Overnight hours: Should we be able to schedule Au Pairs to work overnight?

by cv harquail on May 25, 2013

StudentHostMom writes with a question about overnight childcare.

owl pillowOur contract strictly forbids leaving the kids alone with the au pair overnight.

Our main reason for getting an au pair was to support me as I returned to classes, part time, to finish my college degree. Since my husband travels all week, every week, our Au Pair has the kids briefly in the morning fore school and then again in the afternoon.  We have yet to use more than 37 of our au pair hours (usually more like under 30), so there is room for me to schedule more work hours for her.

Recently a job opportunity arose in my field, but the position is a night one. I’d have to leave the kids alone (while sleeping) overnight and would be back in the morning to see them on the bus. It’s a wonderful opportunity, but I’m wondering how to handle the logistics of it. It would be 2-3 nights a week, not anything outrageous, and there is every chance those nights will fall on nights when HD is home. But that’s not something that can be guaranteed.

I don’t want to have to hire an additional sitter to to sleep in the house overnight. I’d rather have our au pair be ‘on duty’ those hours, count them as part of her work week, and shift around other hours to keep her under 45 hours.   An alternative might be to ask her to be ‘on duty’ those overnight hours, and pay her extra for these hours.

 Both options, of course, violate my Agency’s rule about no overnight work.

Wise host parents – is it completely unacceptable to have your AP be with the kiddos overnight? And if so, why?
They become like part of the family, and I often feel that the AP knows the kid schedule as well as I do, and honestly better than HD does since he’s gone so much.

What would you advise?   ~StudentHostMom

Readers, here’s a poll to capture your opinions… add your advice to the comments!

Should Au Pairs be allowed to be scheduled over night?

View Results

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PA AP Mom May 25, 2013 at 9:39 am

As long as you aren’t going over your 45 hours of care per week, then I don’t see a problem with the AP working at night.

Our AP has worked overnight before one 2 occasions. We counted the hours as work time and there was no issue.

Multitasking Host Mom May 25, 2013 at 11:21 am

I think there wouldn’t be anything wrong with the AP being responsible for children in the overnight hours as long as:
1. It falls into the 45 hrs work week
2. She is not working more than 10 hours in a row. In other words, just because it hits midnight doesn’t mean you immediately get another 10 hours, making it 20 hrs of work with no break.
3. Give the AP enough of a break before they have to start working again…8 or10 hrs
4. Be very clear if the AP is expected to be awake during this time. Personally I would assume the AP would be asleep during most of this work time.

Now your other BIG problem is that your agency doesn’t allow this. That is the problem with each agency making their own rules. For example, the two agencies I have work with have not forbidden this. I do find it easier to abide by the rules you agreed to, since I find it avoids trouble down the road. When I signed up with my current agency, they told me they do not allow AP s to give children medicine. I told them, before I signed the final paperwork, that was a deal breaker for me since my son has to take a pill every morning at a certain time and the AP is the only one there at that time to give it to him. They did give me a waiver on this requirement. But like I said this was before I signed the contract. You already have, so you will have to decide if you want to break this term.

Should be working May 25, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Could this be a misunderstanding of your agency’s rules? Since when is overnight work (i.e. everyone asleep) not allowed? My agency even makes a point of saying that those hours COUNT as work time, which means they are allowed.

Or are you (OP) saying that the problem is that you need more than 10 consecutive hours? As in, the shift is 6pm-6am?

I don’t know that the agencies or fed regulations anywhere specify what a “day” is, nor do they specify anything a break between 10-hr shifts over two days. In my view this means it is a fuzzy area.

Which means: I have a few times taken an overnight with my husband at a hotel and we were gone from 4pm Friday until noon Saturday. That’s 2 10-hr shifts stuck together on two consecutive calendar days. The AP was happy with it, because it counted as 20 hrs of work but she only had awake kids to manage from 4-8pm and again from 7am-noon. Yes if someone had been sick in the night she would have been on call, but I told her to be in touch right away if anything happened and we would have come home. She wants us to do this more often, and it would be a pretty easy gig for an AP (although the hours would add up so quickly that only 2 overnights a week would be possible).

As long as the agency doesn’t specify what a ‘day’ is (i.e. midnight-to-midnight; or morning-to-night; or whatever), I don’t see why HPs can’t give the AP 20 straight hours of work–if the kids are healthy and reasonable sleepers.

StudentHostmom June 1, 2013 at 8:12 am

OP here – they do actually specify that the AP cannot be left alone with the children overnight. The hours would be slightly more than 10 in a row – but I would assume she’d be sleeping during the night. But they’d be something like 6pm-9am. So 15 hours altogether.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 1, 2013 at 7:00 pm

15 hours is not 10. It’s not even fudging a little. We had an AP in our cluster who was told by a HM that even though she was required to stay in the house her hours didn’t count until the child woke up. When the AP balked at her inability to take a course, work out in a gym or make plans to hang out with friends, our LCC (who was not in our cluster) asked us to serve as a contact point since the AP escaped to our house every chance she got.

I do understand your need, and the fact that the AP fits into your budget, but 15 hours gives neither your AP nor you any wiggle room.

StudentHostmom June 4, 2013 at 11:26 am

Just wanted to mention that it’s unfair to compare me to a family that so blatantly takes advantage of their AP – our AP has a plethera of time off and often takes weekend trips (2-3 a month Fri-Mon) so that comparison just doesn’t jive.
We very much encourage our AP to have a full social life and support her in that – she’s a family member and we want her to be happy.

LookingFowardToBeAP June 21, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Dear StudentHostmom: To be honest, i wish i was your AP, or to find someone like you soon. Yo seem to really be concerned about her and i congratulate you for that.
I think u should talk to her to see what she thinks about it, if u have allowed her to take trips so often u have given her more than the 1.5 day of per week she has by contract, and i’m guessing many more things she can be grateful for, so if she has some common sense she can see the overnight hours as returning the favor. Maybe she’ll be happy to do it, she probably likes you as much as you like her and if it was me, i would love to help you do something you want and would make you happy. So my advice is for u to talk to her and be honest!

Host Mom in the City June 1, 2013 at 9:43 pm

OP, I’ve sort of lost track of what exactly your schedule would be, but it sounds like it could be 2-3 nights a week breaking two of your agency’s rules? 15 isn’t slightly over 10 and your excuse that shed be sleeping during those hours won’t mollify the agency either since that’s also explicitly against their rules. It sounds like you’re really set on this and I get that it would really work for you and odd childcare situations are really difficult to manage. But routinely breaking two clear rules seems like it could really backfire and seems like taking advantage of the program.

StudentHostmom June 4, 2013 at 11:19 am

Oh no – I’m not set on it at all! That’s why I asked. :) Let me be clear that it would be occasional, as in maybe one or two nights a month? Since I would always attempt to schedule when my husband was home. And as I stated, I’ve never gone over the 45 (or came close).
It’s a moot point now – I decided to not accept the position.
Please don’t ascribe negative motivations to me without knowing me – I was asking because I wondered, not because I was set on it. And some posters below mention leaving for a weekend – this would not be nearly that many hours as it would be the occasional overnight and then the kiddos are off to school.

Host Mom in the City June 4, 2013 at 11:50 am

Good to hear, StudentHostMom, and I apologize if I’ve offended you. It is hard to know what posters really think and who they really are just from a few paragraphs and it’s helpful for us all to keep that in mind. I’m sorry about the position – I hope that was a good decision for you and that it all turns out.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 25, 2013 at 3:38 pm

I see why the 10-ten-hour shifts would seem great, but I could see how many APs would feel forced into say yes. We have only had two overnights over the years: 1) was a former AP who had stayed on with us as a nanny (we paid for her to go to school full-time so she could leave the country and return while she waited for application to rise to the top of the Dept. of Labor’s queue) – she gave us a coupon for an overnight stay in a hotel a couple of weeks before our special needs child had major surgery – since she had given us the couple, we didn’t feel like we were taking advantage of her. This nanny also volunteered to take an overnight once-a-week while The Camel recovered in the hospital for 5 weeks (we kept it to 8 hours – we knew how exhausting it was to not sleep in a hospital overnight).

