Scheduling your Au Pair to be on duty when you are at home…

by cv harquail on April 16, 2009

I got a bit of a chuckle when I saw this topic suggestion on the Skribit form:

Should you make your au pair work on weekends if both parents are at home doing nothing?”

The topic suggestion was anonymous, but if I had to guess I’d say it was from an au pair. Why?

Because what parent is ever at home “doing nothing “?

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No host parent in my house is ever doing nothing … it may look like nothing when I sit at the computer reading my email and feeling sick about work deadlines and deliverables, or close my bedroom door so I can scream silently at the spouse who forgot to reply to the Druckers about their invitation to go to the beach, but I’m never doing “nothing “.

I don’t think that all au pairs understand how much work it can be to be a parent- not just the amount of work but the amount of time you spend working. Even though the au pairs work up to 45 hours a week taking care of kids, they get the rest of the time completely off duty.

Not so with a parent — even when we work outside the home (or from home) for 45-60 hours a week, we also are still working when we get home. [Someone’s got to be watching the kids when the au pair is off duty, right?] The only time a parent is off duty is when kids are at school or with a caregiver (like an au pair). So, if a parent ever wants time completely at her own disposal, she’s got to have someone else on duty.

When “should” an au pair be on duty?

First of all, parents can schedule an au pair to work any time during the week, regardless of what the parent is doing him- or herself, as long as the schedule is within legal guidelines. No parent should need to feel like she or he has to justify to an au pair why the au pair is scheduled for a certain time. No parent should feel like she has to justify to an au pair what the parent is doing when the au pair is on duty. The au pair doesn’t get to decide whether the parents’ need for childcare is legitimate .

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Should parents be allowed to relax (i.e., do nothing)?  Yes!
  • Should parents be allowed to have time to themselves, or with each other?  Yes!
  • Should parents have to go outside of their own home (like, to a movie) in order to justify having someone else watch their kids?  No !

Ergo , parents should be able to schedule their au pairs to be on duty when the parents are home as well as when the parents are not home.

Let’s parse the rest of the sentence too:

“Should you make your au pair work // on weekends // if both parents are at home // doing nothing ?”

1.)  Host parents don’t “make ” an au pair work. Caring for kids is work, the au pair gets paid to care for the kids, and she signed up to do this job. Host parents are not making her do anything.

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2.)  Just because both parents are at home doesn’t mean that one parent needs to be watching the kids. What if the parents both need to get ready to go out? Or if both parents need to talk with each other about the calendar or the budget? Or if both parents just need to sit on the couch, holding hands, maybe even reading a book? Is it so wrong to want to do something at home, together, while the kids are being cared for?

3.)  Weekends are fair game– there is no difference between weekend hours and weekday hours (with the exception of the weekend off) in terms of when an au pair can work and when a host parent can schedule an au pair to work.

That said, there are the conventions that you and the au pair established when you matched… I’m assuming that when you matched you let her know whether or not you work weekends, whether or not you go out on Saturday nights, and how often on average she’ll work on a weekend, and that she agreed and understood.

I’m also assuming that you have taken into account the idea that au pairs want to socialize when other au pairs are off and perhaps attend church services, and so you have balanced her interest in these activities with your family’s needs.

So, let’s rephrase the question:

Can you schedule your au pair to work on weekends, within the legal guidelines, within the expectations you set when you matched, and with some sensitivity to her preferences as long as these don’t conflict with family needs and expectations?

Yes .

