The Two Biggest Reasons Host Parents Push the Limits of the Au Pair Program

by cv harquail on July 18, 2013

Host Parents in the AuPairMom community do their very best to follow the spirit and the letter of the Au Pair Program.

Yet even the most honorable, rule-abiding host parents can feel pressure to push the limits of the Au Pair program.

blue skies ahead cathynichols

Why? Because — as designed– an Au Pair working according to the rules simply cannot provide all the childcare and the household help that a family with full-time working parent/s needs.

This is not to say that Au Pairs don’t work hard– they certainly do. But every family with full-time working parent(s) needs more childcare and more help than an au pair can reasonably give.

Why do Honorable Host Parents push the Au Pair rules?

— The family needs more hours than the 45 hour limit, and
— The family needs help with tasks beyond those specified in the Au Pair job description.

The simple truth is — when there are two parents employed ‘full time’, or there’s a solo parent employed ‘full time’, both the total hours of childcare you need and the range of tasks you need help with fall outside the bounds of the Au Pair program.

Childcare Takes More Than 45 Hours Per Week

Kids need care 24/7. That’s 168 hours per week, and 123 hours more than an au pair can provide.

Of course, all of us parents want to spend time with our kids and caring for our kids — so we aren’t trying to outsource all our childcare to others. But most of us with full-time jobs (and in some cases, significant commutes) need to be at work for 45 hours (assuming we eat lunch), so it’s really easy to ‘use up’ all of our au pair’s 45 hours.

Luckily, if you just need more hours of coverage, parents can try to stagger their schedules, enroll the kids in pre-K, school or structured activities, or even get a traditional babysitter to cover the hours that an au pair can’t.

Households Need More Than Child-Related Cleaning

Au Pairs do lots of important work in addition to watching and playing with the kids. They also do key tasks like preparing and serving kids’ meals, washing kids’ clothing, and keeping the kids’ toys and space tidy.

Again, though, this work is just a small portion of the work required to run a house. There’s still grocery shopping, taking out the garbage, vacuuming, making dentist appointments, getting the computer repaired– you don’t need me to list all this, I know.

With household tasks, it gets a little harder to outsource. We can hire a cleaning service for the bigger dirt, we can wear dirty clothes send the laundry to a laundromat and buy groceries online for delivery, and all that good stuff.

But there is so much that we can’t outsource, can’t do ourselves, and “can’t” leave undone.

believe in magic Unicorns3-2_mediumIf you’re unwilling to let this stuff fall through the cracks, you run around like a crazy person always behind the 8-ball, bickering with your spouse if you have one about who has to do what, and generally trying to make peace with the feeling that the chaos all around you is something you ought to be fixing.

And, in these moments, do you ever start hoping, wishing, suggesting, or expecting that your au pair will do these tasks?

Yeah, I thought so.

Your Parenting Philosophy to the Rescue!

I think it’s important for every family and every host parent to come to terms with this simple reality: No amount of outsourcing takes care of the drudgery of home life. Therefore, you must craft your own ‘Parenting Philosophy’ about what matters and what doesn’t, and let some of it go.

I know this is easier to recommend than to practice. Believe me, I know. And thank goodness there are zillions of resources available to help you craft your parenting philosophy.
[If you’ve got resources that you just love, send me the links and I’ll add them to this post!]

You’ll find that as you think about what matters to you (and your parenting partner/s) when it comes to your family and your home, decisions about how to manage the gap between what “needs” to be done and what you can do will get easier.

And What About Your Au Pair?

As an Au Pair Host Parent, you’ll also need to have a “Host Parent Philosophy”.

We’ve talked about how our Host Parent Philosophy helps address how you want to incorporate your Au Pair — as a role and as a specific person– into your family’s life. It will cover how you’ll manage the employee-family member tension, how you’ll approach cultural differences and learning, how you’ll help your au pair bridge the space between depending on you and becoming an adventurous adult, and more.

Keep in mind that your Au Pair Philosophy must address how you’ll manage your own awareness of the fact that

Your Au Pair simply cannot fill all the space that’s left over after you’ve given your family everything you have.

We can’t just add a great Au Pair and think that s/he can fill all of our family’s remaining child-related needs.

Whether it’s the number of hours of childcare that you still need help with, or the insane array of tasks that somebody has to do, remember that NOT EVEN THE GREATEST AU PAIR IN THE WORLD can do it all for us.

Don’t push the limits of the Au Pair program — respect them. Acknowledge them. Work within them.


They say that accepting limitations is the key to creativity, and that creativity is the key to joy.

What do you say?




MidAtlantic Host Family July 18, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Our experience has been that it is hard to get the program requirements let alone more. Literally, expecting more does not even factor in our thought process or discussion – just trying to get the bare minimum. For example, we may get an AP who is great with the kids, but then endure cleaning up after her and clearing and cleaning her dishes, etc.

midwest aupair July 18, 2013 at 9:37 pm

First of all I would like to tell you that I enjoy reading your posts. They are very informative and helpful. I am usually a still reader. Until now. I had the urge to poste my opinion.
I am an au pair since almost 2 years, and I LOVE my host family. I mean they are truly the best! BUT, there were things in the beginning I am glad that we changed them.

A little bit about my background: I grew up with three brothers and two full time employed parents. We never had a nanny. When we were younger, relatives took care of us, and later on my older brothers. (Now I know, that here in the U.S relatives tend to live far away, so this option usually doesn’t work.) But from an early age on, I was 4, we had to start doing chores, and help out around the house. At age 8 I did my own laundry, was able to make my own breakfast by age 5 and so on. Here in the U.S I see a lot of kids being served things, such as food and other stuff.

While I understand, that younger kids need that, I think kids should learn to be more independent. I watched my host parents hovering over their 6 year old son pouring milk (1gallon) in his cup, and their heart almost stops because they thought he could not do this yet. Or my 5 year old putting peanut butter on her bread. I started telling my hp that they can do this just fine, they do it ALL the time with me. When I started my au pair year, my older one just turned 5. I could not stand it, when he came down to the kitchen in the morning and expected me to serve him his breakfast. I said: listen, God gave you legs, if you want cereal, please get it, if you want yogurt, feel free to open the refrigerator, bananas are right in front of you. If you need help with toaster, getting things down, I be happy to help. Usually I put out a couple breakfast items such as butter, jelly, milk etc. But they always change their breakfast routines.

What I am trying to say here, is that in rich families here in the U.S, kids think they deserve everything, and this is not good! ( and with rich I mean, having a house, food, clothes, toys etc.) And please, I do not want to offend anyone, maybe your family is not like that, or you think is OK, that’s fine, we all have our opinions right? But in my family, and in the ones of my friends, it is/was that way.

So you may laugh now, but I do almost everything for my host parents. From laundry over paying bills, going to the grocery store, bringing car to dealership, washing windows, cleaning up dirty dishes from kids and parents, bring clothes for donation and take kids to dentist and some of the doctor appt. (not all of them because sometimes parents need to be present) and so on.

Why or how I do that you might wonder? Well, your kids don’t need to be entertained 24/7. studies actually show, that if kids get entertained 24/7 they do not learn to play by themselves or with others. They get bored easily. So every day, my kids get to play by themselves for 1 or 2 hours, and they LOVE it! they quiet down, they explore their own creativity and expand their horizon on what imaginary toy or game they could create. ( if they wish, they are allowed to play with siblings, sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t) my host parents and I are a great team, and I actually stay with them. They said they can not believe on how much their kids have developed into more independent kids. and now they also don’t get a heart attack anymore when the 6 year old pours her own milk:)

And Yes I know, our situation is probably unique, BUT you could have it that way as well, or close to it, if your kids get to become more independent. I might be wrong, but it worked out awfully great in my case. Good luck!

Momma Gadget July 19, 2013 at 10:11 am

Midwest AP- thank you for your incredibly insightful post. I wish I had read it 10 years ago!
I confess I am one of those hovering moms. With somewhat spoiled children- perhaps it stems from the guilt of having a career and not being home as much as I would like to be.
I wish I had forced my kids to be more self-sufficient when they were younger. Now with an sick aging parent on my shoulders also, I am paying the price.
It is ironic, that it is our au pair who steps up to the plate and offers, more often than anyone else, to help out.
I cannot begin to express how greatful and touched I am by his thoughtfulness.

JJ Host Mom July 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Thank you for posting Midwest AP! I completely agree. My 4 year olds already help me with laundry, unloading the dishwasher, and cooking. Granted it’s definitely harder to get them to do it themselves, especially when they’re younger, than it would be to just do it myself.