Between APs 2 & 3 DH received a free stay in a hotel in a destination city near my parents’ home. My parents were nominally in charge of the children while they slept, but we all knew that the APs knew far more about The Camel than they did. She actually developed a high fever and our outgoing AP taught our incoming AP how to get her through a crisis, while my father retrieved DH and I much earlier than we had hoped.

Should be working May 25, 2013 at 3:42 pm

OP, what’s your agency? I really don’t believe federal rules prohibit overnight work. The AP is “alone with the kids” when she works during the day, why not at night? Because she is sleeping?

StudentHostmom June 1, 2013 at 8:13 am

APIA is our agency.

hOstCDmom June 1, 2013 at 8:35 am

Is this something new with APIA? My APIA contract doesn’t say that….can you post the section you are referring to?

hOstCDmom June 1, 2013 at 9:01 am

Here’s the text of our 2013 APIA agreement. I don’t see the mention of overnight hours…? Am I missing it?

Host Family Agreement

We, the undersigned, have applied to be a host family with the Au Pair in America or EduCare in America program which is sponsored by the American Institute For Foreign Study, Inc. and referred to as “the Program” in this agreement. The Program agrees to recruit and to offer au pair/companion candidates for our consideration and to provide reasonable support concerning problems that may arise during the exchange. In consideration for these services, we hereby agree:

Selection of au pair/companion. We understand that it is our sole responsibility to carefully choose from among the candidates presented to us, and that there is no warranty as to our satisfaction or to the compatibility of any particular candidate as an au pair/companion in our family. It is also our responsibility to monitor the performance of the candidate in our home, and to promptly notify the Community Counselor of any problems.

Obligations of au pair/companion and host family. We understand that the au pair/companion we select will assist our family with day-to-day child care duties [which do not include housework unrelated to the children], for a period not to exceed 10 hours per day for a maximum of 45 hours per week (30 hours per week for EduCare in America), as outlined under “au pair responsibilities” defined in the current program brochure. In exchange, we agree to provide the au pair/companion with:•board and lodging [consisting of a separate room, which shall be approved by the local Community Counselor].
•a minimum weekly stipend established by Au Pair/EduCare in America.
•at least one full free day and one half free day per week plus one free weekend (Friday evening to Monday morning) each month.
•two weeks off to be taken at a mutually agreed-upon time during each 12 months of the exchange, two weeks for a nine-month extension, one-week for an extension term of six months, with the minimum weekly stipend as established by Au Pair/EduCare in America.
•educational costs (to a maximum of $500 for the year for the Au Pair and Extraordinaire program, $1,000 for the EduCare program). Adequate time to attend a course(s) for cultural or professional enrichment (six hours of academic credit or its equivalent for au pairs or 12 hours of academic credit or its equivalent for EduCare Companions); transportation to and from the place of instruction. [Note: The educational component is currently under review by The Department Of State and the sum for the educational allowance may increase in 2013.]

We acknowledge that we have read the current program brochure, Program Support and Policies insert and supplemental information received from the Program and agree that the terms and conditions set forth therein shall constitute part of this agreement.•Program goals. We recognize that the goal of the Program is for the au pair/companion to learn about America, and agree to give the au pair/companion ample opportunity and encouragement to take advantage of cluster activities and educational, cultural and community opportunities available in our area.

•Fees and other obligations. We agree to pay the required fees in accordance with the schedule set forth in the brochure and web communications, including excess airline fees imposed by air carriers for increased fuel surcharges or new taxes levied after January 1, 2013 and SEVIS fees as required. We understand that any outstanding balance more than 15 days past due will be subject to a finance charge of 1.5% per month, 18% per annum on the outstanding balance. Accounts which require outside collection services will incur additional fees associated with the collection agency. We will provide the au pair/companion, at our expense, with a one-way ticket or other transportation arrangement for travel from the orientation site in Connecticut to our community. We understand the Program will arrange a return flight home at the end of the program exchange from select U.S. cities and any additional flight surcharge will be paid by the au pair/companion.

•Background information and monitoring of placement. We warrant that our answers on the host family application are true and complete. For the purpose of facilitating the selection and placement of an au pair/companion with our family, we authorize the Program to make reasonable inquiries of any third party or governmental agency regarding our family, and grant permission for any such party or entity to disclose the requested information, which will be treated as confidential. After placement, we agree to maintain regular contact and communication with the Community Counselor in order to monitor the appropriateness of the placement and to take advantage of the Program’s resources.

•United States government rules. We understand that we will be provided with a copy of the rules governing Au Pair/EduCare programs, and we agree to comply with these rules which are subject to change at the discretion of The Department of State. ?We agree to interview, by telephone, the au pair/companion we select for placement with our family.
?We agree to have at least one parent/guardian or a responsible adult to remain at home during a minimum three days following the au pair’s arrival to train, observe and acclimate her to to her child care responsibilities.
?We understand that an au pair/companion cannot be placed with a host family having a child under three months of age unless a parent or other responsible adult will be present at all times.
?If applicable, we acknowledge our responsibility to review the prior experience, skills and training of the au pair/companion regarding the care of special needs children. If we have children in the home younger than school age we will not participate in the EduCare program, unless we have provided written confirmation of the full-time alternative care arrangements in place for our pre-school age children and those arrangements have been approved by the Program.
?Upon arrival of the au pair/companion in our home we agree to sign a written agreement with our au pair/companion that further affirms our joint commitment to adhere to U.S. government and Program guidelines. We will provide the Program with a copy of this agreement.

If we do not afford the participant the benefits and protections set forth in this agreement [or in government regulations], or otherwise violate the terms of this agreement, we understand that the Program may withdraw the participant from our household, in which case we shall not be entitled to a replacement au pair/companion or to any refund.

We understand that extending an au pair/companion’s J visa to remain in the U.S. beyond the term granted under the terms of the visa is not possible. We will abide by the Program regulations, relieving the au pair/companion of her duties at the end of the term and encouraging her to return to her home country. We will not support or sponsor her for a change of visa status before or during the travel-month time frame that she is considered in valid program status with Au Pair in America. We understand that by doing so we may risk our continued participation in the program and that by doing so is not in the spirit of the program.

•Problem resolution. The Program will make reasonable attempts to resolve any difficulties regarding the placement. If the Program determines that the placement cannot be continued, it will provide assistance that may include, in its discretion, placement of another au pair/companion with our family. Host families are responsible for hosting a participant for up to two weeks until a new placement is arranged. We agree to the terms of the replacement and refund policy set forth in the program materials.

•Legal relationship of au pair/companion to the Program. We understand and agree that the au pair/companion is not an employee or agent of the Program. The Program is not, under any circumstances, responsible for any bills incurred by the au pair/companion or for any damages or losses caused to anyone by any act or omission of the au pair/companion. We understand that the au pair may only provide childcare for our children and agree to indemnify and hold the Program harmless from any claims resulting from the au pair’s care of other children. In addition, all agreements and guidelines provided in this agreement pertain only to the au pair duties while caring for our children and no others.

•Release of claims against the Program. We unconditionally release the Program from any claims for damage, injury, loss, or expense of any sort incurred in connection with the participation of our family in the Program and our selection of an au pair/companion to stay in our home. This release includes, but is not limited to, liability for any intentional or negligent acts or omissions by the au pair/companion.

