Scheduling Your Au Pair: The Half Day

by cv harquail on May 28, 2010

I don’t know whether to be embarrassed or self-congratulatory when I say that the only place I have even run afowl of the Au Pair Program Regulations has been around half days. It wasn’t intentional, mind you, but I was ‘doing it wrong’. Oops.

Au Pairs are supposed to be scheduled only for five and a half days per week– they get one full day, and one half day, completely off-duty.

201005281252.jpgFiguring out the full day is pretty easy– it’s 24 hours. A day off that runs from 12 noon Sunday to 12 noon Monday is technically a full day off, but it’s not a day off in spirit. A real ‘day off’, in my book, is from au pair bedtime Saturday night to wake up time Monday morning (or, similarly, bedtime Tuesday to wake up Thursday).

The half day, however, is a little trickier.

I had always operated on the assumption that a half-day was something like off-duty all day until 6 p.m., and then on duty that night from 6 p.m. until the end of the PTA fundraiser. Or, on-duty until noon and then off-duty until the next day.

I was thinking of the ‘half-day’ as a big, uninterrupted chunk of time when your au pair could go away and do something really meaningful (e.g, trip into the city, bus trip to an outlet mall, etc.). I never felt that a morning off was really enough time, but an afternoon-through-end-of-evening span was enough time off. Similarly, I thought that if our au pair had the entire stretch of daylight off, then working from 6 till midnight on her ‘half-day’ was fine.

And it was fine, all the way through 8 au pairs, until we got to number 9. Number 9 was a — well, I won’t describe her, other than to say she was our very first rematch. She was all about ‘working to the rule’ and nothing beyond.

Because this au pair usually had work weeks that were 35 hours, and she always had a full day and a half-day (as I understood it), I had a hard time when she started to complain about being scheduled occasionally for a Saturday from 6 to midnight, with all day Saturday off-duty as her ‘half-day’.

(Of course, I understood that she didn’t want to work Saturday nights, so I usually only scheduled her for one full Saturday night a month, and then would scheduled another Saturday evening when we’d be home by 9:30 or 10:00, which would leave her able to go out to NYC with her other au pair friends at 10:30. But one of the reasons why we have an au pair is to have childcare on weekends, and on occasional Saturday nights, and she knew this when she took the job. But I digress.)

One week when she was particularly irked that she’d have to work not only 40 hours but also on Saturday night, she told me that I was breaking the rules. She’d consulted our LCC, who had confirmed for the au pair that a half-day was “5 hours”. Since I’d schedule her from 6 p.m. to midnight, a total of 6 hours, I was breaking the rules. Worse, I’d been breaking the rules for months! Bad Host Mom!

A half-day is five hours?

Turns out that that clarification of a half-day as 5 hours had been made by my agency somewhere between years 1 and 8, and I’d never caught on.

201005281252.jpgSo, she said, I needed to change her schedule so that she was off at 11 p.m.

Of course, wanting to follow the rules (and miffed that she was getting so snippy) I changed her schedule. I gave her 5 hours on-duty on Monday, and 10 hours on duty on Saturday, from 2 pm until midnight. She got her official half-day, and my DH and I got our Saturday night out.

This Host Mom was back in line with the rules.

And the Au Pair? She was ultimately on her way to rematch.


Dorsi May 28, 2010 at 1:20 pm

This made me laugh. The half-day is not something I think very much about, because my AP works such erratic hours. She usually works 6 days/week, but we stay at or below 45 hours. I just looked over the past week and she worked, 7h, 9h,9h,4h,7h,5h then a day off. There are always a few 9-10 hour days in our week, so to stay under hours, there is at least one 4-5 hour day.

I think this is much like the “Meaningful break” discussion — there is a spirit to be followed here. We accommodate our APs requests as much as possible (AP1 had a midday gym class she loved and we would schedule around that as much as possible). We expect her to accommodate our needs as well. As illustrated above, getting overly hung up on the rules usually indicates a bad attitude. (Having said that, we are strict about the 45 hour rule unless we have fairly negotiated something well in advance. And we always make going over — which is rare — totally optional.)

My 2 cents May 28, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Ditto. This really does boil down to the whole spirit of give and take.

We are with the agency with the 1.5 hours off straight a week and got called on it one time by a new au pair that didn’t like the idea at her arrival of working the occasional Sunday morning (despite assurances she would never work a weekend night, and her work weeks would rarely total over 35 hours). So, we changed it to occasional Sunday evenings, which we didn’t prefer, but to make a statement to her about the true spirit of the rules and the au pair and host parent relationship of give and take since we knew that working later Sunday afternoons or evenings wasn’t a great fit for her social schedule. It worked. She wanted to trade the Sunday afternoon shift for the morning one after the very first time we scheduled her for a Sunday afternoon. I reminded her we did this because we didn’t want to risk breaking any rules as she had indicated — and she quickly replied that she would rethink things.

CS Nanny May 28, 2010 at 1:25 pm

She works 6 days a week? Does she ever get a full weekend off?

cv harquail May 28, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Yes, au pairs get one full weekend a month off. I was referring to the weeks that they aren’t off for the weekend… should have clarified. now clarified :-) cv

Dorsi May 28, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Yup. Because of the way our lives work, it is usually a long weekend — 2p Fri to 12p Mon. However, it is only one weekend a month (usually). This is something we emphasize during matching — we’re flexible, but you will work a lot of weekends.

Taking a computer lunch May 28, 2010 at 1:33 pm

When my kids were little, my AP had two days off every week because she worked 45 hours Mon – Fri. The Camel was in full-day school and my son in half-day preschool for the next AP, so we started adding weekend work. Both kids have been in school-full time for the past 3. While we schedule the AP for 5 or 6 hours on a Saturday, I must say, we almost never make it that long, even when we’re having a special afternoon with my son. We occasionally book our date nights for longer, but truth is, we’re rarely out until 10:00 – we’re just too tired and neither kid usually sleeps past 7:00 am anyway.

We rarely book our AP to work the limits of the weekends, in part because we want to do family activities and our weekday nights are so chaotic, especially during baseball/softball season. I both coach my son’s baseball team and play softball, while HD gives The Camel extra cuddles (he quit his job and took care of her for 21 months when she was a newborn so they have a special bond).

No one has every complained about the hours we book, but then again, my APs rarely work more than 5 hours per day on a regular weekday (although it’s a split schedule, so definitely NOT in the spirit of the half-day). If HD and I do dinner-and-a-movie, we definitely can push the limits of 5 hours easily…

CS Nanny May 28, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Oh, I was asking Dorsi as she said her AP works 6 days a week. That seems to be a lot of days to work. Thanks, though, CV :)

ST Community Counselor May 28, 2010 at 1:50 pm

The agency I work for specifies the following:
“The host family agrees to one complete weekend free per month for the au pair (Friday night through Monday morning) and a minimum of 1½ consecutive days per week free for the remainder of the month (1 day and night falling on Friday, Saturday or Sunday).”

I wonder if the rule of the 1 1/2 consecutive days off is unique to that agency. It certainly seems to make sense from the AP’s point of view as most of them would probably want to go out with their friends at night.

cv harquail May 28, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I really hope that this is unique to one agency… it’s one of those things that works well for au pairs, but it would really impinge on the needs of some host families (like mine).

Lucky 7 HM May 28, 2010 at 2:55 pm

My agency’s site says 1.5 consecutive days off and it does hem you in. Basically, if you must give one weekend day off each week (which we do), you really can never schedule your AP for more than 5 hours on a weekend. Example: If you want to attend a 3pm wedding that is 45 minutes away, you can schedule your AP from 2-7, get there to see the bride & groom walk down the isle, go to the reception for hors d’ourves and wedding party intros, then leave at 6pm, before dinner is served, to get home before 7pm. I’m just sayin’ – one of the benefits of an AP is some weekend coverage for special occasions like weddings. This consecutive day rule sort of makes that impossible.

Should be working May 28, 2010 at 3:08 pm

This discussion has really made me think. Our agency rules are also 1.5 CONSECUTIVE days off. Sometimes we do that as Sunday sunup (really Saturday midnight or so) until Monday midday (and I get the kids ready for school on Monday by myself).

But I never knew that a half day was 5 hrs. I thought it was about having a half day FREE. In fact, the wording here makes me think that it is about how much of a day they have NOT WORKING, not how hours they work for the ‘other half’ of the day.