I have to admit I still don’t let them pour the milk. I’ve cleaned up one too many spilled gallons of milk. :-)

What I think is so ironic about what you bring up is that we host parents are often frustrated when our au pair comes to us with no life skills, no ability to do laundry or cook a meal. And yet it’s so tempting to make the same mistake with our own children. Au pairs can help us turn this around, the same as you’ve done for your family Midwest Au Pair – if the au pair and host family agrees, the au pair can just start expecting the kids to do it and not engage in the power struggles that would happen if the parents suddenly started insisting. And then once the kids know how to help, well, no reason they can’t do it for everyone.

Wallabe July 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Midwest Au Pair – you are spot on!! I love the “cultural exchange” aspect of the program – especially where my APs have taught me that by doing too much for my kids, I am doing a disservice to them and to society. Believe me, by no means did I ever coddle my kids. I always thought that I was giving them independence and skills necessary to stand on their own two feet, however, I fell victim to the guilt of a workng mother and would do things for them when I could. The older they got the more I realized they were becoming too dependent on me for things that they were capable of doing themselves. Although I’ve only hosted 3 APs, I’ve learned from all of them – one made me realize that Americans in general do not give their children as much independence (or autonomy) before sending them off to college as some other cultures; while another, who is more like an American teenager in that she is a bit clueless about picking up after herself and contributing generally to the household has taught me that not only do I need to allow my children to do things for themselves, but I need to instill in them the wherewithall to know that they need to contribute. My kids are now 3, 5, 7, and 9 and are capable of so much more than i ever would have given them credit but for the insight of our APs. Kudos to you Midwest. I wish you could be our next AP.

midwest aupair July 19, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Haha oh yes, those milk spills are the worst!! I totally understand, but that’s the only way they can learn.
you mentioned guilt, and I noticed, that lots of working parents have that feeling. But let me tell you something: from a child whose parents were gone 50 h a week, my parents spend the time they were home with us, with all their heart! I don’t really remember much about not having them around all the time, but I do remember playing with them, going on bike rides etc. I always tell my host mom: Don’t feel guilty because you work. You are not a bad mom because you work, you are a better mom because you work. She did not understand this at first until I explained it to her that way: She ( and probably a lot of you moms as well) work because you loves and are good at your job. You have a passion about what you are doing. She (my hm) does not have the same kind of passion to be a stay at home mom, and that is totally fine. just think about it that way, do you think your kids get more from you if you spend one two or three hours intensive with them, or do you think they get more out of it if you are home all day but aren’t happy? every child would chose a couple of awesome hours with their parents over 12 hours with a grumpy mommy or daddy. Working parents: Please do not feel guilty, it is not what your kids will remember, they will remember the little time you spend with them, make them special, make them memorable. I am sure, you all love your kids to death, and if you could, you would do everything at once, but slow down, take a break and enjoy the time you have with them, they love you! keep it up! you all do amazing work!

MommyMia July 19, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Can’t resist responding to the milk-pouring issue! My daughters’ presechools both made/allowed the kids to serve themselves at snack time so they’d begin to learn basic skills at age 3 or 4. Just find a platstic 2 c. or quart measuring cup or pitcher, fill from the gallon jug and then if they overestimate the capacity of their cup while pouring, you don’t waste as much/have to clean up as much. (Our first was a parent co-op so I know from my times assigned at the tables that they all do get better, although initially we kept towels on the table for the constant spills. After a few attempts they will get it, and when they’re strong enough to lift the gallon jug, will eagerly want to pour from it. The feeling of accomplishment is so wonderful for them!

JJ Host Mom July 20, 2013 at 11:25 am

Thanks for the good idea! Will try it.

Busy Mom July 21, 2013 at 10:51 pm

For years, I spent the extra $ for 1/2 gallon milks so my kids could pour for themselves but we could avoid the spills!

Seattle Mom July 24, 2013 at 2:21 pm

So true! I love it when my kids learn life skills from the AP.

Seattle Mom July 24, 2013 at 2:19 pm

I agree with you 100%. I am not a hovering mom, and I let my kids do things by themselves that would freak out many American parents. I’m pretty relaxed in general.

I love that our current AP gets a lot of housework done because she doesn’t spend that much time entertaining the kids. She takes them to a lot of fun places, and she does play with them, but when it’s time for her to put the dishes away or fold the laundry she expects them to entertain themselves, and they know this so they don’t bug her. They are 4.5 and 2.5. The 4.5 year old also knows how to get a carrot from the fridge or get a cup of water (from the bathroom, where she can reach the sink). It’s funny- both kids are more independent with the AP than with me. Not because I hold them back, but I think they just like being babied by their mom and sometimes it’s easier to do what they want than to fight. They also really crave my attention, since I spend so much time at work. But I’m not naive- I remember that when I was not working and my older daughter was 2.5 she was no easier on me.

Anyway my AP can do housework and some minor shopping, but there’s no way she could do some of the major household tasks because her English isn’t that good and she lacks a certain common sense.. thankfully she’s great with the kids and they are safe, but she doesn’t understand some of my standards for the products we buy, and anything beyond her comprehension tends to stay firmly rooted there.

JJ Host Mom July 19, 2013 at 12:35 am

Great post. Thanks for the reminder.

Should be working July 19, 2013 at 4:03 am

I am really curious about “parenting philosophy”. I never thought of myself as having one, except essentially “Do my best, try to react in constructive ways, communicate as much as possible, try not to have the last word for the last word’s sake”. (That last part is new with the arrival of kids’ teenage years.) Is ‘parenting philosophy’ like a ‘mission statement’? Unfortunately I usually find mission statements more a matter of PR than of substantive explanation of what to expect (in a school, camp, company).

HP phil is also not something I thought of myself as having, except implicitly “Be clear, be fair, be firm where necessary, be kind and generous wherever possible”.

I consider myself fortunate in enjoying working on communication and being (IMHO) a pretty good communicator. HPs for whom communication is not a strong point must in my view have a much much harder time.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 19, 2013 at 6:57 am

My parenting philosophy is that the kids come first, and if that means dust bunnies roll across my living room floor, so be it. My kids are only going to be young once, so this is my only crack at shaping them into the human beings I want them to be. When they were little, I didn’t want the AP doing household chores, other than enough laundry during the week to keep my kids in clean clothes (my special needs child can really run through them). I wanted her engaged with them, and it worked because I had APs who cared (oh, and right, I paid extra for that – for the first 5 years of my youngest’s life he only had Extraordinnaires).

Now that they’re older and spend a significant part of their day in school, my APs tend to work far less than the 45-hour maximum, and so I ask for a little light cleaning in the kid’s spaces and a couple of loads of laundry to be done when the kids are not around, but to be counted as “work time.” (I have also, for mediocre drivers, mandated extra driving practice as “work time” when the kids are not around, because it is absolutely necessary in our household.) While my special needs child is not capable of participating in household maintenance, my typical developing child is, and now that he’s a teenager, I expect participation in it.

And yet, despite the fact that I have only teenagers in my house, my parenting philosophy is still that the kids come first. DH and I still stagger our hours, even though we no longer need to, because we want to maximize the time we’re around the kids. We spend a lot of time supporting them in their activities and education.

Should be working July 19, 2013 at 8:15 am

Let me also say that a few of the tasks CV mentions on her list of parental obligations I actually do consider acceptable for AP tasks (for my school-aged children and her light schedule):

Making kids’ appts–I quickly get the AP to take over making kids dentist and orthodontist appts and such. She knows their schedules. She is in charge of after-school time and driving and knowing which kid has to be where when. She can do this. (I take sick kids to the doctor myself, that’s important; watching braces get tightened is not.)

Grocery shopping–The AP is responsible for some grocery shopping (we give her money, obviously, for this), mostly related to buying kids’ lunch foods and snacks and other dry goods. My husband likes to buy meats and vegetables himself (he feels like the APs are too cheap and he likes the good stuff). Again, the AP makes the lunches, knows what kids like and what we are out of. And I tell her to be sure to get some things that she likes too.

Miscellaneous shopping for kids: Our APs all have loved shopping of all kinds, so this seems like an easy one. They go with kids to get birthday party gifts, wrap them, help kids make cards. They go along to buy my teenager clothes, with my specific guidance in advance (much better for family relations than me being the accompanying adult). I give a list to the AP for items to buy for an upcoming trip (e.g. camping gear) and she does it.

Again, our APs are well under 45 hrs and I count this as work hours. It’s pretty easy work, some of it is fun, and often I throw in extras for them (like tell them they can pick up a cute t-shirt for $20 or less if they see one for themselves while shopping with my teen).