•Insurance. We understand it is our responsibility to consult an insurance agent regarding the insurance coverage that may be either required by state law or advisable for our situation. The Host family MUST assess the driving ability of the au pair/companion before granting permission to operate a vehicle, and adequate automobile insurance coverage must be in place if the au pair/companion operates a motor vehicle. We agree to limit any claim against the au pair/companion for uninsured damages resulting from operation of a motor vehicle to a maximum of $500. We also agree to maintain liability and casualty insurance to cover any reasonably foreseeable damages that may be sustained by the au pair/companion while in our household, and we agree to hold the program harmless and indemnify it from any liablity claim by the au pair/companion, including court costs and legal fees.

•Agreement to arbitrate. We agree that any claims against the Program that cannot be settled informally will be resolved in binding arbitration if the amount in controversy exceeds $5000. The location of the arbitration and identity of the arbitrator will be decided by mutual agreement, with the costs to be shared equally between the parties. The decision of the arbitrator shall be final. By signing this agreement, we are waiving our right to have any claim against the Program decided in Court before a judge or jury, although each party retains the right to have a Court confirm the arbitration award in accordance with the law.

•Applications. We certify that the information contained in our host family application and any supplemental application documents is true and correct. We understand that you may request reports from credit reporting agencies. If we inquire about whether a credit report was requested, you will tell me; if you receive a report, you will give me the name and contact information of the agency that furnished it.

•Entire agreement. We acknowledge that this document (and documents referenced herein) sets forth our entire agreement with the Program, and that we have not relied on any warranties or representations other than set forth above.

•Severability. A ruling invalidating a portion of this contract shall not affect the validity of the remainder.

•Applicable law. This agreement shall be governed by the laws of the state of Connecticut.
We understand that this document is a legal contract and that we have been advised to seek legal advice if we do not understand its terms. By signing the document, we acknowledge that we have read and understand the provisions of this agreement and accept and agree to abide by the terms as set forth.

By clicking “I Agree”, I am representing (if applicable) that both host parents have read and agree to the terms of the Host Family Agreement, and that I have full authority to electronically sign this agreement on behalf of our family.

Signed by Ruth Ferry, Director, Au Pair in America, and the applicant host family.

SKny June 1, 2013 at 3:04 pm

I was an Au pair for APIA from 2004 to 2006, and at that time it was forbidden. I specifically remember being told that at training

FormerEuropeanAu-Pair May 25, 2013 at 3:42 pm

I voted yes and I have minded kids overnight a couple of times and was fine with it. However I never woke up as rested as I would have been had I not minded them overnight (granted, I usually looked after babys and toddlers, the one time I minded school-aged-children over night I slept nearly as good as always, knowing that they could easily wake me up if something happend).

I am not sure, if I would agree to mind toddlers or babys overnight on a regular basis (especially if they still need night-time feeding) but I can not see a problem with looking after school-aged-children who can sleep through the night on most occasions. If you are back at the time the kids wake up, you could let her sleep in in the morning, this way she will get enough sleep :)
I usually left my door slightly ajar when I was minding the kids overnight (or late into the night) and my HP closed it when they came back (even though I usually did hear them and talked to them very briefly). This way the kids and I knew if I was minding them or if the parents were back…

Skny May 25, 2013 at 8:16 pm

I am not sure if it is the same, but there is a family in our cluster where the au pair of triplets babies (4mo) works 10pm to 7am Sun thru Thu/Fri. Maybe is allowed because parents are home?
Either way this girl is always exhausted and I feel bad for her.

Julie May 26, 2013 at 11:39 am

It’s definitely hard for au pair and this doesn’t usually last. I usually tell families who have newborns to do this a couple nights a week, but not every night. Au pairs sometimes take the job, but they won’t stay long. It’s exhausting and miserable for parents to do that job–and worse for the au pair because they aren’t her beautiful babies!

Seattle Mom June 21, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Not to mention they are here to make friends and have fun experiences- hard to do that on your time off if you’re a zombie from working through the night!

I would ask my AP to work overnights, once in a while, if necessary. Haven’t had the need to do it yet, but I could see it happening. My current AP is very energetic, and could probably handle it- plus she seems to love working and never complains- one time she told me not to worry about scheduling her for more than 45 hours if necessary (only took her up on it once, when the kids were sick and couldn’t go to school- we ended up w/48 hours or so).

I would not have done it with my last AP. We love her, but she was always tired as it was and I think it would have been the last straw.

cv harquail June 11, 2013 at 9:12 am

This is a really harsh schedule. Having worked 2nd and 3rd shifts when I was a manufacturing manager, I know that it’s really, really, hard to ‘work’, and be awake overnight, unless you completely revise your whole day, week and month. Plus you have to be dedicated to night work.

Au Pairs are not ‘night nurses’. An occasional night awake and on duty, or one feeding? That I could see, but a schedule like this seems like too much to ask of an au pair.

German Au-Pair May 26, 2013 at 4:40 am

I would do two things: find out if it is REALLY against agency policies and assess how good your relationship with the au pair is and how long this thing might be an issue (as in “will it be a thing with a future au pair too?”)
If I got you right it wouldn’t even be a regular thing but only if and when your workdays overlap with your husband’s travels? So it’s a SOMETIME-maybe?
If you do have a good relationship with your au pair, if your children aren’t at an age where they are likely to wake her up at night and if you can make sure she will have a good stretch of time to recharge, I honestly wouldn’t think twice about beeaking the rules.

I stayed alone with my school aged children several times. The longest time was for a week! Most times were weekends, the week covered some off days and some school days.
I didn’t mind because we all just slept at night. I was exhausted after that week because I had no real downtime for myself but it was a one time occasion so that was cool.
Sometimes bending the rules is fine, if all parties are okay with it.

HRHM May 26, 2013 at 8:52 am

The SD rules don’t make any comment about when the hours may occur, so you won’t be breaking any SD rules doing it. I’m not sure, agency by agency, who specifically says that you can’t, but I use mine overnight as needed and would have no heartburn about breaking this rule as long as you stay within the SD rules.
Our first AP was gotten with the sole intention of having an adult available in the house in case I got forced to go in to the hospital on a call night. I actually had daycare during the day to ensure that we never worked over her hours. As for the AP, if you are changing this up mid-year, you’ll need her buy in if it’s against your agencies rules…Since your kids are school aged, this should be a no brainer! I wish someone would pay me to sleep for a few nights a week! LOL

HRHM May 26, 2013 at 9:36 am

FYI – From the Cultural Care website:

“The ability to customize

With an au pair, your childcare works around your needs and schedule and not the other way around. By choosing how you want to schedule your 45 hours of childcare, you know you have childcare when you need it most—including sick days, snow days, even nights and weekends! You also decide how your children spend their time while you’re outside the home. Hosting your own live-in caregiver puts you in the driver’s seat of your child’s activities and environment.”

COHostMom May 26, 2013 at 9:36 am

I’ve been a host mom with two different agencies, and a CC as well. I haven’t heard of agencies prohibiting overnight hours. Is it possible what they are saying is that it still counts as hours? That can occasionally be a problem – when host families think that because the children are sleeping, the hours don’t “count” – they do.

As long as you are staying under your 10 hours a day, 45 hours a week, it shouldn’t matter when the hours occur.

Julie May 26, 2013 at 11:37 am

I’m a host mom & LCC and CC definitely has au pairs that work overnight, as long as they don’t work more than 10 hours (working 10 hours on Tuesday through the night & 10 hours Wednesday–20 hours straight–is not acceptable–some HP argue that.) If parents needs to go away for a night, for example, I tell them an au pair could work from say, 10 pm to 8 am–so a babysitter could work until 10 pm, the au pair is on duty & responsible overnight (even if they are sleeping. So long as they are the responsible adult, they are on duty) and then they could drop the kids at school/daycare or another babysitter can come on at 8 am. I’ve never heard of an agency not allowing overnights because we have many au pairs who assist with newborns and take either late night or morning shifts. I would make sure to check the agency rules!