In fact, since it is about ‘days off’, and the AP system is geared around flexible care (i.e. no one HAS to assume that a full day is 10 hrs; our ‘full day’ is 6 hrs), it seems to me that the ‘half day’ is half of a CALENDAR day. So you could schedule the AP, for example, to work Sat 4am-noon [not that I would do this, but maybe a shift-worker would, e.g. nurses] and then give them off from noon on Saturday until wakeup on Monday. That would be 1.5 days off, even though Saturday they would have ‘worked’ 8 hrs (some of those hrs being simple responsibility for kids while sleeping).

Lucky 7 HM May 28, 2010 at 3:20 pm

This would mean you could not schedule a Saturday night shift unless you are able to schedule Monday morning off, right?

CS Nanny May 28, 2010 at 3:22 pm

All of this is so confusing…lol…and technical.

aria May 28, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I’m going to be honest and give my opinion… this sounds a little ridiculous! AND confusing, like CS Nanny said! And also, I can’t imagine not having a full 2 days off. o.O! Especially when all of the rules seem to slice the days every which way- I can’t even tell who they benefit anymore, the HF or the AP? I work Saturdays, every Saturday, and I have Sundays and Mondays off. Every Sunday and Monday, unless I go on vacation with them, which thankfully, is rare. It seems really strange to count up the hours and make sure they’re consecutive, and cut some from here to put some over there, etc…

Should be working May 28, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Lucky 7, that’s exactly how I read the rules. AP working Saturday night (or in my view, anytime after 2pm or so) means she gets Monday morning off.

In our house, with school-aged kids, she gets to skip the Monday morning routines and is ‘on duty’ again for kid pickup after school.

Should be working May 28, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Aria, Sundays and Mondays off is great, and generous from your HPs, assuming (in my interpretation of the rules) that you can sleep in on Sundays and be free in effect until Tuesday wakeup.

Should be working May 28, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Sorry, one more here. Aria, what I meant is that it is GENEROUS to get two full days off, if the agency only requires 1.5.

Now, last comment for now on this: the 5-hr rule doesn’t make sense to me as a half-day rule because a 5-hr shift in the middle of the day (or even worse a split shift of morning and afternoon time, but adding up to 5 hrs) wouldn’t give the AP a CHUNK of time, which like CV I see to be the spirit of this rule.

Nicola aupair May 29, 2010 at 11:05 am

Well personally as an au-pair I think this is a rule I would be happy to bend occasionally for an important event like a wedding. They don’t happen often, they’re special, and I know that if I was in HM or D’s place, I would want my AP to help me out. So I think if you break the half-day rule VERY occasionally, there shouldn’t be a problem. I still think you shouldn’t break the 45-hour rule though. You should make sure those hours are counted towards the weekend.

Additionally, I would expect extra pay or a treat (like being given food from home that’s hard to find) for bending this rule. But I would still be happy to bend it.

Nina November 16, 2010 at 10:41 am

I would assume any half-decent au pair would help out on such situations. I mean in Europe we get 2 days off a week (mine were usually weekends) but I was always happy enough to babysit every weekend or help out at a family wedding etc. I did however add up all my hours (the HM was very good and made me :)) and if I worked on a weekend, I either got 4 days off the following week or worked barely any hours on my usual on-duty time, or just gave me extra pay, so it never bothered me. I think if the HF shows they are not just exploiting the au pair i.e. making it a weekly thing, then it should be fine on the AP, unless you get one who expected her “job” to be like a holiday with a bit of babysitting on the side.

hostmomalittlecrazy November 1, 2011 at 1:45 pm

I thought this was a State Dept rule…not an Agency-specific rule…”and a minimum of 1½ consecutive days per week free for the remainder of the month (1 day and night falling on Friday, Saturday or Sunday).”

Dorsi November 1, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Here are the relevant regulations:

And here is the relevant quote:

“Receive a minimum of one and one half days off per week in addition to one complete weekend off each month”

As you can see, it says nothing about the 1.5 days off being consecutive or on the weekends. Agencies have the right to make more restrictive rules. I have not worked with CC in the past because I don’t like their matching process–now I am even less likely to work with them that I know that they require weekends off. If I had a M-F schedule, I might not need an Au Pair. I am generous with my AP — but in a way that enables me to work weekends, as my job requires.

Should be working November 1, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Dorsi, CCAP does NOT require weekends off, just the usual one-weekend-per-month and the 1.5 consecutive days, which may indeed fall during the week if the HF schedules it that way (apart from the free weekend). I don’t know where this HM got that quote about requiring the time off to fall on a weekend, here is what I get off our CCAP website: “3) Receive a minimum of one and one half days off per week in addition to one complete weekend off each month; and”

Now, the link you provide has a huge quirk, it appears. Note that the document in 62.31. (c) 2 says in the first few paragraphs: “limit the number of hours all other au pair participants are obligated to provide child care services to not more than 20 hours per day”

But below that describes 10 hrs/day. What’s with the 20 hrs/day here??

Dorsi November 1, 2011 at 5:14 pm

That’s funny — I think it must be a typo (even though those are official State Dept. regs)– there are lots of places where it says 10h/day — but I did find the point you mentioned.

Anna May 28, 2010 at 1:56 pm

I think the rule is unique to your agency.

From my agency’s manual:

• Au pairs are entitled to a minimum of one and one-half days off per week (the program recommends that one of these days be a weekend day, so that the au pair may enjoy a Saturday or Sunday with American friends who may only be
free on the weekends)
• They are entitled to one weekend off each month (Friday evening to Monday morning)

So from above, it is clear that 1 1/2 days off don’t have to be consecutive, and don’t have to be on a weekend.

Ann from NE May 29, 2010 at 11:54 am

We always followed the rules of Anna’s agency in the 3 years we had APs. I worked an 80% schedule (32 hours + commuting/lunch time) and had negotiated some flexibility with my manager to partially work from home.

On the three days that I went into the office, the APs worked a full 10-hour day (7:30am-5:30pm), and then on Mondays and Fridays, when I worked from home, they worked a half 5-hour day (1pm-6pm), for a total of 40 hours to cover my work childcare needs. The remaining 5 hours I used flexibly each week, sometimes to cover a doctor appointment during the week, sometimes for babysitting or errand needs on the weekend. They both knew from the start that they would usually be working a full 45 hours before they came. Sometimes I counted the Monday or Friday as a half day off for them, if I needed them to work a full weekend day, but that was not very often. I always took their vacation/special event plans into account as much as possible when planning the weekends.

I don’t think this caused any long-term feelings, in fact my daughter and I just returned from an overseas vacation where we visited them both and stayed with the parents of one of them and got a fabulous tour of the countryside. (We would have gone to their country anyway to visit personal relatives and other friends of ours.)

PA AP mom May 28, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Our first AP said that we had to give her 1.5 days off every week. I told her that we gave her every Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday off and she said, “that’s the weekend, not the week”. She even went to the LCC and complained. She was told that she was actually getting 2.5 days off per week and that she should be grateful. She continued to tell anyone who wouldn’t listen that we weren’t “following the rules” and were “taking advantage of her”.

CS Nanny May 28, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Lol. She doesn’t sound very smart. Did she not realize that weekends were part of the week?

PA AP mom May 28, 2010 at 2:52 pm

In all honesty, she just wanted as much time off as possible. She saw it as a week to get her weekends and part of the week free at our expense.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 28, 2010 at 8:47 pm

As many of you have realized, I’m pretty easy going and try to be as generous as possible as a host parent. (That’s not to say I don’t have my boundaries and moments when I’m totally irked.) I’m not a push-over – I’ve been a host long enough to know what I need and want. However, if I thought I had an au pair who was trying to nickel and dime me into following regulations that didn’t exist, I’d probably push back and schedule her for 45 hours for a couple of weeks, and then sit her down and say, “We can each be flexible and realize that compromise is going to make the year work well, or you can continue to play hardball. The result will be that I continue to play hardball back, and neither of us will be very happy with each other.”

But I would also try to get at the real reason the au pair was giving me a hard time. For some, it may be the first real job (and I remember the moment that I was going to have to work 40+ hours a week with no sciving from my studies by going to a movie in the middle of the day because the stress of studying for comps was too much. It took some time to get used to the repitition and to fight my boredom with routine by finding the work engaging. I’m still there 19 years later, so I must have done something right (and now I get myself there at 6:30 in the morning, which is a gravity-defying act every day).