{ 33 comments }

Mom of 2 Girls April 16, 2009 at 6:33 am

Thank you, thank you for addressing this issue. It was hard for me with our first au pair to “justify” the times she was scheduled when I was home (probably perceived by her, as you say, as doing nothing); I was working part-time more frequently two years ago. It seemed to me as if she felt she was no longer need to watch the girls when I walked in the door, even though I needed time to decompress, do various household tasks, prepare dinner, etc. We’ve been very clear up front with all 3 now about their hours, our expectations of some weekend hours (always scheduled a month up front so they can plan for their time off), and the fact that now I’m not really working (for pay!) outside the home, although I have many volunteer activities and things that I like to do that help keep me happier. I am not indulging myself with spa visits, shopping sprees, or lunches out (who can afford any of those on a one-parent income?) but sometimes I like to read for an hour, take a nap, or go to a movie and I shouldn’t have to feel guilty about it. And on weekend, my husband likes to be able to putter around or do projects, although he usually likes to have the girls “help” him, unlike me! On the other hand, some of our friends can’t understand why I’m not at liberty to go anywhere I’m invited at the drop of a hat when “you have an au pair always there available to watch the kids.” When we explain that we can’t go over 45 hours per week (although mostly I stay under 40, but can’t fathom people who schedule their au pairs only 20 or so hours weekly, no evenings or weekends ever, setting up false expectations among the other “less fortunate” girls who got families like mine!) no more than 6 days per week and get a full weekend off each month, sometimes they sort of get it. And yes, we even use other babysitters, if necessary, which irks me because it just adds to the already pricey childcare we’ve chosen. But as you say, we’re not “making” them do anything that they didn’t sign on for, so absolutely they can work weekends. We feel we’re very generous in accomodating her needs and preferences, but if (as two past au pairs have done) she starts to feel entitled and out of sorts when she can’t have off whenever she wants to go out with friends, then things may get rocky.

Nicole April 16, 2009 at 7:50 am

I also appreciate this topic. I actually had an Au Pair (who transitioned after 2 weeks!) ask me “what do you do on the days you don’t work?”. At first I thought she was just interested in my hobbies or activities but I quickly realized she felt I did not have enough to do and even suggested I did not need an Au Pair. I work full time, pulling 24 hour shifts in a slightly stressful job, you can imagine finding childcare to match that schedule would not be easy! I have found that no matter how honest you are up front, how fair you try to be with the weekends, or sharing the less than fun parts of childcare when more than one parent is around, it seems as if some resentment develops on the APs side where they feel you should be caring for the children when you are home. I’m sure this is simply a natural effect of time with the family, seeing other APs with different schedules (this seems to be a big part), not realizing what other demands parents must meet and just being young. It is nice, however, to know we are not alone! There are times when I actually do feel guilty about taking a nap while the AP works, despite the fact that she is working less than 45 hrs that week. Its good to hear this is not so abnormal!

Daniela April 16, 2009 at 9:02 am

I’m an au pair, who is reading your blog regularly since I found the link on a website for German au pairs. (www.aupairusa.de)

I think, the au pair, who probably asked the topic question, maybe wrote “make…work”, because her English is not perfect yet. Maybe it was just a small mistake, not meant to cause that much weight in the discussion.

I absolutely understand, that host parents need their “time off”, for whatever they want/need to do.
But now here’s the (/my) au pair point of view: When the host parents are around the house while the au pair is working, it’s much harder for the au pair. You never for sure now, if it’s ok when the kids go to their parents.
And it’s difficult to explain to the kids, that mommy or daddy is home, but not ‘available’ for them.
And you feel observed. It’s much easier to work, when no host parents are around. I, and my host parents too, often realize that my host children listen much better, when only one grown-up is around.

This comment is meant to help you understand the au pairs. :)

Maya April 16, 2009 at 4:06 pm

CV, thank you for this topic. This is something I also struggled with on ocassion when I need some time to myself and have au pair work.

However, I also see Daniela’s point of view. I have come across that very same issue.

I reality, unless I am actually really ‘doing’ something that prohibits me from actively watching my kids or simply not feeling well (and putting them in front of the TV is not something I like to do often), I schedule au pair to work, provided I have that option with her hours. Usually, if I go upstairs to my office or bedroom and tell kids not to bother me for a bit, they don’t, and thus au pair is fully in charge.