Multitasking Host Mom July 19, 2013 at 10:26 am

My husband and I are the full time working-outside-the-home parents that this post addressed. Including work hours and commute time, I am gone from the house about 50 hours a week…my husband a lot more hours. We do pride ourselves on being law abiding host parents, and as a result do struggle with keeping our AP under the 45 hours in the summer when the children do not have school. We normally accomplish it by signing the kids up for a few half day sports camps at our local community center, a couple weeks visiting grandparents, and a couple days when my husband works from home (I work in a hospital and thus do not have that luxury). I do have sympathy for other host parents that have children that are not school age, and thus have to do this juggling all year.
As for parenting philosophy, with the children’s activities, and our work, volunteer and social commitments, our lives can get a little crazy. Most of the time my philosophy is “Just keep swimming!”;) As for the AP, if we have someone who interacts with our kids, the children like being around, and can get them where they need to be on time with the right things, we are happy host parents. We can let a lot go if we feel our children are well cared for.
For the most part our AP’s main focus is child care such as planning after school activities, helping with homework, fixing meals for the kids, etc., with some additional household tasks like children’s laundry and assisting/telling the kids to clean up after themselves. Maybe I should give the AP more child related responsibilities, counted as work hours, during the school year when the AP has about a 6 hour break during the day. My main goal is for me to actually plan dinner ahead, fix something together in a casserole dish, and just have the AP shove it in the oven. Having dinner for the whole family, AP included, all ready to go when I get home just sounds great! (A girl can dream!) Hopefully I can get that together in mid-August when the kids go back to school.

JJ Host Mom July 19, 2013 at 11:55 am

Along those lines… I am really enjoying the cookbook called “Fix, Freeze, Feast: The Delicious, Money-Saving Way to Feed Your Family”. The whole family likes the recipes, they’re simple and quick to make, and they’re cheap to boot. (I just spent $300 for a month’s worth of meat-based meals.) When it’s time to prepare it’s a matter of pulling a week’s worth of meals from the freezer, then you or the au pair dumps them into a pan. The publisher has downloadable cooking instruction labels on the website so each ziploc of food has clear instructions on how to prepare them.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 19, 2013 at 6:15 pm

While I like to cook from scratch myself (and work 6:30-3:00 most days to accomplish this), DH and I cook in bulk for our special needs child. We make healthy foods she enjoys, freeze it in one-portion servings that the AP can reheat and serve. We used to serve her Weight Watchers frozen dinners, but then we looked at the sodium content and winced (for one of her medical conditions we’re supposed to minimize salt intake).

Kelly Hand July 19, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Thanks for this great post and the thoughtful comments. As a former counselor in Washington, DC, I feel strongly that au pairs can’t meet all the needs of many of DC’s couples with two demanding careers. If you have two parents working over 40 hours, it’s just not possible (except when kids are older and mainly need a driver and general supervision). Some parents will need an extra sitter or perhaps a personal assistant and most will need a cleaning service. I appreciate Midwest AP’s comments on encouraging self-sufficiency in children, but I worry a little about her setting the bar too high for the next AP when it comes to doing so much for the parents. Future APs may not want to do all those “extra” errands, and will have no obligation to do them. But when the errands are related to the kids, it is fine to include them, as “Should be working” points out. Also, in the spirit of Midwest AP’s comments, the au pair can supervise the kids’ chores, and it’s OK to ask your kids to clean the toilets, wash the windows, and clean the kitty litter box even if you’re not supposed to ask the au pairs to do that herself. From my pre-teen years on, my sister and I had to clean the house. We complained about it, but in retrospect I am glad we had the responsibility.

hOstCDmom July 19, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I posted the below elsewhere, but I’m copying it here because it goes directly to Should be Working’s post above. I agree with SBW that some of the things CV lists as “parent obligations” are appropriate for an AP to due, subject to the hours limits of course!

I think when one has small, non-school aged children, and both parents work full time (esp. out of the house and/or or “full time +” jobs, such as if they have the kind of professional, salaried, jobs/careers where they don’t start and end at a certain time and work 50-60hrs/wk) an AP can’t meet all of the “family help needs” and either one has to let things go, or one needs to hire a housecleaner/housekeeper or extra childcare;

But as the children get a bit older, OR if one HP doesn’t work full time and/or is a SAHM parent, an AP can really help fill the “family help needs” gaps quite effectively **AND stay within the program guidelines**.

Re the below, I should note that I train my AP fairly intensively and explicitly, and I am very clear in matching re what being an AP with your family entails.

My earlier post:

I have 6 kids, stay at home, work very part time from home, and homeschool all 6 kids. I use every minute of the 45 hours, and I am at home or tag teaming with the AP for perhaps 2/3 of them. Here is an outline of some of the chore type responsibilities my au pair has, noting that these are separate from the times when she is directly responsible for the kids and supervising them, (and to be clear, supervising/caring for the kids is the majority of her time *and this chore type work (plus direct childcare) only fills her 45 hours* — it isn’t that she has to do all of this no matter how long it takes, rather I schedule so that her time is filled, and eliminate or add tasks as appropriate.

Specific daily kid related chores –
Monday, clean, organize and vacuum playroom and kids laundry; Tuesday – wash kids sheets and vacuum bedrooms;
Wednesday – clean children’s bathroom and tidy all children’s closets; Thursday – tidy children’s items in mudroom, wash out lunchboxes, prepare non-perishable snack bags for school lunches for the week, children’s laundry again;
Friday – grocery shop for children’s (or family’s) food; vacuum/clean out areas of car under/on carseats, toys out of car or “car toys” organized, organize/tidy all children’s bookshelves and art supplies.

General List of chores I would ask the AP to do:
make children’s lunches the night before. (Even for homeschoolers/toddlers – great to have lunch prepped the night before and not have to deal with it in the middle of busy days. )

AP is in charge of all library books. Checking new ones out with kids 2-3x/week. Keeping track of them, returning them.

shop for school supplies

take older kids shopping for specific things they need that you don’t need to be there for (project supplies, uniform pieces, birthday presents for friends.)

pre-buy, wrap and label presents for kid birthday parties so that you can grap and go on the day (important in large families with many elem. schoolers)

Prepare children’s dinners or breakfasts or whichever meal(s) you need help with.

Pre-prepare and freeze one afternoon per week per recipes.

tidy children’s rooms,

make younger children’s beds and tidy rooms, supervise older children making beds and tidying their rooms

children’s laundry – wash, dry, fold, put away. This = about 6 loads of clothes per week, plus 2 loads of sheets, plus one load of towels. There is *always* kid laundry in our house!

clean au pair bathroom once/week

clean kids’ bathroom once/week

tidy playroom, vacuum, dust, wipe furniture, once per week

tidy homework room, wipe down chairs and tables, vacuum once/week

keep track of and return library books (kids check out over 100 per week, so this is actually something that takes time)

ensure children do their pet related chores and help the younger ones to do so (we have about a dozen pets, so, again, this is more than a 5 minute task)

ensure *kids* do their daily household chores (such as wiping out sinks, sweeping kitchen floor after meals, cleaning up toys, books etc.)

vacuum kids rooms once per week launder 3 bedroom’s (6 beds/)worth of sheets each week + APs own sheets

keep tidy and cleaned children’s lockers in mudroom e

nsure older children load their breakfast dishes in diswasher, do so for the toddlers who cannot

bookshelves organized – books organized by series, author, subject etc.

shop for kid related supplies as needed (Amazon!), with $ from HM

occasional grocery or drugstore shopping/errands for kids, with $ from HM

keep suburban and station wagon cleaned out with respect to kid stuff, toys, books, litter

lay out clothes and equipment for next days sports practices (or direct older ones to do so and ensure that they do) c

lean out cabinets with art supplies, make lists and purchase any needed supplies

These are all things I use my AP time for in addition to standard – “please care for children X, Y and Z ” and things that I think of as “chores”. –

Should be working July 20, 2013 at 4:15 am

I am so impressed with your household, HostOCDmom! I would love to be this organized AND have six kids and a dozen pets. I always envied “Cheaper by the Dozen”.

On a tiny scale, I am thinking of making this change for next year:
We choose to pay for AP’s gas except for if she takes a longer trip with one of the cars. (She drives both cars most days, one is for ferrying kids and one is the non-kid car she uses to go out evenings.) Keeping both cars fueled is an ongoing stress, esp because DH lets them go to near-empty and I want them always minimum 1/4 full. I want to make this a quid pro quo–we will pay for most gas for both cars, but AP is in charge of keeping both of them minimum 1/4 full. It’s not child-related, but it is an arrangement among adults in the family. I think most APs would be grateful for the free gas and fine with being the one in charge of filling them.

Didn’t we talk once about prepaid credit or gas cards? Anyone have info on that? I’d like to organize this for the gas deal and also for her grocery shopping for kids.

JJ Host Mom July 21, 2013 at 11:50 am

Someone here mentioned the American Express PASS card. I was going to look into that for our next au pair.

WestMom July 24, 2013 at 1:24 pm

We use the Mobil speedpass, but I ask our AP to use only when absolutely needed. Typically I like to keep tabs of when the car is running low on gas, to make sure our car benefits are not being abused. I personally fill each weekend. But in a pinch, I will ask AP to fill using her speedpass.

