membership – We included our au pair in our family membership and it is no extra cost to us. Plus, they use it way more than us, the host parents, do since meeting for exercise classes seems to almost be the main social activity for the local au pairs.
Phone-We offer our AP a phone with a basic plan. It is bundled up with our family plan and cost us an extra $10 a month. I feel like I want to be able to get in touch with the au pair, so I need to provide them with a means for that communication. Our current au pair wanted to use an iPhone instead, so we now give her the $10 a month, and she pays the additional cost for her own data plan.
Little local trips-If we go out to eat, and it is not often and mostly on the weekend, and the au pair is around and not off with friends, we will include the AP and pay for her meal. It does seem a little nickel and dime to me to divide up at the table. Also, about once a month, we will go as a family to a local tourist attraction in the city. We always ask the au pair to come with us, and cover the cost of the ticket, since we like to emphasize that “one of the family” thing, and we also like being tour guides! We also include our AP, and pay for everything, when the AP accompanies us on our one big trip a year. Yes, it would be nice not to have to do the extra expense, but we feel it is pretty much the only big perk we give our AP. We have been lucky that we feel like our last APs really fit well with our family and have given great child care to our kids. Now if this was a dud AP, we might rethink this, and just not invite them.
I think that you need to decide what perks you can afford and then offer those. There are always APs that get more or less from their host families, but they aren’t with those families; they are with you. It just gets too hard if you try to keep up with the next family.
Now for the dog walking and ironing. This is almost a separate issue, since they are technically on the outside of what is allowed in the US AP program. I think you are just lucky that you have an AP who likes to iron! Who knows if the next one will, or if they will even do a good job at it. (Several years ago I accidently burned a shirt while ironing, and now my husband won’t let me near his!) And the dog walking…you already said that you pay the going rate, so what does it matter if the AP does it or you pay someone else. In my opinion, you should just outsource both of these things (or do them yourself to save money), and leave the AP out of it. That way they can never throw it back on you that you are requiring (even though you are really just asking) them to do extras. Just my opinion:)

German Au-Pair March 30, 2014 at 7:11 pm

I would be upset if my HP didn’t offer the job of dog walking to me first. I assume a family with a pet will only match with someone who likes pets so I assume she’d enjoy making some extra money for something she likes. If you’re concerned about issues later, you could meet with the LCC and the au pair and talk about offering her the job and expecting her to do it right but also giving it to a dog sitter if she doesn’t want to do it anymore.

HRHM March 31, 2014 at 2:01 am

Honestly, I never offer my AP extra jobs. It muddies the waters and is actually against the rules/law.

If my AP wants to take the dog for a walk, she’s certainly free to do so. But if I “need” a scheduled walker (or groomer, or sitter while we travel) I’m going to involve a third party unless she insists on doing it herself (as a favor/for free/part of the family) Once you engage the AP in extra tasks, even if you’re paying for it, it can be used against the HF as ammunition if anything goes south later in the year. Saw this first hand with our last APs best friend. She was getting paid BIG money to watch the kids over weekends and loved the extra cash, but when she wanted to leave early for a new extension family, she used it to invoke rematch and got the HF kicked out of the program.

Host Mom in the City March 31, 2014 at 9:10 am

We’re also sticklers for the rules – while I certainly understand that most au pairs would rather earn the extra money themselves than see someone else getting paid for it, I agree that it muddies the waters. I’d rather follow the rules to a “T” and not get burned by it later. The au pair program exists to fill a very specific need and the (very minimal) rules that do apply are in place to shape that purpose. It’s actually one of the reasons I prefer the au pair program set-up to just hiring an in-country nanny or sitter. With nanny jobs, you define everything – there is no standard set of job duties, no standard benefits – it’s very much that you just put out whatever job you want and whatever you want to pay, and then someone accepts it or not. There seem to be so many misunderstandings in the nanny world simply because there are no defined rules. I like the box the au pair program is in, and intend to operate within that box for the protection of all.

5kids=aupair March 31, 2014 at 9:37 am

I gave my extension AP free gas as a perk for extending. You can start off the year with no freebies, then introduce them one by one. That way they aren’t entitled, they feel like you are giving them something. I always find our AP willing to do extra babysitting bc they are always so broke. In regards to the dog, though, I would add that ASAP, since that would be a needed thing.

TexasHM March 29, 2014 at 5:28 pm

I agree it would be a blow to change it now but it’s also tough to change with next AP if you will have your current train. Any chance you can ease off over time? Aka – ask that she chip in for gas or tell her your cell plan has changed and ask her to chip in if she wants the data plan, etc. I tend toward being super transparent with our APs so if I realized this, I would likely sit her down and explain our position. I’d tell her it’s not her, the AP program is very expensive and you have to find ways to cut back. If you have a great relationship, she might recommend some things like offer to dog walk for free now or pay her cell data plan. She has so many perks I would think she would be receptive to offering something as she would still be better off than other APs. I wish we could be more generous, we cover what we can and are honest about the rest. Our APs pay gas (we don’t track just ask them to chip in)
what they think is fair), they pay $25 a mo for cell (data), and if we go on vacation (they never work) they are welcome to go but they buy their plane ticket and dinners out, theme park tickets, etc. We tend to give less monetarily and more from a time/resource perspective. Aka – I help them plan trips, save money on travel, introduce them to people that can help their interests, etc.

Should be working March 29, 2014 at 7:12 pm

TexasHM, is it at all awkward for you to ask the AP to pay these things? DH is more averse to asking for her to chip in than I am. (He is someone who would rather pay for a whole group at a restaurant than start dividing up a bill.) He takes AP along on ski trips and pays the whole thing, which in principle seems right to me but it is hundreds of dollars and the extra person means we need two rooms.

Old AP will not be here to train. I think we might just have to set a different baseline with the new AP, like “So you need to chip in for gas, and if you want more than x on your phone you’ll need to pony that up, and the toll-bridge costs 5$ per trip, and here’s a gym with a low fee for you. By the way, if you are interested we might consider trading some dog-walking on your part for some extra cash to pay those fees?” But I know DH will have a lot of trouble with this baseline-change.

I do wonder if the “package trade” of perks for dog-walking makes it too compulsory, too much like a requirement, and certainly I don’t want her to feel she has to walk the dog! So maybe sticking to clear monetary rules–we pay $8/hr for dogwalking, and (very separately) you owe me $20/month for data plan–would be the best policy. But DH has such an aversion to money negotiations.

Momma Gadget March 29, 2014 at 8:36 pm

SBW- It is the opposite in our family my DH always complains about the added cost. It get’s easier if it is agreed on up front, though I still feel petty having to ask.

We took one AP on a modest vacation with us. Although I would do it again in a heart beat with that AP as she was a lot of fun, enthusiastic and extremely grateful, I would really resent the extra $1200+ it added for a lesser AP.

We go out to dinner or order in quite bit less, because the added cost of both my growing boys appetites and another adult adds up, and we feel uncomfortable about asking the AP to contribute to these.

But for the bigger things like a recent local ski trip, we made it clear that we were not footing the bill. We told the AP he was welcome to go with the boys, “we have ski pants/ equipment you can borrow.The lift ticket will cost you $$. If you want lesson’s they will cost you $$.” In the past we used to pay for these things too- but our situation has changed, and we (sadly) have to be more realistic/selective about what we invite the APs to do with us.

It is hard not to feel petty about these costs, but they do add up!