However, it is those times when I am sort of available, but AP is still working, that cause me the most trouble. With my previous AP, who more of a take charge personality, it wasn’t so much of an issue, because she would still deal with kids and be in ‘working mode’. But, with my current AP, who even when all by herself barely manages the ‘managing the children’, when I am at home, completely withdraws from her duties. Unless, I keep telling her things she needs to be doing (i.e., please help child1 put toothpaste on the toothbrush, please unload the dishwasher, kids are hungry – give them dinner, etc), she would just sit there, or just stand in the middle of the kitchen (seriously!) and not do anything. Unfortunately, I have that situation a few times a week, when I get home around 6pm, but have to leave again around 7:30pm to get my husband from the train station; the AP is on duty till 8pm almost daily because of this. That 1.5 hours that I am home and AP is ‘working’ are a daily struggle for me, as I am sure they are for her too.

Just as an example, yesterday, I cam home at 4pm because I needed to take my kids somewhere by 5pm. My plan was to have some time to change and clean up after work and leave the house by 4:30 with kids and AP. I asked AP to give them snacks around 3:30 pm and start kids getting into their uniforms around 4pm so that they are ready. When I got home at 4:10pm, both kids were on the couch watching TV, *starting* their snacks, and the younger child was in PJ (from the morning) and has never brushed her teeth or hair that day. Forget about my changing and cleaning up. We barely made it out of the house by 4:50pm, all the while I was dealing with kids and AP was standing by the kitchen counter watching us. OK, so this last paragraph is more of a rant that probably belongs to a different topic.

cynthia April 16, 2009 at 5:47 pm

The way I’ve dealt with this situation, becuase I telecommute from work on occassion and we’re just getting over flu season, is to actually just tell my au pair that I am going into my room to work for a few hours and let her know when I will be done. I think it sets the expectation that I am still “working”. I’ve also come home from work sick or stayed home sick and told her I am in my room and I’ll be sleeping. She won’t bother me and acts as if I am not even there. It does make it difficult if I am in the general area and expecting her to work becuase I either want to jump in or she will jump in and someones toes get stepped on. I find just by telling her how long I expect her to be working and giving a brief explanation seems to work for us. As a teenager I used to babysit for a woman and she’d be home the entire time, I felt really uncomfortable and felt like I was being scrutinized – I had nothing to hide and was in no way waiting to do something wrong, so I symnpathize with the au pairs comment about when the parents are home. I think just saying to the au pair – if you just want to sit watching tv with your honey – “we expect you to work until 2pm today – we’d like to spend some time together catching up” is reasonable and I think is courteous to the au pair as well. I do agree that they are paid to work but I know even at my own job, I tend to like and explanation for what I have to do ….

Dory April 16, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Maya — I have an au pair who just stands in the kitchen, too! I thought I was the only one. Sooo strange.

Maya April 16, 2009 at 8:10 pm

Dory, I am glad I am not the only one too! Do you have a way of dealing with this?

It makes me very uncomfortable, because she looks uncomfortable and I can feel that she is uncomfortable, and I don’t know how to make her more comfortable, and unless I tell her to do something she just stands there, and I feel like a slave driver telling her thinkgs to do because she knows she has to do them and doesn’t – just stands there, and …well, it’s like a never ending cycle of thoughts in my brain.

Does anyone have anysuggestions other then tyring to find a more ‘take charge’ AP for next year?

Thanks

Dory April 16, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Maya — I wish I had something brilliant to say, but it is much the same in my house as it is in yours. Very awkward.

Nicole April 16, 2009 at 11:16 pm

Daniela,
I totally understand your point. I would not like to work with my boss around all the time either, but the reality is that unless I want to either not use my Au Pair for the number of hours I am paying for (and get things done around the house, etc) or lock myself in the bedroom, there are going to be times when we are both going to be around at the same time. I appreciate everyone’s comments regarding how they deal with the same issues. I do try to stay away and be sure the kids now the AP is the boss, but as we all know that doesn’t always come across. I do have a tendency to be too laid back about things around our house. I have a new AP coming soon and will try to be very specific this time as Cynthia mentioned, I think that has the best chance of avoiding problems. Thanks ladies!