Peachtree state May 26, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I agree. Our aupair was obained on the chance that either my husband, myself or both were called out during the night. It happened four times when I was deployed and my husband was here alone and once when my husband was called home when his father was in the hospital and I was working a 24 hour shift (talk about a real bind). We always counted the hours, gave an extra gift card for the unexpected 24 hour stint. Our aupair was WONDERFUL, totally understood, called my father in law “grandpa” and seemed glad to do it. Wish she could have stayed forever!!

Deb Schwarz May 26, 2013 at 2:01 pm

This is an interesting question. I have heard about a host dad (an attorney) that argued that the clock started over again at midnight, so the 10 hours in a row rule starts anew. This seems like abusing the 10 hour rule. Having said that, it’s my understanding that overnights are allowed, as long as they are 1) counted in their hours, and 2) aren’t longer than 10 hours. If there are instances where your husband isn’t in town, then you might want to consider hiring a babysitter to be there from 7pm until 10pm or so – to enable the 10 hour rule to prevail.

Congratulations on the job – sounds like it was well-earned. Exciting times!

Deb in SC
(formerly in CA) – I’m back!

Busy Mom May 28, 2013 at 8:06 am

Welcome back, Deb! Nice to see your name again…

Au Pairs in Australia May 27, 2013 at 2:03 am

Au pairs are young girls, not experienced mums, they need a full night to rest and recover, they should not be requested to work at night and then work next day for safety of our children

HRHM May 27, 2013 at 7:19 am

I disagree wholeheartedly! They are adults who could be asked to work a night schedule in any number of industries – usually involving a whole lot more work than sleeping in their own bed and being available to “nightmare duty”. When I was 22, I was the night manager at a testing lab, had to be awake and alert every week day from midnight to 8am (plus the one hour commute on either end) and did this for 2 years straight!
We aren’t asking them to be up all night standing by the door, we are asking them to be the sleeping adult in the house. While I don’t schedule my AP to do 2 , ten hours consecutive shifts, I would have no heartburn asking her to do the overnight and then get the kids off to school in the morning. I wouldn’t expect this if my kids were babies and would have her up all night, but really, in school aged kids, most APs would be grateful to use up half their hours in one week sleeping. And it seems most APs seem to have no trouble staying up all night to go clubbing…

AnotherSeattleHostMom May 27, 2013 at 10:13 am

Totally agree with HRHM. I’m a nurse. And while I rarely did overnights (when I was Au pair age or now), I can tell you that younger nurses tend to do a lot better switching day and night shifts around than we older nurses. I know many 22-26 year old ICU nurses who work 12 hour overnight shifts. Trust me, it’s harder than looking after kids overnight… Even those who aren’t perfect sleepers (although I agree that if kids are really bad sleepers this should be an occasional task vs regular schedule and at least a 10 hour break between shifts if she’s expected to be awake for feedings, etc)

Julia May 27, 2013 at 3:05 am

I did work nights once in a while and I also did a couple of times 2 or 3 nights and days in a row and yes it is definitly harder. I didnt sleep as well as I would normally do because I was just afraid something would happen when I was sleeping.
If you really can organize it that she only works 10 hrs and then you are back home I think it is totally fair to her and as said before I would love to be paid for sleeping right now. and which au pair wouldnt love it to have an extra day off because she already worked 5 nights and is done for the week. I think the major word is as usual communication and see what she has to say and how she feels about it.

SKNY May 27, 2013 at 7:35 am

Again depends on the child’s age. My younger still wake up multiple times during the night, and my middle one still has “spells”where she wakes in the middle of the night and spends HOURS awake. I would not leave an au pair in charge at night AND expect her to work in the morning (or day).
I’d be ok with 2-10hs shifts IF they were school aged and slept all night

StudentHostmom June 1, 2013 at 8:17 am

OP here again – both of mine sleep soundly 8pm-7am, rarely a peep out of them. And then off to school by 9am. :)

SKNY May 27, 2013 at 7:36 am

The au pair who works in out cluster watching 4yo triplets EVERY night fom 10-7 is exhausted, and has told us she is ready for rematch. just waiting for her class to be done in June.

Edina Stone May 27, 2013 at 10:09 am

Hi – I saw this subject on google, and came to visit your blog, which I have not seen in almost a year! I wanted to comment here, as it is very clear that no au pair may work during evening hours (sleeping while parents are not in the home is considered “work” by the US Dept. of State, and as it should be). Your agency probably told you this before you signed up. It is in the contract, because no agency is allowed to work au pairs during the night hours. This law is to protect both host families and au pairs (who are young and need their sleep). If you want to work during the night and no parent is home, then the au pair program is not for you! Hope this helps.

Dorsi May 27, 2013 at 11:37 am

Oh Edina! This is not even a tiny bit true! What is an evening hour? Are all APs off at 5pm? 6pm? Are host families allowed to go out in the evening? Until midnight? Are they are allowed to work early in the morning?

The truth is that there are no set hours of the day that APs are prohibited from working — the restriction is that APs cannot provide “round the clock” care — 24 or more hours in a row while parents are traveling. The limit is ten hours in a row, any ten hours. Please cite State Department (or even a single agency policy) if this is not true. You are spreading disinformation.

Au Pairs need sleep and any Au Pair working a 10 hour night shift should be counseled about the importance of sleeping when she is off so that she is not chronically tired. As mentioned above, all kinds of 20 year olds work overnight. There are 14 other hours in the day and no excuse for not getting enough sleep. I have worked night shifts and don’t have a lot of patience for hearing about how hard it would be to work 10p-7a with no other responsibilities.

I hope everyone realizes that many people write empty comments (complaints on the spelling?) on this blog in order to post a link to their own website — google increases page rank if there are many external sites that point to your website. Au Pairs in Australia is the most egregious example of this.

cv harquail June 11, 2013 at 9:14 am

Dorsi, sorry I missed this earlier and thanks for the correction. You’re right, too, that comments slip in from spammers who want to lodge a link… I try to delete them, but sometimes I just miss them. ;-)

HRHM May 27, 2013 at 2:48 pm


I guess you didn’t bother to read through this thread – the quote from CCs own website above would go to prove that it isn’t at all against their rules! I would expect better fact checking from someone who purports to be an expert on Au Pairs!

hOstCDmom May 27, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Blatant misinformation Edina. Check your facts before you post.

Host Mom in the City May 27, 2013 at 11:19 am

I actually thought overnight work was against the rules entirely, so I admit I haven’t really thought this through. But I’m personally uncomfortable with the idea of asking an au pair to work overnight and particularly uncomfortable with asking her to do two 10-hour blocks in a row. I suppose if the particular au pair really and truly doesn’t mind, then that goes along with the pet sitting in that things can work out for the au pair and the host family with slightly bending the rules. For example, an au pair that is asked to use up 20 of her hours from like 4pm Saturday to noon Sunday and then gets tons of time off that week.

But an au pair routinely working nights and routinely working 20 hours in a row? I feel like that goes against the intent and spirit of the program. I can see au pairs “agreeing” to this schedule because they want to match or because they don’t want to be sent home or don’t feel like they can say no. But it seems like that schedule would leave very little room for an au pair to enjoy any cultural experiences, making friends, getting to known the host family, and all the other intangible benefits that au pairs get out of their year.

In fact (and obviously I’ve said this many a time before), for host families that use all 45 hours, au pairs are cheaper financially than nannies. I personally think that the benefits the au pair gets from the family (room and board, cell phone, car, food, pretty much all expenses) combined with the intangible benefits au pairs get (cultural exchange, English fluency, better job prospects upon return home, visa, gaining another family, etc) make being an au pair a much better total package than being a nanny. For proof of that, we need typically to look no further than the typical life of an au pair versus the typical life of a nanny trying to get by on just a nanny salary.

