When does an au pair actually ‘start’ or ‘stop’ being on duty?
When we’re counting up the hours in the week that we need childcare, it’s tempting to imagine that we can start and stop ‘on duty’ time right on the precise minute. How else are we to cover an entire week?
I look back now and feel a little embarrassed by then number of times I shortened a span of our au pair’s work time by 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there, just to make sure I didn’t go over my 45 hours.
The truth is that many of our au pair’s activities don’t really have hard and fast ‘stop’ times.
— How much time does it take to walk to pre-K from home, to pick up the toddler?
— How soon before the end of ballet should the au pair arrive, to make sure the kids know she’s there?
— If s/he drops them off at 4 and picks them up at 5, what does s/he do with the time in-between?
Here are some of the scheduling principles I’ve used:
1. On Duty time should include the time it takes for an au pair to travel from your house to where he/she needs to be to connect with the kids.
translation: Use your home as a ‘home base’, and measure travel time from there. Figure out how long it takes to drive there safely from home, then back up that many minutes from the pickup time. If your off-duty au pair is closer to the location, s/he gets the benefit of the extra minutes. If s/he is further away, it’s up to her to get going in time to be on time at the location.
2. It’s not really ‘off duty’ time unless au pairs can use it to do something valuable on their own.
translation: 45 minutes between drop off and pick up is not enough time to be scheduled as ‘off duty’. If you can find an errand that your au pair can do (Take car to car wash? Return library books?), put that into the schedule. If not, let your au pair use that as though your child was napping…. your au pair is on duty but can entertain himself until the child needs him. If you’re really nice, give her $4 for a latte.
3. Schedule time for au pair-to- host parent transitions.
translation: Make sure you build in some overlap time between your schedule and your au pair’s schedule. You should never rush out without giving your au pair an overview of what’s happening, and you should always be home in enough time to get an update from your au pair. In truth, you should allow enough time to really listen to each other’s account of what’s going on. Good communication should happen at transition time, and it’s up to you as a host parent to make sure this time exists.
Are there some scheduling tips that you use to make sure you’re being fair?
What are some of your guiding principles?
Image: Dog in the Driver’s Seat, by Moonlight Drive Prints, available to purchase on Etsy