Franzi April 17, 2009 at 12:37 am

regarding this issue, i believe it is very important to communicate clearly that even though you are at home you are not available and that she is still on duty.

if there is a regular in-between time such as Maya was describing, this is even more important.

personally, i can’t understand why the AP would just neglect her duties when it was clearly communicated that she is on duty (and all within limits of her time). i give her the benefit of not understanding but i think you have to bring this topic up again and again until she understands (and communicate it with simple and easy to understand words to the next AP. maybe also giving reasons such as “i need time to unwind after work”).

Calif Mom April 17, 2009 at 1:26 am

This has happened more than once in our family — but even our uber-clingy two-year-old can understand that AP is “the grown up in charge right now”. This takes “message discipline” on the part of the parents. That means if the kid asks you for something, you literally say, “Gee, honey, I don’t know, AP is in charge right now, go ask her.” With repetition, the kids will get it — and your AP will be happier because of it. Avoid the temptation to ‘jump in’ unless something is on fire.

I have worked from home, returned to full time regular work, and then also been unexpectedly forced to be at home (clearly not working!) due to a disability. When the kids are clear, and you, the parents are clear, that mom is not in charge right now but will be on duty again later, it really does work out.

That said, on really bad days, I have been known to take my laptop to the local library parking lot (wifi works in the lot if you park close enough to the building) and catch up on email there instead of trying to do it at home. With a nice stereo, a travel mug of coffee, and my laptop, I can get a lot done!

Nicole April 17, 2009 at 2:58 am

Ha!Ha! I hang out at Paradise Bakery and drink an unbelievable amount of iced tea while using their free wifi! Cant beat it for $2!

Jillian April 17, 2009 at 3:35 am

I was a babysitter in my teen years so I understand that it can be uncomfortable to take care of the kids when the parents are home. However, having your au pair stand around in the kitchen when she’s on duty, hasn’t finished what you’ve asked of her, and instead of completing your own tasks you’re not completing her’s just doesn’t work. Maybe just saying “[AP] could you please finish up what I asked you to do this morning so we can move on to the next item of the evening?”
But regarding having the AP work when both parents are home – I think if that’s time you’ve scheduled with her it shouldn’t matter who’s home, she’s on duty. If I’m cleaning the kitchen and HD is checking his email it may look like we’re doing nothing when that isn’t the case and we still need the AP to be caring for the kids. I don’t know how to solve this but I wanted to add my 2 cents! Thanks :)

sunnyvah April 17, 2009 at 4:02 am

Hmm. I had to think about my first experience with something like this:
I had on 70% of my time in my first host family 2 hours where both parents were at home after work and spending time with the kids before they went to bed. After I cleaned up the stuff in the kitchen (the kids had their own dinner the parents or I prepared around 5pm) and f.ex. tidying up toys which are clearly not used any more – I had a lot time standing around and feeling uncomfortable while both parents played with the kids, enjoying the time they had with the kids. I knew I would have to clean up the toys while the parents brought the kids to bed- but that was still at least an hour away. Seriously: That was the worst hour of the day. The kids wanted to spend time with the parents (perfectly understandable. I would also prefer my parents when they are available…) and they wanted to spend the time with the kids too…. I would stand there (sometimes play with them, but they wanted the time with each other- and 3 adults for 2 children….), feeling bad and looking desperately around for anything I could do.
Maybe that´ s a situation the person who asked meant.
BTW: I think it´ s perfectly fine to work when the parents are at home doing other stuff- or me working on household chores while they have good time with the kids ( I mean after all: I want the best for at least the kids and for that quality time with the kids or quality time for the parents is important)