In order to protect these intangible benefits, there are the rules for the program about how many hours au pairs can work and when, how the family is supposed to treat the au pair, etc. When host parents ignore or bend these rules, the difference between the au pair compensation package and the nanny compensation package gets closer.

Night nannies make a premium because it is difficult work. People don’t sleep as well when they are on duty even if the kids are sleeping. The au pair then has to sleep during the day, which is an atypical schedule and therefore makes meeting friends difficult. Very little about taking care of kids in the middle of the night is the good work and it becomes difficult to have a connection with kids when everyone is tired and you don’t get to play and have fun. Again, as compared to what a night nanny would make and eliminating many of the intangible benefits of the au pair package, the compensation the au pair gets starts to look like taking advantage to me.

Anonomomma May 27, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Okay I have a question – for those who say that an AP cannot work overnight on her own please explain the difference between an AP who is babysitting when she knows that the HPs will not be home until the early hours of the morning to HM going to work at 6pm until 6am?

I mean if an AP is babysitting for a date night – she is left on her own at night and if date night extends into a party night with friends (as mine frequently do) then what’s the difference.

Host Mom in the City May 27, 2013 at 2:44 pm

I guess I’m one of the ones “against” it, although I did say that I think it would be ok every once in a while and only if the au pair was seriously ok with it. What I think I might be against is as I said “an au pair routinely working nights and routinely working 20 hours in a row.” That said, the obvious difference is if the kids are young enough to wake up in the night. The difference between being up every couple hours until midnight and up every couple hours until 6am is huge. But even if the kids don’t wake up, the au pair is presumably not sleeping soundly all night and then is probably woken by the host parents closing her door or something at 6am when they come home and then sleeps all morning. And then hopefully isn’t working again that day.

Is that the worst thing in the world? Obviously not. Is it doable? Most certainly. Many people work the night shift (and there is documented proof that it really messes with your body). The example you’ve given I don’t think would matter that much. If that was your au pair’s schedule every day, then that’s what I wouldn’t be ok with.

HRHM May 27, 2013 at 2:44 pm

There is none. I think most the folks who are against it are either a) against using more than 10 hours at a time (reasonable observation of the SD rules) or b) have some weird notion that it’s harder for an AP to work nights than it is for HP to take care of their kids at night or for the same 20 year old girl to work at night in a factory in Russia!

MidAtlantic Host Family May 27, 2013 at 6:18 pm

I think the 20 hours straight is unwise given the priority is to keep the children safe and au pairs are not professional childcare providers. They are very young adults providing childcare as part of a cultural exchange program. I would not test their ability to drive on no sleep with your children in the car or test their ability to supervise young children and keep them safe while operating on no sleep.

10 hours straight overnight does not seem like a problem to me and could result in a mild schedule, especially if during the week freeing up more extended weekend time for travel/social life. For example, it could result in 3 or 4 day weekends making weekend trips more possible to see other parts of America.

Frankly, I have seen the agencies bend almost every rule when convenient for them so I would not hyper-focus on the agency rules. The agencies only point to the rules when convenient for them and otherwise ignore the rules when convenient for them.

Dorsi May 28, 2013 at 8:02 am

I work nights occasionally, and have had a few instances where I have needed night time child care coverage (husband traveling). In regards to the OP’s question — AP is not quite an ideal solution for this. I rarely have used my Au Pair for overnight, because I need her time the following day so that I can sleep. I do stick to 10 hours in a row, and would not expect an AP to work overnight and then manage the children the next day. I don’t expect myself to work overnight and then manage the kids the next day.

Host Mom in the City May 28, 2013 at 9:03 am

I posted about overnight hours in general, but in response to the OP’s specific question – I’m assuming you already have an au pair that you matched with based on brief morning hours and then then afternoons? If your contract does truly “strictly forbid leaving the kids alone with the au pair overnight,” then I would say that’s your answer. Also it sounds like it will vary week to week and could be two or three nights per week? That sounds like a really difficult schedule, particularly for an au pair who didn’t match based on that understanding. And of course, paying her extra to be on duty overnight in addition to her 30 or so hours she’s already working is way outside of the rules too.

Yes, they become like part of the family, but they are in fact employees that come with a contract of specific rules. A lot of the times au pairs are going to be ok with breaking certain of the rules, but I’m sure a lot of the time they just don’t feel like they have the choice. And anytime the host family starts breaking the rules, they lose their opportunity to enforce the rules themselves if the au pair and/or agency start bending them.

So there is obviously a larger discussion about whether overnight hours are acceptable in general of which I’m in the vast minority apparently, but if your agency specifically forbids them and your au pair signed with this agency under these rules, then it would seem particularly egregious to me to start asking her to work nights.

JenNC May 28, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Very interesting and hadn’t even thought about taking a night away and leaving kids at home with aupair. Especially for us with an 8 month old, maybe After she turns 1. I have a very responsible aupair and she would be fine with them over night. But it is all about following the rules and respecting her and the contract. Jen

Sugersnaps May 28, 2013 at 7:12 pm

I am a 911 Dispatcher and I switch Shifts every 8 Weeks,and when I go on the Graveyard Shift my Ap works overnight. She needs to sleep in the daytime just as I do.

CA Host Mom May 29, 2013 at 11:19 am

Just a couple follow up questions out of curiosity, Sugarsnaps … I assume that you had the same work schedule when you matched with your AP and she knew that she would be switching shifts along with you before she arrived in your home? Do your children sleep thru the night or do they require attention from the AP while she is “on duty”? Are they school-aged or infants/toddlers? Again, just curious as it sounds like this option works well for you. Thanks.

BoysMama May 28, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Having a great relationship with an AP works wonders in both directions. A few times a year my husband and I escape for a weekend or three nights and if my mom can’t come to cover the overnight part of the shifts we are always sure to schedule a babysitter for some of the daytime hours, and give our AP days/weekends/extra vacation days to make up for the few busy days/nights she goes above and beyond for us.

When we have a great AP, she understands our needs and we understand hers. I always worry that they ‘don’t feel they can say no’ so try to get her gifts and be very grateful in addition to giving her the extra time off. I also put the AP in charge of choosing when she would like the babysitter to work, leaving her in charge of her schedule as much as possible. I’ve noticed the APs really respond positively to that.

This is the only situation in which we will stretch the official rules of the program (I’m sure with overnights we go over the officially allowed hours a little sometimes – dinner and bedtime through off to school the next day is more than 10) as long as we are all OK with the arrangement. I know APs don’t sleep as well when they are home alone with the kids, I recognize it’s a big deal to ask this of them. When they offer to do it for us… they are so greatly endeared to our hearts! I’m constantly nudging our current Stellar AP to schedule more vacation time for herself! We want her to be happy because she makes us happy.

Didis May 29, 2013 at 2:29 am

the thing that would me, as au pair, bother the most is sudden change of plans. Unless is emergency or something extra important, I really dislike being told in last moment how my schedule will be next day, or evening.
I don’t have problem with working nights, weekends and anytime if it’s necessary, but I expect my hosts to ask/tell me at least week in advance so I can plan and arrange my free time properly.

Angie host mom May 29, 2013 at 3:50 am

Personally, I think 10 hours overnight scheduled in a night or two a week is reasonable. 20 hours in a row is frankly more desirable for the au pair probably – they tend to think they need less sleep than they really do – and then in essentially one day they’ve worked 2 1/2 days worth of hours, giving them a long weekend for a trip to LA! (or NYC, or whatever) I wouldn’t do it however, I can handle 20 hours with my kids without help :-) but don’t expect an au pair to do the same. They on occasion grossly underestimate their sleep requirements. I don’t – I know when I’ve totally overdone or been up all night with a sick kid and then sat with the other one the next day while sick kid is catching up on sleep – and need to turn on a movie for the kid and nap on the couch where she can poke me when there is a problem.

