“Pitching In”: What does that mean in your host family?

by cv harquail on July 15, 2014

What does it mean to “pitch in” with host family chores?

Pitching In (defn): To join the family in doing some everyday household upkeep, to help keep the household running smoothly

In anticipation of an au pair question that will get posted later this week, I wanted to sketch out the basic advice (okay, my aupairmom opinion) about what it means to “pitch in”.

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The idea that we ask our au pairs to “pitch in” — comes from the recognition of some simple facts of family life:

1.  Mess is a natural byproduct of living and living together. The mess in a household is created by everyone who lives there, doing basic things like walking in from the dusty outdoors, eating shared meals cooked in common pots, and tossing napkins into the kitchen trash can. “Mess” is the everyday, ongoing outcome of entropy.

(Note: Mess is not bathtub scum or dust in the corners of the stairs — that’s ‘dirt’ that is handled by ‘housecleaning’. Dirt and housecleaning are not au pair responsibiities.)

2.  Mess must be dealt with by the deliberate actions of washing off, picking up and putting away.

3.  Everyone in the household contributes to this mess.   

4,  When an additional person joins the household, there will be an incrementally increase on the overall amount of mess.

5.  Who precisely is responsible for which mess, and for how much of that mess, is impossible to calculate accurately. We can’t have each adult who ate dinner clean just one-third of the casserole dish, or sweep one third of the kitchen floor, or sort through the recycling bin to bring only their diet coke cans to the curb.

6.  Everyone is responsible for clearing up shared mess.

When we ask au pairs to pitch in, we’re asking them to contribute to maintaining the household, given that having an additional adult probably also creates an additional amount of work.

Here’s where a challenge arises:

Since we can’t tell exactly what and how much of the common mess can be attributed to any specific person, how do we now how much an au pair should pitch in?
How much is fair?

To answer this, we need to recognize the nature of the au pair role. When we describe an au pair as ‘on par’ or ‘as equal’ that means that he or she is equal to any other adult in the household in terms of being responsible for his or her share of what goes on. No more than a host parent, no less than a host parent.

  • The au pair is not “below” the host parent, there to pick up after the host parent or other adults in the household. The host parents can’t leave their towels on the floor of the bathroom and expect the au pair to pick them up and hang them on the towel rack.
  • The au pair is also not “above” the host parent. She or he can’t expect to swan out of the kitchen after dinner, expecting the host mom or dad to put her dishes in the dishwasher. Host parents are not there to clean up after the au pair.

Because it’s hard to assign proportions of household mess or specific kinds of household mess to one person or another, it can be hard to feel that everyone is actually ‘pitching in’ and doing her or his fair share of the common work.

In my own household, our au pairs have had the single, specific household chore of emptying the dishwasher. Originally they did this by themselves, and as the girls got older they were responsible for helping our au pairs with this chore.

From our Au Pair Handbook:
Our au pair should help the girls keep their room and playroom tidy and neat. We expect our au pair to help the children pick up their things and put them away each day, to keep the playroom (toys) organized, put her dishes in the dishwasher,  occasionally prepare dinner, help clear up after dinner, and keep her things in her bathroom and room tidy (we have a housekeeper who cleans other parts of the house). The only other “official” au pair household responsibility (besides those included in childcare) is to empty the dishwasher/dishdrainer, as a way of pitching in to keep our shared home running smoothly.

We did the dishwasher chore as a way to make the au pair’s pitching in concrete enough to demonstrate visibly that she was contributing, with work that was actually helpful, and in a way that “contained” the amount of pitching in so that it was hard to take advantage of her or to never be satisfied with how much she’d contributed. (Plus, this isn’t a smelly job like taking out the garbage or a servant-like job of washing the kitchen floor.)

Our au pairs would also help clean up after dinner when I cooked for both of us. If she happened to cook for us, I’d clean the pots, wipe the stove and put away leftovers. We would each clear up out own place at the table, and ‘pitch in’ with clearing up things like the salt, the ketchup, and the water pitcher. I would never expect an au pair to clean up after I cooked if she hadn’t been part of the meal.

If our au pairs were around when I came home with groceries, they’d almost always help me put them away. But, I’d never call them down from their room to put away groceries or laundry, the way that I do with my now teenagers.  This strategy seemed to work for our family.

Family Differences, Cultural Roles

Some cultures, and some families, may have different expectations about how common messes should be handled, and by whom. Some families expect that the men and women will be responsible for different areas of common mess (e.g., women = dishes, men= trash). Some families expect that individuals in specific family roles have different levels of responsibility for tidying up (e.g., mother 80%, dad 15%, grandma 5%).

Au pairs also bring with them expectations about who should clean up which kinds of mess, and how responsibilities should be divided in the family (e.g., some come from cultures where daughters do the dishes and clean the kitchen while sons go watch tv).

With my spouse and with our au pairs, I’ve always felt that it would even out in the wash — and it usually did. I credit the families of our au pairs with teaching their kids that ‘everybody has a roof, everybody helps’.

Often these expectations are unclear, and families and au pairs don’t even realize that they exit and that these expectations might conflict with a ‘all equal’ expectation of the au pair programs here in the ‘we try to be democratic and equal’ US of A.

Thinking abstractly for the moment–

How does your family define ‘pitching in’?
How do your expectations for host parents, au pairs, and other adults compare?
How do you guesstimate that an au pair has done his/her fair share of pitching in?



Repeataupair July 15, 2014 at 8:32 pm

In my host family, whoever is not cooking helps with dishes and cleaning up although the cook also does most of the time.
I do the dishes and help pick up the table. The dishes takes longer and that gives time to my HP to spend a few extra minutes with the kids. And I know that if one day I am going out right after dinner time and just have time to put my dishes in the dishwasher that’s okay.
I empty the dishwasher once a day, sweep the floor a few times a week in the dining room and sometimes kitchen if needed.
I try to help randomly if I see something needs to be done (aka get the trash out, wipe the counter, pick up something that fell…).
That being said if I pitch in as I was around but did not share the meal or so, my HM always tells me I don’t have to help, etc.

SeuteDeern July 17, 2014 at 9:26 am

We actually had the same rule :) If you did the cooking, you didn’t have to do the dishes. I tried to implement that at home now that I have my own (albeit small) family but unfortunately, it is not working out at all. I really liked that rule.

In my host family “pitching in” meant making sure that it superficially looked nice in the afternoon when mom came home. Loading/unloading the dishwasher, wiping off kitchen counters, picking up after yourself. Fortunately, we had many kids who were old enough to do their part of ‘pitching in’ (three kids aged 8 to 12) and whom I was allowed to make ‘pitch in’ (e.g. take out the trash, sweep the laundry room, fold their own socks, clean up dog vomit, wipe the table).

In reality, everybody over the age of 10 simply picking up after themselves already helped a lot. If you see a paper towel on the floor and pick it up, no matter if it is yours or not, the house will automatically look better. If you add an hour of common cleaning a week (dusting, vacuuming etc.) you have a ‘clean’ (though likely not immaculate) house even with five kids (+ friends) and three adults (+ visitors).

“Do as I do, not as I say,” my host mom used to say.
Set a good example to your au pair – by doing your share of housework; yes, you work all day but so does your au pair, caring for your children is her work, show her that you care about the cleanliness or your house after coming home from work – if she sees you streightening up after yourself, she will usually be much more willing to do the same. If she feels that she is the only one to ever do any cleaning, picking up, or pitching in, she might eventually feel used.