Skny July 21, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Do you have any trouble matching?
Do you usually match with older or younger Au pairs?
I’ve noticed that most Au pairs feel our 3 kids are too many (even though one is a teen and is in school full time). We are considering going for child number 4 and worry about not be able to recruit or hold an Au pair.
Also, I am home half of the day and noticed most Au pairs have problems with me being home a few hrs a day. I feel they would want to rematch of I was home full time.
Any tips on matching?

hOstCDmom July 21, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Funny you should ask – the last time I posted about the tasks we ask our APs to do, someone else asked exactly the same thing. I will copy and past my previous reply/post (located on aupairmom under the topic AP Handbook Part 1)

hOstCDmom July 21, 2013 at 5:32 pm

To SKNY’s question, my previous post copied here:

Nope, truly we haven’t had trouble matching. We have had 7 Au pairs, 3 of whom have extended for a second year, including our current AP.

We pay the standard stipend ($195.75), Au pair has a pretty small, but reasonably cute/cozy room, on same floor as all other bedrooms. We don’t provide a computer. AP doesn’t have her own bathroom, she shares with kids. We offer a standard mobile (unlimited texting but not smartphone). AP shares a car with HM (2 cars for AP+ HM & HD). We start out with a curfew for every AP. We do allow friends to sleep over, subject to notice/ok from HP. We live in the center of a village, so much is walkable. Our children dont watch any TV, we have only 1TV which only plays video/Internet , and a TV/DVD player in AP’s room. We don’t take fancy vacations, we offer the standard 2 weeks vacation each year, not more. We use 40-45 hours each week.

I’m biased :), but I think we are pretty good HP, we communicate well with APs, we treat them how we would like to be treated in our jobs, we treat them like adults, and members if our family, respect all program rules, welcome their friends in our home, and there are often several APs here socializing on weekday and weekend evenings. Almost every weekend our AP has one or another friend sleeping over.

I think APs have fun with our family – there is a lot going on ALWAYS, it is social, fun and never lonely. We have all the neighborhood kids over all the time – our house is like Grand Central Station – play dates, movie nights, kids hanging out. Our family walks everywhere, always. Our kids are independent and we expect much from them in the way of chores, daily — the AP is not their maid!! More like their companion, supervisor and facilitator. I think the APs that choose our family want to live with a large, active family. Maybe they have always wanted to live with the Brady Bunch? Or Eight is Enough? :)

But seriously, other than the fact that we don’t expect our AP to pay for her gas when using the shared cars for her personal use, I don’t think we offer any tangible perqs! Maybe some intangibles….but not money/cars/travel/tech toys/material things.

hOstCDmom July 21, 2013 at 5:36 pm

And to SKNY’s question regarding the HM being at home:

Previous post copied here:
Another thing that may be a strike against us in some ways and cause some (many?) candidates to rule us out, but I think actually works for us in terms of making good matches with the APs that we do finally match with, is that I am a PT WAHM/SAHM, so I’m always around.

I have seen lots of comments on this site that many APs consider that a minus, if indeed not a huge CON/red flag. But, because I will be around our au pair all the time, I REALLY screen for attitude, personality compatibility, world view, life experience, absence of potentially noncompatible factors (such as very religious (we are not)), liberal views on social issues (it matters to us that our AP not be presenting strongly conflicting views on the social issues of the day). Like someone else on the site said, we screen for attitude and train for skill. (We don’t need infant qualilfied, but we do need a driver and screen for a particular language and expect our AP to work with our children on this language).

My sense is that this helps us because we end up with APs we like (and who like us) and that is a good baseline from which to start. I think our APs end up feeling like they are on a “team” with HD and me, especially because they are on a literal tag-team every day with me.

I end up getting to know our APs rather well, and consequently get to know their friends/boyfriends/families (albeit second hand) and the girls we have matched with seem to like this companionable relationship. (To be clear, it isn’t anything like a peer friendship – I’m 40, they are 15-18 years younger, and I don’t expect them to “be friends with me”, but we do chat quite a bit through the course of the days).

I am speculating, but I think that the combo of our large family, and a companionable relationship between AP- HM, works for a certain type of personality and also perhaps avoids an AP feeling as lonely, isolated, bored, tedious as she might if she had sole charge of kids 45hrs per week?

(In the above I realized that it sounded like I screen out liberal views on social issues — which is not the case! I screen FOR liberal views on social issues (homosexuality, gay rights/marriage, race issues, ecumenical religious views, abortion/sex ed, roles of women etc.)

I ask EXPLICIT questions in this regard – i.e., “In our state gay marriage has recently become legal. I know it isn’t legal/the norm in your country, but what do you think about this? How will you feel about our having neighbors that are two dads? Will you be comfortable arranging playdates with the children of our friends who are in same sex partnerships?” And “What do you think of interracial dating”; “do you have friends that are purple, orange, green?” That sort of thing. Sometimes this flusters a candidate, but I have found that the ones that have thoughtful answers, including even “I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it much because homosexual relations are illegal in my country, but I don’t think I would have a problem with it”, have the potential to be a good match with us.

Skny July 22, 2013 at 8:38 am

I hope you don’t mind me asking more questions. I am really interested and using this conversation as a learning experience for us (I really am looking forward to “speaking” more with you).
Just for background, all but one of our Au pair experiences were very disapointing. With exception of the last one (who was a short term experience and we were happy to see her go a week ago), they were not awful/terrible, but we barely felt like we got the bare minimum. As I said with one exception, we felt kind of used and taken advantage of.
To the point that I am sad to say that my kids are back in day care now (after our short term terrible experience my husband said he was done).
We are talking about a forth child and I will only do it if we can go back to Au pair, as our trusted day care provider will no longer take babies.
I usually leave home at 8 and return at 1. When I still need time for paperwork, dinner. Most Au pairs seem to resent that they are not off at that point, or feel that if I am home, and playing with kids, or if I am home and kids are sleeping, it is petty of me to give tasks (ie clean up play room, kids toys, etc) when I see them sitting in the table with their laptops).

Anyway… Here goes:
– you said you train your Au pairs fairly intensively/explicitly. Would you elaborate on this? Do you spend all your time with them in the beginning and correct on the spot?
– add/eliminate tasks: do ou write a daily outline of needed, or just tell them throughout the day what to do? I also noticed my Au pairs expected a clear list for the day and felt overworked if I added something to their list at the end of the day (ie Au pair work till 4, I am playing with kids at 3, so I add a task. Au pair thinks I am taking advantage of her when I could let her rest).
– I was curious about the pre-prepare and freeze one afternoon per week per recipe. I am always thinking of ways to make life easier.
– how do you check for personality and attitude? Any tips? I usually go for skills and my Au pairs usually have nice children related skills, etc… But I usually (with one exception) get stuck with bad attitude, or not self starters, or just not interested…. Can use help there. Had 2 where I literally spent hr every week writing a detailed schedule (ie play outside, if too hot, color, if they don’t want to color, paint…).
This because they would go outside. Kid wanted to come inside, she’d put them on tv. Or let them run around. So I gave the idea of, if they don’t want to play outside, maybe you want to have them color. Well, they did not want to color, so tv. She couldn’t think… Well lets play in the playroom insteady.
Anyway, sorry again for the grilling. I am really interested in your experience!

MidAtlantic Host Family July 22, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Our experience has been a combination of SKNY and Ruth – potentially crazier. Crazy enough, we have been in constant triage and not had time to formulate intelligent questions like SKNY so very interested in responses to SKNY.

However, I will say to SKNY going from 2 to 3 children was much harder than 3 to 4. The hardest part about the 4th has been the extra space required in cars, house, hotels, everywhere – especially when you also factor in an AP so you become a family of 7. The parenting philosophy/prioritization becomes very important because it is impossible to do everything. Part of that lead to the decision for us to participate in the AP program with the idea that having another adult helping out 40 hours/week might help more get done. Unfortunately, it has not worked out that way for us, but we have hope reading the success others on this site have experienced.

Host Mom in the City July 22, 2013 at 8:37 pm

I would also appreciate hearing how to get even just a little more than the absolute bare minimum without having a resentful au pair. We had a pretty good first experience with an extraordinaire and are going back to that program for our third this fall. We had a regular au pair this year and I absolutely echo the complaints on this thread – ours only worked 25 hours a week with two easy kids 4 and 6 (who were both in school literally all day during the school year, in summer camp mornings now), and she literally has no chores. We have pretty much the standard “perks” – she shares our car, we have ended up paying for her personal gas (even though our handbook says she should, she never has), we pay her iPhone bill (her phone on our family plan). She also has tons of extra time off as well as most all evenings and weekends.

