Hi! My au pair came to me with a question that I’m a little torn about.
Our au pair came to us in rematch after we had our first au pair for 9 weeks. (It was a horrible personality mismatch.) Our new au pair’s driving skills weren’t what her host family needed– but since we don’t want or need a driver for our children, she was a perfect fit for our family of 3 boys (now 2.5, 2.5, and 1 year old). We love our new au pair and asked her to extend when her year is up in May.
Feeling “a little isolated”
Our au pair is very outgoing but does not hang out with anyone except my younger sisters who are the same age as her. They have gone on vacations together, go to parties, social events, ect. together. Our au pair doesn’t generally leave the house during the week except when she has classes and when we go places as a family (daily gym trips, Target, grocery, etc).
She asked if she could have access to a vehicle on nights and weekends for personal use because she feels a little isolated and bored here. We live about a mile or less from a city bus stop, BUT we are in MN so during the winter that’s not a walk she wants to make. I don’t blame her for that!!! We offer rides all the time too.
She has come to me asking if I would be ok with her having a 5-10 hr per week part time job as long as it doesn’t interfere with her work schedule….for social reasons and to help improve her english. It would be at a restaurant where my sister has a part-time job (in addition to her full time job) and some of their friends also work. I want her to be happy here, and she is used to having a lot more activity…I think she could handle it but I don’t know what the rules are about extra jobs and other reasons I could give her why she shouldn’t do this. She has stated that she knows her au pair job is top priority, and she will not ask us to help her with transportation.
I have some concerns about priority shifts, being too tired, breaking the law, and have told her this. But I didn’t explicitly say “no” because I also think she does need to get out of the house much more than she does. I have found “conversation circles” at the public library and other social events, but it seems like no one shows up to these things and they aren’t fun for her. It can get depressing staying in so often. She also told me that many au pairs work PT jobs but no one talks about it because they aren’t supposed to. I’m wondering what your thoughts are regarding this issue???
You’ve got a driving question tangled up with a more serious question about work schedules and priorities– let’s do the easy one first.
Driving: She has limited driving skills, you live in a snowy area, and she wants to use the car. Do you have a car that you can afford to lose temporarily, if she has an accident? Are you able to get her driving lessons so that she can get her skills up to par? Are you able to be without that car while she has it? If yes to all three, read our other advice about the au pairs and cars and let her have at it.
The other issues are more serious– let’s untangle them, too. Your au pair is lonely and needs some meaningful social activity. Your au pair has suggested that she get a second job where she can hand out with people she knows. Let’s be clear here, though– your au pair does not need to get a second job in order to meet people and make friends.
Second Job: In addition to being illegal, second jobs create tremendous challenges that most au pairs are not able to manage well. Second jobs challenge an au pair’s priorities, mess with her understanding of the ($) value of her au pair work, screw up your host parents’ ability to schedule your au pair for your own childcare needs, and tire your au pair out. You have twin toddlers and a baby, whose care requires lots of energy. The second job (with all of the feel of a more ‘real’ job) will sap her energy. It’s not like the energy from caring for kids will take away from waitressing– rather, waitressing will take her energy away from caring for your kids.
Social Life: There are other ways for her to spend time with friends and to make new friends. If she is going to be with your for another 6 months, it behooves her to find other social outlets.
You probably also should talk with your sister about this– understandably, for your sister it would be great fun to have your au pair there working too. (Your sister must have little free time herself, and thus appreciate the chance to have another friend at work.) But, your sister may not appreciate that an au pair with a second job is illegal, and that an au pair with a second job ends up without the energy and the mind-frame for her primary responsibility– your family.
Host Parents and Au Pairs– am I off base? Do you have additional advice? (Of course you do…. ;-) )
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