4th time lucky?! July 19, 2014 at 5:02 am

Seems like we are one of a few who have the opposite rule: whoever is cooking is also responsible to cleaning up; others pitch in, bring dishes into kitchen; wipe table, etc. but the main job is with the person who cooked, esp. cleaning the kitchen (we’ve got a dishwasher, so not too many dishes to be done). We’ve taken this approach from when we were flatting and it’s to ensure that HP have at least one night a week entirely off from dinner chores (we expect our AP to cook one a night a week).

Generally, I agree with posts below that pitching in is ‘helping where it’s not necessarily expected but needed’. In our HHHB, we don’t specify chores for the AP but we clarify that we don’t want her staying with us to result in more work for us, that she’s an adult, not a child, in our household and as such will be required to clean up after themselves and “help with day to day housework as a family member / flatmate, e.g. keeping the kitchen tidy, preparing the evening meal, loading and emptying the dishwasher, taking dry laundry off the line (especially if rain is coming), emptying the compost and rubbish bins if full, etc. These chores are for everybody and we expect that you will notice when they need doing and do them without being asked, especially during your working hours.”

Maybe too optimistic in some cases but so far it – mostly – worked. There was one who just simply did not understand what I meant by ‘tidy up after yourself’ and always left breakfast cereal packages on the kitchen counter and found it difficult to wipe the bench/ table or mop up coffee spills on the floor she made…

Skny July 15, 2014 at 10:22 pm

This is kind of a pet peeve. I cook homemade- from scratch – dinner daily. 2 of our previous Au pairs used to eat their meal, put their plates away and disappear without moving a finger.
It kind of made me feel like a restaurant owner as no assist was given with food, putting table, etc. last one wouldn’t even wait until everyone was done with dinner. She’d just leave the table when she was done and disappear…
My older daughter who is 17 does dishes daily as her chore, but would be nice to have help clearing the table, or putting away leftovers.

HRHM July 16, 2014 at 11:16 am

It happens once, it’s on them. It happens twice, it’s on you. :) No offense, but the only reason to have a peeve is if you told her your expectations and then she continued to fail to perform them.

I tell our AP (in our HHHB which this one actually seems to have READ! Yay) and in person at our first meal together – whoever cooks gets a pass at cleaning up. If I cook, the AP and kids are on the spot for putting away the leftovers, wiping up the table (plus HD if he’s there) If she cooks, she gets a pass. In reality, I help most days regardless.

The one thing I’ve learned after one bad AP after another is that active management is the only way I’m ever going to get what I want. Sucks but true.

Bay Area Host Mom September 2, 2014 at 2:06 pm

I agree with the IDEA that if it happens more than once then it your responsibility to communicate the expectation clearly however my most recent AP was just lazy and did not care! She would literally sneak off when nobody was looking and everyone was still cleaning up. She was only helpful if I gave her explicit instruction and even then she broke things all the time. I cooked from scratch 100% of the time and she even consumed a lions share of the food. I got so frustrated about it I nearly asked her to start prepping her own dinners if she didn’t want to participate with the family but I did not want to send a bad message to the kids. Overall after about 100 little things such as this I decided to no longer host her.

Bay Area Host Mom September 2, 2014 at 2:13 pm

In addition to that, I would like to not that my AP was only working 4 hours per day, 5 days per week on average and my children are 8 and 11. There was no reasonable excuse to be too tired to help. Active management is often necessary however there is a difference that should be recognized between management and just dealing with a lazy individual that skirts by with doing the bare minimum and hopes it will be enough.

HRHM September 3, 2014 at 8:18 am

I agree. If, once you’ve communicated your expectations and needs, she still fails to perform, it’s on to rematch. No need to suffer for the remainder of the year so that she can use you as a hostel for her vacation year!

spanishaupair July 16, 2014 at 5:08 am

I think the key is find the balance. In my hf cooks who is home, usually my hm but sometimes i do. I gave up the tidying up part after two months when i started to tidy up they started to tell me to leave it that they will, so in general i keep kids entertained out of the kitchen and i put the staff away in the morning and empty the dishwasher and usually take back the bin after its emptied (was never asked to do but im usually home with kids at that time of the day).
But i have been in a family where the aupair was supposed to do all the cleaning and tidying after everynone.

Kimm Lucas July 16, 2014 at 9:54 am

I think having the au pairs pitch in with things like dishes and cooking is perfectly reasonable. Of course, they are not playing the housekeeper role, but certainly giving a helping hand such as drying pots and pans I have washed, putting leftovers away and bringing things to the sink is acceptable. If they aren’t joining the family for dinner one night, I wouldn’t expect them to clean up an activity they weren’t involved with. We didn’t have the luxury of a housekeeper, so we expected the au pair to vacuum and dust their room at least monthly, and to keep their bathroom, which happened to be a main floor bathroom which my kids used as well, straightened up. I would deep clean that bathroom weekly, but expected our au pair would not leave her stuff all over the
counter. If our au pairs cooked a family dinner, which was infrequent for most of them, we’d always help to purchase supplies for the meal, clean up, and enjoy the meal.

WestMom July 16, 2014 at 11:00 am

Your comment triggered a question…

Do you require your AP to clean her room regularly? I have never asked AP to clean her room. AP4 was diligent about vacuuming and mopping her room every week. On the other hand, I don’t think AP5 has cleaned her room even once (11 month now, which I do find a bit gross…). DH thinks it’s somewhat disrespectful of our property. Is it reasonable to ask AP to vacuum and clean her room once per month or so?

spanishaupair July 16, 2014 at 11:07 am

My hf requires me to clean once a week, really if i wasnt working full time i would feel thats not enough, but dont have time to clean more often. funny part they can keep the house dirty for a month if housekeeper doesnt come.

HRHM July 16, 2014 at 11:22 am

I tell my AP that once per week, she must change her sheets, vaccum and dust her room and fully clean her bathroom. I do include this cleaning time in her hours (I can afford to since she works so few to begin with – but would have no heartburn making her use her own time if I didn’t have the hours to burn).

The furniture, carpets, sheets, toilets, tubs, tile, etc will last twice as long if maintained properly. I don’t care if she’s neat in her room- she can leave her clothes piled on the floor, never make her bed, have stuff everywhere. But she has to be clean. This was a bone of contention with last AP and probably the primary reason we didn’t offer to extend. Think Peanuts’ Pigpen with the cloud of dust… :)

hOstCDmom July 16, 2014 at 11:23 am

We do.

We require our AP to:
keep room clean/tidy
wash her sheets every other week (done in combo with one host kids’s sheets; we have lots of kids/lots of beds, so there is a sheet washing schedule which includes APs)
vacuum room and damp mop floor weekly (everyone, including HKids required to do this weekly to their respective rooms)
make bed daily
keep door open when ON DUTY and NOT in room (bedroom back hallway, we want the light from AP bedroom to brighten hall)

hOstCDmom July 16, 2014 at 11:28 am

before I get flamed, we account for AP privacy –what I was trying to say with the last point is when AP is off duty and in room, she OF COURSE can have door closed 100% of the time; when she is on duty she shouldn’t be in her room, but if she is to change clothes or perhaps to make a call to a doctor or some other such personal, then OF COURSE door can be closed. But when she is ON duty and thus not in room, or OFF duty but not at home, door must be open. I realize some APs wouldn’t like this, but it matters to us and is required, which is why we spell it out, in bold, in our Handbook, which is disclosed prior to matching. :)

WestMom July 16, 2014 at 11:58 am

I get the door thing. I have actually started to ask the same when she is not on duty. There’s been too many mornings where we’ve tiptoed around the house to find out AP didn’t even sleep at home! I guess that’s our new sign that ‘I did not come back last night’.