Luana April 17, 2009 at 7:34 am

Hi,
I`m an au pair… I agree with the topic and comments about this situation. I think HM who has this issue, should have a conversation with the au pair and explain what is happening and how she could help you more, like, if she didn`t do what she was supposed to and you (HM) has to help, ask her to do something else, clean up the toys, organize their books, clothes… something like that, but let clear that she should do what is more important and she was in charge first. When my hostparents are in home and we three are watching the kids, I do things that I shouldn`t do, like clean up the kitchen (all family messy), dinning room, family room… just because I don`t like to be “working” doing “nothing”.
About HP doing “nothing” I think it happend to me and I want to hear from you (Hms).
Dec, 31st, 2008 my HM and I were in home. She didn`t have to work, but I had (to complete 45 hours that week). We spent all day together doing the same thing: watching and playing with the kids. I`m not telling you that I don`t like to spend time with my HF just hanging out, I do, and I do it a lot… but it was the last day of the year and I wanted to get ready for the dinner with my boyfriend and the party tonight. In my country Dec, 31st is a special day (It`s summer there). But I was in home, with no electricity, playing cards with my HM and kids… we played cards for two hours and I was upset because she made me work until 6pm that day, but she wasn`t taking time for her, she was taking care of her kids.
I know that HP pay AP to work 45 hours per week, but sometimes we (AP) see that it`t not necessary, but in my case, I`ve never worked less than 45 hours, even when I see that they don`t need me.
Any advice? Am I wrong?
Thank you

Maya April 17, 2009 at 7:59 am

Luana, I cannot speak for other host parents, but I can tell you that I personally do not like scheduling my AP just to fill out their 45 hours. My husband and I even had a conversation about that. He thought that we should do it, and I was against it. As a result, my AP regularly works 40 hours a week. During school holidays, it goes up to 45. This way, our AP has full weekends off over 90% of the time. On some rare ocasions, we might ask her to work weekend, and we have some hours for that just in case. But in reality, since mid-December, our AP worked 3 Saturdays. That’s it.

This week, beause my kids are on school break, we actually had to ask AP to miss 2 days of her classes. In our defense, my AP is taking 12, not 6 colledge credits right now and because of that she is in school 4 days a week instead of 2. Initially my husband and I were planning to cover all 4 days, but after Monday and Tuesday, we just could not take time off on Wed and Thur. We cannot afford to have problems at our jobs, espesialy in this economy, so we asked AP to stay home and miss two day of school. I feel really bad about it, but in reality, we fulfilled our obligation of having her go to school two days a week. I did tell, that if she can make up those two classes, I would do what I can to make sure she has the time to do that.

So there you have it. My 2 cents worth.

Nicole April 17, 2009 at 10:19 am

Ah, the 45 hours issue..this is a touchy subject around our house even after over a year of APing. Since I do find myself home with the AP a lot and like Luana said, with both of us watching the kids and with me having nothing special to do for myself, I haven’t always found it necessary to schedule the AP 45 hours just because we “pay” for it. I totally understand those who do need all the hours and there are weeks I do too. I also have some days that are very long due to my 24 hour shifts, so it’s not like life is a vacation at my house! I think of the shorter days as a reward for the long ones. My husband does, however still feel cheated when he looks at the AP schedule and sees only 35-40 (average 38) hours in a given week. I must admit, I have sometimes received a less than enthusiastic response the weeks I needed a full 45 hours so I can see the rationale for not setting the expectation for less hours.

Darthastewart April 17, 2009 at 10:22 am

Usually when I have the au-pair work when I’m at home- I am careful to direct the kids’ activities, and direct the kids to the au-pair. If I’m at home during working hours, it’s because it’s an extraordinary situation (like being sick), or I’m trying to get something done. So, I might have her work, and be in the garden, kids following me around, etc. What I need for her to do is keep an eye on the little one to keep him from running into the street while I have my back turned or whatever.

I think that some of this issue may also come down to communication skills and maturity on both sides. You may find that if you’re there, you DO have to more actively manage the au-pair and let them know exactly what needs doing and how. They may be uncomfortable taking charge- and you may have to tell them to get on with it. And yes, it does take more work on the part of the parent to actively manage.

Aupair April 17, 2009 at 10:17 pm

Wow this was an interesting topic, I had no idea this was even a problem. Neither of my HPs work so they are almost always home and there are never really problems with that.

