Here on AuPairMom we get a lot of questions about driving skills, driving privileges and managing cars. Behind all of these questions, like “who should pay for gas?” or “Avoiding a sense of entitlement” or “keeping track of car use“, is one simple principle–
Host parents must provide our au pairs with affordable, safe, and convenient transportation options.
Why you must provide some kind of safe, affordable transportation
Au pairs need to have convenient transportation for a simple reason: they have lives to live outside our homes and outside their on-duty hours. Classes and cluster meetings are but a small part of where your au pair needs to be able to go. S/he needs to be able to meet friends, explore your area, go shopping, find entertainment (e.g., movies, museums), exercise, and relax.
An au pair without convenient transportation will be a prisoner in your home. S/he will likely feel trapped, bored and/or lonely, and s/he will likely rematch.
The transportation options you provide need to be reasonably convenient.
Your au pair needs to be able to access and use the transportation easily. A five minute walk to a bus stop is okay, a twenty-five minute walk is not okay. Bicycling through a town for a 15 minute ride is okay, bicycling over long distances, at night, in bad weather, and in dangerous traffic conditions is not okay. Using your family car in the evenings before midnight, two or three times a week is okay, being forbidden to use any car at any time when you don’t live in a city with a bus system and subway– that’s not okay.
Also, convenient transportation means that it is relatively direct. you can’t expect an au pair to take a 45 minute bus ride with two transfers to get to a class in your own town, when to drive there might take only 15 minutes. (Of course, if s/he is going from your town to the city on a commuter train to take a special class, that’s a different situation).
Transportation has to be safe.
If you wouldn’t walk home from the bus stop after dark because you are concerned for your safety, you shouldn’t expect your au pair to do it either.
Transportation should be affordable.
You need to pay for some of this transportation. Host parents need to provide transportation (car plus gas, bus fare, taxi fare) for your au pair’s required events, such as meeting and classes. And, I’d add that you should provide her or him with transportation to and from your house on his or her day off — like, from your house to the mall or movie theater (not from your house to NYC).
That said, you should not be expected to pay $25 for a taxi to the Starbucks ‘downtown’ when a bus ride of similar length costs $2.50.
So, what should host parents do to provide safe, affordable and convenient transportation?
Here are three things to start with:
1. Use different transportation options depending on the kind of trip.
This is kindof a ‘duh’, except to remind you that a personal car is not the *only* option, and that you can offer to drive your au pair somewhere rather than expect him to walk or ride a bike if it’s stormy outside.
Modes of transportation
There are many ways your au pair can get safely, conveniently and affordably from one place to another on his or her off-duty time. These include and are not limited to:
- “Station Car” (the $900, 15-yr old beater)
- Family car when parents aren’t using it
- Dedicated Au Pair car
- Bus, subway
- Carpool with other au pairs (contributing for gas, and with their host family’s permission)
- Host Parent chauffeur
- Rental car or ZipCar
- Transportation allowance ($)
- Have your au pair go along with you when you go some where (e.g., to the mall)
You can provide your au pair with some assortment of these options, based on what is available in your neighborhood or town, what you can afford financially, and what kind of time you have to help out with driving.
2. Set yourself a budget– including both time and money
It’s important to set some limits on what you’ll pay for and what you’ll do yourself for getting your au pair somewhere… and it’s also important to help
Maybe you can offer to drive your au pair somewhere once a week, for example to the movies in town (but not the one 20 minutes away). Consider letting your au pair have a car on her day off, but perhaps not during the week if you need the flexibility, or let him have the car for personal use X number of evenings a week. .
Obviously, I’m not suggesting that host parents pay for every kind of travel an au pair wants to make, or to pay for him or her to travel somewhere significant (e.g., outside a 5 mile radius of your town) every single day. Some amount of personal transportation should be the responsibility of the au pair. BUT — you must provide something.
3. Set travel expectations
- Talk with your au pair about the kinds of trips and the number of trips anywhere that you think a host family should subsidize.
- Consider the systems you might need for reserving a car, asking in advance for a ride, taking a turn carpooling with other au pairs.
What else do you think host parents can and should do to provide safe, affordable and convenient transportation?
What limits would you set? What has worked for you and your au pairs?
Do tell… since we have a specific request for transportation advice coming up in the next post…
The 3rd Car: Avoiding a sense of entitlement
Using Your Car is a Privilege, not an Entitlement: Best practices
Host Family Advice: Resist the Amenities Arms Race
Can an Au Pair be happy without driving privileges?
Advice wanted: How to Keep Track of Au Pair’s personal car use?