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 “?
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.
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?