TexasHM March 29, 2014 at 10:52 pm

So it’s not akward if discussed upfront. These are great examples of things that we bring up at the 11th hour to make sure we have a good match. We do go out to eat probably more than we should and we always pay for the AP even though she’s never working so every family has it’s perks. I asked our current AP if she would prefer paying for her part of vacations or paying for her dinners out at home and she says she likes the way we do it currently but we are always open to suggestion.
I’m just really candid the AP program is expensive! A lot of APs don’t realize how much it is on our side. I tell them in order to do family vacations a couple of times a year and weekend trips we can’t cover another adult. They end up with awesome trips that usually set them back $600-1200 depending on what we do (11 days in CA/Disney/San Diego for example). The first AP tried that trip on her own and spent $4k and went with 15 other APs to keep costs down.
I do sometimes feel petty on the cell but we also believe often people don’t value/appreciate/respect things that are free and that’s more why we ask them to chip in a little for gas and phone. Not so much to nickel/dime, more to set a precedent that those things aren’t free and perks add up.
We’ve done this since AP1, we are on AP3 and no complaints. In fact our AP reminded me yesterday I forgot about her March data plan. :). We figure you can always be more generous but it’s much harder to rein back in. Our great APs have all happily agreed to these terms (we explain what previous APs wanted and let them decide) and there are no surprises so it hasn’t been an issue at all.
I agree for you it’s probably easier to start new and just pay extra for dog, etc.

German Au-Pair March 30, 2014 at 7:29 pm

If she travels with you and pays for everything herself, do you make her work? Obviously family time is spent but in general, does she only do the things she want, not worrying about meeting your needs? And how do you work this out?
I loved being taken on vacation but I probably would not have come if I’d had to pay for it. I had a great time but was essentially stuck doing what the family wanted to do. Like going with them to explore the city but then the kids are tired and everyone goes home. And you go with them to the things they want to see and so on. It was fun but when I pay for a vacation I want to do and see the things that I am interested in. If you don’t have to pay for it yourself you’re just happy for all that you get, but if you pay a lot of money for a vacation you don’t want to be on the kids’ schedule.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand many families can’t afford paying for another person, I’m just curious how that plays out if the AP has to pay.

TexasHM March 30, 2014 at 8:40 pm

We don’t have the APs work at all on vacation. I am a planner so before we go I have an itinerary, schedule and costs estimate. If she decides to go she is welcome to do everything we do or do her own thing. So far, our APs have wanted to go and say they loved it and got 10x more done for a quarter or less of what they spend on their own. In fairness, we are a super active family (kids inc) and our vacations tend to be action packed. The AP can completely do her own vacation elsewhere, go with us flights wise but then pave her own way or roll with us, we don’t care. All 3 have gone on at least one vacation with us, one went on both and I heard from their friends how much they loved it and I’ve had their friends ask if they can go too next time! :). We like our down time too and I do spend time making sure the AP has a blast so would it be easier to have them do something else – yes – but we love our APs like family and enjoy seeing them enjoy the trips as well. I think it’s all about expectations and communication and we are super transparent. I even tried to get our current AP to do some other things on our spring break trip (extra shows, go out) but she didn’t want to miss anything we had scheduled.

TexasHM March 30, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Our APs also have all weekends free and I help them plan weekend trips and we never take more than a week of their vacation (even though our trips are usually 11-12 days) so I don’t think the vacation time is as coveted with our APs either. Just a guess!

German Au-Pair March 31, 2014 at 9:04 am

This sounds great!
I was thinking about a situation when my HF and I wanted to go see the same attraction but they could only do it on a day on which I originally had something else scheduled. So I had to decide to skip this plan or go to the same thing alone. I ended up joining them and had a lot of fun but had it been my own vacation (and not work vacation), I wouldn’t have been that happy about it.
They did let me do my own things every now and then and were as flexible as possible, but in general it was always on the kids’ schedule. If they said they were tired and wanted to go home now, the entire family went home (pre-teens, mind you…) I would not have been okay with that during MY vacation but since they paid for everything I was just super grateful for everything I got to see.
Sounds like your family is different in that department though.

Seattle Mom March 30, 2014 at 1:21 am

The economist in me thinks it makes much more sense to just pay her for the dogwalking and whatever other extras she does, and make her pay for her extras. That way she just gets & does what she wants. I actually think it sounds weird to try to make it this barter arrangement, as if none of this has any monetary value.

I can’t imagine paying my AP’s gym membership… I also am cheap on the perks, but we are barely making ends meet so I don’t really have the option. I buy all the gas for the car, unless she travels outside the immediate vicinity of Seattle- more than 20ish miles. It never happens- there’s too much to do here. I got a pre-paid cell phone (which is exactly what I use myself) and bought 1000 minutes (each text counts as a minute), told her anything above that is on her own dime. We almost never eat out- too expensive, and our kids are not good in restaurants.

skny March 30, 2014 at 8:32 am

Our au pair gets ymca membership (is free with ours). We live in the end of the world, far from everything, so I have filled au pair’s tank on Friday to assist with gas cost. Cell we only offer simple one. They can buy their own smart phone (apart from my plan) and I will reimburse 20 a month.
vacations: If they are not working they pay airtickets, park tickets, and share room. Or do it on their own. We will pay for meals taken with us.
Dont think you can do an exchange package. The program does not allow for those extras you ask of your au pair. She would resent because some au pairs get those benefits (and more) for free, AND in the first fight she would throw at LCC that you MAKE her do those things.
If the perks are cut from matching she wont resent (she already knew you dont pay for a, b or c), and if she makes money with the extras, she wont complain about them to LCC, because it would mean loosing the extra money

TexasHM March 29, 2014 at 5:32 pm

I think gym membership is nice, but way outside scope and should be first to go – esp with all the dog walking she’ll be fine! ;). The rest could be package deal easy.

OpinionatedHM March 29, 2014 at 6:45 pm

The tricky thing about a perks vs. extra chores thing is enforcement. Also, can the Au pair say no? Or, can she decide after a few months (and some stipend cash in the bank) to say no without you resenting it? I could see a scenario where they take the “package deal” and after a couple months decide its not worth it, then you are possibly in an awkward position. I think you would have to structure it very carefully. If you offer it before they arrive, she might agree to the deal, only to find that she doesn’t want the added responsibility once she is in your home doing extra chores. If you offer it after she arrives, she might feel she can’t say no and then resent doing it. I think you’d be better off cutting all extra perks completely for the next Au pair and explain to any former Au pairs that might talk with your new au pair that you are cutting these perks so that they don’t mention them as a reason to match with you. You can say you are cutting the perks because the new Au pair won’t have to work as many hours but will still get the same pay and that is a huge perk!

Should be working March 29, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Yeah I’m starting to think that just truly cutting the perks, and then offering dog-walking on a separate basis at a per-hour rate–or what is the opinion on that? It is against rules, I guess. That was one reason I liked the package-exchange idea, it’s not “paying” it’s “trading favors”, so officially more by the rules, but also more indirectly potentially coercive.

Like you say, I don’t want her to feel like she HAS to walk the dog, I can pay a dogwalker instead and have no objection to doing so. I might skip on offering ironing altogether, that has a more ‘domestic-service’ feel than dogwalking to me and it would never have occurred to me to ask if an AP wants to, except a previous AP had offered and apparently it was her “family chore” at home and she figured it could be the same here. (Except DH is the only one whose clothes get ironed!)

