Should you share your au pair?

by cv harquail on May 14, 2009

Good friends share with each other… tips about shoe sales, complaints about PTA events, and the whipped cream on their Frappucinos (yes, really. Ask Jenny.)

But, as a good friend, should you share your au pair?

(Note that it’s against the guidelines of most agencies for your au pair to work for anyone but you. But, some host parents allow their au pairs to do extra babysitting, and lots of au pairs would like to make extra money. Hence, the situation.)

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Here’s the situation:

A host mom sent out an email to her close friends. Her fabulous au pair was looking for extra babysitting work, to make a little extra money. The host mom offered that, if anyone was interested, her au pair was available during school hours and most evenings. And, she was even often free on Friday and Saturday nights!

How generous of the host mom! All her friends just loved her AP, and all of them were happy to connect with a trusted babysitter.

A few weeks later, the host mom had to send out another email: “Just a reminder girlfriends…. before you contact AP about extra babysitting, check with me first. AP is being overwhelmed by requests.”

(Needless to say, the AP had a hard time saying no. Plus, the AP was being asked to babysit on some evenings when it turned out her host family needed her. But you saw that coming, right?)

While the host mom was happy for her AP to make a little extra money, the AP was getting outside booking for too many evenings and weekends, and the host family lost the flexibility they needed. And, one particular friend had begun to count on having the host mom’s au pair at least one schoolday a week.

To make things even more awkward, while the AP was getting a full stipend from her host family, she was only working 30 hours a week, tops. She was babysitting for others for another 10 hours, at $12 per hour. Guess how she started to think about her AP stipend relative to babysitting money– forgetting she used the host family’s car to make it possible to get to these babysitting gigs?

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So how did it turn out?

Ultimately, the host mom had to set some limits, partly by having her momfriends ask for the host mom’s okay first. This way, the host mom could manage the amount an time that her AP might potentially be unavailable to the host family.

Then, the host mom talked with the friend who needed steady childcare. And yes, dear reader, she sent her friend to an Au Pair Agency website.

lucky for the host mom, her au pair was understanding about the departure of all the extra income.

And the moral of the story?

What do you think?

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{ 26 comments }

Amy Bryan May 14, 2009 at 9:23 am

Hi,

As an LCC, I can add that it is actually against State Dept. regulations to allow au pairs to care for children other than their own host kids. They really are not allowed to have any other “job” than being their host family’s au pair, so I would avoid “sharing” au pairs, as it’s really a violation of the rules.

Amy Bryan May 14, 2009 at 9:27 am

Hi,

I’m an LCC and, to my knowledge, it is against State Department regulations to “share” an au pair. I actually had a situation in my group where some girls asked if they could have another “job” in addition to their au pair duties, and the answer is NO. Au pairs are not allowed to care for children other than their own host kids, so I would really advise against this practice, as it does violate the federal regulations of the program.

Anna May 14, 2009 at 9:38 am

Its just wrong. Sounds like pimping to me, though mutually agreeable.
It is one thing when the au pair is asked by a family friend for emergency or occassional babysitting and the host family knows and looks the other way. The situation above is just wrought with problems.

Anonymous May 14, 2009 at 9:49 am

Although our AP does not babysit on the side, several of the other APs in the cluster do. Additionally, we have one girl who does some odd jobs for an elderly woman who needs assistance (gardening, shopping, etc…). I think if the AP takes the initiative to seek an occasional babysitting job here or there, it’s not a big deal as long as the host family is okay with it. Perhaps setting a limit on the number of hours the AP can take outside jobs would help?

As for it being a violation of the rules? Sure. So is the fact that our AP does our laundry once in awhile without being asked. So is the fact the AP feeds the cat and walks the dog. Oh, and she cooks dinner for DH and me once in awhile even when the kids have already had theirs. Isn’t that all part of being a family? Our AP isn’t an employee, she’s a member of our family. Technically the rules say she can only do light housework and other tasks associated with childcare – by no stretch of the imagination does that include walking Fido or washing hubby’s boxers – but she does – on her own without being asked. So should we really be obsessing about whether her watching the neighbor kids for a couple hours on her weekend off to make an extra $20 is a violation of the rules?

Jillian May 14, 2009 at 1:35 pm

This is such a slippery slope. I’ve had friends ask about our AP’s availability to babysit for their families and it’s an uncomfortable situation. I don’t have a problem with her babysitting for a little extra cash – if she wants to – but it needs to be around our schedule because she is our au pair. I definitely would not be ok with our AP committing to provide weekly childcare for another family! That’s just crazy, and pretty inappropriate for the non-HM. If she needs an AP then she should host one, not try to mooch off of yours!