Despite all my training and attempts to model what behavior I would like, she is completely unable to think beyond exactly what I have laid out. Well, I wouldn’t say unable – she just doesn’t put forth any effort into anything unless it’s her social life. She’s been here almost 10 months and I still have to plan every day out for her or else she’ll just have them play in the house all day while she sits on the couch on her phone. Fortunately we’ve had a no-TV rule from the beginning or I’m sure she’d be plunking them in front of the TV for hours a day.

We’ve also had the issue where she is unable to get helping out when another adult is there. During the school year, I had her on duty to get the kids ready for school while I was still there getting ready myself and she would sit on the couch waiting for explicit direction even after we had many talks about what she could be doing and to basically act like I wasn’t there. Like she’d come down, the kids are running around in their PJs with 45 mins to go until we had to leave and she’d come downstairs and sit on the couch. I would say “please get them dressed” and she’d do that and then sit back down on the couch.

She did the same thing on our summer vacation (which I completely regret taking her on – lesson learned, a mediocre au pair will NOT improve on vacation). We had her on duty a handful of hours during the vacation to help us when we were at a park for example, and she just stood there lamely the whole time basically pouting (she’d already told us we were taking her away from her friends for too long).

I should have rematched long ago. But I kept trying things – giving her more time off, giving her more responsibility, talking to her about what I’d like to see, giving positive feedback when I liked something that happened, talking to the LCC, doing more standard training stuff, etc. I don’t know. Maybe I just didn’t choose well. Honestly excited for her to leave this fall and to try the extraordinaire program one more time. If this one doesn’t work out, we’re leaving the program too. Would love ideas for how to do better next time.

SKny July 22, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Host mom in the city,
Replica here blecaute i could not do it bellow yours. I agree about the vacation. We had a very mediocre short term Au pair we were assisting. Plan was for her to stay with us all summer improving her English. We are now in a great resort in SC, and she was coming with us for a week.
She was driving us nuts. I got to the point of making a giant list for her. Something like: morning – library. If closed or they don’t want, color. If doesn’t keep their attention, find rocks and paint them. If they still finish too early play in the yard, if… And there goes on and on. And even then id get home and see her on laptop and my one yo ripping my mail to pieces. Because kids did not want to participate with her. Urgh
last Monday, when I heard my husband threatening my 3yo saying if she didn’t get dressed he was going to have Au pair watch her, instead of him (and her desperatedly getting dressed saying: no Au pair) I decided she was not vacation material. Called LCC and told she had 2 weeks to figure out aps life, and brought our teen (17yo) sitter on vacation instead.
Best decision ever! very thankful, very mature, participates in all, posted tons of pics on Facebook about being best vacation ever…. Helps even when I don’t request… Watches over my teen (who is 16, but functions more as a 12yo due to trauma)… And doesn’t care to count hours. We are only having her watch kids for a few hrs every day, but there was no discussion about schedule, etc.

AuPair2013 July 23, 2013 at 4:41 am


You sound like a very good HM think the tasks you’re asking for are very fair, at least you want someone that’s willing to help when you obviously needed it, instead of having an au pair that needs to be told
You also pay fr gas and iPhone bill, if a family do that dor me, I’d bevery thankful , knowing that’s a privilege and if they do those things for em last thing I could do is be there for when you need me.

I’m sorry to say you’re spoiling your au pair…. It is not. abad thing when she deserves it but is she just don’t do anything at all I think she should pay for that, hwthwn she’d realized how lucky she is.

You can talk to her about that cause you pay for that cause you want hertoto be happy and be part of the family but you also expect the work to be done and when she’s working she should give 100% of energy and attention to the kids.

I never use the phone or laptop when I’m with the kids… Your 4 years old could climb a chair and fall off, and your au pair won’t see cause she was updating facebook.

My honest opinion.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 23, 2013 at 7:14 am

HMitC, I’m right there with you with the couch-sitter. We’re now in the final stretch (going back to Extraordinnaires, too, because I have learned that I resent being a job coach after the first 3 months, and especially well into the 11th month).

What our AP doesn’t realize is that she is missing out on the perks that we offered to a lot of her predecessors in their last weeks -the gift certificate to a favorite restaurant so she could have a meal with friends at our expense; my cooking her favorite meal and a family dinner thanking her for a good year; extra time off to go to the airport to see friends off; every summer weekend off; and an open invitation to return to our house.

Host Mom in the City July 23, 2013 at 7:48 am

Thanks for the feedback. I do agree that we spoiled her a bit in the beginning – I see now that we treated her like more of a guest in the beginning which I will not do again. I will also never have an au pair working so few hours. It’s just not enough to keep them busy and to send the message that this is a job. But I do want to mention that we absolutely has talks about iPhone use and that appears to have improved. But the trust is gone since she told me she would never be on the phone with the kids (the bill said otherwise – texting all through the day). Now there’s no texting, but we have wifi of course and I know there are many other ways to be texting lie through Facebook and whatsapp.

It’s the lack of initiative that bugs me more than the texting. It’s the treating the job part of being an au pair like something to put up with so you can get back to having the time of your life on someone else’s dime without appreciating it. And I do think that has a lot to do with the marketing of the program and the candidates they are letting in (seems to be pretty much anyone without holding them to the “likes children and is experienced in child care” standard).

All the host parents I talk to IRL are similarly disgruntled. And the stories my AP tells me about what other APs are up to are atrocious. I agree that something has to change about the program overall (and the topic of this post might be some of the change that’s needed). But the change I’d like to see is better screening and marketing by the agencies so that both parties to this program are being told accurately what to expect and not being told totally opposit things just to get them in the door.

Meanwhile, we’re back to extraordinaires. We looked for a whole in the regular pool and literally found no one experienced hardly at all besides ocassional babysitting. And your absolutely right, TaCL – our other au pair got much more trust out of us, which came with perks. Both host parents and au pairs need to realize that to some degree, you give what you get. Sit on the couch on your phone all day and then lie to me and say you’re not on the phone? Not a person who can be trusted to do anything other than basic activities with the kids and who definitely is not going to be left alone in the house for the weekend or compensated beyond the minimum, etc. man I’m ready for this year to be over!! :)

hOstCDmom July 23, 2013 at 10:29 am

SKNY – I will try to answer your questions.

I treat the AP job like a “real job” – I’ve posted elsewhere that we explicitly forbid computer, FB, smartphone, tel calls etc. while on duty. It is in our 25page handbook (one topic per page, lots of bullets, so not 25 pages of dense prose) and I go over our handbook, *page by page*, after the AP has been at hour house 4-5 days (time to acclimate, get over jet lag, get used to English, but right at the beginning to set the tone). I discuss, in detail, each and every page of the handbook. I show everything mentioned in the handbook that makes sense to show – i.e. where things are, kids’ closets and where clothes go. I also personally show the AP anything that requires demonstration (laundry, hoover, how to put sheets on top bunks etc.) This takes probably 1/2 a day.

I am organized and there are charts everywhere – lunch options chart, what are snack options, schedules for local library, pool, YMCA, etc. I show and explain these.

I have pull out sections of my handbook that state what is to be done every morning/start of shift. Same re end of shift. I explain how AP should leave house at end of EVERY shift on duty (picked up kid areas, kitchen clean, playroom tidied.). I say “this will take the last 15 min you are on duty, so make sure to do it. It must be done before you are off duty”.

We have a set schedule that I put out every Sunday for the following week along with the family calendar for the week, noting all kid activities (color coded and noted by name) as well as my fixed work obligations. It notes the “on duty” hours for each day. It is usually 43-45hours, so a full schedule. I almost never let the AP off duty early, since I really need 45h of help and plan to use the AP effectively when she is on duty. On the other hand, our AP never has to work beyond the scheduled hours (with current AP, over last 2 years, AP has only worked beyond schedule once and that was bc elem aged child spit head open while under APs care (random accident, AP handled excellently) requiring ER visit with me/copious stitches — AP ended up being on about 1.5hrs more than scheduled to give DH time to get home from work to take over. AP had no problem with that, and I thanked her profusely and adjusted schedule to end earlier the next day.) It tell our APs when you are on, you are on, but when you are off we will never ask you to be on.

Re tasks – I have a set schedule of “major kid related tasks” (noted above) that are each and every week. There are also daily tasks, such as prepare next day’s lunches, and ENSURE that kids do their chores (make their bed, brush teeth, wash their dishes after meal, sweep kitchen floor, feed pets, clean up after pets, walk dogs, practice instruments, clean bathroom on their day of the week, weed garden etc.) Kids chores are on a list, and must be checked off each day before certain times — AP responsible for ensuring kids do them. I explicitly tell AP that it is her job to make sure they get done, and empower her to reward (sticker charts for treats/privileges etc.) and to punish/take away privileges for no compliance.