AussiePair March 29, 2014 at 11:16 pm

I would only bring up the dog walking if you notice the new au pair has an interest in doing so, or asks if she can walk the dog. Then if you still feel like offering her something for it great, and if you don’t I think that’s fine too. If the au pair offers to walk the dog I doubt she’s doing it with the anticipation of a perk, I know I would sometimes walk the dog at my former family because I wanted to. It was great to take a walk outside the house and the dog loved it and I loved the dog, simple as that.

As for perks, a cell phone (even if it is just basic talk and text) is nice. Honestly I feel if my host family wants to be able to contact me then they need to facilitate that (not saying they need to foot the whole bill, but I’m super appreciative that they do) and a tank of gas (depending on the area and how much driving you anticipate gets done, could be less than but never more) a week is also a great perk (anything I use over the tank I pay for on my card rather than the family’s which is most weekends as a tank gets used just for the daily school runs/errands every week). I think the gym is an amazing and generous, but unnecessary perk, so it would be more than fair to cut that.

AussiePair March 29, 2014 at 11:18 pm

And with the ironing, are your children at an age where it would be beneficial for them to start learning to use the iron? Perhaps you can build this into the au pairs time with the children, helping them learn to be self-sufficient but also getting your ironing done. It might not be done so well when they first start out, but eventually I’m sure they’d get better and you wouldn’t notice, win-win?

Should be working March 30, 2014 at 12:10 pm

HAHAHA at the idea that my children have clothes that ANYONE would iron!

Our last AP started the ironing thing. She said while I showed her around, “So where is the ironing board?” I said, “Ummm, we don’t have an ironing board.” She replied, “So how will I iron the children’s clothes?” What did I answer? “Yeah, I’ve been trying to figure out this problem for 14 years!”

AussiePair March 30, 2014 at 4:32 pm

I didn’t mean they’d iron their only clothes, but it is a skill they may need in the future, if they ever own business shirts etc. so maybe they can start practicing on your husbands shirts, and you could possibly add it in to allowance, like 25c a week? Just a thought. I honestly think people who buy children’s clothes that require frequent ironing are a little bit crazy.

Seattle Mom March 30, 2014 at 1:25 am

You could frame the dogwalking this way: “I am going to pay someone to walk our dog. I would be willing to pay you to do it, if you want. But I’m happy either way- just want to offer it to you first.”

AussiePair March 30, 2014 at 9:53 am


hOstCDmom March 30, 2014 at 10:29 am

I think what Seattle Mom suggests is the perfect way to do it!

Should be working March 30, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Thanks folks. I guess the key is just NOT to give the perks to start, in a really matter-of-fact way. I can manage this, like when we are at the phone store, she buys herself a new Smartphone (two APs did this), and when the guy points out that she might want insurance, I just insert, “Shall we add it to my contract and you can pay me back each month?”

DH might sabotage this effort in his good-natured, generous, hates-money-talk way.

Julia March 30, 2014 at 1:58 pm

I walked and watched my hostfamiliy’s dog quite a lot and I wouldnt take money cause I saw it as a part of being a family member. My hostdad who was the owner of the dogs learned quite quick that I just wouldnt take money and therefore I would get other perks. Say he knew I liked a certain dessert at paneras and he would stop on the way home to pick one up or buy one of the magazines I liked. It felt more I appreciate what you are doing. Once in a while he saw a German candy bar at marshalls and would just buy it. I could have easily said sorry I cant walk the dogs today I have plans and it would have just been ok. I think being an au pair and being a hostfamily is a giving and taking relationship and therefore certain perks are nice but I saw them as something I had to work for and do my part to get it

HRHM March 31, 2014 at 2:24 am


You may be the exception to the rule! I wish more APs saw it your way, but sadly there are many APs who were probably spoiled at home and expect that to continue in their new family. Or worse, they start out like you but are tainted by their friends who get a bigger room, nicer car, fancier cell phone, etc

CADinAUS March 29, 2014 at 10:55 pm

I’m interested in knowing how much housework aupairs should be expected to complete? How much do you expect of your au pair even with a child at home say during nap time? I’m currently in Australia and have been comfortable doing most of the house work, including cleaning floor, bathrooms, dusting etc. I did know all of this ahead of time and agreed in my contract. I’m currently moving to another host family this time in England and they seem to not expect too much cleaning. So I’m curious what are your expectations, and yes I know that in the states it is focused more on childcare.

Seattle Mom March 30, 2014 at 1:28 am

There are rules about this in the US. I think the general gist of the rule is that the AP should only be required to do housework that relates to the care of the children. And normal chores that a family member would do. So you can’t really expect your AP to do all the dusting, scrub the toilet & tub, and cook for everyone all the time. But they can put away the children’s toys, organize the children’s clothes, do the kids laundry, cook for the kids, etc. Personally we just have the AP clean up after the kids when she’s on duty, and do their laundry and fix lunch & breakfast for them. We have her cook dinner for the family about once every other week, since she eats with us and we cook for her. It’s just taking her turn at cooking, not cooking like a maid would.

spanishaupair March 30, 2014 at 7:45 am

Just feel lucky you dont have to do so much housework :) In theory also you should just help with child related chores and pitch in with family basis: like emptying dishwasher, some family meal preparation, tidying up after meals if you share them and so on… But depends on each family. Usually with young kids staying at home the housework amount is smaller than with school going children.
I have been an aupair in England twice, with my first HF i was supposed to clean: hoover, dust, polish, tidy: bedrooms, bathrooms, toyroom, dinning room and kitchen, hang and put away clothes, they asked me once to pick up all the grass that was cut (it was kind of farm) and indeed kicked me out for refusing to clean the family van that they used to drive kids around and it was a huge mess; i was trying to find another HF already when they kicked me out. In the second family it was all the opposite i did nothing at all, i was all day minding kids and specialy supporting a special needs one, my HM was stay at home and did every housework, indeed she also cleaned my room, what i refused but she argued that it took 2 extra minutes to do it (was small and next to their rooms) and was kind of thank you for all the improvement the kid was doing.
Now I’m in Ireland minding two kids one stay home full time and just required the basics: basic cooking for kids when im working, tidying up after meals and kids and empty the dishwasher something i only do if i work mornings as if not HM will have done it already

skny March 30, 2014 at 8:43 am

we only ask tasks related to kids, occasional help cooking for family (if I am unable only), and assist with dinner dishes IF she eats with us.
I feel like taking the garbage out (if fills up while working), or emptying or turning on the dishwasher during her work hours (if happens to fill out or if I turned on the night before) are also ok.
She also helps keep kids car organized and clean.
Much more than this I feel is abusive.

exaupair March 30, 2014 at 4:21 pm

I was in england too, and yes if you don’t mind more than basic kid-related chores you’re obviously more attractive candidate! It’s up to you what would you be comfortable with, so if you’re ok with going beyond childcare then you’d be fine :-)
I only wanted to kids related chores and ditched all of those, who between the lines suggested they would like to have all the laundry plus bed sheets ironed and folded.
During interviews I’ve been asked to do chores that, in terms of AP job, were absolutely outrageous, here are some authentic, funniest ones:
– ironing HPs underwear because there’s nothing worse than a wrinkled pair of knickers (!?!),
– lawn mowing, hedge trimming and arranging flowers in the house
-washing the car I would not get to use
– a trip to local woods every Sunday or Saturday morning to collect mushrooms (“they are so expensive, we don’t need to buy them if we can have them for free”).