I think if your AP wants to babysit every now and then it’s ok, but you’re not hosting an AP for your friends’ benefit. Your AP is there to be with your family, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “Sorry, it’s against agency rules for her to sit for other families.”

CaliHostMom May 14, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Years ago, when I was still a rookie HM, I made the same mistake, thinking it would be a nice benefit for our AP to earn some extra cash and appreciate ME for helping her do it. Suddenly, she had a regular Friday night gig for another couple (at $15 an hour!!!) and I had to check with my own AP to see if I could get her for Friday night. Realizing how backwards this was, I started booking my own AP ‘in advance’ for Friday nights. This made her angry b/c now she had to work ‘for free’ for me instead of getting the juicy babysitting cash. So…obviously my plan of helping the AP aquire another ‘benefit’ really backfired. From then on, I was really glad to go back to adhering to the program rules and grateful even that thsi rule exists b/c I realize now that the rule protects the HF as much as the AP! That said, I do ocassionally allow our AP to babysit for kids of one or two of my very close friends in emergency situations and usually while caring for my own kids (which makes them playdates, anyway, which IS allowed under the program rules).

TMK May 14, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Because no one in my circle of friends had hosted an AP or even understood the program, I set the tone at the beginning by saying it was against agency rules for her to watch other children. I did this because it started to feel like there was too much anticipation for when “our group babysitter” would arrive, statements like “Now we can all go out on Fridays and she can watch the kids while they play together” I wanted to be proactive instead of having to be reactive. There has been one or two emergency cases but I always say “well since this is a one time thing and it’s an emergency I think the agency will not make too much of a fuss”.

Franzi May 14, 2009 at 4:42 pm

like CaliHostMom, i see more trouble in this kind of sharing than any benefit. aside from the legal regulations, i’m worried about the flexibility that APing offers your family. i guess it starts out with only one night a month and slowly but steady you find yourself not being able to have flexibility in child care because your AP is busy working for others.

not to mention that you house her, feed her, pay for the agency etc while others get her for “free”.

it takes a strong AP to say no to family friends…we want to have a good relation with our hosts, we want everyone to be happy, we don’t want to upset anyone. so declining a request can be a tough cookie. keep that in mind when you suggest this option of earning some extra on the side.

a friend of mine cleaned houses of family friends in her off hours. this was fine by the host parents and also only a couple of hours per week. my friend is a neat freak so this was therapy for her :-)

Anonymous May 14, 2009 at 5:06 pm

I’d be irritated if AP had a regular side job, but I think an occasional job here and there is fine. We tell AP a week in advance when we need her for evenings and weekends – this is in our handbook and specifies “with rare exceptions, we will notify you 7 days in advance if we need you to work an evening or weekend” – and we stick to this. It is unusual for us to ask her to work evenings/weekends on short notice (less than a week). So if a someone calls her up the day before they want her to babysit, it is fine with me as it doesn’t interfere with my need. I absolutely agree, though, that the host family’s needs must come first, and that a regular babysitting job that could interfere with the host family needing their au pair to work would be unacceptable.

Anonymous May 16, 2009 at 5:01 pm

We have a situation this year where two families, both with au pairs who are friendly to each other have kids in the exact same preschool class together. So we have had for several months now a carpool in which one au pair drives the kids to school, the other drives them home. It works out great! Saves about an hour off each au pair’s day because preschool is far from our neighborhood.

However, we had a sitch with one former au pair who wanted to babysit b/c her friends were and she wanted cash; she asked me about it and I explained it was against the regulations. Then she was approached by a mom who had met her at preschool pick-up about a babysitting gig; the mom asked me if I was okay with it, I told the mom the same thing I had told the au pair, but I have zero doubt that they ended up having a weekly appt. They just never said anything to me about it. And I also know that our au pair ended up very unhappy about this situation, because the mom turned out to be exploitive! Sometimes even host moms know best…. : )

Marguerite May 16, 2009 at 5:42 pm

It is my understanding that aupair sharing is illegal , too.
Aside from that, the last comment from Anonymous strikes an important chord. Suppose your friends or neighbors do not treat your aupair properly?
Suppose they don’t come home on time, suppose they don’t pay her what they promised, suppose their children misbehave, etc.
Are you going to be able to protect your aupair and maintain the relationship with your friends and neighbors ?
I once heard a story about a woman who had a major falling out with her sister in law over just such an issue. Never mind the details which aren’t too pretty. The aupair went home at year end ( a very nice girl greatly liked by her host family ) but the two women had to deal with the fallout for a long time to come.