I guess since AP sleeps in basement, I am not seeing the mess on a daily basis (I am a bit of a neat freak and I would not tolerate it if I witnessed the mess everyday!). AP is not allowed to eat in her room, and we have a cleaner taking care of the bathroom so it’s really confined to her room. But thanks for everyone’s advice on this. I’ll definitely be a bit more straight with my expectations when new AP arrives next month.

HRHM July 16, 2014 at 12:11 pm

This is actually one of the reasons that our AP doesn’t get offered the basement guest suite anymore! The last one kept her room so bad and I didn’t see it until it was time to list the house! When we moved into the new house, the AP room was designated at the top of the stairs, where it can routinely be noticed how dirty or clean it is.

exaupair July 16, 2014 at 3:29 pm

I kind of get your point, but quite frankly I wouldn’t accept a rule like that. Mostly because I’m a very private person and I wouldn’t want people to SEE my bedroom when I’m not around, or even when I’m around but I’m working somewhere in the house. I would never in my life be ok with a situation when I’m out of the house and the door to my room are kept open.
I wouldn’t also be too happy having to make my bed daily. I’m not against making beds, but I wouldn’t want to be told when to do it or to do it at all.

One question to hOstCDmom: is this rule made only because you want more light in the hallway, or do you somehow want to be 100% sure the AP doesn’t have any possessions not allowed in your home?

hOstCDmom July 17, 2014 at 12:30 pm

EX-AP- It is truly for the light and aesthetic. We live in a large, rambling, Victorian that has many, narrow hallways without windows/light unless the adjacent bedrooms/rooms are open. This particular back hall is at the top of our back kitchen stairs, and can been seen from our kitchen-den rooms. All visitors to our home see this stairway and the landing at the top. If the doors in this hall are closed it looks dark and dim…because it IS dark and dim. (2 children have rooms in this hallway, and they must keep their doors open too – same rule for all.) Also, guests would often use these stairs to get to the bathroom at the top of the stairs, so I don’t want AP’s (or host kids’) room to be a pig sty. We are an EXTREMELY CLEAN, TIDY, and ORGANIZED FAMILY — there is a reason for my AuPairMom moniker..!! :)

We also we have a family open door policy (kids doors open, we keep our door open) unless a person in the room is needing privacy, or folks are sleeping. But, we know not everyone is like this, or would like to live like this. Hence we are big believers in FULL DISCLOSURE when matching. We tell APs what standards we live by, levels of cleanliness and tidiness we expect, with many concrete examples, and tell them we will expect them to live that way too. It isn’t for everyone, but it is the way we want and need it to be in our home.

VIrginiaHostMom July 16, 2014 at 11:23 am

I do ask that our aupairs keep their room tidy. The younger aupairs tend to be messier and not pick up their rooms very often admitting that their parents did it for them however they expect my children under 10 to make their own beds and pick up in their own rooms. One even suggested that my kids put away their own laundry (including the 3 year old). This same aupair had NEVER once done her own laundry before arriving at our house. My kids rooms barely get dirty from day to day whereas the aupairs room can be heaping with piles of clothes, rarely vacuumed, etc.

I had one aupair that whose room was so dirty and disgusting that I had to have “room inspections” every couple of days. Food left open, used tampons on the bathroom floor, mattress half on and half off the bed, no bed sheets on the bed for days on end, must I go on! It was incredibly disrespectful to our property and someone else had to live in that space after she left.

I find that almost every aupair starts to slack in the “pitching in” by the end of the year and without a doubt I am always ready for them to move on by the last month. I find that I have to specifically write down the list of items that they need to do each day (things they once did without being asked). It is also classic that when the garage door goes up and my aupair (and previous aupairs) hear me coming they jump into action to start tidying up and act like they are hard at work when if fact they were texting friends or reading something on their iPhone or computer.

HRHM July 16, 2014 at 12:11 pm

I would have to rematch for that list in the second paragraph! Tampons? Yuck!

WarmStateMomma July 16, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Beyond gross!

exaupair July 16, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Used tampons on the floor?!?! There are some untidy people….and there’s THAT! I think I’d be tempted to rematch….

DC Metro Mom July 16, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Amen. That is just disgusting.

We have a rule, spelled out in the handbook and discussed, at length, that the AP room is to be vacuumed every two weeks, sheets washed, etc.

In addition, we have a trash can in the AP room and shared AP/DD bathroom (DD is a toddler, so the bulk of the trash is from AP) that we require to be emptied into the downstairs trash at least every week.

Finally, we do not allow any eating in the bedrooms. We have no desire to attract any critters aside from the dog.

Peachtree Mom July 17, 2014 at 3:52 pm

I agree with keeping the doors open when au pair is not in the room. We live in the deep south and if the doors stay closed, the rooms get a terrible musty smell and the bathroom will have a mildew monster.

SingleHM July 18, 2014 at 2:40 pm

My last au pair left (on several occasions) used pads, out in the open, in her bathroom (even on the sinktop!!). It was gross. She was a slob beyond belief and incredibly immature.

My new au pair seems a bit more tidy, and keeps her room in much better shape.

WarmStateMomma July 16, 2014 at 12:13 pm

AP#1 was disgusting and I almost cried when I saw what she was doing to the bathroom reserved for her. It was hurtful that she’d treat our property so badly, especially because she could see the rest of the house was not like that. Our house is only a few years old and it felt awful to see the granite countertops damaged in her first few months with us. We had to replace the toilet seat when she left and AP#2 had to use the toilet down the hall for the first couple of days because we didn’t know about the toilet on the day we switched APs. Our downstairs carpet has all kinds of food stains that she let the baby make because she couldn’t bring herself to confine the baby to the high chair when eating….

So with AP#2, our daily log asks if her bed/bath and the toddler’s bed/bath have been cleaned that week. I don’t check her space, but she has the door open all the time and you can tell it’s in good shape when you walk past. We have an unreliable cleaning lady who comes once a week, more often than not. She handles the heavier cleaning, so I know it’s done often enough.

AP#1 never lifted a finger to clean anything and just disappeared after dinner, so we had different rules the second time around. All adults help with clean-up from dinner, but the AP is off the hook if she made dinner or occupied the toddler while we were preparing dinner. The AP also empties the dishwasher at some point during the day if it’s full of clean dishes.

WarmStateMomma July 16, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Other pitching in I expect:

If the AP joins us on family outing or we take the AP somewhere at her request (DMV, friend’s house, etc.), she should participate in managing the toddler (prepping sippy cups, handing over snacks, etc.).

AP#2 actually pitches in far more than expected and always has a good attitude about it. In return, I’ve been forgiving about it taking her so long to get a driver’s license and am giving her the time to take a 6-day vacation next week without counting it against her vacation days. I let her know that the extra vacation is to thank her for pitching in so much, so hopefully she will continue to do her best and will see that we notice her efforts.

Kimm Lucas July 16, 2014 at 5:41 pm

We requested that our au pair keep her room tidy which meant vacuuming twice a month and dusting as necessary. We were never so specific as to require particular cleaning a certain number of times per week. With our next au pair, I will be specific as things like personal tidiness don’t seem to be happening naturally with the au pairs we’ve had the last few years. Our last au pair let our kids in her room at times, by her choice, and b/c one of my kids has dust allergies, I asked that she vacuum her room. We don’t have the luxury of a house cleaner, nor do I feel it ‘s my job to clean the au pair’s room. I think it important to be respectful of their space, but at the same time, it’s a space in my house.