There are other tasks that need to be done and I often tell the AP at the beginning of the week, or start of the day. In the beginning, I write this down. I don’t phrase: “Could you…X” Rather, I consciously say, “I need you to do X please. Please do it when kid A is napping/while kid B is at ballet etc.” I state my expectation, don’t ask the AP to do it — if you get what I mean by this distinction.

I treat my APs like employees — their job responsibilities are non-negotiable, they are not doing me favors by doing them, and when on duty they should expect to be working. HOWEVER, I *ALWAYS* thank them for doing a good job. I praise things they do well daily. I tell them explicitly that their doing X is so helpful, and I thank them often. Our current AP told me that being sincerely appreciated, and explicitly told thank you, for doing a good job and working hard makes her feel sincerely appreciated.

Re the SAHM – Our APs know I will be home all the time when they match. I tell them we will be a team, I will be around, and we will work together. It may be “easier” for our family that I’m home bc we have so many kids – maybe it is harder if there are only 1 or 2 kids? And then the AP feels redundant?

Our AP has certain kids’ laundry days, but bc of the volume in our house, there is always a load that could go in/a load waiting to be folded. So, if she feels herself at loose ends, she can simply go do kid related chore like this to free up more time later.

Our AP instructs my kids in her native language. When she has down time, she uses it to prep lessons/activities to supplement the materials and curriculum that I have provided her.

SKNY – I will respond to your q’s re vetting/personality in a separate post, as I think I may be maxxing out the number of characters permitted in a post!!

hOstCDmom July 23, 2013 at 10:48 am

I REALLY try to screen for attitude, personality compatibility, world view, life experience, absence of potentially noncompatible factors (such as very religious (we are not)), we have liberal views on social issues (it matters to us that our AP not be presenting strongly conflicting views on the social issues of the day).

Unlike some others — and probably because I am SAHM/PT-WAHM, so I’m not leaving all day and leaving my children in the sole charge of an AP 3 days after she has arrived– I don’t value lots of childcare experience. (We don’t need infant qualilfied, but we do need a driver and screen for a particular language and expect our AP to work with our children on this language).

I DO value real work experience — i.e. a job where you had to show up on time, had manager or supervisor, had to clock in/out, a job where one “had to probably do things you didn’t like or thought were dumb, but oh well, they were part of the job and your boss told you to do them”.

I tell my APs that I welcome their thoughts and feedback if they think something can be improved have some suggestions how to do something more efficiently (and some have had great ideas!), BUT that I’m 40years old, and I have my ways of doing things, I have my reasons for doing them that way, that I have figured out what works for me and my family, how I want things and I’m not planning to change — they will be the one adapting to our house rhythm, rules, and “uptight” ways of doing things/parenting style when they are on duty.

I ask EXPLICIT questions – literally, I ask the following type of questions “In our state gay marriage has recently become legal. I know it isn’t legal/the norm in your country, but what do you think about this? How will you feel about our having neighbors that are two dads? Will you be comfortable arranging playdates with the children of our friends who are in same sex partnerships?” And “What do you think of interracial dating”; “do you have friends that are purple, orange, green?” “What do your parents think about you dating someone who is pink?” That sort of thing. Sometimes this flusters a candidate, but I have found that the ones that have thoughtful answers, including even “I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it much because homosexual relations are illegal in my country, but I don’t think I would have a problem with it”, have the potential to be a good match with us.

I ask who does the AP’s laundry at their home; who cleans their house, who takes out the trash, who washes up after meal prep. No matter what they say, but especially if they say, my mom/housekeeper, I tell them straight up — we don’t have a housekeeper and I already have too many kids already to have another one in the form of a 21 y.o. AP (!!), so as an AP in our house you will be doing your laundry + kids’ laundry, you will be cleaning your bathroom + kids’ bathroom –and I say, this means cleaning a toilet, scrubbing out a bathtub, wiping spit and toothpaste out of a sink”, and that doing laundry will mean sorting it by color, washing it on different temperatures, drying it on different temperatures, folding it and putting it in the correct places in the closets. I tell them, I have a chart and I will teach you, but you will need to do this each and every week. The first time I tell AP to fold and then ask me or one of the older kids what belongs to whom. Then when AP puts everything in the wrong places, I have her come with me, closet to closet, take the stuff out, and put it in the correct place. I even told one AP that if she needed to take pictures of the closets and drawers to remember what goes where, go for it! But that I need everything in its place, otherwise my or kids’ spending time looking for it makes more work for me.

I tell them they will need to multitask, they will learn to make 6 kid lunches in 15 min; they will quickly realize that if they come home from the pool without kid X’s swimsuit or goggles or from the ball field without the ball, they will have to go back with kid and find them.

I realize that the foregoing probably isn’t that helpful – it’s hard to put into words the q’s I ask or the way I present the job– but I guess at the end of the day I try very hard to create the impression that X, Y and Z are not optional. I state my expectations and convey that they must be met, this is what APs do in our family, and this is what I need them to do.

Skny July 23, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Thank you for your detailed reply.
One last question: how much of it do you tell the ap during match? Do you tell you expect them to see it as job? That they will work the full 45hs, the no electronics during work hrs rule, etc?
I am figuring one of my errors is to be too afraid to scare Au pairs and kind of sugar coat all a lot…

former au pair July 23, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Host mom in the city,
As I said, It´s not a bad thing to spoil your au pair… IF SHE DESERVES IT. think if she does or not..
You´re NOT a bad HM, you just need the right au pair for you.

Most of Au pairs tend to forget that´s this is a job, BUT we don´t want to be treated like empoyees as some of HP´s here think, well. -THIS IS A CULTURAL EXCHANGE-

One of the problems I find on the Au pair Agencies is that Thet sold the au pair program as a HOLIDAYS in USA, like” go to the USA, have fun, play with kids and get paid for it” when it´s not, they should talk clearly we have responsabilities that HF´s expect us to take charge, not going there to party.

P.S. I just signed with APIA, I´ll be online very soon… I´m not kidding when I say: I´d love to find a HM as you :) cause you seem very clear,fair and supportive.

Good luck for your family on the next au pair!

MidAtlantic Host Family July 23, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Hostcdmom – have you ever had an AP match with you because they were worried they would not match then rematch to an easier HF soon after being in-country?

I am trying to figure out if your screening gets past this situation. We have tried the scare them off approach but maybe we should be more explicit.

Momma Gadget July 23, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Hostcdmom- could you please come to my house and teach me to be more organized and efficient? ;-)

Skny July 23, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Ok, echoeing gadget mom!
I could also use the help! Hehe! I will even add that we do civil war reenactment and it is great for homeschool program! Hehe

hOstCDmom July 23, 2013 at 9:41 pm

LOL! Be careful what you wish for….there is a reason for my screen name… and the selective capitalization..!! ;-)

hOstCDmom July 23, 2013 at 9:49 pm

SKNY – I tell them everything/share everything before we match. I usually do a first Skype as a get to know you, get a sense for English, personality. I tell about our family, and while I’m very straightforward about the work that it entails, I do try to sell them (sugarcoat? :)) on the plusses of being an AP with a family with 6 kids (there really are some!) – fun, active, NOT lonely, lots going on, gazillion of kids in our house/yard, the flexibility of homeschooling that lets us do fun things during the week (skiing midweek all winter, countercyclical vacations, trips to museums and other events when there aren’t crowds, etc.)

Then a second interview I ask all my pointed questions.

Then I include DH in a third interview – usually he does about a 15 min chat, then I carry on from there.

THEN, I send them the handbook and tell them we’ll speak in 2-3 days after they’ve had a chance to review it.
THEN, I do a fourth Skype interview, to see what questions they have about the manual.

THEN, if I’m feeling positive, I will extend an offer to match by email – not on Skype – because if they don’t want to match with me it is easier to say no by email than when put on the spot on Skype! I want to give them an out.

As I’m typing all of this, and my previous posts, I am starting to feel like I’m “Cult Host Mom” — maybe I indoctrinate my APs to my way of thinking and bend them to my will and way of life…?? Because while I do lay it all out, I also do a hard sell on why being an AP with our family is great, great life experience, fun, interesting, not typical etc….it all starts to sound like the grooming phase of cult recruitment..!! ;-)

Host Mom in the City July 24, 2013 at 8:51 am

Thanks to everyone for the comments and sorry for contributing to taking this thread totally off topic!! We do a lot of the up-front training and screening that hOstCDmom mentions – we are similarly very organized and have a very clear handbook and do very specific training in the beginning. I think it’s the launching them out of the job training process and into taking full responsibility step that I have trouble with. I agree with TaCL and that really sums up the frustrations I’ve had with this year – if I’m having to continue training you and walking you through things and reminding you about basic job requirements throughout the year and well past the first couple of months, I start to feel very resentful. It’s that getting them to step up after the initial training that I am going to think long and hard about for this new year.