An AP that chafes at time off could be getting used to working, or it could be that her best friend works 4 – 10-hour days and then heads to the beach for a long 3-day weekend every week and she wants a piece of the action. I’d be willing to give her 1-2 of those weekends, in exchange for more generosity of spirit on her behalf the rest of the time. However, to be quite honest when The Camel was young most of my vacation time was spent in our local Children’s Hospital, and I couldn’t afford to be flexible with my work time when I spent several hours away each week. This is where the face-to-face discussion across the dining room table, sitting down, at the end of the day, can be invaluable to come to a mutual understanding of what is expected and what is possible.

I have been very fortunate in that none of my APs have ever chafed at hours (well, one did once, but she was on her way out). All of my APs have seen how relationships with other HF worked, and realized that my “rules” were more like guidelines. All have done more than I have asked of them and have been rewarded.

The bottom line for me is that I know I’m getting my money’s worth, whether my AP works a 20-hour week or a 45-hour week, and I don’t feel compelled to have her work 45 hours, just because I can. Now that I have school-aged children, I want to be with my kids, but I also want to be able to work a full day, do some activities that please me, and put dinner on the table. Having an AP allows me that flexibility, and for that I’m grateful and willing to be generous when the AP asks (and as long as that generosity of spirit is reciprocated).

Host Mommy Dearest May 28, 2010 at 10:17 pm

If we do have 3 hours left within the 45 after the work week, we give our AP her choice – any 3 hours she wants to work over the weekend so that DH & I can go to the gym together, or he can get a hair cut while I buy a graduation gift for someone, or whatever. At least if she chooses the hours they won’t interfere with scheduling her social life. Regardless of whether there is a rule about time off being consecutive or not, it would be hard for our AP to claim we are not following that rule when she is the one choosing the hours.

Deb Schwarz May 29, 2010 at 11:42 am

I agree with “Computer Lunch”….the agency rules are meant to be guidelines. I’ve seen many a host family that works their au pair more than 45 hours a week and gives them no opportunity to see the U.S. or have a good time. The State Dept. rules are for these folks who think they are getting a slave rather than an au pair. BTW, all the agencies have the same hourly State Dept. rules, it’s just how they interpret them. There is nothing more irksome than an au pair that is working much less than 45 hours a week questioning whether the half day is 5 or 6 hours. Ughhhh!! Come on girls. When our last au pair questioned what constituted a “half day”, I knew we were in trouble. We should have gone into rematch (after that, she hit one of our kids, and crashed the car while texting). In my mind, these kind of inane questions show you that you either have an entitled au pair, or one who is being taken advantage of, so you need to look at their motives and general state of mind. I’m with you CV, now that our kids are older, we need more help on the weekends (try going to a swim meet, baseball game and gymnastics meet all at the same time), so if my agency insisted that the 1.5 days fell on the weekend, I wouldn’t appreciate that (we usually give our au pair Friday and half of Saturday off) and then we tell our au pair anytime that they would like to go away that they can take a full weekend off.

AnnaAuPair May 29, 2010 at 11:56 am

I was just wondering how HP are supposed to go on a saturdaynight date-night when the 1.5 days off have to be consecutive… I don’t know if my agency had a rule like that, but even if they had, I would have told my HP to break it every once in a while.
Sure it’s nice to have the whole Saturdaynight AND sunday off, but I think HP that work the whole week and hardly have to time spent with one another deserve and even need a night out. My hostmom didn’t like asking me to work the occasional Saturday because she wanted to give me time to see my friends and stuff. I sometimes had to TELL her to schedule me so my HP would have time just for themselves (which they hardly ever had).

Former Aupair in the USA June 23, 2010 at 12:58 am

In my first family i was so happy when the Host parents went out to a movie or a meal on the weekend because they rarely took time to be together just themselves,I was glad to work the occasional Fri or Sat nights just for them to take time out for themselves, plus it was fun for the children and I to have movie night or campout in the basement or just time to tell stories and play hide and seek..

I believe that its just as important to parents to have “couple time” as it is to have “family time”..

California Cowgirl May 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Our agency does require that the 1 1/2 days be consecutive. So a Saturday night at the movies means that I’m dropping off the kids and late for work on Monday mornings. We’ve never had an issue with this and I publish a monthly schedule.

We have had a bit of an issue with au pair #5 is around vacation time. Two weeks vacation is being interpreted as 14 days – not the standard 10 days. I’ve been flexible, but it’s a lot of vacation time to support.

Should be working May 29, 2010 at 5:32 pm

A side question:

If my au pair takes a week of vacation (Saturday night to following Saturday afternoon) does she get on top of that a full weekend off that month? I think she should, but I’m not sure.

BTW I interpret 2 wks vacation as 14 days. 10 days does not equal two weeks, unless she never ever works on weekends.

cv harquail May 29, 2010 at 6:00 pm

A while ago we did a poll on this, and some counselors commented to help clarify the way the guidelines get interpreted. Here’s the conversation:

Poll: How long, exactly, is “two weeks vacation”?

In general, the consensus is that “it depends” (surprise!)… It depends on the au pair’s usual schedule. Generally, it’s two weeks = 14days. However, concerns arise when an au pair or host family what to dole the vacation out a day here, two days there, instead of over a 7 day week. Then, it’s 2 x the number of days s/he usually works per week, with the weekends thrown in there. But that bit about the weekend off? Oh my. We’ll make that a post, in a day or two. cv

Host Mommy Dearest May 29, 2010 at 6:01 pm

2 weeks is defined as 2 calendar weeks by the agency. To clarify, we have in our handbook that she gets 14 days off, but 4 of those days must be weekend days. Even though our AP infrequently works on the weekend, that is still fair in my opinion. Almost all our APs have been given extra weekdays off here and there to extend a weekend trip and we’ve not counted it as vacation time used. I think those extra days will always be requested, and that would be on top of the 14 weekdays if that were permitted. 14 weekdays is almost 3 weeks vacation if you don’t count weekends, and I don’t believe that was the intention of the 2 week vacation rule.

Future AuPair May 29, 2010 at 2:51 pm

I think like most of you, that these rules have to be read as a guideline for general ocassions, but Au Pair also means to be a part of the family, to be flexible and understand your family needs.
In my opinion it’s all about giving and taking, finding the “half way” for both sides.
It is ridicullous for an Au Pair to try to hold to the exact rules, as she/he will only loose.

Talliecat May 30, 2010 at 7:43 am

Yikes, I think I have been breaking the rules. I am curious to find out about whether or not the vacation which is taken counts as the weekends off for the month? We always give our Au pair Sundays off but she usually works either Saturday morning or Saturday evening, she hasn’t complained about it yet. I feel as if it is a give and take. My au pair asked for this coming Monday off and I said sure, but you will then have to work on Friday ( she is now getting Fridays off because of the four 10 hour days). I do try and accomodate requests and I don’t want her to be miserable and unable to take advantage of experiences.. but this is a job and she is here to make our lives easier. I don’t want to get into the habit of her scheduling me.

pia aupair May 30, 2010 at 8:26 am

So i work monday through friday 9hours a day in one block without a break (since my kids are 2 and 3 and dont have preschool or anything) so since 9 hours is less then 12 which would be the half of a 24hour day you guys are telling me that i basically just work part time since i never work a ‘full’ day?

well in my case i dont need to worry about weekend hours since all 45hours are used during the week (even though we do have an agreement for one date night per month in thread for a day off during the summer. my hostmum is a teacher and off during the summer) due to my host parents work schedule. which btw i am the only one in this house that works 45 hours. both of my host parents work less. but sometimes it seems like host parents do not understand that our job is exhausting too.
And you guys are all talking about how you want to have date nights and stuff. but i think you guys should see it more like a privilege rather then as your good right.

when my hostmum was home during the summer last year (she is a teacher) they wanted to have the schedule changed so they could have date nights. she scheduled me to work my regular 9hours in the morning plus then the night hours so they could go out. therefore i got to work less a couple of days later. i asked why i couldnt work less the in the morning. she explained to me that she would be to exhausted to go out and enjoy herself after caring for her kids all day.
Or my friend that worked for a single mom got scheduled every saturday night (except of the 1 free weekend a month) so the mom could go on dates. when she was complaining the mom explained to her that she (the aupair) was free to go out friday night. so my friends asked her (the hostmum) to go out fridays instead and got the explanation that she is just to tired from work to go out friday nights.

In the beginning i always thought i had to agree to however my hostparents interpret the ‘guidelines’ (and dont get me wrong i have a great hostfamily) but when my hostdad actually found out last week (!) after i have been here over 20month now that i make 4.30$ per hour he was kinda shocked and even he had to see how cheap an au pair is. especially when you see that nannies in this area get around 20$/hr and regular babysitters at least 10$/hr.

and yes sometimes i do feel bad for my hostparents when they can not go out with their friends on weekends or when my hostmum gets home after work, i am off – she has to deal with ‘my job’ the kids then. But thats what you guys chose when you decided to have kids.

i really dont wanna step on anybody’s feet here but maybe you can see it now from an au pairs point of view.