HRHM July 16, 2014 at 11:41 am

In our house, pitching in includes:
emptying the dishwasher daily in the am
helping with meal prep and cleanup (when eating with us)
occasionally making a meal for the family
Taking the trash/recycle out to the garage can if the bag is full
moving HF wash to dryer if she is going to use the washer and it’s full
moving HF wash to basket if she is going to use the dryer and it’s full

her job includes:
cleaning her room, her bathroom, the kids rooms, their bathroom weekly
changing sheets for her and kids weekly
doing all kid laundry once per week, incl making sure it gets put away
cooking breakfast M-F and doing all post-cooking cleanup, including any floor messes, wiping counters (also expected when making meals for kids on date nights)
making kids pick up toys and keep rooms straight on a daily basis (she can supervise/ride them to do it or do it herself, but it has to be done)
keeping AP car clean and gassed up

I also expect her to pick up after herself around the house, wipe up any spills, clean up from her own meal prep (lunch, weekends) and generally be clean and tidy around the house.

I will say up front, I am a very clean person and hold myself to the same or higher standard. I’ve seen (and been appalled by) families that are slobs but expect AP to be a neatnik – unreasonable and won’t work.

Skny July 18, 2014 at 8:32 am

Do you usually spell all the pitch in expectation before matching? Or is it told once they arrive? I can see some Au pairs thinking it is too much (although I don’t). Do you describe that as part of their work?

Skny July 18, 2014 at 8:38 am

And I guess in continuance to it, let’s say you already have an Au pair who is not pinching in: I.e. The garbage is full, keeps overfilling until a parent comes home, or no assist at all to do dishes after meal….
Should the host family have a talk and say: “starting today if you eat a meal with us, please help take the table and put away leftovers”?
Wouldn’t an Au pair already in her ways see it as abuse? Like an added chore?

hOstCDmom July 18, 2014 at 9:05 am

My feeling would be “too bad” — I would tell AP, empty the garbage every afternoon. And re dishes after a meal, I think you have the perfect scenario in your home — your teen daughter. I would tell AP that you need her to be part of your adult team modeling responsible, helpful behavior, and that as you want all your children, but most relevant at present your 17yo, to assist in meal clean up, you need her to do so after every meal. And I would say, with a straight face, “I am sure you appreciate and understand how important it is that everyone pitch in and help with meal cleanup, and that this is the kind of behavior we need to teach our children, therefore we need you to do X, Y, Z after dinner whenever your join us for a meal.”

exaupair July 18, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Absolutely you should tell the AP that as long as they eat meals with you (cooked by you, not her) her job is to set the table, clean plates and put leftovers away.
Of course her attitude to the new “chore” will depend on the kind of relationship you have with your AP, but in my opinion any adult, who has the bare minimum of proper manners wouldn’t have to be told that, they would just know what’s right. However be fair, if the AP ever cooks a meal for the whole family, you do the dishes….to show her how it works.

hOstCDmom July 18, 2014 at 9:02 am

SKNY I spell it out in the handbook, and share before matching — but I guess that it really isn’t “pitching in” that I’m spelling out, but rather standards, expectations, and specific chores. I view “pitching in” as the “not in the handbook but what polite and helpful people do if circumstances warrant” type of activity (i.e. AP is in the kitchen, OFF duty, we are racing to get out the door, and she helps little one tie shoes, or tie back hair, or she fills a water bottle for kid who is rushing to a practice. She’s *not* on duty, but she’s present and bc she is a considerate person she will pitch in). Re clearing the table after meals and loading dishes/helping kids to clean up after meals, AP making her bed/cleaning her room, take rubbish out if full, empty dishwasher every morning and again later if full, moving clothes from washer to dryer to basket, etc., I spell all of that out because I expect it to be done as part of the AP job/responsibility in the home.

HRHM July 18, 2014 at 5:09 pm

It is spelled out in the HFHB (which no one ever reads! :) ) and it’s really broken out just as listed above. It is then reitterated immediately when she starts living under our roof. I have become very big on addressing every little thing as soon as it comes up. I won’t allow an AP to become set in her ways unless those ways are working for me.

In the case where you are already beyond this point, I think discussing it and then sending her an email where you cc her LCC will show her that you are within the program rules and spirit and that you aren’t abusing her. Whether she hates it anyway is anyone’s guess. Probably so, depending on how lazy she has become.

WestMom July 16, 2014 at 11:48 am

Considering AP schedule overlaps with dinner, they have always pitched in wholeheartedly once they see everyone is helping out. It would feel really weird if they didn’t…

For other chores around the house that are not explicitly assigned to AP, I assign to the children under AP supervision. For example, I am likely to ask that she supervises the kids while they vacuum the living room, or wash the car.

As far as other ‘pitching in’ goes, I expect AP to keep the house in good working order as any other family member would. If the garbage is full, take it out; if it’s raining, go around making sure the windows are closed; Put your stuff away, etc. I would also expect a little help getting the kids out the door when in a hurry (finding shoes, making a pony tail, filling a bottle of water, etc.).

Dorsi July 16, 2014 at 2:06 pm

I am a pretty messy person and having an AP inspires me to be neater than I otherwise would be. I want her to turn the house over to me in the condition that I left it – which means I need to leave it nicely picked up.

I really did not have any idea what it took to keep a house running (especially with kids) until I did it myself. I had chores as a kid, but we lived in a fairly small house and I don’t know that I understood the big picture. As a grown-up, I realize that if I don’t (or DH doesn’t) it doesn’t get done. This may sound tremendously obvious, but I don’t think it is to many young people (my kids included).

We expect her to load and unload the dishwasher, as appropriate, during her work hours and help after dinner. I state that they should take the trash out if full, but I have yet to see that happen (though I have made strides on the kid trash). We have someone clean the house, so most of the heavy cleaning is done by someone else.

HRHM July 17, 2014 at 8:11 am

With recently departed AP I would actually have to say “AP, please take the trash bag out to the can on your way out to the car this morning” I started doing this after 6 mos when it became apparent that it otherwise wouldn’t happen. I won’t wait that long this time – although new AP has been here less than a week and I already don’t think it’s going to be an issue. :)

MH Mom July 16, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Pitching in became a real issue for us not during the normal work week, but on weekends when we would take frequent weekend overnight trips and take the AP with us (but not to work, but rather to see something new). We never expected her to work and invited her to join us. For the first part of the year we would invite her and pay for a larger condo, all meals, whatever fees we incurred, etc. so that she could see things as we explored our new area. Often it would mean an additional $500+ a weekend because we did what we wanted and included her in the activity. We never got a thank you. She also treated these trips like she was an honored guest. She wouldn’t lift a finger to help make dinner or clean up after afterwards except to bring her dishes to the sink. If we went skiing, she would put on her gear and then stand there making no attempt to help the little ones put on their gear or find their mittens or whatever while meanwhile I scrambled to to get everthing ready. She wouldn’t even try to corral them as we were often standing in a parking lot gearing up. She would carry in her own overnight bag but leave the little ones to deal with their things and wouldn’t help bring in the cooler or groceries that were for all of us.

Needless to say, I became very frustrated and by mid year explained all of this to her. I will also admit that it colored my feelings for her overall. The difficulty I had with the whole situation was that these were during periods where she was not working and to some extent she was a guest so it felt a bit rude to correct another adults behavior in a situation w that is not a work situation. But I felt like even a house guest would be more helpful and willing to pitch in when someone else was footing the bill and making an effort to include you and give you new experiences. I should say that including her was not without effort as it required additional planning, organization and effort as well as cost that was often substantial. When I raised it with her, she said, “I guess Americans are just more grateful.” That sealed it for me and I stopped inviting her. It made my hubby very uncomfortable as he felt like it might hurt her feelings to be excluded, but by that time I was fit to be tied and not willinng to go on like that. It makes me a bit sad as wer were new to teh area and doig a lioot of exploring that year so she missed out on quite a few adventures. But, towards the end I was so frustrated and trying to find way to subtly encourage better behavior that having her along completely ruined some of those trips for me. We were new to having an au pair, and I am sad to say that we beegining, which I attribute to feeling like I was being taken advantage of and not being willing to put myself in that situation again.