When I eventually found my match, my main duties were:
-school pick ups and drop offs,
-making kids beds, tidying up their bedrooms (only the toys and books off the floor and back on shelves), making sure they kept their school uniforms on the hanger instead the floor
-helping them pack school bags, packing lunches for school and preparing meals for them when they are in the house,
-keeping their bikes and scooters clean and dry, and helmets tidy
-supervising homework and minor school projects + supervising music practice, -being in charge of books from the library and tall the items borrowed from school, -tidying kids bathroom and vacuuming the top floor corridor and stairs twice a week.
-occasionally did the washing up whenever I participated in a family meal and someone else was cooking.

Compared to some APs it was really an easy job for me.

Should be working March 30, 2014 at 8:29 pm

I laugh pretty hard at the idea of sending my AP to the woods to pick mushrooms!!! Sounds like a good way to land in the hospital–or much much worse!

Momma Gadget March 31, 2014 at 4:12 pm

LOL! You are not kidding. My brother-in-laws father arrogantly insisted that he knew all about mushrooms, and basically poisoned his whole family at a BBQ. My BIL refuse to eat the mushroom ragout he made and was the only one who didn’t get seriously ill. Luckily it was only a mild mushroom, a more potent one could have been fatal!

spanishaupair March 31, 2014 at 3:18 pm

The trip to pick up mushrooms is the best :) So dangerous and silly.

exaupair March 31, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Given my limited knowledge about mushrooms I could have unintentionally poisoned all of us :-(

Anonymousfornow March 29, 2014 at 11:23 pm

Is it ok to warn a child that if a behavior continues they could get spanked? Even when there is no way in a million years you would spank someone else’s child? If it’s something that the parents would give a small light spanking for? After multiple time outs, putting back on time out etc. after all other attempts at discipline have failed?

Devastated HM March 30, 2014 at 2:32 pm

No, it’s not okay. Threats of violence (even if you don’t plan to execute the plan) can be as intimidating and harmful as actual violence. Not to mention that empty threats undermine your authority. I recommend talking to the HPs about the child’s disobedience even after time out, and seeing what they recommend.

German Au-Pair March 30, 2014 at 7:37 pm

If this is your last option, and only as a temporary solution (while you work at a long term solution) I’d probably phrase it in a way like “If you don’t stop, you know your parents are going to spank you.” This way you don’t even put the idea of YOU doing it out there. The kids won’t get the idea to tell his parents you threatened to spank and also won’t associate you with this kind of punishment.
First I’d try something like “if you don’t stop, we will have to discuss this behavior with your parents tonight”. (And the actually do it, of course).
The thing is that you shouldn’t threaten things you aren’t commited to actually doing because any smart kid WILL test this eventually and if it finds out you’re making empty threats, you’re done.

American Host Mom in Europe March 31, 2014 at 7:30 am

I always advise my au pairs that they should only say things to my children that they can follow through on, and coach them on how to think about it. So never, “If you don’t put your shoes on, you’ll get left at home”, because obviously they won’t leave my 4-year old alone at home, but rather “You can put your shoes on, or I can, but we need to leave soon,” (or something similar. So I definitely wouldn’t “threaten” something you won’t do.

Having said that, I’m appalled that the parents would spank their child, and NEVER think the threat of violence to a child is a good approach. It is actually illegal in the country I live in (to spank a child or otherwise use or threaten violence), and this is enforced, which I think is a good thing! Needless to say, I would never recommend threatening violence. This is a case where perhaps you and the HP need to discuss other possible approaches to behaviour modification (rather than discipline). Lots of good tips on that you may want to look at, and perhaps share with the HP.

TexasHM March 31, 2014 at 7:44 am

Personally I am appalled that some parents don’t spank (or often discipline at all) but that’s not what was asked. OP, if the parents spank (or whatever form of discipline they use) you can absolutely remind that kid and let them know HP will be told about their behavior. Only tricky thing is if they are younger in age (like 3-4) it’s not fair to delay a punishment all day as they will have trouble associating the action with the consequence. I have one this age and tell our AP if they do something that needs my escalation they can text me and I will come out of my office and deal with it. Very rarely happens, then again the kids know there is the possibility so they don’t push our AP.

Host Mom in the City March 31, 2014 at 9:18 am

This is going to vary by host parent obviously, so you should always have a thorough discussion about discipline methods prior to matching and then again when you arrive. In the US, au pairs should never, ever spank a child or even threaten to spank a child, even if the host parents do it themselves.

I am absolutely appalled that anyone would ever use physical violence against a child as a discipline method, and if an au pair ever tried to hit my child or even threatened him with hitting, I would immediately rematch. On the other hand, as the previous poster said, we tell our au pairs to always mean what they say. If you tell a child that if he throws food, he’s done with dinner, then take the plate away. Quickest way to lose a child’s listening to you is to threaten things and then not follow through.

If an au pair is having issues with a child, they should always talk to the host parents to come up with solutions first, particularly if what the au pair wants to do is outside of the normal methods the parents use.

German Au-Pair March 31, 2014 at 3:29 pm

That was actually the biggest issue I had with the kids. The kids had learned before I came and unfortunately also from me as my HP had certain expectations from me, that “this is your second and last chance” means absolutely nothing. It was more like “this is your fifth chance and if you don’t take it we’ll find another way somehow”. There were never any realy consequences that were followed threw completely. Even after I’d manage to get them to impose consequences, they’d do their best to make the upset child okay with the consequences -like “you can’t watch Tv so we’ll do everything we can to entertain you otherwise”. Super frustrating. I would never again let a child know that I don’t intend on following threw with what I say.

Brit AP Abroad March 30, 2014 at 4:12 am

Hi :)
I’m looking for some advice – I’ve got two and a half weeks left with my host family after a three month contract, so I’m close to the end. However I’m having real problems with my hostkid (age 6) – she just doesn’t want to do anything with me to the extent that there is no point in me being there – she just wants her parents. I suggest activities like painting, going to the playground, and she rejects it all. Is there anything I can do to make these last few weeks great? I’d like to leave on a good note!

American Host Mom in Europe March 30, 2014 at 7:01 am

Have you talked with the HP about the problem, what you’ve tried, Nd what suggestions they might have? I’m sure they will appreciate your honesty and attempts to resolve it. I have a six year old, so know the age; could the child be distancing themself from you to lessen the impact of your impending departure?

AussiePair March 30, 2014 at 9:57 am

Have you tried just doing the activity, eg. Pull out the paints and just start painting to see if she joins in. This sometimes works with children in new settings who might be nervous or wary of a new person (obviously she knows you already, but may be wary of the new situation). If you show her how much fun you’re having she may just decide she wants to have fun with you too!

Anonymous in CA March 31, 2014 at 2:25 am

Brit AP Abroad – your HK could be MY kid! DS does this even to me; and I agree with AussiePair. Just start doing the activity. Underlying, at least for my DS is a need to understand where the boundary is. I don’t negotiate with DS when it comes to where the boundary is; he has plenty of autonomy within the boundary. Without a boundary and clear notion of who’s in charge, DS will always go nuts and be difficult…a mentor once explained that it’s a very scary thing for a child to think he/she is in charge…but if the adult doesn’t seem to be in charge, then who is? The child. So I don’t really ‘suggest’ activities; I make a plan of what I think is going to meet DS’s needs (does he need to run, does he need a calm activity, etc.) and I say “we’re going to do X now; you can get on yoru shoes while I pack the snack.” A clear indicator of who’s in charge. When he says, “No, I dont ‘want to do X.” I just calmly say, I understand, and I know that right now it’s time to do X; now, are those shoes on?” When he still resists, I say, “right; now, when we get to X, I need you to show me how to do the Y because the last time I tried, it didn’t work.” And I keep moving towards getting out the door. It does sometimes take some cajoling and quick thinking, and me just being really confident and calm, to keep things moving.