DarthaStewart May 30, 2010 at 2:51 pm

It seems like you need to set some limits. – Have you discussed this with the host parents?

Also, the $4.30 or whatever per hour isn’t the true cost of the au-pair. There’s another thread discussing whether au-pairs are still a low cost alternative. I encourage you to read it, but the total cost to me per year of having an au-pair is in the $27-28,000 mark, once all of the costs are factored in.

Dorsi May 30, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Pia, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt, because you sound like you are trying to be fair to the HPs, despite your frustrations. However, be careful how you phrase things. I think Dartha clearly explains how you don’t make $4/hr. Let’s talk about how much you work.

There are 168 hours in a week and a family with children requires child care for 168 hours. You “work” and provide that care for 45 of those hours. That leaves 123 hours to be provided by the parents, roughly 60 hours a piece (assuming they split it evenly.) They do this in addition to whatever work they perform outside the home.

I am a bit defensive about this. I work outside the house about 30 hours per week. I am responsible for my child about 80 hours per week (the other hours are split between my husband and the AP). I would be very upset if my AP ever implied that she worked more than I did. It is not a competition; this is my child to raise and my house to run. However, I have very few hours per week that I do not have specific responsibilities, the AP has 123.

P.S. It is my right to schedule my AP whenever I want, within the rules of the program and the agreements we came to, prior to matching. Please don’t describe my evenings out as a privilege.

Nicola aupair May 31, 2010 at 5:02 am

My apologies, but you in turn have led me to go on the defensive! Technically speaking, an au pair does “work”- in terms of office hours- more than you. I don’t believe Pia was suggesting that her HP’s were lazy or that they didn’t have plenty of other work to do around the house. She even said she felt bad that after a long day, her HM had to look after the kids. However, she is right, this is something you signed up for! When you have kids, sometimes you do have to kiss goodbye to some fun nights or breaks!

Plus, aupairs also have their own housework and chores to do independantly of their 45 hours so it’s not like we get to relax as soon as we clock off. I do my own laundry, cooking for lunch and breakfast, keep my room tidy, do my homework, take the bins out, etc.

Additionally, of the 45 hours that Pia works, hypothetically let’s say she has the kids from 7:00am until 4:00pm, and the kids sleep for 1-2 hours each day during those 9 hours. This leaves 7-8 hours interaction with the kids. Then let’s say they sleep for 8-9 hours every night, during your time, and you are “in charge” from 4:00 pm until 7:00 am the next morning. This gives you about 5-6 hours of interaction, meaning that yes, your au-pair does “work” more hours with your children than you do.

And clearly in Pia’s case, this is unfair to her as she is being forced to work more than 10 hours a day some days and then given less work on other days. This is a breach of the rules, and an exhausting one no doubt.

With an au-pair, a night out should be considered even more than a privilege if you are also forcing her to work during the day. In fact, it shouldn’t happen at all. If you wish to have a night out, but your au-pair has been working that day, hire a babysitter. The truth is that while some people may try to treat us like “family”, we are not “family” so that we can be abused and repeatedly asked for favours.

As for the money, that’s a completely different argument and I don’t really care about how much I recieve, so I’m the wrong person to discuss it with.

Noelle May 31, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I was working on a long response to this diatribe, and now believe its not worth it.

So my short response is, based on how judgmental and arrogant your tone is, have you considered whether or not you are a good fit for the AP program? It sounds like your host family doesn’t meet with your down high standards. Perhaps you should find a new one, so they can find an au pair with a better attitude.

Pia Aupair May 31, 2010 at 2:59 pm

@ noelle who are you talking to?

Noelle May 31, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Pia, I was talking to Nicola.

Host Mommy Dearest May 30, 2010 at 4:41 pm

pia au pair – If your HM is scheduling you for more than 10 hours per day, that is not right. Hopefully your host parents do appreciate that your job is a lot of work, but hopefully you expected to work up to 45 hours per week providing childcare as an au pair. I hope you also understood how much you would get paid before you came? It seems like you think you should get paid more and work less? Or do you only feel that way because you don’t think your HPs work enough? I doubt you have ever lived on your own before and truly covered all your own expenses. Those nannies making $20/hr in your area probably pay rent or a mortgage, have car payments, car insurance and car maintenance costs, pay heat/electricity/cable/utilities, buy their own food, and pay for their own linens/towels/toilet paper/soap/cleaning products…and the list goes on. If you were one of those nannies making $20/hour, it is very unlikely that you would have even close to $200 per week left to spend on traveling, clothes shopping, going out to dinner and Starbucks trips. I’m not saying nannies don’t do those things, but if they do them at the same rate as your average au pair they are probably putting it on a credit card and heading toward deep debt. If you think au pairs in general get a raw deal, I think you are mistaken (unless the HF is taking advantage of the AP/not following rules/generally mistreating an AP).

Jan May 31, 2010 at 8:51 am

This posting really bothers me. I personally have no problem accomodating the hours worked / day, and our au pair’s have the full weekend off. I rarely need extra help from our au pair’s, and on occasion I have hired a local baby sitter to watch the kids for a couple of hours. I have found that our au pair’s appear to be hurt that I didn’t ask them first, and I think they feel a little threatened by the baby sitter.

Pia – it sounds like you have been amenable to working more than 10 hours per day on some days for more time off later, but you need to say something to the host family if this is an issue for you.

Pia / Nicola – I can only hope that one day when you have children you also work outside of the home. It is hard. When your host mom comes home at the end of the day she not only has to do your job as an au pair, but she also has a gazillion other things to do. As an au pair you have some chores to do, but unlike your host family you are not working outside of the home, taking care of your children in your off time all while trying to keep your house running smoothly.

DarthaStewart May 31, 2010 at 8:59 am

I too have had the au-pairs hurt/annoyed with me if I just call in a babysitter and don’t offer them the time first. It’s not often that I need extra hours, but I always tell them they can say “no”, that I have other sources of babysitting. Most of mine wouldn’t even begin to hear of it. (Then what do you do- offend the au-pair? Or just pay her the going rate for those babysitting hours?)

Nicola aupair May 31, 2010 at 11:13 am

OK, first of all, I think that offering the au-pair those hours are fine if you also have a babysitter as a back-up plan. That wasn’t my point and of course it’s the right way to deal with a night out. I was talking about those people who don’t bother to give their aupair the option of a babysitter when they have worked all day.

To Jan, please allow me to explain:

Your life is not hard. My mother was a single mum who at 50 was trying to raise her daughter without any outside help, who couldn’t afford an au pair, who often hosted students in the house without recieving any money, and who worked full time. Just a little bit harder than you.

But now let’s look at a mum, possibly afflicted with AIDS, working in Africa trying to feed her five children. Just a lot harder than the rest of us have it on this website. I think it is ridiculous to complain about either an au-pair or a host family’s load when we are in the top 0.08% of the richest people on the planet. That said, it’s important that we recognise each other’s needs. I recognise the fact that the host parents would like a night out sometimes. You (I’m assuming) recognise the fact that it is not right to ask your au pair to work at night-time when they have already worked during the day. So we may reach a comprimise. Either you get a babysitter, or give your au-pair less hours that day. That is all I am trying to say.

Either you wanted these kids or you didn’t. If you didn’t you’ve already got a problem. If you did, you should recognise that you need to play with them. And I am not planning on becoming a mother, but if I did I would recognise that need also. I have enough experience with my own mother to know what I’m talking about.

aria May 31, 2010 at 11:29 am

Down, Nicola. Whew. ;)

Noelle May 31, 2010 at 2:19 pm

:-) How is it always the people without children, and who plan to NEVER have children, they have the most narrow, judgmental opinions of how other people raise their kids?

Nicola, why are you an au pair? I’m being serious – I’d like to know. Was it the travel?

aria May 31, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Nicola, you have gone off topic. I understand (and even agree with a little) your points, but Noelle is right. As legitimate as a LOT of your arguments may be, you lose a lot of credibility when you start lecturing the whole forum on Tibetan soldiers and forced sterilization.

You’re 18. *I’M* 18. Who gave you the supreme task of solemnly reminding the rest of us poor, ignorant souls about all of the hardship in the world?? Sheesh! Get over yourself! This website is called AU PAIR MOM. The POINT of it is for AU PAIR MOMS to complain and vent!! Complaining in context actually *does* help solve problems!