Audrey May 21, 2009 at 11:27 am

I think in my mind, the money really becomes an issue. We (the HMs) are paying minimum wage minus the room/board which come to 3.91 per hour if you use her the whole 45 each week(for up to 4 kids, 2 in my case). This includes making meals, doing dishes, washing laundry running the vacuum, etc. She then makes 10.00 or more per hour to sit on the sofa and watch a movie while your neighbors’ baby sleeps and they go out to dinner and a movie.

How can she not start to feel underpaid and overworked with that scenerio? I know that you are housing her, feeding her, likely providing a car, cell, etc. But in a typical adolescent mind, (and they are adolescents) these things are all “free”.

You are setting yourself up for disaster. These rules exist for a reason, and when one HF in a cluster starts making exceptions, it makes if harder for the rest of us to be sticklers. This is a pretty slippery slope that I prefer to stay off of. Just MHO.

Calif Mom June 9, 2009 at 10:24 am

Some working moms get so desperate they just act badly. I’d like to vent and also share the surprising resolution.

One evening, at a social event with the school moms, I had listened sympathetically to a working mom’s plight. She was desperate to find an overnight babysitter for an upcoming weekend. I don’t particularly like this woman, but out of sympathy and a belief that it takes a village to raise a mom, I gave her the contact info of a college student I know who is a fabulous sitter and would have jumped at this opportunity to score some big cash and a free trip.

The very next day, my AP asked me how I felt about a situation. No need for a drumroll–you guessed it. This mom asked my AP if she were interested in the gig, without the courtesy of talking to me about it. To add insult to injury, she wanted her to join them in time for a 5:00 flight on a work day when I don’t even get off work until 5:30 at the earliest.

We couldn’t do this for both practical and philosophical reasons. We believe strongly in following the state department rules (hub and I both have jobs that would care if we didn’t).

Here’s the wonderful part of the story — I was concerned my AP would feel ripped off by my saying no. But instead of just saying no, I laid out all my concerns and told her that it was up to her to make the decision. I explained that it was against terms of her visa and hence risky for her, it was risky for us hosts, and what if the return flight was delayed by a thunderstorm etc? I pointed out this mom didn’t ask me, which was kind of rude to me, so how respectful would she treat you (to our AP)?

Instead of being upset, our AP replied that she feels very lucky and grateful to have us as hosts, because we take the time to explain what we are thinking and truly have her best interests at heart.

Whodathunkit? Instead of being a meanie, my No was interpreted as demonstrating respect. Another reminder that reading management articles is helpful when AP hosting — employees respond much better to bad news when they understand the business reasons behind unpopular decisions.

And another learning from this sitch: I’m never going to sing my AP’s praises to a table full of moms at a wine bar ever again. Nope. When people curious about APs ask me about mine, I’m telling them she is awful, terrible. I can barely tolerate her and can’t wait until she leaves (after her extension year). ;-)

lora December 18, 2009 at 10:39 am

ok!!
hey!!! is there a Au PAIR up there!!!
it seems that our dear hosts moms are a little selfish!!
i’m an aupair ,and i have had some extra works and my host mom its fine with that beacuse she trusts me and she Knows that if she needs me i’ll be there for her first than the others hosts moms, because she is my priority besides that had never happend beacuse she tells my with anticipation when she is gonna need me and if your au pair really reapects you and is enough madure about it, should understend and know that” its ok..becuse next week is gonna have extra work by the way”

PA aupair mom December 18, 2009 at 10:54 am

call it selfish if you want to, but I pay for the agency fees and the au pair’s stipend.

Also, I sign a contract that says I won’t “lend” my au pair to anyone else for their childcare needs. The AP also signs the agreement that they will not look for other employment while on assignment as an AP.

Not selfish…..SMART!!!!!

Soccer Mom January 30, 2010 at 4:03 pm

lora, it is great that you put your HF first always, but even the most well-intentioned APs could be swayed by the all mighty dollar to get their priorities mixed up. I don’t think HMs sticking to the rules are being selfish, I think, in addition to a ton of other good reasons, they are preventing scenarios that would ultimately lead to trouble in the relationship with their au pair.

Sara Duke January 13, 2010 at 10:14 am

We set our au pair’s schedule by the 3rd week of the month for the following month, so in general, she has a week to plan her activities for the next month (taking into consideration any requests she might have). We rarely add time to a weekend, but we often end up giving her extra free time (usually because we’ve asked her to work 10 hours on weekdays to care for a sick child).