I could go on, but for your last couple of weeks, really make sure that HK understands that the adults are in charge and that HK doesn’t have to worry…the adults will handle things, including your transition out of the family; all HK has to do is that painting project that you’re going to start right now. Then go start it without further ado. Good luck!

HRHM March 31, 2014 at 3:49 pm

My kids often refuse “offers” of even the most fun things imaginable – trip to the zoo? NO, Go the swimming pool? NO, Bike ride? NO. With our past AP, they spent the entire summer sitting around the house, despite memberships to every place known to mankind.

So, my solution was to sit ALL down and make it clear that this wasn’t an option. I designed an itinerary (and our new AP does this on her own as well!) for the week and that’s what we’re doing. PERIOD. If they want input in the itinerary, great, but no sitting around anymore. So far, so good…

SingleHM March 30, 2014 at 9:58 pm

My question is this. This past weekend my AP went to a house party with some other APs in our cluster. They are all under 21. I found out that they were drinking at this house party . And one of these girls, who was drinking drove them home.

If it were my AP, I’d want to know. But do you think I should email my LCC and let her know about this so she may warn the other HF? I know this girls name and have met her several times. She drinks often but the driving is more concerning.


AussiePair March 30, 2014 at 10:45 pm

I think you should mention to the LCC that you’re aware of some au pairs who may be drinking and driving and stress that she should perhaps bring this up on a group meeting about the importance of making safe and responsible choices about alcohol. No need to name names. If it were to happen again though, I think names would need to be given.

I honestly find it hard to think of underage drinking here as a terrible thing, because back home we were legal. Drinking AND driving is a completely separate matter, yes no one got hurt, but someone could have, and then not only could she be faced with being sent home but in a worst case scenario if she injured or killed someone else she could be charged with manslaughter.

hOstCDmom March 31, 2014 at 8:48 am

It may not be a “terrible thing” from a moral point of view, an it is true AussiePair that it is legal at (your) home; but it isn’t legal here. Not even one little bit. The law may be broken frequently, but it is still against the law. And the fact that others break it won’t be a helpful defense for the AP who is here on a temporary visa and who get’s arrested for underage drinking and/or drinking and driving. Not to mention drinking, driving, and having an accident that injures or kills someone else.

AussiePair March 31, 2014 at 4:20 pm

I’m not saying it should be their defense, and I know it is illegal (in fact the only time I drank alcohol here while underage was a glass of wine with dinner at my host parents offering, this happened maybe 3 times). What I did mean to say that sometimes I find it hard to fully remember or appreciate how terrible drinking underage is and that this is the same place that many other au pairs are coming from.

I did also say, or mean to say, that under no circumstances was driving after drinking acceptable. I think all host parents should have a talk with all incoming au pairs and lay out their expectations, whether it’s you can not drink at all because you’re underage or you may only drink with is etc. and all LCCs need to talk to au pairs about respecting these host family wishes as well as making responsible choices i.e not getting in a car with someone who has been drinking. I know my LCC did talk about this at orientation interview (the one with the family and au pair) and made it clear that unde no circumstances is it ok to drink and drive, however if the host family was ok with the au pair having a drink or two with them that that was up to the host family.

Should be working March 30, 2014 at 11:43 pm

If my AP took a ride home with an AP (or anyone) who had been drinking, I’d be angry, concerned, and would talk to my own AP with overtones that I’m not sure her judgment is sound enough for me to trust her with my kids.

I would absolutely tell the LCC. Maybe a warning would mean that someone won’t get sent home, and maybe that someone won’t die in an accident.

My underage European APs have had, in my view, an adult, healthy relationship to alcohol. I don’t ask and don’t mind if they are at a party (not driving) and have a drink. I don’t want them getting into unsafe situations though, whether with drunken frat boys or cars. We talk about this at some length. They call me day or night and I will come get them if they are not in a safe situation. I would be grateful if one did, because then I would know that she is taking care of herself.

Momma Gadget March 31, 2014 at 1:06 am

Definately tell the LC-
Drinking and driving is a well publisized serious offense. But HFs need to know, some states consider underage drinking to be a serious crime too. In NJ it is “those who host suffer the most”. It is no joke.
If APs car is stopped by police and an underage drinker is found in the car they will arrest all people in the car and impound the vehicle. If an underage AP is found drunk in another APs house, the hosting HPs could be arrested, or held liable if the drunken AP got into an accident and injured someone.
These things happened in my town with a couple of college students & their parents.
We have a serious talk with our APs who all gave been over 21 when they start- though they are legal, many APs are not. They are not to provide any underage APs with alcohol, or let any underage APs in our car or home.

The legal age for drinking in the USA is 21, not almost 21, not 20years +364days , regardless of what the drinking age is in the APs home country. Do not take this lightly!

Momma Gadget March 31, 2014 at 1:08 am

I meant not allow have any underage APs who have been drinking in our car or home.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 31, 2014 at 6:57 am

You might not want to point a finger at the AP who drank and drove, but the LCC should point out to the APs in her cluster that underage drinking and driving may be a felony offense in your state. It can be very hard for APs, especially those who befriend Americans who seemingly do things without consequences, that there is a huge difference between breaking the law on a temporary visa and breaking the law as a citizen. All you need to do is tell the LCC that you are aware that this happened and are concerned, especially for the HF whose AP decided to drive after consuming alcohol (you cannot judge whether she was DWI).

Driving after having consumed alcohol shows a lack of judgment, sure enough, but also a lack of respect for the HF who loaned the AP the car for the evening.

massaupairmom March 31, 2014 at 8:11 am

YIKES! I’d be upset if people knew my au pair was drinking and driving and no one told me.

hOstCDmom March 31, 2014 at 8:43 am

Tell the LCC, or call the program director even better. (The LCC may avoid dealing because it is awkward.) And even call the HP directly. Don’t wait until the next time. The next time that AP drinks and drives, she might kill someone. She might kill your AP, or your child.

Also, to TaCL’s point re being DWI or not, if the AP who drank and drove was under 21, then in all 50 states I believe, any alcohol in the blood is DWI by definition.

Host Mom in the City March 31, 2014 at 9:22 am

As a host parent, I would want someone to tell me. I would want someone to tell the LCC to have a thorough discussion at a required LCC meeting about the consequences of drinking and driving, and I would want the agency to enforce immediately sending anyone home who was caught drinking and driving.

This is terrifying from an insurance point of view too.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 31, 2014 at 1:42 pm

My point is that the HM does not know if the AP in question had any alcohol in her blood at that point. All she knows is that she had been drinking and drove. Since she wasn’t pulled over and no test was administered, then all she has to go on is hearsay. Best for the LCC to either warn the APs in her cluster, or pull it out of the eyewitnesses and encourage them them to find alternative means of transportation. Most of my APs have chosen not to consume alcohol at all, but the few who did a) became the designated driver when they had the car keys and encouraged friends to rotate in that role or b) paid for a taxi. The latter were always broke, but that was their choice.

Host Mom in the City March 31, 2014 at 2:18 pm

I maintain that I would want to be told. I get that she doesn’t know the exact circumstances, but she could certainly qualify that to the host mom and suggest that a conversation be had.