I’m your biggest fan when you say it shouldn’t be a job to take care of your own kids. I’m with you all the way when you say your mom did it alone, because so did mine, diagnosed with cancer and going through a nasty divorce. It drives me nuts when my HPs spend every single Saturday at their ballet class and golfing only to come home and tell me “the children are *not* to bother them for the rest of the afternoon.”

But (and I know CV has said this somewhere, before) these moms wouldn’t be here on this website if they didn’t want to make things work somehow. I don’t know any of them personally- how can you decide that any of their lives are more or less difficult than your mom’s? You can’t and it’s not your place to pass such sweeping judgements on all of them. Shame on you!

But it’s good to get everyone’s concerns out there! :)

north cali June 8, 2010 at 6:17 pm

The local nannies have to pay for rent, car payments, car insurance, health insurance, food, and other expense. AP are getting weekly cash about $800-$1000. Not a bad deal. Most of the young Americans do not make that much after tax and after covering their other living expense. Be smart about calculating the net amout you are getting from your HP.

Pia aupair May 31, 2010 at 11:06 am

like i said i wasnt trying to step on any body’s feet. obviously i did.
first yes i do know how it is to live by myself and have all those expenses. but the thing i am saying is how is the job of a nanny different from mine? except that she gets paid a heck of a lot more.
i am very familiar with the agency fees and living expenses a hostfamily has to come up for. but is doesnt change anything about the fact that i earn 4.30$/hr.

@doris see this is exactly what i was referring to. you guys are complaining about caring for your own children. (well at least some of you) and i just think thats ridiculous. I i think you shouldn’t describe spending time with your family as work.

and yes i was aware of what i singed up for. 45hr a week for 4.30$ an hour (well when i first came here it was 3.70$/hr) and i love it. and like i already said i love my hostfamily and i always try to help them out where i can cause they are like a second family for me. (eg today i am gonna be painting my bathroom since my hostdad could use some help with that.)
but sometimes i just think host families forget how to appreciate what they got.

Nicola aupair May 31, 2010 at 11:17 am

Aside from the money (which I’ve already said I don’t really understand or care about)

I agree with you exactly. So many parents describe their time with their kids like its a chore and that is a pity. I personally would be deeply hurt if I thought my mum considered me a chore.

Anyway… time for me to take cover! (I’m ready to dodge whatever flames are gonna come my way after those posts!)

Host mommy dearest May 31, 2010 at 2:54 pm

The point of my post was that APs are not different from nannies in what they do. Also, they cost the HF about the same AND the program allows the AP the same if not a higher standard of living/spending money.

Anonamomma May 31, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Hi – it is silly to debate the pay – there is a clear answer to how much you receive. I am going to outline what an AP “gets” — not what it costs HF to have an AP, which is an entirely different calculus altogether, and perhaps isn’t relevant to the AP who is focused on what s/he has in hand at the end of the week.

If you are in the USA you don’t make $4.30/hour. IF you work 45hrs/week, you make $4.35 IN POCKET MONEY/hour, unless your HF pays you more than the minimum stipend. (For the purposes of this illustration I’m assuming your HF pay you the required stipend, but not more.)
If you work fewer than 45h/week, then you make more per hour, since the stipend remains the same.

But here is the key — you actually make minimum wage as stipulated by US Federal law MINUS 40% of minmum wage to cover your room and board. This is currently $7.25/hr (again, if you work 45h/week.) This is spelled out on all the US Au Pair Agency websites – you might need to look at the portions of the site that are for HP, as they outline and break down the cost. The stipend is calculated as 60% of minimum wage X 45h/week.

You also receive $500 toward your educational credits.

Per an agency website:
Please note: the weekly stipend is determined by the U.S. Department of Labor using a formula based on the federal minimum wage. Any change in the federal minimum wage will result in an increase in the stipend. The U.S. Department of State requires that host families also provide an educational allowance of up to $500 per au pair.

Your HF also pay for, via the agency, your air ticket, training and health insurance. These are direct benefits to you that have economic value.

This of course does not take account of any other things your HF MAY (or may not) provide for you, that are specifically for you (I’m not counting hot water or heat here, as that is part of the board), and which have a clear, cash value to you: such as car insurance that covers you during your personal time, use of a car for personal (as opposed to on duty) use, a mobile phone, etc. These all have a cost and if your HF didn’t pay for them, you might need to.

I’m not arguing that you are paid the going rate for nannies — you are not. And the reasons you are not are becuase you are part of a cultural exchange + childcare program that provides many benefits that live out nannies or babysitters do not receive. If you were paid $20/h as a nanny you would GROSS $900/week. You would pay taxes on that amount, taking ~25% off the top. Thus, you would net $675/week. With this $675/week you would need to pay for housing, transportation, gas, food, clothes, health insurance, utilities (heat, water, electric), telly service if you wanted it, a mobile phone or landline service, internet access (if you wanted it) and any discretionary expenses. So, yes, you would be paid more/hour as a nanny..but you would likely have significantly less at the end of the day (or week…month) and you would have some difficult choices to make about what you could afford, where you lived, could you afford a car etc.

Nanny pay and AP pay are apples and oranges.

former aupair May 31, 2010 at 11:51 am

I think that one problem that occured in this thread is that there are host parents who really mistreat their au pair and evoke the impression that taking care of their children is a mere core to them. However, from what I’ve read so far, these host parents are not commenting on this side, probably not even visiting. In situation such as these the complaint (and venting) often reaches the wrong people. Pia says herself that she likes her host family she just has to work too much from time to time. When au pairs (and I am NOT referring to Nicola and Pia here, this is just a general remark) say that they have chores besides their 45 hour job and that they are pretty exhausted, please keep in mind that for most au pairs this is their first full time job and it takes time to get used to it. And you all know how demanding kids can be (and they have right to be as well).
There are host parents – again I don’t think they visit this site – who expect the au pair to entertain their children for 45 hours (and sometimes longer than that), to always be fun, to always be involved, to always invent new games etc.. The au pair is not allowed to let the children watch TV, play video or a computer game. As soon as the au pair is off duty and the parents are in charge the kids can do all those things and the parents don’t care, the usual reason being that the parents are tired from work. Now put yourself in the position of that au pair. Doesn’t this seem a little strange to you? I am not saying that it isn’t ok for parents to put in little less effort into entertaining their kids than they expect the AP to (after all that is the AP’s job), I am just trying to describe in general where problems can occur.

momto2 May 31, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Whereas it is certain that every family makes their own childcare choices to fit their own personal situations, I must say our personal goal is to minimize the amount of time our children are in the personal care of someone other than their parents. We have had both positive and negative experiences with our au pair choices and nannies, but at the end of the day, we want our kids to grow up the way we, as parents, want them to be raised. None of our au pairs knows the first thing about being a parent–they have (at times) been decent role models, and that is what we ask of them, on top of following the schedules and making sure the kids get on the school bus WITH their lunch boxes and homework assignments. We chose to hire live-in au pairs mainly to help us out during summer vacations and the inevitable snow day or “teacher work day”. As parents, we don’t have enough vacation days to cover all these free days, and our jobs wouldn’t allow it. This past year, we were buried in snow on the east coast and the kids were out of school for what seemed like forever. Having a live in au pair seemed like a God send so we could have someone watch the kids while we shoveled, and made our ways into the office. We hire the au pairs because they are like our child care insurance–they are there to cover us mainly in the case of emergency. If the kids are sick (sniffles and fatigue–not fever or vomiting), the au pair is our back-up so that we can go to work and get our jobs done. During the school years, our au pairs work maybe 20-25 hours a week, with every weekend off, but they cover the occasional Saturday night host parent “date night” once per month. During the summer months, we pay our au pairs an additional stipend over the required amount, since the per hour rate for 45 hours seems like a mere pittance at the end of the week. The additional 50-100 bucks has helped to have our au pairs maintain the positive energy we require to maintain our expectations for our kids–and they still get every weekend off and they never go over 45 hours a week. In the end, we feel it is worth it. We used to pay 35,000 dollars a year for our last nanny’s salary and taxes, so paying 18,000 per year to have our au pair work 20-25 hours a week and be on stand by half the time seems like a reasonable deal. It works for us, and our last 2 au pairs.