WarmStateMomma July 16, 2014 at 2:23 pm

It sounds like your AP was “part of the family” when it came to the HPs paying for fun stuff, but not when it came to participating on those outings.

Dorsi July 16, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Oh! I had that AP too. She was the last AP we had when we just had one kid and she got to go all kinds of places (cross country and more — during her work time) without any expression of gratitude from her.

APs all think they want to travel and go on adventures as part of their job, but the up-close reality of traveling with small children is something entirely different. The car trip that lasts 2 hours longer than it should have because of frequent potty and snack breaks. Starting the day at 7:30 because everyone has already been up for 2 hours anyway. Scheduling activities around naps (or worse, excluding the AP and baby because of the nap).

I try to set expectations for travel (both during her work time and optional) and state that the AP is expected to act as another adult. I do think that when we go places it is the time when the AP is most truly “on par” — she often gets the same food and experiences the rest of us get, the same treats and the same hassles.

In your case, it was good to cut off the extras if she wasn’t both explicitly and implicitly appreciative — it is certainly not worth the extra expense. In the future, know that there are APs that would love families like yours.

WarmStateMomma July 16, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Ditto – my current AP would thrilled to go on frequent trips and would rave about how much she’s enjoying it, take photos of you and the kids, and completely participate in the child management aspect. Verbalizing a “thank you” isn’t part of her persona (or maybe it’s cultural), but her actions speak volumes.

Host Mom X July 17, 2014 at 1:36 pm

We don’t travel much, and almost never with our APs (too expensive, too difficult to arrange – we’d need to rent a car with more seats, rent a bigger vacation house or hotel room, etc.). But when we have, even though the AP is getting to see a new place or do some new or fun things, we don’t kid ourselves that these trips are all that much “fun” for the AP. And this is because we have small children. Travelling with small children in a car sucks, frankly. And having to spend an hour getting ready to leave for a day trip because kids have to be sunscreened or bundled up, snacks have to be packed, diaper bags, etc. – that’s no fun either. And being constrained in the kind of activities you can do because little kids can’t do most things – also not fun. Constantly waiting for kids’ constant bathroom excursions – not fun. Hearing the kids whine non-stop because they want more snacks, more ice cream, more plastic souvenirs – not fun. etc.

When we have taken APs on trips, we’ve also scheduled in working time. And unless the AP is sitting in the passenger seat and not among the kids in the back – we schedule travel time as working time. But even the non-working time, when the AP just joins us for the day’s activities, just seems not terribly fun for her, when I put myself in her shoes.

Now – if the AP joins on family trips and is not expected to actually work at all, and chooses to come on the trip, and doesn’t help out at all, I’d find that rude. But I’d also feel guilty thinking that they SHOULD help out with the kids if I didn’t schedule them to work (prepping meals, etc. – that’s different). And because I don’t want to have that element added into my vacations – feeling resentful, not knowing what’s okay to expect and what not to expect, realizing that the trip is not all that fun for the AP anyway – in the end it seems easier, at least at this stage in our family life when our kids are small, not to bring the AP on trips unless we need her to work.

If you think about it – the whole “part of the family” thing – unless your family includes teenagers (and for us, we would not likely still have an AP when our kids become teenagers), is a bit of a fiction. Because our nuclear family would not include someone who is the AP’s age. We have us parents – who are 10-15 years older than the AP – and we have the little kids – who are 15- 20 years younger than the AP. The AP isn’t in either age group, and is not a “natural” part of that family structure. I think this becomes most evident on family trips/vacations. The needs, desires and expectations of each demographic here – kids, parents, AP — are so very different.

HRHM July 17, 2014 at 4:51 pm

As for the structure, I don’t know that that is necessarily accurate. Even though my kids are young (6 & 9), I am old :) enough to be the APs Mom. Even my “old” AP now is young enough to be my kid. So while I don’t have kids her age, she does have a Mom my age. And regardless, even without teenagers, I know how polite people behave. If you are a guest (on a trip, to a restaurant) even with your parents or family, you say thanks for things they give you/do for you and pitch in when needed. Even my 9 year old knows this.

We have stopped taking APs on vacation with us too, due mainly to the incredible increase in cost (second room, bigger vehicle, 20% increase or more in food costs and ticket costs) since we never have them working. But we tried it with the first few and came away universally dissapointed with their level of gratitude. I chalked it up to cultural difference, but maybe I’m delusing myself and they are just spoiled and poorly raised…

Emerald City HM July 17, 2014 at 5:04 pm

So we do actually have a family structure that includes a teenager. Our second au pair and my son are only 4 months apart in age.

We don’t include weekend trips in her worktime regardless of where she is sitting in the car. Honestly, if she doesn’t enjoy going to the pumpkin patch, picking out pumpkins, going home and carving them together as a family, then she probably wouldn’t be the au pair for us. I want the girls to enjoy sharing these memories with our au pair, but I would get jaded very fast if I had to adjust my work schedule so that she was on the clock for these types of family experiences.

Host Mom X July 18, 2014 at 4:40 pm

I wasn’t talking about a weekend day trip kind of thing, sorry not to have been clear! I meant driving somewhere to a vacation destination, to which we don’t take our APs for the reasons I explained above, unless we are scheduling them to work during at least part of the vacation (e.g. because my job usually requires me to work while on vacation anyway, so if we can swing the extra cost, having the AP come along can be a big help to HD). With my young kids (all under age 6, including a baby), sitting in the back seat among them entails work, and being stuck back there for four-six hours with them en route to a vacation destination ends up being work. And if it wasn’t, and we said to her “this is NOT part of your work, do not help with the kids, let us do it,” I think we’d all feel awkward, because we’d probably feel resentful if she DIDN’T help out when the baby screams or the kids demand snacks and she is closer to them and more able to help out, and she’d probably feel really weird not helping. (And on a “work vacation,” we don’t end up using all the AP’s hours anyway, so we have the “luxury” of scheduling travel time as working time.)

With a day trip, e.g. to a pumpkin patch on a fall Sunday – if we invited her to come, and she chose to come, no, I would not schedule those hours as work hours. They would only be work hours if we put them into her schedule because we felt we needed a helping hand on the excursion (which we too do not have the luxury for given that we need our AP to care for the kids when we’re at work too!).

HRHM – I am actually old enough to be our current AP’s mom (and not just in a teen-mom scenario, since she is younger than some past APs have been, and I am older than I was when we started hosting!), but our nuclear family still does not naturally include a 22 year old. For example, we don’t design our vacation activities to include things that a 22 year old would enjoy; rather, we design them to include things that small children would enjoy. Every once in a while those activities overlap, but the whole tenor of every vacation is small-child oriented. That was what I was getting it with my point about the family structure.

Skny July 18, 2014 at 8:38 pm

Well… I have a 17yo (turns 18 In October), a 4yo, a 2yo and a newborn… Not too far

hOstCDmom July 18, 2014 at 8:47 pm

Our family structure –16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 7….so when we have an 18 or 19 yo AP, they slot right into our “stairway” of ages…!