SingleHM March 31, 2014 at 11:22 am

So I talked to my LCC and basically, unless they are ‘caught’ by the police or their Host Parent…there’s nothing to do, but reinforce policies.

She said she would put something in the next newsletter. And they just had a meeting on it.

I doubt this will stop the offending AP that’s already doing it.

Momma Gadget March 31, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Good for you!
I Hope You LCC sends her newsletter to the HPs also as a heads up.

Maybe the offending AP won’t stop, But maybe it will stop her friends from getting into the car with her.

hOstCDmom March 31, 2014 at 1:06 pm

I would tell the program director also. If this AP kills someone driving drunk, you definitely want to be on record as having escalated things as high as you could. (for your piece of mind!)

Momma Gadget March 31, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Great Idea.

hOstCDmom March 31, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Thanks. We have had many teens die in our town from drinking and driving related incidents. So I’m feeling particularly sensitive to the “it’s not my problem” “we can’t do anything about it” attitude that this LCC apparently showed. Often, when accidents happen and full stories/back stories come out, we learn that folks did know, or sense, that there was a problem, but no one wanted to butt in, or do anything, or contact the parents, or call the police etc. I realize in this situation the HM doesn’t know all facts to a certainty, but she isn’t a prosecutor trying a case! she has some evidence, that at least raises the question that there is an issue and dangerous (potentially fatal) behavior going on, and I think it is exactly people in such situations that should speak up.

(although a poor parallel, it is like the folks in the Sandusky case who suspected things but didn’t speak up because they weren’t sure, or couldn’t be 100%, or didn’t have hard evidence. While folks do have to exercise judgment about butting in to situations, when one reasonable outcome of a situation is that people may die, be maimed, or a child irreparably hurt, then I think it is incumbent upon folks with suspicions to speak up. They may not be “mandatory reporters” or have legal obligation to notify the agency, but I think they have a moral obligation to do so, particularly based on the facts that the OP posted.

Emerald City HM March 31, 2014 at 1:13 pm

I agree with hOstCDmom. Also, the host parents of that au pair should be notified directly to keep an eye on her. The behavior of drunk driving needs to be stopped before they have the opportunity to be caught by the police IMO. Being caught by the police is too late, at that point they are already on the road endagering the lives of innocent bystanders.

exaupair March 31, 2014 at 12:03 pm

I think you should tell the LCC. A group of under-21s getting drunk at a house party is one thing, and one of them DRIVING is a different story. Even if she wasn’t absolutely smashed (one pint?) her behaviour was dangerous to herself and the passengers.
It’s not something you can just let go only because it wasn’t your AP behind the wheel.

Momma Gadget March 31, 2014 at 12:29 pm

“A group of under-21s getting drunk at a house party is one thing, and one of them DRIVING is a different story.”- These are BOTH ILLEGAL, irresponsible, disrespectful, and put HFs at risk.

exaupair March 31, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Of course it is, especially when US law is very precise about who is allowed to drink alkohol…BUT a drunk AP taking a cab home is certainly less in danger than a drunk AP accepting a lift from another drunk AP, who may not be as great of a driver as she thinks! Either way I would be calling the LCC if I found out!

I have a question to all mums and dads here: in US anyone younger than 21 is not allowed to drink, but how does it look like in reality? If your AP is 19 or 20 would you offer her a pint with a meal (at home), or during a family evening in front of TV, knowing that technically she shouldn’t drink at all?
Where I come from you need to be at least 18 to buy alcohol, but 13 or 14 year olds can buy it if they are smart about it (ask someone off the street to buy some), hence so many cases of completely drunk minors ending up in drunk tanks….
My parents would offer me a class of wine with a meal since I was about 12, and as I come to think about it, this had a great impact on how I behave right now i.e. I don’t drink until I can’t stand up straight and I always know how much is too much for me and when’s time to call it a night and get a taxi home.

Momma Gadget March 31, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I have a 15 year old. We will not offer him wine or beer at home before 21, because we feel it is too confusing to say you can drink at home but not when you are out with your friends.

In the US, an adult who buys alcohol for a minor will be arrested, and face huge fines or go got to jail.
A business that sells alcohol to a minor will face huge fines and could loose their liquor license.

If that 19 year old who had a glass of wine at home steps out in public and happens to be stopped/tested by the police will be arrested.

I know many people believe that minors who are introduced to alcohol at home at younger a younger age are “better” drinkers. Many studies have been done that disprove this theory.

Should be working March 31, 2014 at 1:15 pm

We offer the AP wine with dinner if we are drinking it, BUT during our ‘orientation’ we make clear that if she accepts wine with dinner that means she is not driving anywhere that night.

I believe that the American attitude to alcohol contributes to binge drinking in teen/college years. I imagine that when our kids get to 16-ish we will offer them occasional wine with dinner, along with lots of talking about alcohol (which we have done since age 9). And most important we try to model healthy, responsible, moderate drinking habits.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 31, 2014 at 1:49 pm

We permit our teenagers to consume a half-glass of wine during Passover, where consumption is part of the ritual. We do not give them alcohol during Thanksgiving or other holiday celebrations. I rarely consume alcohol and drive – may be once or twice a year I’ll have one glass of wine, followed by several glasses of water and drive home. If I want to go some place and consume more, then I take public transportation or a taxi. I make this clear to my kids.

DH and I have offered wine or beer to APs. Few have accepted even once. I think the employer/employee/family member makes it more uncomfortable than having a drink with relatives at home.

Host Mom in the City March 31, 2014 at 2:21 pm

This is something that is so so different in the US. We will not offer alcohol to our children ever until they are 21 for a number of reasons, but mostly, because I don’t want to give the impression that it’s ok with me that they break the law, but also for insurance purposes. If anything ever happened related to an underage person drinking in my home, even if I didn’t know about it, it could be ruinous. Au pairs really need to understand that due to the laws and the insurance environment, it is extremely important that they not drink underage and that they not put their host parents in a bad position. This is why we only get 21+ au pairs actually.

German Au-Pair March 31, 2014 at 3:49 pm

@Momma Gadget
While I totally get the insurance side of it, I really do think that helping a child to develop a healthy relationship to alcohol early helps with the binge driking. I was allowed to have a beer (mixed with water) for dinner since I was about 12 but I didn’t like it. I was always allowed to try any kind of alcohol we had at home and when I was 15 my mother knew I was out drinking with my friends. (Underage drinking is not that horrible here, so outside was okay even if the police had found us.) There were rules like she always had to know where I was and who I was with, she knew what kind of alcohol I had and the number one rule was that if she ever had to pick me up from the hospital (of if I ruined her carpet…) there’d be hell to pay. I had my “OMG, drinking is so cool”-phase when I was 15 and hardly ever drink alcohol now. I’ve never even been sick because of alcohol because it was always more important to be responsible about it.
The message I got was not “we think it’s okay for you to break the law” but “we trust you to make a responsible choice”.

HRHM March 31, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Studies actually show that our belief that “teaching” young adults to drink at home will decrease problem drinking is false. In a study of 43000 people of varied backgrounds, early drinking was definitely linked to alcoholism later in life.

My kids are young. I have allowed them to try wine and beer, both of which they hated (and I knew they would) partially to reinforce how “yucky” drinking is. I’m still undecided how I’m going to deal with drinking as a young adult. I strongly beleive that if you are old enough to sign your own marriage license, or be shot at in the military, you ought to be old enough to decide if you want a beer. But I also know that the adolescent mind is not fully done cooking and maturity has a way to go at this age. Yet, most of us drank in college… no easy answers on this one.