Susan April 21, 2009 at 3:01 am

Hello,
I am in need of advice on a similar subject. I am an au pair in Germany and I have been with my family for 2 weeks now. In the contract it states “Working during the weekend or baby sitting in the evening from time to time is included in the daily requirements even though normally weekends as well as evenings are free.”

I have no problem with discussing Saturday night babysitting ahead of time and being expected to babysit, I understand this is part of the job. My problem is I am expected to work on Saturdays from 9am to “whenever they decide I am done” This is usually 4pm. This is on top of me working 7:15 am- 8 pm, everyday during the week. Granted the mother is at home everyday with me & the 3 young girls, but I work steadily throughout the day: changing 2 kids’ diapers, doing dishes, putting away laundry, ironing, putting kids down for naps, playing, etc.

I brought these two things up during my 1st week. I said “I realize that this job is sometimes plus or minus 45 hours a week, but the hours I am working are no where close to 45, we need to work on this.” I was told “If you are going to count hours, this is not the job for you. You have someone to cook every meal for you, at a normal job you would have to go get your meal. You get a break when the baby is napping or you are eating (although usually I am feeding a baby while I eat, nor can I leave the house during any of these times.)

The 45 hours a week will average out when I start leaving in the morning for language classes, but what I can’t get passed is that the contract states “normally weekends as well as evenings free”

My weekends are not free, I cannot leave for the weekend, I work on Saturdays, I have Saturday evening & Sunday off, when everything is closed. If I want to leave for a whole weekend I can discuss it with her ahead of time, but she would prefer I only do this once a month.

I turned down a family because they would only give me one weekend off a month.

Will someone please help me find the right words to reach a compromise with the family or show me how I am being unreasonable?
Thank you,
Susan

Calif Mom April 21, 2009 at 5:06 am

You sound very reasonable to me. Hours worked on the weekend should be counted in your 45 hours max weekly. If your hours are going over 45 on a regular basis, that’s not what your contract says, and it’s not what the law allows. Technically, your host family can have you work part of your 45 hours per week on weekends, as well, but you must be given at least one free weekend per month. However, legality is one thing but what they told you in the interview process is another — if they told you one thing but are now telling you the schedule is different, then that is not fair. And it is a red flag.

The idea that “if you are going to count hours you’re in the wrong family” is their idea of working on a compromise, then that’s another red flag. The idea that someone is cooking your meals is irrelevant– that’s what the host signed up to do. I cook all our family’s meals, and my AP does not go over 45 hours per week (though it will be hard when summer schedules change, and there may be some times when that happens. But I have arranged camps so that she will get breaks from both kids at the same time in the summer and essentially have entire weeks off except for pick up and drop off times — again, a compromise that works for all of us, to make up for her having some weeks that are a little long. I think we may own an iron somewhere, but it’s certainly not a regular duty!)

You might want to loop in your LCC. I don’t have a good feeling about this family’s approach. And being in the house with the host mom and 3 kids for more than 45 hours a week — YIKES! I wouldn’t want that myself.

Former Aupair April 21, 2009 at 7:09 am

Cali Mom

As I know, being an Aupair in Germany is very different from USA. I don’t think they have an agency and an LCC over there. I also agree that this family is exploring the Aupair and it is clear that she is also an house keeper (which is pretty normal in Europe to have someone who takes care the house and the kids as a combo). I’ve heard so many stories from AP in France, Germany and other countries complaining about being work so many hours i addition to clean up the house.

Susan, unfortunately there is nothing we can do to help you but I would say that you should look for a better family to work with, but don’t try to compare the AP program from USA (which have governmental rules to be followed) because in Europe things are quite different. Good Luck!