SunshineDay May 31, 2010 at 7:08 pm

That’s crap that you say an AP doesn’t have a clue what it is like to be a parent. Who do you think is the parent when you are at your job?? The AP! The AP is pretty much raising your children. If that hurts, oh well. It’s the truth. It is your AP who probably gets them off to school, picks them up, feeds them, make sure laundry/homework/etc is done and ready for the next day. It is your AP who is with them when they are sick, hurt, lonely, upset, etc. It is also your AP who gets to be the one to experience the milestoes of your child’s life because you aren’t around. I know plenty of parents where the mom works limited hours outside the home because they realize what it means to be a true parent, and what is important. The extra car, unlimited minutes, better vacations, etc, pale in comparison to the precious time that you could be having with your child. Kids are only young for a short while, and I shudder to think that most of them will only remember mom and dad playing with them when they weren’t too tired or busy, and they will think fondly on their AP’s/nannies for being the one to shape who they are or who they will be. I am not young, and I have been an AP before. I also have children of my own. While it was a wonderful experience, it was sad because I knew who was spending the most quality, not even quantity, amount of time with the children. And guess what, it wasn’t the parents. There are loads of single parents who either cannot afford an AP or just don’t want someone else to raise their kids. You won’t meet many AP’s (and a lot of great ones at that) who feel sorry for their HP’s regarding how much they have to work, and then still have to take care of the kids. Guess you should have gotten a plant. I don’t work outside the home. No, we do not live in the lap of luxury, or even close to it, but at least I’m the one my kids sees for more than 2+ hours a day.

Anna May 31, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Oh, the stay-at-home mommy debate. It will never be over.

Some of us cannot afford to stay home. Yes, even living very modestly – just cannot! You should be kinder to people and give the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes the only way a family can afford to have children at all is to work full time for both parents. So, it is better they not multiply? Who are you to judge?

And some of us just prefer working. And yes, you can still raise well-adjusted children who recognize from infancy who is their mother, and who is their caregiver, even if they spend most of their waking hours with the caregiver. I was raised by two working parents. They had to work, because in the country we lived in at the time, if an able bodied person did not work, they could be thrown in jail as parasites on society. I was watched by my grandma during the day, many of my peers who didn’t have such luck were watched by public daycares and nurseries and aftercares, and guess what, we are happy and well contributing members of society, and we inherited the values of our families, not of the daycare workers.

Get off your high horse and realize that your children will turn out only as well as they can, and at some point you staying home and putting all you can into them will not necessarily make them better, smarter, better adjusted than kids of the working mom next door. In fact the kids of the working mom next door might have better values and more tolerance than kids raised by a such a narrow-minded and judgemental mom as yourself.

Me personally, right now I work because I cannot afford not to. I am due with my third child in less than a month and would love to take time off for at least a year. But, my kids have to eat. My husband is right now not bringing in any income. My education and experience command a salary that is high enough to pay an au pair, and cover most of our expenses. When my first two kids were born, I preferred to go back to work. These are however my choices and I don’t ask your opinion on how I treat my kids. My kids are smart, beautiful, polite, and well developed for their age. It is not because of my luck with au pairs; it is because I taught my au pairs what to do and how, and those who were not teachable or didn’t fit with my family when back on their merry way quite quickly.

And you know what? In the “olden times”, the children were not raised full-time by the mother at all. The young and able-bodied parents worked in the fields while the elderly grandparents and teens took care of the kids and the house. For the upper class, the nannies and nursemaids took care of babies and kids while the parents took care of the social life that kept them wealthy enough to afford the lifestyle. So a child being raised by an extended family or parts of childcare being delegated out is nothing new under the sun, but rather the model that prevailed from time immemorial.

And yes, an au pair doesn’t have a clue what it is to be a parent.. For au pair, it is a job she is paid to do, temporarily. The ultimate responsibility for the child is the parent’s, not temporarily at all. The house she lives in, the car she drives, the food she eats, and the stress of making a living is the parent’s, not temporarily at all. She is taken care of, the parents take care of her needs, and the kids’ needs.

momto2 June 3, 2010 at 10:01 am

Sunshine Day- Somehow I have a feeling that if you took a journey to the center of the universe, you’d be painfully surprised to see that there isn’t a picture of you floating there. The AP is not a parent–nor do I think they should be, anymore than a teacher or a soccer coach. They are role models, if we are lucky. Perhaps your frustration is motivated by your personal experiences, but as a host parent, I do not see where 20-45 hours a week of child care somehow makes an au pair so much more of an impression on our children than the 130-140 hours a week the parents are “parenting.” Perhaps we will just agree to disagree.

north cali June 8, 2010 at 6:29 pm

If you signed up to be an AP. You are the nanny. What is your point??

CS Nanny June 8, 2010 at 6:36 pm

North Cali, I don’t understand your point. Care to elaborate?

Having a Computer Lunch May 31, 2010 at 10:08 pm

This seems to have devolved from what a half-day off means to why HF host APs (which was a conversation elsewhere). As someone who got up this morning at 6:00 because The Camel didn’t know it was a holiday, I gave my AP Memorial Day off, but usually I mentally treat federal holidays as if the AP had worked an 8-hour day (because my employer does the same). I am no more whipped than usual – because I usually haul my sleepy a-s out of bed and out the door on the 5:30 bus, so I can get home by 4:00 so my AP can study (and in the summer so she only works a 9-hour day). The bonus to me is always a long evening with my kids. The bonus to me today was that lovely above-ground pool that Make-A-Wish gave to The Camel the year after she had brain surgery (only today after weeks of making it ready while freezing his butt off, HD said, “It’s worth it” because The Camel laughed — and each giggle counts).

For all of you APs who gripe who spends more time working or not, come live with me for a week. Until she was 6 and went on Prozac, I think I could count on one hand the number of times The Camel slept through the night (belive me, she had her good qualities, or she wouldn’t have lived so long)! Even now, on Prozac, The Camel who at age 11 has boobs and pubes, sometimes has her off nights. It’s not the AP who goes to her — because it’s not her work slot – it’s us, the people who brought her here on earth – for no extra pay, because she’s ours and we love her (but don’t get me wrong – if I’m upright at 2 am, I’m working! I’m just not working for my employer! While there’s no pay in it, the benefits are the best – a child who knows we love her!)

My APs don’t have to wash up sick kids in the middle of the night (I’m not complaining – really, just stating the obvious – there’s a difference between my kids and being paid to look after other people’s children – if they’re mine, I’m upright in the middle of the night). The bottom line, whether they’re sleeping darlings or in need of a 3-hour pin-down so they don’t rip their scalps until they bleed – my darlings are mine from the time the AP ends her shift until it begins in the morning (and even if I’ve only had a couple of hours of decent sleep, somehow I still plant my butt on that 5:30 bus and do a decent job at work and take a serious nap on the commute home so I can do it again). So while I might only get paid to work 40 hours a week – make no mistake, I realize my kids are mine from the moment I walk in the door. (Whether every parent feels that, is another story. If your HP don’t feel that way, then you need to have a chat.)

Now that my kids are school age, my AP only works 25-30 hours a week during the school year. I’ve just warned her again, now that the end of school is a mere 16 days away, that her life is about to change (and I’m about to lose that precious date night, when I get to eat a meal once-a-week and not talk about Pokemon — don’t mind 5 nights a week, but date night is precious because we can talk about other things — like how to give up driving enough to make a difference in the Gulf of Mexico).

Nicola – it sounds like you should have volunteered to work with the poor, but here you are working with the rich. Yes, it pays better, but are you happier? I’ll tell you this, personally I’m happy working away from home 5 days a week. I’m a better parent because I have the opportunity to do what makes me really happy for 40 hours a week. And I can really listen about Pokemon during dinner – even though I’m sure that, like geometry, it will never sink in.

However, I take Tikkun Olan seriously even though I’m not religious – it’s not up to me to repair the world, but to do my bit to make it a better place (and when I can figure out how not to drive the minivan for 45 minutes to take The Camel to the music therapist that allows her to express herself musically in a way she cannot do because she cannot speak — I’ll let you know — because I’m feeling pretty awful about the Gulf of Mexico at the moment).

We’re all imperfect, but yes, here in America, some of us have more opportunities than others to do the best by our kids. Nicola, if you are feeling guilty and angry about wasted wealth, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities to work with the half-nots (even if their worst day is better than the best-day in another country).

Nicola aupair June 1, 2010 at 7:59 am

Just quickly- I do lots and lots of volunteer work. I also participate actively in campaigns and plan on being part of my university’s overseas projects when I enroll. It’s true that I do feel guilty and angry, I was born among the wealthy and have never felt deserving of it. My dream is to one day help children in Africa get a good education so that they can break the cycle of poverty. But even so I was wrong to post such angry and narrow-minded comments here, so please ignore them.