Anyway, I’ll go back to the topic in a separate post. Good discussion though!

Seattle Mom July 24, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Interesting! My current AP was formerly with a family with 5 children before us, and it sounds similar to your situation. Our AP is very energetic and I know she loved her last HF (she only extended with us because they had made other childcare arrangements and she wanted a change in scenery).

DarthaStewart July 19, 2013 at 3:18 pm

We’ve learned that we have to be very specific about our asks and expectations of the au-pairs. We have a set list of tasks that we ask the au-pair to do, and generally do not deviate from that list, since going outside that box, usually results in failure.

For instance, we’ve had great results with asking au-pairs to keep kids busy, and giving them set fun-kid types of activities. Getting laundry done- only a couple have been any good at that. So, rather than beating our head against the wall, we just have someone else who does laundry for everyone.
Shopping- that’s something we learned the hard way to do ourselves. otherwise, the bill skyrockets, and we end up with a ton of uneaten food in the house. (And thus, wasted food)
We try to be very clear about expectations, and be very consistent about our needs. We also try to not have unrealistic expectations (understanding that the agencies market to both sides, and advertise a bit too much- in each direction)

HRHM July 21, 2013 at 7:48 am

If an AP can’t manage to do laundry, I think there is something seriously wrong! It only takes 3 minutes to put in a load and start the machine. With a pre-academic charge, there is nap-time to do folding and with school aged kids she can do it before pick up time. Unless you have a very unique circumstance, I can’t see how laundry can be an issue. Unless of course, she just doesn’t like to do it (or specifically hates to fold or put away or iron, etc) and then just doesn’t, or screws it up so you’ll stop requiring it. I’ve definitely had those! LOL

Taking a Computer Lunch July 21, 2013 at 9:00 am

Unless you have a multi-step laundry process, or really care if your daughter’s light pink blouse is washed with your son’s navy sweat pants, then laundry shouldn’t be an issue. We keep a chart in our laundry room that details what gets washed with what and how (like boil the kids’ dark clothes but don’t wash their bathing suits unless she’s doing a cold wash). It’s been a non-issue for all but two au pairs. One was used to hand washing (and I think she hand-washed all her clothes because we were sure we had leaks the year she lived with us – we had astronomical water bills) and the other had never done a load of laundry in our life and chafed at it for months.

Cleaning The Camel’s bathroom – now that’s another story! It’s a rare AP who cleaned it well enough for my tastes. Mostly I have bit my tongue.

AUPAIRSHARE July 19, 2013 at 4:25 pm

This is a ver good post, I hope all the host parents read this. My ex host family wanted me to do so much that I couldn’t help it. The first au pair used to do a lot, but she was not happy. Sometime my ex host mom wanted me to sleep with the girl, she kind of motivate the girl to ask me for that. One day the girls said: Mommy I want to cuddle with you, but since you don’t want to, can I sleep with my au pair? And she stopped encouraging the girl to ask me to sleep with her. There are limits I think.

Seattle Mom July 24, 2013 at 2:37 pm

When my current AP first moved in with us she asked if she should bring the 2 year old to sleep with her at night if she woke up. I was so shocked that she asked me that, but apparently that’s what she did with the baby in her last HF. She didn’t mind doing it, but I can understand that most APs wouldn’t like that. I was impressed that she was willing to do it, but I didn’t want to make her do that. That’s my job :). She did have to lie down with the little one for naps initially, but managed to get her to sleep without that after a while (I still have to lie down with her to get her to sleep).

Didis July 21, 2013 at 11:26 pm

I like this post especially because after host and au pairs get comfortable in their situation, they all forget what was the deal in beginning. I think every family should sit with their au pair in beginning of second year and go through rules and expectations to remind au pair why is she there, but also to remind hosts that just because your au pair loves you and your kids you shouldnt forget that after all, she is just helping you out, not other way around.

Also, what I would love to say, based on my experience and some of my close au pair friends is that hosts are very open when it comes to saying what are they having problem with, or they are being grumpy and they shut down when things are not as good, but they are not as open to understand and accept that hosts as well make mistakes, forget rules and sometimes, no matter how much we love you, we need to feel that being equal is not just when you feel like it.

I have amazing family that now for almost year and half I love deeply and would do anything, but in my case they took that ” I’ll do anything for them” little too literally. I know they are not doing it on purpose, or maybe they are, but I am having hard time feeling as a part of family if I am spending half my days – every day cleaning their mess from day before.

and also what bothers me is my hosts are telling me and everyone how grateful they are they have me, how good I am with kids and how I am doing great job at teaching them manners and disciplining them. What I have problem with is that when it comes for them to do the same, they don;t feel like it. so I am feeling that they either lie and actually don;t care about good stuff I am doing or they believe just me doing it is enough. That makes me want to give up and be one of those au pair who are sitting on the couch, who don’t care, on their phone and waiting their work day to be over. and if I do that, then I would be the bad one, right?

Host Mom in the City July 24, 2013 at 9:08 am

OK, posting on the topic. Sorry again! As background, my husband and I both work full-time, so we completely get not having enough au pair hours and having a house that needs lots of attention that we don’t have time to give. I’m also not, as perhaps you’ve read, altogether thrilled with the program itself, so obviously I’m not a model host mom :)

But I do have to say that I completely agree with CV – the au pair program requirements are the au pair program requirements. It’s not like having an au pair is the only childcare/household task solution available. It’s one of MANY. So if the requirements of the program don’t work for you, then don’t have an au pair OR be prepared to supplement the program. More expensive to supplement the program than to just have your au pair do more than she should be doing? Yes of course. But I don’t think that’s a legitimate excuse.

Easy (though of course, additional cost-adding) solutions to both of the problems in this post:

The family needs more hours than the 45 hour limit – get a separate sitter, use a preschool or before/after care in addition to your au pair, stagger your start/end times at work. 10 hour limit or restriction against over-night care not working for your family? Then an au pair isn’t going to be the childcare solution for you. Perhaps daycare or a nanny (live-in?) would be a better fit, for example.

The family needs help with tasks beyond those specified in the Au Pair job description – get a dog-walker, a housekeeper, or whatever else you need help with. Or re-adjust your expectations of how tidy your house needs to be on a day-to-day basis.

Sorry to be so blunt. Perhaps the au pair program requirements do need changing to make it work for today’s family. I think where it gets difficult is when the au pair truly doesn’t mind bending the rules (as in pet care situations) or truly wants to earn extra money (as in working extra hours for pay on top of the stipend). But it’s hard to determine when an au pair really and truly doesn’t mind or when she just feels she can’t say no. But either way, when I read a host parent asking questions about how to bend the rules of the program, it’s pretty difficult not to see the question simply as “I’d like not to have to spend additional money on a service I need – is it ok to just take advantage of my au pair since I’m already paying her?”

CA Host Mom July 24, 2013 at 4:26 pm

I’m right there with you, HMiTC. We use all 45 hours and my husband and I always have to negotiate who can get away in time to take over for the AP (but we always manage). It’s a Mon-Fri gig for her since we both work. Of course we could use another 10 hrs/week of help, but I wouldn’t consider bending that 45 hour rule. I see the temptation (AP is already familiar with routine, already in home, in many cases – is very willing) but it’s the over-working her aspect that bothers me the most. That and I am a textbook rule-follower … But there has to be a significant decline in an APs ability to be effective if she is working too many hours (my 2 kids are little, 1 & 3). I haven’t broken down and hired a babysitter yet, but I am considering it. And we have an every 2 week housekeeper because I just can’t keep the place as clean as I want it to be.

Here’s a creative option that I am considering (that might not be a possibility for everyone) … I work on a contract basis and renegotiate every 6-12 months. I am considering limiting my availability to 4 days per week so there is 1 day during the week (which AP is working) that I can pay bills, run errands, schedule appointments, get the cars serviced, do the week’s shopping/cooking, do laundry, re-write my AP handbook ;) etc.

Emerald City HM July 24, 2013 at 5:57 pm

I am also on the fence on considering changing my hours to PT, either approximately 4, 9 hours days or 5, 7 hour days. With the same idea of still giving me time to complete normal household tasks and not dig into after work time with my kids or stressing about the schedule. Also, with an 8 month old, the thoughts of actually getting some sleep 1 day a week are starting to fill my head.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 25, 2013 at 7:20 am

My solution, to which I’ve stuck over the years, was to insist on a 6:30-3:00 schedule at work (I do get complaints, and my boss does push back from time to time), but it allows me to have a long evening with the kids. DH leaves for work 2 hours after I do, so he gets some AM time with the kids. Now that the kids are school aged, we could commute together, but I like having a long evening with the kids, while DH gets home just in time for dinner and the bedtime routine for our special needs child. In the beginning, it permitted our AP, who then became a nanny, to attend college full-time in the evening (her choice).