GermanAuPair April 21, 2009 at 8:05 am

Having to work while the HP are at home comes up every once in a while when my friends and I are talking. Mostly it comes down to this:
If the HP are around some feel “watched” and feel like they can’t be like they normally are. Mostly this is due to the fact that the HP come down as soon as a child starts crying or if the children don’t accept, that it is AuPair-Time and that the HP are kind of “not in charge” right now.
Another thing is, that most of us think it is strange to work, when the parents could take care of the kids themselves.
Sure, when the HP are working, like my HM who sometimes has to correct exams (she’s a teacher) or so other things in her vacation/home time, or doing stuff around the house it is understandable they want to have someone to watch the kids. And every once in a while it is understandable, that the HP would like to go out and therefore the AP is working although the HP are not working.
But for most of us it is hard to understand why we have to work when the parents are doing sth. just for themselves. Sure, everyone needs this time, but honestly, when you have kids, then you either do it when the kids are sleeping / not in the house or you coordinate it with your partner (this doesn’t apply for single parents ^^). I mean, from the moment you have a child it’s not about YOU anymore, but about your kids… always.
Sure, I don’t know how it is to have kids ’cause I’m no parents yet, but I know that my parents took their time for themselves by telling us kids to play on our own and otherwise have more or less never from our birth up to age 10 or so really done anything for themselves.
It might be that this has to do with German mentality or with the mentality of my family, but my friends tell me the same about their parents.

Anna April 21, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Honestly, when you are a parent, then you will have the right to opine that other parents cannot do anything for themselves for the first 10 years.

This is the critical and judgemental attitude that I really want to avoid in my au pairs. I am looking for understanding and compassion, and for someone not to understand that life of a working parent in America is tough, is kind of devastating, and your attitude, honestly, is selfish. Nobody is being unfair to you, you still work your 45 hours, but you are being very unfair to your host family by judging them this way. You came here for cultural experience, this is how it is in our culture, learn to take it as is and learn from it, without judging and confirming in your mind that the way of life in your country when you were raised 20 yrs ago was far superior; otherwise the point of the program is lost on you.

If you were raised that way, it doesn’t mean this is the top virtue, and when you are a parent you might find yourself wanting to do differently. In Germany they have a month vacation or more, isn’t it true? And workday is more regimented. Or maybe your parents had grandparents nearby helping out, or you went to play with neighbor kids from time to time, but you conveniently forgot. Here in America most don’t have those opportunities.

Mom of 2 Girls April 21, 2009 at 10:27 pm

Anna makes some good points. Perhaps German AuPair has forgotten some of the reasons she decided to become an AuPair, or had the wrong concept of what the program is supposed to be. Even if one or both of the parents’ employment situations are discussed during interviews, things may change, and everyone will need to adapt to the challenge and adjust: parents, children AND AuPair. Losing one’s job is very devastating mentally, and becoming quite widespread in today’s economy. I appreciated that our last cluster meeting topic by our LCC included the economic situation of the US and telling the girls that just because their family lives in a large home, drives nice cars, etc. they do not have an endless supply of money (despite appearances to the contrary with overflowing playrooms and closets full of clothes/shoes! Maybe the grandparents or other relatives are very generous, and maybe, as in my case, the girls’ clothes are gently-worn hand-me-downs from cousins, bought at resale shops or from Target – it’s hard to outgrow a frugal midwestern upbringing!) What especially rubs me the wrong way is the sense of “entitlement” and the comparing of other APs’ perceived better schedules and privileges. As I tell my girls constantly, “it’s OK to be different! How boring it would be if everyone were the same. Enjoy what you have and make the most of your life.”

Franzi April 21, 2009 at 10:36 pm

i disagree with GermanAuPair. if there is an AP in the home and she is scheduled to work it does not make a difference if the parents are home or not. yes, APs can feel supervised. yes, children can be confused as to who is in charge. but this is a question of communication.
if you are scheduled to work then that’s the way it is. i don’t understand why you would judge the parents in a way that makes it sound like they don’t want nothing to do with their kids? that is not fair to any working parent. being home and being lazy is not the same thing!

if a family can afford to host an AP then they have the right to schedule her even though they are at home. i think any parent who would be given an AP for free would be happy to have some time to themselves to coordinate and plan and just get stuff done so that the time you do spend with your kids is not taken up by thinking about taxes, bills, camp schedules etc.