Taking a Computer Lunch July 19, 2014 at 10:39 pm

My favorite holiday memory was when AP #2 took child #2 into the ocean – they were the only ones with bathing suits – and played with him there for 1/2 hour or more. We had gone on a destination vacation with extended family. While she was the type to say “thank you,” pitch in, and otherwise show her appreciation, this spoke volumes to me. And sure, it made her happy to be in warm water on a warm day, but child #2 was over the top in love and thrilled to have her undivided attention (he was 5 at the time).

AP #1, when The Camel became incredibly ill while on another destination vacation, stayed up with her from 1:30 to 3:30 in the morning, rubbing her back, and cuddled her while I asked to doctor back East if it was okay to fly home with her (The Camel was in ICU within 48 hours and remained there for a week).

AP #3 spent an hour in my grandmother’s nursing home photographing our family together a couple of months before she died.

APs #4 and #6 were always scooping up the kids on giving DH and precious moments together while on destination vacations. They also not only tolerated child #2’s silly invented board games, but filmed them for us.

AP #7 spent over 2 hours holding The Camel at my other grandmother’s 90th birthday party so she could see her (she’s no longer strong enough to hold her).

AP #9, who has only a little more than 2 weeks left with us, still joins us on family outings and pitches in.

And that is only one of the things that made them great women with whom to share our lives. Just took our formal family portrait with AP #9 today. It will soon join the wall of honor in our house.

MH Mom July 16, 2014 at 2:35 pm

We are more selective with when we invite the au pair now, which my hubby supports. Also there was a point at which I became completely unhinged and I think he thought he might have to have me committed. It was unsettling for him as I tend to be the most centered and stable person in the room and he had never in 20 year together seen me in such a state.

As for lessons learned, after this scenario, I made a concerted effort to teach my kids what it means to be a good house guest, how to express gratitude, to be aware that only their parents are obligated to spend money on them or include them in activities and that anyone else willing to do so should be aprpeciated and their appreciation made known.

I would be mortified if my kids ever behaved this way, so mybe there is an upside…

NBHostMom July 16, 2014 at 4:36 pm

I’ve learned the hard way that pitching in must be clearly defined, but even more importantly, I’ve started interviewing for “independent living” skills.

For example, current au pair who we generally adore, is blind to what I’d consider obvious tasks to pitch in on as part of sharing a home. I never thought I’d need to point out, if you’re walking by the empty garbage can at the end of the driveway on garbage day, drag it back to the garage with you as you pass by (or better, have the kids do it!). Tasks like this aren’t explicitly her job, but she helped make the trash, is not asked to take it out on trash day, but blindly ignoring the empty can as she walks by baffles me. She was happy to do it once I pointed it out (ie if you walk by the empty can as you go back to the house, drag it with you up the driveway).

Next au pair is coming from a home with a working single Mom, where she, as the eldest, held things down much of the time while her mom worked. In contrast, current au pair who is the youngest in her family and had a stay at home mom. I’m very curious to see if next au pair automatically sees these type of things or not. I’m considering it a bit of a social experiment :)

Taking a Computer Lunch July 16, 2014 at 9:46 pm

I had an AP once, upon seeing me pick up a can from the road and put it in my recycling bin, say, “People from my country would never do that.” To which I shrugged and said, “It’s important to leave the earth better than I found it.” She learned the lesson, after a while, and had a hard time re-adjusting to live at home.

HRHM July 17, 2014 at 8:17 am

Our first and second AP were from former Yugoslavia and both remarked on how clean the US is and how people don’t drop their trash where they stand. They also were amazed how people can’t smoke in the grocery or the doctors office! At the end of their year, both expressed sadness that they had to go back to the litter and the smoke.

HRHM July 17, 2014 at 8:23 am

Yes, I’ve stopped even reading their childcare experience. After 6 APs, I’ve learned (both by observing and being told directly!) that most of those “experiences” are made up. My kids are old enough that it probably doesn’t matter anyway. What I look for now is either a) young siblings the same age or younger than my kids and/or b) full time job in dirty manual work. Last AP had both and was the best so far, though a slob in her own spaces and did only the minimal required cleaning. New AP is older and lived abroad working in hospitality for a couple years and is doing great.

I also have become a micro-manager, leaving detailed lists and pointing out any issues as soon as I notice them. Annoying, but it gets the job done.

Emerald City HM July 16, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Our first au pair was fantastic with helping out as part of the family when we went somewhere and brought her with us. When I made dinner she would jump up to clean up and when I would try would scold me and remind me that I cooked.

Our second was so-so. She was really food with the girls when we went out. Not so much with clean up unless we asked.

I’ve just stopped cooking with the 3rd. I’m hoping that I can start fresh with our 4th, but our 3rd really just feels like a guest most of the time at anything we do. I suspect some of that is upbringing and some of that is actually confidence.

We really tried to interview for more of those independent skills and I’m really hoping our 4th fits the bill.

All 3 so far have been really good about emptying the dishwasher. So there is that. But we do specifically have that one written down in our handbook.

Host Mom X July 17, 2014 at 1:45 pm

It seems a common theme on this thread that the one “household task” that gets assigned to a majority of APs in the handbook is emptying the dishwasher! We chose this one because we all leave for work in the morning, and if the AP doesn’t empty the dishwasher, then she’d have to hand-wash all of the kids’ dishes that get dirtied during the day. It just makes the most sense. (And half the stuff she’s emptying is kid stuff that is her job responsibility, e.g. lunch containers, dishes they used during the day, etc.)

Our current AP is very “by the book,” though. She will empty the dishwasher, and put in any dirty dishes that the kids used while she was on duty, but not a thing else. We don’t expect her to clean up the adult dishes, but she tends to draw the line on the side of NOT doing anything that might possibly be extra. So if there is a sticky spot on the counter next to the pile of dirty dishes that needs to be loaded, and the sticky spot was probably due to the kids’ dishes, but MIGHT have come from an adult dish – she won’t clean it. It’s hard not to feel a TINY bit of resentment at that kind of line-drawing. I’ve learned that if it’s something an AP really should do as “part of the family” (e.g. helping clean up or prepare dinner when she is joining in), or part of her job (e.g. helping the kids put toys away) – I just have to be direct and express what I want, and then I won’t be resentful. But with this kind of line-drawing behavior, I can’t say “I’d really like to see you be a bit more generous in your line-drawing, AP,” can I? Any advice from the wise host parents on this site as to how to address this kind of line-drawing-caused resentment before it builds up too much?

WarmStateMomma July 17, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Emptying the dishwasher seems like a good choice because it’s clearly defined. I can see an AP thinking she has “cleaned” item X or adequately performed some other chore, when it really hasn’t been done properly.

HRHM July 17, 2014 at 4:58 pm

You can say it – weather it hits home or how it is received is anyone’s guess. I remember someone else here saying that they had an extension/rematch AP (they were her second family) that had been seriously taken advantage of with her first family and as a result, she wouldn’t do anything “extra” for fear of it being expected from then on. The example they gave is if she came across a jug of milk on the counter that HM forgot to put away before work, it would sit there all day!

If AP is actively drawing that line, you are unlikely to effect a change by bringing it up. Her attitude is apparent and she is not interested in being a good flatmate. Just doing the minimum to keep her job. Or the other possibility is that she just doesn’t see the mess the way you do. I have had APs (most recent one drove me to distraction) that just have a different standard of clean than me. When we talked about it, she had no idea what I was talking about and her extra effort was still never up to snuff. Either way, if this is something that is going to continue to bother you, you may want to start mediation with an eye on rematch…

Taking a Computer Lunch July 17, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Host Mom X, I call it “being flexible.” We provide the mandatory 10 days of vacation, plus most of the federal holidays (a couple are half-days). However, we often grant more – we’re going away and the AP doesn’t want to come/can’t come because of course conflicts – if she’s a great AP, we’ll often grant the days as days off. However, if I had an AP that was constantly drawing the line (and I have), then I might say, “Since you can’t come, I’m going to assign you some chores to do while we’re gone – it’s up to you when you do them, but we expect that they will be done when we return.” It might be a thorough dusting and vacuuming of the kids’ rooms, sorting through toys, dusting their books.