Calif Mom June 1, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Thank you Nicola. It’s hard to publicly apologize, even if it’s anonymous. I appreciate your thoughtful re-reading of your own comments and acknowledgment that what you wrote was from a place of strong emotion but came at the expense of reason/fairness.

I am glad there are young people who care about these issues and who are willing to pour their energy into them. I have a favorite expression: you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. It will serve you well–especially if you go into the field of international development–to remember this.

former au pair June 1, 2010 at 8:39 am

@HaCL: I just wanted to tell you that I really admire you. I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it must be to have special needs child. The way you take care of her and love her is truly great.

Anna May 31, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Another thing I want to add that some au pair who are judging our choices and lifestyles might not be aware of:

I mentioned it a few times on this blog, but in America the benefits for mothers and children, and the whole maternity policy is probably the worst in the developed world.

We don’t get paid when we have a baby. We don’t get a gift from the government. We most likely have to leave a few thousand dollars of our own money at the hospital as a 20% or more “copay” for the cost of delivery.

We do not get paid to stay home with the baby, or to have more babies, or a stipend until a child reaches a certain age, or time off work before baby’s birth, or years off with our position held after. We don’t get money towards a child’s food, education, daycare or whatever.
We don’t have government-sponsored daycares.

We get 12 weeks to bond with the child while being able to keep abovementioned health insurance and our job. We don’t get time off before the baby’s birth; if we do, the 12 weeks starts counting then, and we get less time once the baby is born. Most of the time 12 wks is unpaid. If we have a disability insurance, we might get paid something (a percentage of our salary) for 6 weeks or 8 weeks, depending on how the baby was delivered. If we work for a small enough company, we don’t get 12 weeks at all, we only get 6 weeks for a normal delivery and 8 weeks off for a c-section.

Quit the job and stay at home? Well, only the mom can have health insurance through her employer (like in my case), then in order to have medical care for the kids, she has to go back to work….Our government will not pay for our doctors (unless we are dirt poor, and then very few doctors will take the government insurance), like in many countries au pairs come from, they don’t even have to think about it.

Yes, the fact that americans work hard, and social benefits are mostly none at all, creates the opportunity and the need for the au pairs to come to our beautiful country, and enjoy it, enjoy the grandeur the hard work built. There is a price, we, americans, pay for it. And it is the underlying reason that everyone including you wants to come here and travel.

Ann from NE May 31, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Ann, those are very important points; I wish a summary like that between U.S. and other country benefits was in the orientation materials for both APs and HPs!

I just returned from a vacation in the E. European country where my APs and my parents originally come from, and despite the fact that there is very high unemployment, the state still provides 1 year paid maternity leave (though now at lower pay than before); free healthcare to children under 18 (except for certain specialist surgeries); state funded daycares until elementary school at the age of 7. (Note, daycares there start accepting children only after the age of 2 or 3 however, not 3 month old infants like in the U.S.).

Another important difference for APs is that in more traditional countries extended families often live together or at least close by so the stereotypical grandmother may be able to help out with childcare or at least in the summer watch elementary school age children. Here in the U.S. families are scattered so we have this big industry of summer day camps to fill the childcare gap etc.

I also had to explain to both of my APs that in Europe families usually receive direct up front monthly cash income from the government for having children, but that in the U.S. the only government support that families may receive is indirect at year end in the form of tax deductions / dependent care spending accounts, etc., which is after you’ve laid out your own cash you may get partially reimbursed via the tax code.

What also struck me was that parents there seem to gave a greater sense of public safety for their children, I saw many what appeared to be first or second graders taking public transportation to school by themselves with cellphones, here as we know adult supervision of children in public spaces seems ever present.

DarthaStewart May 31, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Another big weakness in our system is that we really have no safety net for parents of children who have serious disabilities. My oldest was born at 28 weeks. I knew I would have to return to work to pay for ongoing medical bills. So, I returned to work when she was a week old, and actually took my “maternity leave” when she came home from the hospital (at the time there was no fmla)..
Like you observed, there is no extended maternity leave here, so many times women are forced to return to work when their children are very, very young. (I worked with a contractor at a high tech company who was back at work when her infant was 1 week old, and she had a C/S. But she had no choice if she wanted to keep a roof over her head.. mat. leave wouldn’t have been paid for) I don’t think that any other industrialized country is as hard on its mothers.

And as far as a tax deduction goes.. Only if you’re lucky. Not everyone gets tax deductions for their children. If you are unfortunate enough to live/work in a hcol area, or have more than 2 children, you start hitting AMT, and lose your child deductions.

Anna May 31, 2010 at 11:35 pm

Ann, good point about grandparents.
And here, it is not only about proximity. It is also about benefits. Grandparents cannot retire at 55-60 years old and have the time and a guaranteed pension, so they can help out with grandkids.
Most have to work much longer into the old age, and they earn their retirement themselves.

former au pair June 1, 2010 at 9:24 am

The points made above probably explain some au apairs attitudes towards “raising your own children”.
I think the idea that the issue of health benefits in different countries should be part of an orientation for both the HP and the AP. I’ll expalin the situation in Germany below (if you are not interested just skip it ;))
Pregnant women have to start maternitiy leave 6 weeks before their due date and are not allowed to return to work until 8 weeks after the birth of the child (there are only very few exceptions from that law). They get paid their full salary (their company pays a part of that, the other part is paid by the government) for those 6 months.
From the beginning of the pregnancy on until 4 months after the birth a mother cannot be laid off / fired (unless a company goes bankrupt).
After the birth of a child one parent can stay home with the child for up to 12 months and that parent recieves 67% of their norrmal salary (though that “rate” can never be more than 18oo € / month).
If the parents decide to split the year (one parent has to stay home for at least two months) this time increases to 14 months.
A parent who left work to raise a child has the right to get her/his old job back until the child is 3 years old.
Child support money (paid by the government) is 184 €/months and is definitely paid until the child’s 18th birthday, if the child goes on to study at a university, this support can be extended until the child is 26 years old.
A parent’s health insurance covers the health insurance of children as well up until their 25th birthday (if a child starts to work before that, he / she has to insure him/herself).
The current tuition rate at German universities is 500 € / semester, so that is 1000€ / year.
So, having children is much cheaper in Germany than it is in the US. That is most likely the reason, why so many German au pairs were raised by stay-at-home-moms untitl they wer 12 or 14. So if your German AP starts to tell you that her mother stayed home for over 10 years, now you know why.

I think that the German system is great in this respect. There is one MINOR down side, and that is just a cultural one, but it might also explain your AP’s attitude towards working moms in more detail. It is socially not accepted if a mother (and specifically a MOTHER) returns to work before her children are at least around 10 years old. This is especially true for middle class to upper-middle class families, which are normally the kind of families that au pairs come from. Mothers who do return to work before that time are “horrible mothers” in the eyes of the general society. The government tries to change this attitude but it takes a long time and will probably not happen within this generation. So your German AP may have grown up with that attitude.
I personally think that this attitude is wrong and will, once I have kids, probably be one of the “horrible moms” who work “and don’t take care or their own children”. (Note the inverted commas, this is not what I think but what will most likely be thought about me).
I hope this post wasn’t too boring, my intention was to explain why some German APs, especially during their first few weeks in the US, may have a “weird” attitude.
However, and this is very IMPORTANT, most German APs have learned about the fact that social systems / health benefits etc. are different in different chultures at school, just not in detail. So if you just casually tell them about how “expensive” (for lack of a better term) having children in the US is, the AP should usually change her attitude pretty fast.

Should be working June 1, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Another downside to the German system, from what I understood from my German young-women friends when I used to live there, is that German companies sometimes try to avoid hiring young women–precisely because of the burden that possible upcoming childbearing will pose to the company.

And very different from the US, German job applicants have to submit photos and include on their resumes their ‘personal information’, including how old they are, whether they are married or not, whether they have children, and so forth.

But I digress…
I think the German support for moms is wonderful. But it is not a sign that Germany is a more feminist society. I lived there for several years, and in some ways it is better for women there and in some ways it isn’t.

former au pair June 1, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Unfortunately the part about the job prospects of women “who are of child bearing age” (a term often used in German companies) and the information that have to be disclosed on application is true. Some companies additionally expect you to also disclose the name and age of your children, your siblings’ names, ages and professions and your parents’ names (including your mother’s maiden name) and their professions. If you apply for a job in a field where you need a universitiy degree and you have that degree but your parents and siblings have not been to a university this can be a disadvantage. (Not that likely, but it happens).