Anonymous April 22, 2009 at 12:35 am

GermanAuPair’s very clear attitude is EXACTLY why I will never have a German au pair. My grandparents were all German and carried that same sense of superiority about everything and how much better everything is in Germany. You know what? My mom put us all outside to play, too. So what? I hate to support stereotypes, but life is too short for that kind of judgmentalism, and I have too much first hand experience of it. I’ll stick with caring, loving Latinas who don’t think everyone else is stupid and wrong.

Another Anonymous April 22, 2009 at 1:05 am

I find this interesting. As a person with Eastern Europian background, I would never have an aupair from the former USSR block. I don’t trust them.

Calif Mom April 22, 2009 at 1:10 am

I guess interpretation makes a big difference. I read the post to mean “I am a German person who is an au pair in the states” but using English wrong — but you may be correct, that the poster is an au pair in Germany posting here for advice. Obviously, that’s totally different from a legal perspective. But the same principal holds that one’s contracts should be honored, and that promises during job interviews should be upheld. Here in the states we would call that “Bait and Switch.” And my advice to think about leaving is the same, as well —

Franzi April 22, 2009 at 1:25 am

susan posted, and she is an au pair in germany. and GermanAuPair is (i believe) a german AP in the US.

personally (hey, i’m biased, i’m german!), i don’t think germans have a sense of superiority. but we probably have been exposed to rather structured lifestyles and authority. and because of that, german APs might have a problem to understand that some families are not that structured or that this is not their #1 priority. i for example had to adapt to the fact that my hostmom just left whatever she was doing at that moment (dishes, cooking, arts&crafts) when the kids needed her. yes, it was great, but gosh – it was totally annoying for me to see her not realizing the “mess” she left.

it’s a learning process that some are willing to commit to and others are not. and as a HM i would not put up with a nagging or know-it-all AP

Susan April 23, 2009 at 1:35 am

Hi everyone,
Thanks for those who gave advice with my situation. I brought the subject up again today and had a small victory. I’m the au pair in Germany (btw I’m from America). In conversation the mother asked me about my weekend plans and I was able to bring up the topic of weekends not being off. I said “I’m still disappointed that the contract says weekends usually free and that is not true.” She seemed like she was trying to work with me, and she said I could be done around 2pm on Saturdays, which originally she told me she couldn’t tell me what time I would be done. So at least now I can get to a store before it closes. And she had said it would be ok for me to be gone maybe 1 weekend a month and now she is saying 2 weekends a month.

I have gotten in touch with their previous au pair, so she might be able to offer help also.

Thanks everyone,
Susan

Calif Mom April 23, 2009 at 2:15 am

Susan, Good for you for sticking up for yourself! I think you will learn a lot about assertiveness while in Germany. : ) This could be a great opportunity for you (though like most opportunities for growth, maybe not a comfortable experience at first). Best of luck!

Seasoned Host Mom August 25, 2011 at 4:10 pm

This is an old topic, but one that I would like to revive, since we will probably be scheduling our au pair for more weekend hours now that we have two school-aged kids. Otherwise, we won’t even be hitting 20 hours a week. I am not talking about a huge amount of hours here, but it would be a full workday of about 8 hours on many Saturdays (we’d still give her 1-2 weekends free every month).

There was a lot of discussion here about getting over the guilt in having your au pair work while you are at home, which is going to be a huge thing for me to overcome, but my question is slightly different. How do you have your au pair help during the weekends? It’s not like we simply need someone to watch the kids. We’ll both be home some of her working time, but we may be in and out doing errands and such. Do you ask your au pair to help out with child-related errands or shopping on the weekends? If so, what kinds? Do her responsibilities change in any other ways on the weekends? I suffer from “if you want it done right, do it yourself” syndrome, and I guess I am trying to figure out what I can let go, particularly during the long Saturdays. I always feel so busy, but I can’t think of anything to ask my au pair to help me get done!

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