When facing a rigid AP, I think it’s useful to remind her that there are going to be times in her year when she’s going to ask you to be flexible and your willingness is going to depend on her own flexibility (we’re not talking about being asked to clear a table and wash the dishes for a meal at which she has not partaken – we’re talking about the 2 second it takes to wipe up goo after loading all the dishes into the dishwasher so she has a clean work space for lunch!).

Host Mom X July 18, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Thanks, HRHM and TACL. I think our current AP’s situation is a bit of the “just doesn’t get it” that HRHM is describing, and a bit of the “I just do what I’m told” (but not in a malicious/stubborn sort of way) attitude that some less-perceptive people sometimes have. To be clear, this isn’t an AP we’d ever dream of re-matching based on current circumstances. This “not rounding up”/ “line drawing” is irksome – but not as a reflection of general bad character/not-good-AP behavior (from experience, we know that when you’ve got an AP with whom you should re-match, these types of smaller irks become much bigger deals). Just more of a “this annoys me, and I’m worried about getting resentful” sort of situation. Because this AP is very open to constructive criticism, and whenever I have directly asked her to do or change something that is within her job duties, she has. I just feel that I can’t say “please round up” because that is about general attitude (and her attitude is also generally good, helpful – just a bit oblivious sometimes).

Taking a Computer Lunch July 17, 2014 at 6:57 am

In general, our APs have pitched in without my having to put it explicitly in the handbook – most end up emptying the dishwasher because we run it at night. Child #2 has the duty to empty the recycling and garbage, but I’ve noticed that the AP won’t tell him to empty the interior recycling bin into the exterior – even if it’s overflowing – that will be added to the list of the next APs tasks (reminding not doing). My current AP has been fantastic about helping to clear the table and put food away.

One thing that bugs me is when we host the AP’s long-term guests. We have hosted several AP’s parents, and that has always been a fantastic experience – they often cook a meal or two for us and help wash the dishes in gratitude for saving several hundred dollars on hotels. Many have helped their daughters with childcare (leading my neighbors to ask – how old is your current au pair?). It’s other relatives and friends that can be a drain. It doesn’t occur to the AP that when we’re hosting someone for more than a night or two, that it would be great if they stepped up the post-meal assistance by doing the dishes or cooking, even though most could not afford their vacations if they had to pay for a youth hostel or hotel in our city in addition to their airfare. I guess I’m just going to have to add a line to my handbook that their guests are welcome to join us at the table, but in return we expect the au pair to voluntarily commit to washing dishes or cooking several times during the visit.

WarmStateMomma July 17, 2014 at 10:10 am

With respect to the cultural expectations APs bring with them for male/female household roles raised in the OP, my APs have been surprised that HD lifts a finger around the house. They marvel that he cooks and reinforce his (misplaced) belief that he “does so much” around the house. The APs don’t see who does most of the work, or maybe they don’t think it’s relevant because the wife “should” be running the household.

Does anyone have this issue?

LondonMum July 17, 2014 at 11:11 am

Yes! My Swedish AP thinks that my husband has a lot to do with the kids (well, they are HIS kids ….!) She worked last year as an AP in Switzerland and said the dad was never at home and when he was he wasn’t involved with the kids at all.

She said “it’s nice that you are both so equal”, although I do almost all the cooking and the food shopping, laundry, cleaning! She thinks it’s great that he puts the kids to bed and takes them cycling/swimming/football at the weekends but has no comment that I sometimes do that too! I would expect that from some cultures but not in most European countries. Comments like this from a young woman surprised me, I guess things have not moved on as much as I imagined!

WarmStateMomma July 17, 2014 at 11:37 am

It’s a bit frustrating sometimes when I’m trying to get HD to carry his own weight and the AP’s comments undermine those efforts. It makes me feel sorry for the women of China who accept such a lousy division of labor.

American Host Mom in Europe July 28, 2014 at 6:16 pm

I have a different take on your Swedish AP’s comments (and I live in Sweden) — in Sweden, there is a tremendous focus on dads having a lot to do with kids, taking part of the parental leave, being equal, etc. — and there is often a perception that this doesn’t happen in most other countries (a perception that is true, in many cases, particularly with respect to paternity leave). So her comments could just be surprise that the equality she expects to see at home in Sweden also happens in the UK.

Now, if only my Swedish husband realised what he’s supposed to be doing as a Swedish dad… (lol)

Mimi July 17, 2014 at 3:15 pm

I’ve had this from the APs with stay-at-home moms, one of whom lived on a farm and through my questions about her family life eventually realized that in addition to all the household work she did, her mom did a good portion of the farmwork (considered the women’s work) and that while her dad worked hard, too, her mom did far more than anyone else. It was a real a-ha moment that made readjusting to life at home afterward a little hard for her.

Most of the APs from home where both parents work will comment on how much more I do and we talk about how it’s for a number of reasons; I’m fussy about how some things are done, HD is not a great multitasker, I’m more established in my career and HD has different expectations from work for the next few years, etc.

Like TexasHM, he has his strengths that I let him focus on. I know it’s hard for him when the kids tell him “that’s not how mom does it” so I do what I can to support his way of doing things when he’s helped out with something he doesn’t usually do. Most importantly, I let my boys know that it’s important that they help out and be involved when they’re husbands and dads.

TexasHM July 17, 2014 at 12:17 pm

I haven’t had this issue with our APs (assumption dad shouldn’t be involved or is equal in housework). They have all said that they appreciate that we (as a family) take time to do things together and have quality time. They say that their AP friends’ families dump the kids off and don’t slow down and smell the roses and schedule their APs to the max every week so they don’t have to deal with their own kids. I am sure not all HFs do this obviously and we have plenty of running out the door handing off kids moments ourselves but I think we set the tone for the culture in our house and that tone is when its family time its that – no phones, work, etc. Yes, occasionally I have to answer a call or email but I wrap it up quickly. HD is awesome with play time and active tasks, not so awesome with cleaning or even picking up so APs see me follow the brood through the house picking things up and constantly tidying to maintain some level of tolerable living space! None of the APs have said we were equal – in fact many joke that he’s my 4th kid at which point I often correct them to be funny and say he’s the 5th (after the AP) because no matter how mature the AP I still end up bonding with them and “aunting” them a bit as my husband would say. Not mothering, but asking questions, taking an active interest and speaking up. Doling out occasional guidance and helping when asked.
Do I wish DH did more? Yes, all the time. But at this point I try to remind him to pick up and focus on his strengths (he has plenty). As the kids are growing I am teaching them to be better and getting DH to follow along so maybe there is hope for him yet! :)
We have a couple little things in our handbook on pitching in but nothing to this extent and I am thinking I should definitely add in some things for new Nov AP. We put please wash your sheets and vacuum room as needed and for current AP its not an issue but previous AP I think only did it once or twice and it was because I told her do it or I will so might be good to set a precedent. Plus I like the idea of having things like that on a regular schedule as one said. When kids were babies/toddlers I let a lot of that go because we had 3 age 5 and under but now that two will be in school and one in part time preschool should be the perfect time to start adding in more child related chores (and having kids help do them). We actually just made the decision to do mothers day out (talk about a stereotype in a name! ;) so that will help us have kind of a hybrid school age schedule and then next year all three will be in school so this conversation has made me note to self that I need to work these things in now during that transition. I am excited just thinking about it!