That being said, we have generally permitted our au pairs to take on extra work. One au pair sent money home to support siblings in college, another used the extra money to travel. Some au pairs have not been interested at all. I do advise au pairs on what is the going rate for someone who can drive and has had CPR (because I have neighbors who would willingly take advantage of them by paying minimum wage to watch several young children).

We leave it up to the au pair. It has never been a problem for us, but we do see au pairs losing interest in working extra as they develop friendships with other au pairs, have boyfriends, and have activities. We don’t run interference on behalf of friends or behalf of our au pair.

Chev January 31, 2010 at 12:31 am

What is the going rate for babysitters over here? i had a friend ask because her neighbours had asked her to babysit but as i don’t i couldn’t answer.

AnonymousHostMom January 13, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Funny that this thread is emerging again – yesterday my AP told me she was approached while playing at the park by a mom who needs a nanny and was impressed by the interaction between AP & my child! AP explained the program and how to contact them, but the mom persisted, saying “but I want someone good, like you, and that I’ve seen with children–it’s so hard to find anyone good just by interviewing them. Here, just take my number, and maybe you’ll just want to work some hours for me.” Uh, yeah, lady, really? How do you think I found this gem myself? (My AP did tell me that this woman’s 2 year old was very cute while playing with my child, but she would never even consider it, as she knows that it’s against the rules, and she likes her “own” kids too much to jeopardize anything! She does have some mornings, evenings, and weekends free, but I was glad to know she isn’t looking for more!) I will now give my AP my alternate babysitter’s (college student who drives, knows CPR & charges competitively!) business card to hand out to others who may ask!

HM in VA January 31, 2010 at 9:01 am

Tried this once, didnt’ work out. AP wanted to work more and more to get the money. Now we find it very easy to be matter of fact about the rules and so far no problem.

Our AP has a very full time job and needs her down time. not to go somewhere else to work to then have no free time so she does not have the energy for my kids. I explain that this is also a cultural exchange program and she needs to use this time to see things, make friends, take classes or have much needed personal time.

It is not penalizing the AP and it’s not being a mean HF. they are rules that both parties agree to and know about well beforehand.

I know some HF do look the other way, but for us this is not negotiable.

Yaz September 19, 2011 at 9:48 pm

What if you don’t need an aupair full time? Can you get an aupair and share it with another family? The other family needs 20 hours and you need 20 hours? Can you get an aupair with that kind of agreement?

Calif mom September 19, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Nope. There are no loopholes like that. There’s educare program, but it’s not a great deal for parents.

giulia September 20, 2011 at 8:35 am

I shared my aupair to watch my child together with another one at the same time and I tell you, I paid my AP more than the other mom did! But my child was happy to be with a little friend rather than alone and that’s all that counts to me.
In other cases I would put limits….Having an aupair is also nice because you are free to leave your children at the last minute.

lran September 25, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Similar to Guilia’s situation, I am interested in an AP to help our nanny share. Currently, our nanny cares for my friends baby and our own. The nanny needs to work part time. So we want to bring in an AP who would care for our babies when our nanny can’t be here. This also helps for socializing the babies and for reliability so we don’t have to miss work when one care provider can’t. It seems this is a gray area from agency feedback. I am interested in similar scenarios, how it worked, and any legal concerns to think about. Any feedback is appreciated.

Dorsi September 25, 2011 at 11:27 pm

This really isn’t a grey area at all. An Au Pair is not supposed to watch any children other than her host family’s. There are people who violate the rules occasionally (the above discussion on APs babysitting other kids in their time off), but to set up a joint care situation as the purpose of the AP would be out of bounds.

If you have the space for an AP, have you considered having the AP for all of your child care needs? Maybe supplement with something else?

Gianna September 26, 2011 at 8:24 am

I think this area comes right to the issue of being part of the family. You wouldn’t
share a family member or pass her around, I think. I appreciate the economic hardships and reduced hours many people have these days but if the aupair is assigned from one locale , that underlines a purely economic relationship. I think another question is how much the aupair has in this matter. Suppose one host parent gets on her nerves or takes unfair advantage ? To whom does the aupair defer ? I sometimes hear people say ” my mother send her cleaning lady over to my house this week ” but a professional is another matter. Maybe it really isn’t another matter. I think it might be reasonable to share the nanny and have the aupair full time . Maybe someone else has a good suggestion

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