Momma Gadget March 31, 2014 at 4:40 pm

@ German Au Pair
Drinking with friends is a whole different dynamic than Mommy and Daddy letting their DC have a glass of wine at dinner. It has been proven to have very little effect on whether someone grows up to be a responsible drinker or not.

When it comes to alcohol consumption (or over consumption) Some people can stop and draw line , some people cannot. Some people are strong enough for resist peer pressure. Some are not.

I am sure that if you are a responsible drinker, it is because you are an intelligent, responsible, strong person, and you would be this way whether or not you parent let you have a sip of beer or wine with dinner.

I completely agree with Host Mom in the City.

Emerald City HM March 31, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Did you talk to your AP about the poor decision to get in a car with someone that had been drinking?

German Au-Pair March 31, 2014 at 3:43 pm

That’s actually what I’d be most concerned about. Some have mentioned that they offered their au pairs to call them any time if the situation is unsafe.
My very first night downtown the au pair who was driving us to dinner told us that she’d always drink 2-3 cocktails and still drive and was about to do so at dinner. Luckily I told her that she’s absolutely NOT going to drink and drive while I’m sitting in that car and she didn’t. I would not have gotten in that car. Honestly, I think for most people it’s okay to have a beer and drive and I would not wake up my HP for that, but 3 cocktails is a LOT of alcohol and it shows horrible judgement to drive after that.
Luckily, the kind of people I tend to surround myself with don’t do that kind of stupid behavior.

hOstCDmom March 31, 2014 at 3:47 pm

That may be true German AP (re 1 beer and OK to drive, legally — still questionable judgment IMO, and we have a super explicit policy of NO Alcohol + driving for AP (for HM, HD, for that matter) — but I agree that it is probably legal, for most people, probably….but one never knows exactly what one’s BAL is….) But if the AP was under 21, then ANY ALCOHOL + Driving = illegal. Doesn’t matter if their BAL (blood alcohol level) is below the legal limit of .08 — if they are at .04 and they are 19 or 20 yrs old, it is ILLEGAL.

German Au-Pair March 31, 2014 at 3:55 pm

I have done this on occasion back home with my own car, a short drive, hours after I had a beer and with legal drinking age of course. I think under those conditions it is not bad judgement because your ability to drive is not impaired.
I would not have done it with my HP’s car. But what I mean is that I would feel okay getting into a car with someone who had had a beer a couple of hours ago from a personal safety POV. Doesn’t make it okay for her to break any rules but I would also not wake up my HP in the middle of the night for that.

Julia March 31, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I had a similar situation and here it was maniac driving from an other au pair i went on a trip with by the time I got home I was so shaking and scared that my hostmum who was still up was were concerned and she called the LCC.The au pair was going home because of other reason but that was a no go for my hostmum

skny March 30, 2014 at 10:08 pm

I wouldnt. dont know why but feels like it is not my business. Not driving my car, my kids, their business.

Anna March 30, 2014 at 10:44 pm

well but she was driving her au pair… that is already her business.
I don’t know what I would do, but I would talk to my au pair and ask her not to accept rides with girls who were drinking…

WestMom March 31, 2014 at 9:22 am

New question.
How do you support your Au Pair’s passion?

A few years back, we matched with a lovely AP who was a soccer fiend. She really wanted to continue to play while here. She found a league and we agreed to let her go early on Fridays so she could go practice. On Sundays, she would go to her game but we asked her to arrange her own transportation since the filed location was app. 50miles round trip.

Come this year. We have matched with another lovely AP who has another passion. This one would require training at set group times, most likely requiring that we cut her hours short a few days per week.

I am wondering how some of you might have dealt with this situation. Cutting the hours short might be a possibility, but I am wondering how this will affect her flexibility. What do we do if we need childcare on the days where she has her activity (Mom and Dad both WOH, so this is very likely). Considering the cost of all activities in our area, I would feel bad asking her to cancel, but then again would feel resentful having to hire a sitter for those occasions. Any thoughts?

She is not due to arrive for another few months, but I want to make sure to set expectations before she arrives.

Momma Gadget March 31, 2014 at 10:33 am

We had a An AP who was passionate about Soccer too, we did a lot of research, and help sign him up for local leagues… But none of this effected his work schedule.
It is only after many months with us, that he was recruited by the soccer league to help coach the travel team skills class once a week ( a big honor) that he requested that he be allowed to leave 20 min early one day a week. He did so much volunteer work with my son’s soccer team , and it was such a minor request that we were happy to do it.

I would not start off making allowances, it is important for them to know that their childcare responsibilities come first and that they bond with your family. It is great that they are passionate about a certain activity, and getting involved is a great way to meet people outside of the AP circle. But they need to find a way to do this on evenings and weekends. Yes- it is extremely important that an AP establish friends and activities for her personal time, but making accommodations to your schedule before you know if the AP has a good work ethic,and can handle her new responsibilities and is a recipe for a lot of HP headaches.

caring hp March 31, 2014 at 12:11 pm

We had an AP who was insisting on doing classes “famous” and also later, less expensive places that would require me to leave work early more than I could ask my boss to permit and more than I could expect my employer to permit. It was hard to refuse her but there were lots of other fine courses to select from that she could do when kids were at school without causing trouble for me at work. My boss is reasonable but I can’t expect favors every week and I have to save the favors for doctor’sI appointments etc. Ultimately if an AP has a special interest or schedule request like this they should tell u before matching and see if you can facilitate. If you can great but your own job, stress levels and kids come first. We all do a lot for our APs but we must try to take care of ourselves first. Aps are informed by their agencies that they need to prioritize their duties as they are not just in America to have a vacation at HF expense.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 31, 2014 at 2:25 pm

We have accommodated a number of schedule and special trips which weren’t necessarily in our best interest, but met the needs of APs over the years. We have had APs play on sports teams and go to university full-time. One of the reasons DH and I work split schedules (I go in to work as early as possible, he later), is so I am able to return early when necessary.

I do state up front that the AP most consider cancelling her attendance at practice or class when the needs of the children come first. This is part and parcel of accepting a position with a medically fragile child. Although DH and I have done 99% of the emergency care over the past 13, there are times when we need the AP to jump in and provide transportation to a drs. office or an ER, where we meet her. We also rely on the flexibility of APs to provide routine care during illnesses (which probably doesn’t sound routine, but sadly with The Camel, often is).

The AP who played with a traveling sports team was one of the most dynamic we had – she tolerated a lot of tough play with child #2, who adored her for it (want to get a teenage boy to talk? – go outside and throw a ball or play a physical game). Being flexible about her practices and games (on weekends) was more than worth our while!

We have said “No” to APs. When The Camel required some intense physical therapy that conflicted with an AP’s practices, we had to tell her that The Camel came first.

Returning HM March 31, 2014 at 11:23 am

We’ve done this – just did, in fact, for our fabulous AP who had soccer on Thursdays, so I came home early many weeks so he could go. And then he went and tore his ACL at one of these soccer games. No more rearranging my schedule for AP to go to soccer – current AP knows better than to ask!

We did it once we knew him and were happy to make this kind of accommodation. Likewise, we accommodated a previous AP’s desire to take FOUR classes each semester. We agreed to total flexibility around two of them (as in, no matter what, she went) but that we had priority on the other two (as in, if the children had a day off or someone was sick, she had to stay home from class those days). This worked very well too. But again, we knew her very well and knew she was very flexible with us, so we were happy to accommodate.