Mimi July 17, 2014 at 2:55 pm

IMO, pitching in to me is anything the AP does that she’s not asked to do or that you would want someone to do for you in return, should the need arise. I don’t typically ask for anything outside her scheduled hours because I know that her day is long and full enough and I don’t want to add to that. I build chores in to the daily schedule and expect her to have my kids help (regardless of age), if not do it all with her guidance. This includes emptying the dishwasher in the morning, changing sheets/towels weekly, cleaning the shared bathroom, picking up toys/play areas, sorting/washing/folding laundry and putting it away.

I will occasionally visit the AP in their room at night if there’s something that’s come up at the last minute for the next day and will do a surreptitious inspection while I’m there, but other than general untidiness, it’s been rare that there’s an issue. I don’t require the AP to clean their room, but do have rules about no food in the bedroom and general tidiness vs. cleanliness. If the room is messy, keep the door closed. If they ruin sheets/blankets because of lack of cleanliness or carelessness (like scorching a comforter with a running hairdryer–even the best APs do stupid things!), be prepared to replace them. The one AP who violated the food ban was tasked with emptying the mousetraps needed to rid her room of visitors. Super high ick factor and lesson learned.

When we go on an outing, I don’t expect the APs to help out but we’ve never had one who stands idly by as we load up the cart for the beach, or unload the car when we get home, etc. I think the reason for this is that my kids are expected to pitch in, even when we are home and they regularly do. It’s awkward to stand and watch as the little ones parade by with gallons of milk or whatever is small/light enough for them to carry. :) The boys are expected to load their own dishes after meals and will often be upset if I do laundry without them. (I’m a Mary Poppins kind of mom in making games out of chores like laundry.) I expect the novelty will wear off as they become older (as is starting with the 10 y/o), but the habit will be there. Also, since we don’t normally go out to eat or to the movies, when we do, the boys always make a point of saying “thank you” for the treat. Our APs have so far followed the kids’ example.

I do have to remind HD regularly that when the AP is off duty he needs to make sure the kids go to him and don’t bother her if I’m gone for an evening or time when she’s not on duty. Fortunately, it’s not often. HD just tends to be less responsive when engrossed in yard work or the like and the kids will seek out someone they can get a quicker response from (or remembers that it’s lunch/dinner time!). Most of our APs have had dads who are moderately to less involved in housework and with their kids so they tolerate this when he’s around alone but I will remind the AP to be mindful of not letting him take advantage of them and frequently remind the boys that they need to find me or HD when the AP is off duty.

Of course, as I get closer to my delivery date, this is getting harder and the little things add up fast. Yesterday (after her hours were done) we (minus HD) all went to the beach and one of the boys left his towel in the car. With the oldest away at camp, I was stuck with the dilemma of asking her to watch the twins while going to get it myself and trekking my very pregnant self a long way to fetch it, or rounding the boys up for the trek. Luckily, before I could open my mouth, she offered to go get it. I was very grateful and made a point to text HD to ask if he could get her a piece of her fav cheesecake on his way home.

AussiePair July 17, 2014 at 6:59 pm

For me pitching in is not the things I’ve been asked or am expected to do, but rather the things you do because it needs to be done and you know it will help. You do it because you want to and you see the need there, not because you have to. For me this means packing/unpacking the dishwasher and hand washing any dishes made during the day as well as anything left in the sink from the night before (usually these are soaking) or from the morning rush. Helping to put away leftovers/clean dishes etc. after a shared meal (sometimes not even after a shared meal if the household is looking just a little crazy), vacuuming/mopping up any spills, wiping down counters as needed, helping to brush hair/teeth when the family is getting ready to go out (even if I’m not going with them or off duty). Getting drinks, food etc for the kids when they ask and the parent are busy, feeding the baby if the parents are busy, helping set the table, prepare the food, clean up after meals when guests are over. And feeding the baby dinner at 5.15 even though my shift finished 15 minutes ago, because 5-5.45 is the crazy dinner rush time and it’s hard to feed 2 kids and a baby right when you walk in the door from a long day. And then if we go on a trip or an outing and I’m “off duty” I do anything I can to make the trip easier in everybody, whether that means taking the kids while parents pack or packing snacks etc. myself.

Basically anything I would do if I was staying at an aunts house as a guest, I do while “pitching in” for a HM. And the more beloved a host family the happier I am to pitch in.

AussiePair July 17, 2014 at 7:01 pm

That was supposed to say HF not HM, I’m not a “any little effort the HD makes is amazing and HM should do all of the work” kind of AP

Skny July 20, 2014 at 9:34 pm

Well. I am waiting for my 17yo daughter to come from camp (this week) to put current Au pair in rematch (so 17yo can watch sisters/supervise. I will tell you, 17yo is a natural. Would make an awesome Au pair). She must have overheard us, or suspect, or maybe got heads up from LC because she suddenly seems to love the kids. She has even warmed up to 4yo who rejected her at first and ended up kind of rejected by Au pair. We are on week 6.
I don’t see us not rematching because of safety concerns, etc… But started asking myself if it was unreasonable to expect her to like kids from the beginning… If could be that we need to allow a nice amount of weeks for an Au pair to like my kids… Etc

HRHM July 21, 2014 at 8:13 am

No. You are doing the right thing. Little kids are naturally adorable (to people who generally like little kids). If she didn’t come into it with energy and a can-do attitude, then putting it on now shouldn’t make you second guess yourself. If she didn’t like kids (yours or any others) from the beginning, why be an AP?

TexasHM July 21, 2014 at 10:10 am

SKNY you are doing the right thing and its not unreasonable to expect your AP to like your kids from the beginning! As HRHM noted most kids are likable (if you truly like kids) and even if a 4 year old has a hard time warming up to you for heavens sake you don’t reject them! You try harder to connect with them through their interests, being available to them, creating fun activities to bond, etc.
(putting fireproof vest on now) Bonding with our kids/making efforts to connect with them right away is a sticking point for us. We watch very closely and if we had an AP that couldn’t bond with our kids I would say within a week or two they would be headed to rematch period. Our kids are very loving and while they are definitely not perfect, we have been blessed to have had 3 APs that all bonded with them as family and with each transition we see it only takes a few days for the kids to have a connection with the new AP. My youngest was standoffish with AP2 and took her about a month to fully let her guard down but AP2 bonded immediately with my older son and middle daughter and youngest seemed to like her, was just a little clingy to mom and hesitant to go to the AP for things at times but she was also 2 yrs old at the time and kind of had the stranger danger thing going on so she was a little clingy to mom even with our friends, people from church she saw every week and occasionally daddy so take into account your kids stages and personalities too.
When AP3 got here that same child (youngest) fell asleep on her while they were watching a movie on day two and she’s been glued to her ever since. :) (Other two kids bonded great right away.) I guess ask yourself how your kids have bonded/reacted to the other APs you have had and don’t sell yourself short. You deserve a great AP and shouldn’t have to settle because AP doesn’t put forth the effort and doesn’t have the skills to succeed in the position.
Maybe she is perked up because LC told her she needs to be awesome the next few weeks if she wants a reference from you or if she wants LC to consider placing her again…who knows.

exaupair July 21, 2014 at 6:21 pm

APs job is all about children. I think APs by default are (should be) people who tolerate kids at least! So no, it’s not unreasonable to expect the AP to like your children from the beginning.
Maybe you’re right and she found out about your plans to rematch soon, hence her change in attitude. You’re doing the right thing, your kids deserve someone who will really like them, not just pretend to look better in your eyes.

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