Tim Gunn’s advice on breaking the rules

by cv harquail on February 21, 2010

If you ask Tim Gunn for advice about breaking the rules, he’ll tell you two things:


1. Make it work, and

2. Use the Bluefly accessories wall thoughtfully.

Both pieces of Tim Gunn’s advice to fashionistas apply to au pairs & host families.

In general, I am black handbag = black shoes kind of person. But there are times when you can carry a  navy handbag while wearing black shoes, if you don’t have navy shoes. Or a black handbag. You just have to (1) make it work, and (2) do it thoughtfully.

Here is how Tim Gunn’s Advice applies to us, in a roundabout way.

The au pair – host family situation is regulated by law.

Good host families and good au pairs enter the program with the intent of following these rules.

Indeed, both sides work hard to respect these rules.

Then, as they say, stuff happens.

Making it work

Everybody has a job when it comes to making the au pair- host family relationship work.  The job of the Agency is to apply and administer the rules. The job of the LCC is to ensure that these rules are followed ‘in the field’. And, the job of AuPairMom, as I see it, is to help all of us follow the principles behind these rules in the most caring and thoughtful ways possible.

Host parents and au pairs can contact their Agencies and their LCCs when they have questions about what the rules are and how these rules are to be interpreted. Host parents and au pairs contact AuPairMomyou, me, the other readers and commenters on this blog — when they have questions about the best way to respond to tough situations. And we all give them our best answers.

The job of AuPairMom

When we have conversations on this blog about rules and breaking the rules, it’s not because anyone (least of all me) advocates breaking the rules. I do, however, advocate having honest conversations about the perils and consequences of breaking the rules. Without a place to have these conversations, we leave au pairs and host parents in the dark, unable to benefit from anyone’s ‘been there, done that’ advice.

Case in point-– that first post about scheduling your au pair for overtime triggered 8 emails to me, some from au pairs and some from host parents, who have seen too many au pairs get taken advantage of and too many host families get burned by people who have broken the 45 hour limit rule thoughtlessly. All of them were glad that the conversation was happening on the blog, so that everyone could be more thoughtful if the rules around them were ever bent or broken.

I am a law abiding kind of gal. I do not wear white shoes before Memorial Day. Although I no longer think that wearing Spanx is cheating, I do think that wearing Spanx plus control top hose is really taking advantage of the concept of Lycra, and does no one any good.

With regard to breaking rules, I’m not so much worried about getting caught as I am about upholding the principles behind the rules.

Our challenge here on this blog is to find a way to apply all of the ‘rules’ we know, in a way that reflects the honest, inspiring, growth-oriented principles behind them, so that our ensembles work. We are fitting together the demands and needs of host parent jobs, host child care, and au pair life adventures, guided by principles or fairness, caring, generosity, learning, and respect. When we follow the principles behind the rules, breaking the rules causes much less harm and can even help you create something that fits everyone’s needs just right.

It’s like what Tim Gunn says about the Bluefly accessories wall: The wrong choices can ruin the ensemble, but the right choices will really make it work.


StephinBoston February 22, 2010 at 9:21 am

Well said CV!!

Deb Schwarz February 22, 2010 at 3:07 pm


Great post! I posted on the previous topic but somehow didn’t push the right “send” button. I’m a well respected LCC, and guess what? I broke the 45 hour rule *before* I was an LCC. It happens…. so to “push it under the rug” and say it’s against the law is not productive . As a host mom, I quickly learned that anything over 50 hours resulted in a very burned out au pair, so that was my limit back then. Now, I follow the 45 hour rule religiously (my kids are older and as an LCC I have to set an example) – but there was a time recently when our daughter broke her arm and our au pair insisted that she spend the night in the hospital with her instead of our friend (we were on our way home from overseas). I think as CV points out, if you must: do it responsibly – and in moderation, and remember, the first bump in the road that you have with your au pair, it may be used against you with your LCC (I’ve seen that happen many times).

Deb in CA

OB Mom February 22, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Tim Gunn and Au Pair Mom both Rock! I like the simple message implied here and appreciate the way you bring us back into balance. This site helps us navigate an emotionally charged but morally challenging voyage. Thanks for the great variety of topics.

Time to go back to the BlueFly wall for inspiration.

CV February 23, 2010 at 9:04 am

thanks for the support y’all. cv

NoVA Host Mom February 23, 2010 at 12:41 pm

You hit the nail on the head once again, CV. I knew you were my kind of girl! I mean, you have common sense AND wear Spanx? Perfect!

Calif Mom February 23, 2010 at 1:14 pm

New tagline: “holding it all together”!


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