DCMomof3 May 29, 2013 at 1:22 pm

I do use my AP for overnight shifts. My husband is deployed in Afghanistan for a year and I do have to occassionally travel for work. When I am traveling for a week, I will fly my parents in to help out. When I am gone on a Friday night, I will have the AP drop off the kids with one of my friends. But, if I have to be gone from Monday – Wednesday and the kids all need to get up and go to school in the morning, the best solution for me is to have them stay with the AP who is sleeping in the house anyway and who does the morning routine each day with them anyway. Yes, the overnight until they go to school is more than 10 hours, but most of it is when they are all asleep anyway. And, I always give my AP extra time off when I get back (like a 4 day weekend) and bring her dresses or some other nice present from wherever I go. I think she actually likes it when I am gone because she can have a relaxed routine with the kids (for example, I know they watch movies in the evenings, which I usually do not allow on school nights) and then she gets a long weekend. So, for 2 parent households, I can understand how asking an AP to work overnight may not be entirely on the up and up (its not for single parent households either) in some cases when there really is only one parent in the picture, it is hard to avoid. Whenever I’ve asked her to do this, I do frame it as “I know I am asking you to break the rules and its ok if you say no” but usually she is happy to just negotiate a few extra days off. Now, if I ever asked her to work on the weekend or to watch the kids over the weekend, that would not be met with such a pleasant response….

Host Mom in the City May 29, 2013 at 2:19 pm

It sounds like this arrangement works for you and I certainly understand that it’s difficult to have your husband away for a year and at some point you’ve just got to do what you need to get by. I admit that I’m a stickler for the rules in general – that’s just my personality – and it makes me very uneasy to hear of host parents routinely asking an AP to work more than 10 hours in a row (even if she’s sleeping during most of those hours).

I don’t feel like just because of someone’s family situation (single parents, traveling parents, whatever) that that gives license to break the explicit agency rules or to ask the au pair to do so. I don’t agree that it’s “hard to avoid” breaking the rules when there is only one parent in the picture. The rules are the rules. If the au pair rules or the intent of the program don’t work for your life situation, then I would suggest that an au pair isn’t the right childcare option or that another option needs to be added to the au pair.

I completely get that it’s easier for the host parent if they can use the hours whenever, but I wouldn’t want an au pair or the agency to tell me that they are breaking a rule because it’s easier for them or because it’s hard to avoid. I seem to be the only poster that feels the same way about asking an au pair to pet sit too, so maybe I’m unnecessarily focused on the rules? Both Cultural Care and Au Pair in America explicitly say that pet duty is not to be assigned to an au pair. APIA actually says specifically that you cannot ask an au pair to care for your pet even while you’re on a vacation. But the other thread was mostly host parents saying that they’ve asked their au pairs to do so and the au pairs agreed and that sometimes breaking the rules is ok if everyone agrees to it.

Do other host parents feel like the 10-hour at a time rule exists for a reason or that it’s frivilous? That it should be done away with entirely? It sounds like some posters think you should just be able to schedule the 45 hours however and whenever you want. I seem to be in the minority about this, so I’m willing to be convinced otherwise, but it just seems to me like there are few very clear regulations to the au pair program and that those ought to be followed. Working a max 10 hours at a time is one of those that seems very clear to me.

Emerald City HM May 29, 2013 at 3:39 pm

I agree with you, I’m a stickler for the rules. I will add that right now our situation makes this a little easier fopr us personally because my son can usually watch our girls if our au pair is going to be at 10 hours for the day. That or I pay my cousin to come watch them. With him going off to college I really need to start the search for part-time babysitters…

The pet care is one that I’m kind of ‘eh’ on, since that seems to vary agency to agency. APC has in their host family thrive guide “When your au pair performs tasks that are not part of her/his normal chores – such as emptying the dishwasher or walking the dog – be sure to acknowledge these efforts.” So they explictily do not forbid it, but they do clarify that it can’t be an assigned chore. I will add a disclaimer that we do not currently have pets and we are cat people anyway, so that wouldn’t apply to us.

State department rules we will always follow. Agency rules, some of them are really kind of out there and I would have to go with a different agency if my situation didn’t fit within their rules or I didn’t get a waiver. For example, whatever agency doesn’t allow an au pair to dispense medication. That is an agency rule I have a problem with. While we don’t have a direct need for that right now, if one of our girls needs antibiotics or something in the future, I certainly don’t want to drive home each day to give it to her. APC suggests that we fill out a from that gives the au pair permission to take our girls for medical treatment even.

So for me the line I guess is state department or agency rules and if I didn’t agree with an agency rule, well I’d either negotiate that with the agency or find a new agency. I absolutely agree with the 10 hour / 45 hours a week rule. 10 hours a day with my girls is exhausting. :)

Host Mom in the City May 29, 2013 at 3:52 pm

That’s a good way to think about it, Emerald City HM. For example, Cultural Care has a rule that the 1.5 days off must be consecutive, which means that if an au pair is scheduled on a daily split schedule (before school and after school), the host parents can’t have her work Saturday night. I’ve heard of host parents switching from CC because of this rule, which is particularly bothersome when you only have your au pair working like 25 hours a week because of the split schedule but you can’t ever go out on a Saturday night.

I’ll add that we also have had to get a babysitter in addition to our au pair. The year that we used our au pair for 9-hour days Monday through Friday, we also paid a sitter twice a month or so so we could go on dates or if we had an evening meeting to attend. I would have loved of course to have asked our au pair to just work more than her hours, but felt that it wasn’t appropriate. Other host parents seem to supplement au pair hours with preschool or daycare time or have grandparent step in. An au pair isn’t necessarily going to fulfill every one of your childcare needs for the whole year.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 29, 2013 at 6:17 pm

When my kids were little and one parent was traveling, we would ask a family member to come stay with us so we could keep our AP within a 45-hour week (I still had to take leave from work, but it kept me sane – AP #1 had been a PICU nurse, so she had far more experience doing double-duty than I). Now that they’re older, we don’t need help when one parent travels – we just schedule the AP for a slightly longer day – but well within the 10 hr day/45 hr week.

I would be careful about being loose with the rules. Unless you have a fantastic relationship with your AP, it could come back at you. The LCC is there to enforce State Dept regs for both parties.

DCMomof3 May 30, 2013 at 9:02 am

I hear you on the rules. The last time my husband was deployed and my kids were smaller, I had a full time nanny to work the day shift while I was at work and an au pair to work primarily with me during evenings and part of the weekend so that I would not be alone wtih 2 babies all the time. I think I spent more than $60k on child care that year, but I followed all the rules! This time around, I am in year # 2 with an au pair who knew that if she extended with us, her second year would be while my husband was deployed. She agreed to do it and while I have periodically left her overnight with the kids while he has been gone, we have still never exceeded the 45 hours per week. But, overall, I do completely agree that following all of the rules is the best way to go. Maybe I find a slight distinction between an occassional overnight and routinely paying your AP to work overtime. But, maybe I am simply justifying my own behavior.

HostMomX May 30, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Augh! Just wrote a really long response from personal experience and it got erased when I submitted because I forgot to fill in my name and email. So I’ll just ask the question that I asked at the end:
For those of you who are real and true sticklers for the 45/10 rule (i.e. never, ever break it) and bring in extra babysitters to supplement, e.g. if you have a slightly longer day at work, or for occasional weekend babysitting, do your APs ever ask if they could work those extra hours and make the extra cash? And do you just say no, that you don’t feel comfortable breaking the rules? And does that cause any resentment or weirdness? (e.g. if the AP really would have liked to make the extra cash, or just feels strange having a babysitter in the house when she is right there, e.g. on a Saturday night when the kids are sleeping and the babysitter just watches TV while the AP does the same thing in the other room?) And if so, what do you do to deal with that?