NJMom June 1, 2010 at 10:35 am

This discussion really depressing me. This was one of the few sites where I felt “safe” to discuss the stresses of being a working mother without judgement for the fact that I do work (for so, so many reasons).

My 2 cents June 1, 2010 at 11:55 am

Awwww, NJ Mom don’t be depressed! It’s still safe here. I think there are some ill-informed and ill-experienced on here that are allowing their emotions and personal toils to take over and make a lot of exaggerated claims and judgments. Don’t let the outliers and their lack of perspective and context get to you.

Jan June 1, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Sorry to have gone there. I think I shoulda kept my big mouth shut, but I can’t stand judgments being passed.

Former au pair – thanks for the low down on the German system. OMG. I think I’d probably be in a German jail! :)

VA aupair August 4, 2011 at 7:41 pm

I used to work more than 45 hours from Monday to friday and still I had to work on saturdays. My host mom knew that I needed the day and a half off but she just disappeared. She was supposed to arrive Saturdays at 12 noon and she once arrived at 5 p.m. and I was of course with the kids. I did not say anything because it was the first time that happened, but as she noticed that she kept on doing that.. once she went out all the saturday and when she arrived I had to go to my bedroom really upset because I didnt have my 1.5 off as it was supposed and because my friends left without me. I missed one of the best concerts ever because of her talking to a friend in the store!!!
She realizes that I was so mad at her and since that day on I have all my weekends off :)

au pair 101759 November 1, 2011 at 3:01 pm

I have always work since i am here 45 hours per week in summer, fall, spring and winter ALWAYS. I have weekends off what is amazing. However I had a liitle argue with my host mom yesterday. She scheduled me 35 hours last week (it has been the only week that I work less in all the 11 months I have been here) BUT she paid me less. When I realized I told her that the salary was more than that but she told me :” yes but remember that you did not work 45 hours last week so you own me $$$$$!!! IS that right? I don’t think the contract says that plus it was not me who planned the schedule!… Do I really own her money?? I dont think so plus I am so piss off I walyas do everything and more than requiered because I even clean their room. I think she is taking advantege of me. I talked to her but she still doesn’t change her mind then I suggested to talk about it with the lcc, she told me that if I do that there are going to be consequences….I just have a month left to leave …what can I do?

Should be working November 1, 2011 at 3:26 pm

I am so sorry to hear this. You do not owe her money. You should not clean her room. You could have raised that latter issue much earlier in the year, but it sounds like this HM is intimidating and you have reason to worry that she will take revenge.

If she threatened ‘consequences’ for talking to the LCC, that is awful. If you had that threat in email, you could send it to the LCC–or I would send it much higher up in the agency.

I suppose if you are committed to staying for the last month, you could suck up the lost pocket money–but that’s really wrong–and THEN tell the LCC and the agency, at a high level, what is going on. My hope would be that taking the high road and reporting this in a calm, matter-of-fact way would not result in any bad consequences for you. If you leave 4 wks early, is that a huge loss? Would the agency pay for your return ticket? These are the big questions in my view.

azmom November 1, 2011 at 3:30 pm

assuming you ar ein the US and have an agency… you should get paid the 195.75 every week, no matter how many hours, up to 45, you work.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 1, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Yes, in the U.S. your “stipend/salary” is the same regardless of the number of hours you work. Your HF goes on vacation without out? Same salary! Before you call the LCC, you and she should have had a slip of paper to countersign (meaning that you each had to sign it) that guaranteed you would not work more than 45 hours a week, no more than 10 hours per day, and that you would be paid your stipend weekly. Show her that paper first, and say that if she doesn’t agree to it, that then you will talk with your LCC.

However, before you threaten her. Appeal to her better side. Haven’t you been a great AP for 11 months? Haven’t you worked hard? Haven’t you done what she asked? In return, she should do the right thing? And if she doesn’t? Then, you complain to your LCC.

au pair 101759 November 1, 2011 at 11:29 pm

yes I am a good au pair and she tells me that.. even the kids they asked me to extend but I really have to move on with my life. But the thing is that they expect me to do everything and there were more stuffs that they expected me to do but I didn’t because it was just not fair (like ironing my host dad ties) I refused to do that. My point thou is that even if they are not mean at all, the job in this house is overwhelming, not ecause of the children as they are realy easy to handle but because of the house hold, I do everything ans she is never happy. My host dad told me not to taki it personal she is the same way with all the au pairs they have had. I am reading right now the contract and will talk to her tomorrow :) thanks

My 2 cents November 2, 2011 at 6:29 am

Talk to your LCC. Don’t bother with host mom. She knows darn well what the weekly stipend is and that you don’t reduce it because she decided she only needed to use 35 hours. She sounds manipulative and abusive. Threatening you with consequences for speaking with the LCC is outrageous. I wouldn’t hesitate to start packing my bags and expecting any deposit returned from the agency. Ironing HD’s ties? Are you kidding me??

I would recommend you inform your LCC via email so you have a written record. Document that she did not pay you the complete money and her threat if you complained about it to the LCC. The LCC can and should make her pay you. Document via email any “consequences.” Don’t feel like you have to take this. You don’t. She’s obviously used to and very comfortable intimidating young women into doing what she wants. Treat her like the bully she is and tell her no. Then write her up with the LCC (essentially). If the LCC doesn’t act, go to headquarters. Write to them as well.

German Au-Pair November 2, 2011 at 8:55 am

Speaking of which…a friend from my cluster has a hostmum who does not pay her gas money (or anything else, but the car is really the only way to get there) to school as she is apparently required (she is, right?) and -worse- has her pay the gas money for the au pair car and uses it herself whenever she runs out of gas. She uses the filled car and leaves it for her empty so the au pair ends up paying for her hostmum’s gas to get to work.
Unfortunately this hostmus as well is extremely manipulative and whenever the au pair tries to have a conversation about the rules (e.g. the 45 hour rule…she doesn’t even bother mentioning that she has to do ALL of her hostmum’s laundry and that her free weekend is the one she gets shipped to the children’s dad in a different state where she is stuck alone all weekend), her hostmum freaks and attacks her or starts crying.
Talking to the AD is not an option for her because she is afraid that this will make her hostmom feel betrayed and have an even bigger meltdown. Plus the hostmum apparently spreaded the rumor that she was an alcoholic because she said she was excited about her 21st birthday…

Is there anything you would recommend for me to tell her to do? I tried to encourage her talking to her hm but she is just too afraid to end up crying all night when her hostmum tells her over and over again how ungrateful and mean she is…

A Host Mom November 2, 2011 at 10:30 am

Tell your friend to rematch. That HM’s behavior is unreasonable and no one deserves to be treated that way.

German Au-Pair November 2, 2011 at 10:48 am

She only has three months left so rematch is not an option. I just feel extremely bad for her because she does not have the self esteem to stand up against her hostmum.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 2, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Okay, so she’s put up with her HM for 9 months, then she has a choice, suck it up or go home. While she may not deserve to be treated this way, she’s stuck it out so long that walking away means going home. I will say, that if she decides she would extend with another HF AND her LCC is on her side, then she has a chance to rematch. While no HF will take her on as 3-month AP, they may be willing to take her on as a 9, 12, or 15 month AP.

The bottom line – you cannot help your friends stand up to someone who is treating them badly – and you cannot live your friends lives for them. You should, on the other hand, be there for them when times are tough.

Oh, and if I were your friend – I’d spend a week taking the bus, getting a lift to classes from friends, and ignoring the car until the HM fills the tank herself!

German Au-Pair November 2, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Yeah the problem wasn’t really there before her classes started two months ago. While she did put up with her hostmum’s weird behavior before, this issue is actually quite new.

The hostmum has a car on her own so she probably wouldn’t even notice. She just takes her car when she doesn’t want to or simply forgot to put gas in her own tank.

In adviced her to simply remind her Hm “Hey, you left the car empty, can you please leave some gas money on the counter when you go” but she’s really afraid for her.
Probably in the end you’re right and it IS her problem and I cannot do anything…

Should be working November 2, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I would like to hear some LCCs chime in here. Do you LCCs/ADs ASK your APs during your monthly meetings if they are getting properly paid, have appropriate responsibilities, etc.? Aren’t the LCCs required to have monthly contact with the APs? Have LCCs ever heard of this sort of thing and what do they do about it? What would an LCC advise?

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