I would not do this for an AP coming in, whom you don’t really know yet. I can see this leading to resentment and to expectations that aren’t realistic. Because you may be willing to be very flexible and accommodate her passion some weeks or even most weeks, but there may well be that one week you can’t….and you need to know that the AP is going to “get” this – truly get it – and question, resent, or fight it.

Our incoming AP this summer has a huge passion for music, and we have already told him we will be renting him a guitar and keyboard for while he is with us. But this doesn’t mean that I am guaranteeing him that he will be off on Wednesday evenings when the garage band I am sure he is going to form wants to practice. I may decide that he is great, and I am willing to be flexible, but I definitely would not promise this up front. Once he shows himself to be very flexible with us, though, it will be another story.

Returning HM March 31, 2014 at 11:25 am

Oops – obviously, that should be NOT question, resent, or fight it.

Momma Gadget March 31, 2014 at 12:34 pm

no good deed goes unpunished!

Emerald City HM March 31, 2014 at 12:43 pm

I have a minor question. Later this week my cousin is coming to watch the girls because we need to keep the au pair under 45 hours. My cousin’s phone broke and we don’t have a house phone. We supply the au pair with a dumb phone so we can reach her while she is caring for the girls and so she can call 911 if something happens.

Is it fair to ask the au pair to leave that phone at home while my cousin is watching the girls?

Should be working March 31, 2014 at 1:11 pm

If you pay for the phone, why not?

Emerald City HM March 31, 2014 at 1:21 pm

I mostly wanted to make sure this wasn’t unreasonable as it leaves the au pair without an easy means to reach us if she goes out that night and an emergency comes up with her (payphones are way more sparse than they used to be).

Though realistically she’s not very likely to go out alone or be randomly walking someplace where there are no open businesses.

Dorsi March 31, 2014 at 1:27 pm

I would only do that if my AP had access to another phone. I wouldn’t want her going out in the evening or to classes without a phone — people today rely on texts to meet their friends and arrange rides, etc. There are so few pay phones to use if there was a real problem.

You can get a trac phone for your cousin (or some simlar brand) for $20 with 100 minutes (without any kind of contract). Are you giving your cousin anything for the extra help? Maybe a new phone?

Emerald City HM March 31, 2014 at 1:34 pm

That’s kind of what I was worried about. We pay my cousin as we would any other babysitter, we just didn’t have to interview and screen her.

Maybe just keeping one of those trac phones around the house that uses a different network anyway might not be a bad idea…

Host Mom in the City March 31, 2014 at 2:25 pm

I probably wouldn’t even ask. Chances are that the au pair would be with other au pairs anyway and even if there aren’t pay phones, if you’re at a bar or something you can usually find someone that will let you send a quick text. I wouldn’t be so concerned that she wouldn’t have any means of calling. But I see the cell phone as part of the au pair’s compensation – it’s essentially part of what you’re paying her for watching your kids. Cell phones also truly become part of someone – she probably has private texts and pictures on there even if it isn’t her phone, and it would be somewhat violating for her to have to go through and delete those or worry that someone might call while she doesn’t have it in her possession. I don’t think that would be fair to ask.

WarmStateMomma March 31, 2014 at 3:05 pm

This may not answer Emerald City’s question, but if you buy a cheap phone that plugs into the wall jack, you can dial 911 without having an account for a land line. (All US land lines are supposed to have this capability.) Your cousin can also use skype, facetime or email to keep in touch during the day from the house. If you need to reach your cousin while she is out and about, you may want to leave your phone or your husband’s phone with her.

Drop phones receive loads of unwanted calls because those numbers have been recycled so many times. If you buy one where you are only supposed to pay by the day for each day you use the phone, you may be charged for usage every day whether you use it or not because strangers will call all. the. time. The phones where you pay by the minute are similarly drained by unwanted calls.

Dorsi March 31, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Thanks for the info — I didn’t know that (about 911). I have been wondering how to teach my kids what to do in an emergency (they are too young for their own phones, and we don’t have a house phone).

Should be working March 31, 2014 at 3:31 pm

We have a house phone, and I insist that we have one spot in the house that is not cordless but plugged into the wall and the handset is connected to the phone, the old-fashioned way. And I advise the AP and everyone else, including kids, that even in electricity outage that phone will work (unless phone lines are also out).

Taking a Computer Lunch March 31, 2014 at 8:38 pm

That worked for us until we got Verizon Fios. Now we have 12 hours after the power goes out to use the landline. Bummer! (But we still have one traditional, non-electric phone plugged into a wall jack for that reason. It’s cheaper to call the electric company that way.)

Oh, and be careful about calling 911 from a cell. If you live in a major urban area it goes to the nearest tower which may not be in the same county or state as your home! Found that out the hard way, and unnecessarily delayed some emergency care. Put the non-emergency number for your jurisdiction(s) on your cell.

Emerald City HM March 31, 2014 at 3:58 pm

It’s not a requirement in all states.

We don’t get the soft tone, even though we live in Washington, but I think that’s because we had home phone through our cable service for a while and the cable company re-routed the phone jack so we could use it instead of the modem. We might still have an option elsewhere in the house, becasue there used to be two lines, I’ll have to check that jack to know for sure.

HM in SoCal March 31, 2014 at 7:40 pm

New question here: How do people handle vacations and when you allow your au pair to take them. I have a new au pair here for 1 month after a rematch situation. The rematch au pair was 2 months in her contract and required 5 days of vacation during the two months. Now 1 month into a new au pair, I have her asking for a week very quickly. If I give this to her, I will have only 3 days of vacation remaining to spend with the kids over the summer. Generally we have one week in the summer that the kids are at the grandparents house that we ask au pairs to schedule their vacation during that time (in handbook), this au pair will only have 2 days left of vacation which she will used then and basically leave me stuck on my vacation. I try to be accommodating but feel this is too much. So question: do you limit au pair’s taking vacation time with the first month or two of their contract with you? Thanks!

TexasHM March 31, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Absolutely we ask that the APs give us as much notice as possible and we consider first 90 days to be training/settling in time and it says in our handbook no vacation first couple months. God forbid she doesn’t work out and then you burned your vacation and get a new AP that then wants vacation too etc etc. We go as far as to mirror to agency recommendations and say one week in the first 6mos and another in the latter 6 mos. you can always be more flexible later if you want. Our current AP learned the ropes in 3 days so we planned a vacation for spring break (6 weeks into her term with us) and she went no issue. First AP had trip 2 months into term and still hadn’t gotten her DL or gotten a grip on all job responsibilities and that was super frustrating and if we’d rematched I would have been kicking myself. Just tell her you’d love to help her but you can’t make it work, then remind her of the summer window.

Momma Gadget March 31, 2014 at 8:50 pm

What she said.

We got burned with our first AP who ended up taking all her vacation time off in her first 4 months ( Since it was over Christmas). When we went into rematch we had to give the new AP another 2 weeks. We were a new HF and didn’t know enough to request that she reimburse us.

Based on our LC recommendation, we allow the AP to choose one week ( with at least 6 weeks notice) and we close one week.
Generally we tell the AP no vacation the first 3 months, but if things are going well we try to accommodate a long weekend before then… Which comes out of the AP choice week not ours.

Momma Gadget March 31, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Also our APs have All major Holidays off, though they must spend Thanksgiving & Christmas with us (as part of the family).

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