(The gist of my post was that we too try very hard to be sticklers, but when we have brought in babysitters to supplement, our APs have then approached us and asked if they could work the extra hours instead for the extra pay, as long as they were available at those times. Same in the pet-sitting context. One AP in particular had indicated when she started in no uncertain terms that she neither wanted to ever work extra hours, or to petsit, but then after experiencing a stranger in the house to walk and feed the dog while we were away, or feeling weird being at home while another babysitter came in, asked us why we didn’t just ask her first if she would do those things.)

Host Mom in the City May 30, 2013 at 9:09 pm

We’ve not once gone over 10 hours a day, 45 hours a week or asked our au pair to watch additional kids or pets (we don’t have any). The year we were with CC, we always made sure she had 1.5 consecutive days off, etc. We’re rule followers :) neither of my au pairs has ever asked for additional hours and even when we’ve had other sitters, they’ve rarely been around since it’s typically on a Saturday night or another night that they’ve been out anyway. I get the feeling they’re happy to go out and not have to work.

We do say in our handbook that we send before matching that we will always stay within the rules, so maybe they know not even to ask. My husband is a federal employee, which has come up casually a couple times with both au pairs – essentially, we feel like for his clearance, we need to make sure we’re following federal rules. So I think if someone did ask to work extra hours for extra pay, we’d probably explain why we weren’t comfortable with that due to wanting to stay within the rules and due to my husband’s clearance.

NoVA Twin Mom May 31, 2013 at 8:53 am

My husband and I both have clearances we’d like to keep as well. We also follow the rules to the letter (although, as mentioned below, I’d LOVE if the 45 hour maximum could be lifted to 50… would make our staggered commute easier…)

Anyway, in addition to being a rule follower, we’ve noticed across three au pairs that even the best ones seem to “turn off” after 10 hours. They just start staring into space rather than watching our toddlers. I get it – toddlers are hard – but it really drives home for us the reasons that we don’t schedule our au pair for more than 10 hours at a time – they tune out after a certain amount of time.

In addition, my husband and I each commute about 90 minutes each way to work, with staggered departure times to not go over 9 to 10 hours a day. Recognizing that there WILL likely be a problem at some point during the au pair’s year that will bollocks up our commute enough that we’ll go over her hours (which will of course result in effusive thanks and probably cash gifts and extra time off), we don’t want to go over her hours on purpose. If we’re going to go over 10 hours, I’d rather it be due to a monstrous commute following an earthquake or unexpected snowstorm (both are unusual here but have happened since our girls were born) – therefore something unexpected but universal, where we can be in contact via phone or internet while its happening – than because we planned to do it. The LCC understood when it unexpectedly took some HPs 7 hours to go 20 miles after a mid-day blizzard in 2011, so they went over their hours. EVERYONE was having that problem and it was all over the news, plus all evening classes were cancelled and malls closed, so the au pair’s plans likely fell though for the evening. She will likely not understand if we regularly planned to go over our hours, even if we were paying the au pair extra.

We have our own spin on the pet care too – we tell our au pairs upfront that we can’t require them to feed the cat (and don’t want them to if they don’t want to), but the cat will continue to complain loudly if an adult is nearby and she hasn’t been fed. Therefore, if they’d like the noise to stop, the cat food is kept in the laundry room and the cat gets a small can twice a day. Just let us know that you’ve fed her so we don’t feed her double.

DCMomof3 May 30, 2013 at 9:44 pm

With AP #1, I allowed some rules to be broken and once the floodgates were opened, it was very difficult to shut them again. For the last few months of her extension year with us, I knew that she took occassional babysitting jobs on the side and never said anything about it. Then, the situation got really out of hand to the point that a neighbor would ask her to go babysit overnight when she got done with her shift at our house. It then had to get ugly between me and AP who felt like I was trying to cut off her freedom to go out and make money (which I was). So, when AP #2 showed up, I became much more of a stickler for the rules. AP # 2 sent me an email a few weeks after she arrived about how she wished I would not get a babysitter on the weekends so I could go out and exercise when she was home anyway and living in our house as a family member. It was very sweet. She basically said that in her family, if an adult wanted to go out, whoever was still home just watched the kids and she wanted it to be that way with us too. As with any AP, they are much more enthusiastic in the beginning and I felt like this willingness to help out would wane over time (in addition to being a violation of the rules since I was using her full 45 hours during the week). I explained that to her and she was graceful about it, but I do think that it made her feel like more of an employee and less of a family member.

HostMomX June 3, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Thanks, folks. I wonder if CV might start a separate post on this topic, because I’d love to see other perspectives as well. I think it is an interesting point that you brought up, DCMomof3 – that your AP felt somewhat rebuffed as a family member that you refused her offer. I know our favorite AP would have felt the same (I think she would have felt slighted if we refused her offer to have “right of first refusal” over extra hours, both because she wanted to make the extra cash, but also because she would have felt that we were putting up some kind of wall; and I don’t THINK she ever felt taken advantage of, which is obviously the real danger here for APs, in addition to just simply breaking the rules – she would always tell us if she had other plans, etc., and we would often get other babysitters if she could not do it; but we would give her right of first refusal).

CA Host Mom June 3, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I agree with HostMomX on this … would be great to see a post dedicated to this topic. We are currently dealing with this very thing but have not yet “broken the rules” by accepting our APs repeated offers of having her watch the kids and put them to bed on the rare occasion that we go to dinner on a week night.
I also get the sense that it rubs our AP the wrong way to think that we would “rather pay someone else” than pay her for the extra time.

MidAtlantic Host Family June 3, 2013 at 2:44 pm

We have heard this complaint from other familys’ au pairs – they want the money to watch the kids and feel slighted. Coincidentally, it came up in our house over the weekend. We made it clear that we follow the rules. If you end up in rematch, the first thing your au pair will cite will be all the broken rules, especially the one being discussed – which has no wiggle room. Rematch can happen for all kinds of reasons having nothing to do with the HF (like the au pair wants to see the other coast) and when it does the au pairs’ Facebook groups tell them exactly what to say, like you paid them to work too many hours and they had no choice, “made” them watch the dog, etc. In turn, this forces you to explain yourself to the agency while securing back-up child care and everything else rematch forces on a HF. Obviously, HF’s have had very positive experiences paying their au pairs for the extra hours and many au pairs have been thrilled with it to help fund more travels/iPads/iPhones, but be forewarned.

cv harquail June 11, 2013 at 9:20 am

Hi host mom x– which point would you like to expand on in a new post/convo, the point about breaking the rules, or the point about giving your au pair the ‘right of first refusal’ if you need weird or extra or emergency childcare coverage? Let me know and we can set that up.

see also:
Au Pair Advice: Best Practices for Overtime Hours

AnotherSeattleHostMom May 29, 2013 at 2:52 pm

First I will say that I feel those rules ARE in place for a reason, like the safety and sanity of the Au Pairs and the children they care for. And a line needs to be drawn somewhere and I guess 45 hours/10 hour days is a good enough line. It is necessary to protect the APs and the families with these rules.

On the other hand, it is a cultural exchange but there is also a “job” involved and as stated above, there are plenty of young women in positions of even greater responsibility who work overnight, more than 50 hours/week, more than 10 hours per day. So maybe the current rules are a little more protective than necessary?

For us, we don’t ever really need more than 10 hours per day, but with two NOT school-age kids (2 and 4 year old), I wish there were an option to have the AP work more like 50 hours/week (for extra pay, obviously). With our commutes and sometimes early starts and late days, this would make our lives a lot less stressful. Prior to having an Au Pair we had a nanny (who was 23 years old..younger than our current AP) who worked 50ish hours per week, I think it’s very common for professional nannies to work about 50 hours/week. I know APs aren’t “nannies” but let’s be honest…they are used in the same way.