Splitting our schedules this way allowed us to stay within the 45 hours when the kids were pre-schoolers. Now that my kids are school-aged, I have time to run errands and schlep kids to activities in the afternoon.

I realize that not everyone has the option for a flexible work schedule, but if both parents don’t get caught up in the same work schedule, then it gets easier. While DH’s work has been less flexible than mine, they will let him work from 6:30-3:00 when I need to work late, so we are able to flip schedules.

Not sure what to do July 27, 2013 at 10:32 pm

A couple of weeks ago our table went missing. We thought our youngest son had lost it but discovered it in the au pair’s bedroom hidden in a basket at the top of a bookshelf. We found it by accident because we were doing some repairs to the porch roof and had to use her room to get to the roof. It looked exactly like the missing tablet, but she had changed most of the settings and apps on it. She is away this weekend, but we are not sure how to approach her. Any ideas?

new au pair August 5, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Have you ever seen you AP using “her” Tablet? or do you know if she was going to get one soon or something like that?

I´d ask her about your lost Tablet, if she have seen it lately cause you think the youngest lost it.
if she doubts when saying something about—- you know.
If she gives you a firm and calm ” I have no Idea” 1- she´s too good lying or 2- she really has no idea.

If you approach her saying “We found a Tablet identical as the one my son lost, at your room..” she would go mad ( I would ) cause that means you don´t trust her.

It depends on if you trust her or not. how long have she been in your family for? is the first time something someone “lost” something? money, watch, jewerly….?

HM Pippa August 7, 2013 at 9:10 pm

As the former HM of a thieving AP, the breach of trust undermines the relationship. I agonized, and weighed the pros and cons of rematch, tried to see it from the APs perspective, had conversations, but in the end the only solution was to send her home. It helped seal the decision that AP failed to return all stolen items, even after a firm but understanding conversation. Theft is a a deal breaker – and an egregious breach of trust and social contract. rematch.

Skny August 8, 2013 at 6:17 am

If this is the first and only missing item, it can be difficult, because with almost $200 pocket money they can easily buy a tablet, and unless she always show you everything she buys, it could still be hers.
I wonder if there is anywhere in the tablet that would tell when it was first used. If it is an apple you can call with the tablet number and get when it was first purchased (they have due to warranty issues – but I am assuming it was bought new).
If you ever registered it with apple, or other company, you should also be able to check if that number was ever registered. Those are thIngs she cannot change.
But otherwise, all tablets kind of look the same… And she could have bought it

Taking a Computer Lunch August 8, 2013 at 6:46 am

You found it hidden in a basket on the top shelf of a bookshelf, which meant you went looking through her belongings. Had you suspected that she had taken the tablet? Have you suspected her of taking other belongings?

Skny’s approach sounds like the best. Your receipt for the tablet, assuming you still have it, should have a serial number. Call the store and ask where it would be. Ask the AP to show you hers. If it matches your son’s, then your relationship is over. If it doesn’t, it may be anyway, since you searched her room and suspected her.

Some of my APs have been open about their purchases, while others have been fairly secretive. The savvy European au pairs know they have to keep their receipts so they don’t have to pay VAT on electronics purchased within six months of their departure.

I’ve had a couple of APs who always used their electronics in our living space to hang out with the family, while most have retreated to their rooms.

Seattle Mom July 31, 2013 at 5:35 pm

We used to have this problem ALL the time, when my younger DD was too little for preschool. Now that she’s in preschool 2 mornings/week we are comfortably within the 45 hour/week limit, as long as preschool isn’t on vacation and everyone stays healthy enough to go to school!

When there is no preschool, we did a lot of juggling.. I think one time we went over 45 hours and it was a one-time situation that could not be avoided- DD was sick and couldn’t go to school, and DH & I could not miss work that week. The AP truly didn’t mind, and we were lucky.

Normally when there isn’t preschool DH is able to fill in some mid-day hours, because he does a lot of work from home as a college instructor. I also work from home one day per week to cut off my commute time one day, and I could fill in an hour or two if absolutely necessary (usually not). But it puts stress on our lives.. we are much happier when the kids are in preschool. That gives us an extra 7 hours of childcare. Our older daughter will be going 4 mornings per week starting this fall, but younger DD is still only going 2 mornings per week. We can just barely afford AP + part time preschool for both kids- it costs the same as 2 kids in full time daycare/preschool in our area would, but it is so much better for the kids and more convenient for us (hello, we don’t have to get them out of pajamas in the morning- the AP does that).

Brock Carbon August 15, 2013 at 3:33 pm

I’m not entirely sure what “bludging” means, but depending on your child’s age, a dentist may be hesitant to use gas on a child when it isn’t medically necessary, as after the initial pin-prick from the Novocaine needle, most work is relatively painless.. If your daughter has a legitimate medical issue (or diagnosed phobia of needles), a note from her PCP could go a long way to helping out.. As for the payment issue, I couldn’t answer that without knowing what “bludging” means.

au pair agency September 1, 2013 at 3:00 am

I think is important to explain first what is an au pair and their responsibilities, in Australia and au pair may have other tasks as well
What is an Au Pair?
Most Australian parents looking for someone to care for their children have heard of nannies, fewer have heard of au pairs. Typically an au pair is a young, single person from overseas who wants to come to Australia to learn English and live as a member of an Australian family.

Au pairs can be expected to do a combination of child care and light housework duties in exchange for board and a small allowance. In Australia, au pairs are given a 12 month Working Holiday Visa, placements usually lasting six months to comply with visa restrictions and leaves a few months at the end of the trip for the au pair to travel.

It is important to note that au pairs are not trained nannies and may have little or no training. They should not be left in sole charge of babies younger than 12 months. However, once both the parents and the au pair have confidence in the arrangement children older than 12 months can be looked after for a few hours at a time.

In families with school-aged children, au pairs are mostly used for before and after school care. Where there are young children in the family the au pair may also work a few hours during the day.

Daily Responsibilities
The responsibilities of an au pair will depend on the age of the children and the nature of the household and a daily timetable should be worked out to take into account time commitments on both sides of the relationship. More than 80 per cent of the au pair’s daily tasks should revolve around the direct care of the children in the family and the remaining 20 per cent can be used for light housekeeping duties.

While each family will have a different schedule a typical daily timetable for an au pair might look something like this:

Wake children in the morning
Help the children wash and dress for school or day care
Help children make their bed and clean their room
Prepare breakfast for the children
Prepare lunches for the children
Drive children to school or day care
While children are at school complete light household tasks such as children’s laundry or weekly vacuuming
Pick up children from school
Prepare a healthy afternoon snack for the children
Drive the children to after school activities and pick them up
Help the children with their homework
Bathe the children and get them ready for bed
Au pairs should be given time every day to study and pursue their own interests they should also be given a set amount of time off work each week. In Australia, the most common arrangement is for au pairs to work 30 to 35 hours per week with weekends off work. When a family asks their au pair to work a Saturday, she (or he) should be given the following Monday off work in lieu.
Settling In
When considering the possibility of taking in an au pair it is important to see the placement as a cross cultural experience which will be of benefit to the whole family. If you are simply looking for help around the house then an au pair is not the right choice to make.

The initial settling in period is a very important time for both the family and the au pair. Au pairs are often young and away from home for the first time. They are not trained house cleaners or nannies and may feel lonely and uncomfortable in the first few weeks.

To make this period as easy as possible, your au pair should be welcomed from the outset and included in as many family activities as possible. Be prepared to spend plenty of time in the first weeks helping your au pair become accustomed to life in their new home this may include:

Making the au pair feel comfortable by creating an occasion of their arrival
Making the au pair’s room pleasant and welcoming.
Giving a tour of the house and clearly explaining house rules
Providing clear instructions about the au pair’s duties and offer feedback
Offering friendship and patience as the au pair becomes familiar with their new life
An important part of ensuring that your relationship with your au pair is successful is to treat them as an addition to the household. The success of the arrangement relies on flexibility and goodwill on both sides. Your au pair has come to Australia to experience a new culture and improve their language skills and will appreciate being spoken to in English and having their mistakes explained. It is a relationship which will strengthen in an environment of openness and understanding.
Use our handy search service to find an au pair in your area.

A Note on Demi Pairs
Demi pairs are young people from overseas who attend language classes during the day as such they have less time to assist with child care and more basic language skills. Typically demi pairs help families with older children with after school care (from 3:00pm until 7:00pm).

Responsibilities may include
Picking children up from school
Driving children to their after school activities
Preparing afternoon snacks
Helping children with homework
Preparing and serving children’s dinner
Bathing children and preparing them for bed
Demi pairs work a maximum of 20 hours per week and usually they only take four to six month placements with families because of their language courses. In Australia, demi pairs are currently only available in the major cities.

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