I did previously work 12 hour shifts at my job (I’m a nurse) so having that extra flexibility to have the AP work longer hours for families with these kinds of schedules (as long as all was agreed at time of matching). I worked 3 12’s and had 4 days off every week. What Au Pair wouldn’t love that?

I think it would be nice if there was the option to hire (at time of matching) an Au Pair who WOULD be able to work 50-55 hours per week with 12 hour/day rules (and maybe a rule about TWO full days off per week vs. 1.5 so she really can rest?)or some variation of that, as mutually agreed by family, agency, and AP with increased compensation and perhaps an extra week of holiday. This would seem to fit families working your typical daytime professional jobs who don’t really need childcare on weekends and give the AP her weekends off.

Host Mom in the City May 29, 2013 at 3:18 pm

AnotherSeattleHostMom – I definitely agree that keeping it to 45 hours can be difficult for parents that work full-time. My husband and I are out of the house for 8.5 hour days plus hour-long commutes on either side, for a total of 10.5 hours most days. We’ve had to stagger our schedules and rush home at the end of the day so that we can use our au pair for 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, with no time left over. My husband also travels one week a month, so on those weeks I take leave or have my mom help or just cobble it together to make sure we’re staying within the requirements. Definitely understand that it would be easier to have more au pair time and definitely agree that I’d be happy to pay more (we already host extraordinaires, which cost about $4,000 more in stipend and fees than regular au pairs).

Also definitely understand that plenty of people work long hours or overnight hours or any number of non-9-to-5 type jobs.

But I feel like as we make the au pair job look more like a nanny job (where a typical week would be 45-55 hours) or say that “tons of other people work nights or 12-hour shifts so why can’t an au pair” then we start to detract from the point of the au pair program. Which yes, is a job, but also is a cultural experience and year of fun and growth for the au pair. Yes, there are au pairs who come to make money or to really gain childcare experience, but I would imagine those are few and far between. Most come to have an experience, to practice their English, as a gap year before moving on to their “real” careers. Even if their real careers do involve children, being an au pair is not their be-all-end-all goal. I feel like the time limitations help to preserve the intent of the program. It is not a nanny job. If a host parent wants a nanny, they should get a nanny. If a host parent needs someone to work 55 hours a week, then why not just get a nanny?

Veronique May 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I was AuPair used to live with the mom. She was always busy at work and I usually could never complain about the hours I worked. Anyway, there were times when it was just REALLY unorganized and I was told to work all day because the kid was “sick” (pretended to be sick to stay at home from school) so I was scheduled to work 8am till 8pm… LONG DAY. The mother was so busy at work and asked me to babysit till 4am and then start the next shift at 7.30am. The entire week went like that and I worked Monday-Friday 75h. I told both parents that I could use a night off and the response was “why do you need a night off, you were off all weekend”. There was no thank you, or a day off or something. I wouldn’t have mind to babysit at all overnight, but without a notice or a thank you. I was exhausted and really mad. This happened at least 3 times during my stay. It was not an emergency and there were other choices.

HRHM May 30, 2013 at 9:16 am

I don’t think anyone hear is advocating treating an AP this way. If you were in the US, then your HPs were obviously in gross violation of the program and SD rules.
As in the case of the OP, most of us are just reitterating that there is no reason that an AP can’t work overnight if the hours fit with the 10/45 rule.

Europhile May 30, 2013 at 8:41 am

We hosted APs for almost 5 years, and I always had my kids in daycare for a couple of days as well, to ensure the AP wouldn’t burn out prematurely and had enough free time to benefit from her year abroad. That’s not possible for everyone, of course, and I am aware that many daycare centers don’t accept children on a part time basis. All that said, while some people are sticklers for the rules, I think having an open communication line with the AP is key — if everyone gives a bit, everyone wins. Has worked for us for many years, with many happy APs.

PA AP Mom May 31, 2013 at 2:46 pm

I’m having surgery on Monday morning and I have to be at the surgery center at 630am. DH and I have decided to stay in a hotel on Sunday night that is close to the surgery center. Our AP will be on duty from 8pm, when we leave, until 8am when our boys get on the bus for school. Yes, it is over 10 hours and yes it is overnight but our boys go to bed at 10pm and they sleep until 7am when she wakes them up. They do not require any care during the night, unless of course there would be an unusual situation, which is why the AP needs to be there.

Our AP is almost 23 and feels like she doesn’t mind the occasional request. I have offered before to have my mom come and stay over as well but the AP thinks that is silly given that the kids are sleeping nearly the entire time.

As a bonus for her flexibility, I also got her a small gift and we are going to give her some extra time off during the week. Her work hours will still be less than 30 for the entire week.

Is it against the rules??? yes. Does it work for us? yes again.

PA AP Mom May 31, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Should have said “boys go to bed at 9pm” not 10pm.

MidAtlantic Host Family May 31, 2013 at 6:04 pm

I think the comments have discussed drastically different scenarios which is the point of the discussion. The surgery/severe illness scenario is clearly a rare exception to the norm and, echoing others, I think as long as there is good communication and everyone is on the same page – even Federal clearances should, in my personal opinion, be secure.

PA AP Mom May 31, 2013 at 6:05 pm

I completely agree, MAHF.

PassionateWorrier July 16, 2013 at 4:09 am

Even though my AP contract didn’t allow it, I (voluntarily) did two over-night shifts during the course of my AP year.

The first one after about half a year due to two overlapping business trips. Having the sole care of four little ones (1 to 13) I was so worried I might miss one of them calling for me that I slept in the guest room. We had the boys in the basement, the girls on the second floor – I felt safer sleeping in the first floor guest room than in my room. The children thought it was amazingly funny.

The second time was at the end of my stay, when my HM gave birth and I had the three oldest plus a cousin while we waited at the hospital (grandpa took the little one home with him).

Thing is – I knew the children rather well when I first had them over night. And besides the youngest they were all able to tell me any problems they might have. I do not think that I would have felt comfortable with an infant (SIDS) or had I not known the children well or been accustomed with their routines.
When it was obvious that overnight care was required for more than one night (or during my first couple of months) granny & grandpa were there. Yes, we did share duties even at night (e.g. when little one was inconsolable I was better at calming her down) but I was not alone and it wasn’t my sole responsibility. I had an adult who spoke the language, who had known the children since birth, who had raised children themselves by my side.

Also, caring for the children over night would be additional to my regular working hours.
I had regular day hours 7.30 to 5.30 M-F (and yes, I know that adds up to more than 45 hours a week and no, they were not always home on time but they were at work and thus I didn’t mind). HP not there and no grandparents to share the work with? 24-hour days. In emergencies, I didn’t mind but wouldn’t have worked for the family had that been the norm.

I might have been fine with bending the rules a little and doing 10+ hour night shifts had all the children been older (school-aged, teenagers) and had I then been off all day (e.g. having sole charge of children 8pm to 8am, with all children in bed by 9pm and no child duties between 8am and 8pm at all) when working nights and not working more than 45 hours per week.
If it was “one or two shifts a month where daddy might be there for about 50% of the cases” and if AP working hours were flexible enough to allow for extra time off during the previous and following work day, I think with an AP that is aware of the schedule, even though work might be required for more than 10 hours in a row, it would likely be okay-ish to just turn a blind eye on it. Two or three nights a week, with daddy usually traveling all week, plus additional hours during the day because mommy has to sleep after work (e.g. 8pm to 8am while mom is at work, 8.30am to 1pm while mom sleeps)… yeah, not an AP job. Two APs, additional childcare during the night with AP for the day, children in day-care while mommy is asleep… maybe.

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