Second Jobs are not a Social Life

by cv harquail on April 4, 2011

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.

bears have tea 2.jpg

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???


Hi MNtwins+1-

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…. ;-) )

image: Bears have Tea at Holsten’s by moi


emmiejane April 4, 2011 at 9:00 pm

I agree with CV. I think you should say no to the second job. The #1 reason I would give is that it is against the rules of the program. She obviously knows this from her comment that no one talks about it “because they are not supposed to.” Also, if a restaurant is going to hire her, I assume it would have to be “under the table.” I don’t think she wants to put herself in that position. I would tell her that you are not comfortable breaking the rules of the program.

In terms of social life, I might also talk to the LCC. Our LCC told us at the beginning that if there were issues with this, she would make sure some of the girls invited her out and facilitate a jumpstart of those relationships. My au pair does not drive. We do live in a mid-sized city, and she has easy access to a bus. However, 90% of the time, one of the other au pairs comes and picks her up, and they are always going out and very busy. I was worried this would be way more of an issue than it has been. If there are other au pairs in the area, I would definitely see if the LCC could facilitate or recommend to your au pair that she tries to make a coffee date or something with local au pairs to try to link in to that network.

A Host Mom April 5, 2011 at 10:57 am

I need to add my 2 cents here. Depending on other au pairs to drive your au pair around is not fair to those other au pair’s host parents. Our au pair apparently is the taxi service to several au pairs who either don’t drive or whose host parents don’t allow permit them to use their car. I feel taken advantage of by those other host parents and it drives me crazy.

emmiejane April 5, 2011 at 11:33 am

We live in a city, so our au pair could take the bus pretty much anywhere. We’ve told her about the bus, and she does usually take it to class. We have never suggested that she get a ride with someone else. She, however, works out whatever she wants with the other au pairs, and I have no control over it. I hadn’t thought about it is “taking advantage of other host parents.” I think if you are feeling that way, you should make a rule about it or tell your au pair not to do it. I think the direction has to come from you.

As the host parent, who you would feel is taking advantage of you, I feel that I have absolutely no control over this situation. I want to be responsible and respectful of other people’s things. However, I can’t forbid her to make her own plans and ride in other people’s car if her au pair friends offer. She knows about the bus, but I don’t see a way to make her take it if she makes other arrangements. Additionally, just this week we offered her a ride somewhere, and she elected to get a ride with a friend instead, which I am sure was her preference. That happens fairly often, we will offer a ride-for instance to the meetings, but she prefers to get a ride with a friend. If the host parents don’t want this happening, they need to stop the friends from offering the rides. I don’t see a way to forbid her from taking rides, nor would I want to do so. These host parents let their cars be taken out for the entire night, including the wee hours of the morning; I would not allow that, but they do. I think it is really hard to imagine what another host parent is ok with or not. It certainly didn’t occur to me that these au pairs offering rides might doing something that their host parents are not ok with them doing.

We are working very hard to bring our au pairs driving skills up to speed; my husband takes her out regularly, and she has her learning permit for our state. We do have a car she would be able to use most of the time. I personally am fine with her carpooling with others and giving them a ride. My issue is more that we have a curfew for our car, and I don’t want it out all night. I can understand that you don’t want your car to be a taxi, but I do think the only way to prevent that is to put restrictions on your au pair. If, and I hope it happens, my au pair is able to drive, I can still imagine a world in which another au pair prefers to drive, or has access to a bigger car or whatever…all the same things that happen when I go out with my girlfriends. I have girlfriends, who always want to be the driver, who have a car that can accomodate more people, doesn’t have carseats that have to be moved, whatever. I guess what I am saying is that this is very difficult to control, and it is all happening naturally between the au pairs, who are friends. So while I can see why you feel that way, as an offending host parent, I don’t really think that is me that is taking advantage of other host parents. I am open to suggestions on how to approach this in a more responsible way.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 4, 2011 at 10:46 pm

For the driving issue, I would counter with: “Get your MN driving license first and then we’ll talk.” Don’t offer to help pay for it, unless you intend to make use of her driving skills.

Second, you don’t say where your AP is from, but chances are a MN winter has been enough to keep her from socializing. It takes a special person to endure that cold! So, she has latched on to one small group of friends, and as long as she is not a burden to your sisters, so be it (chances are her English is much better off than if she hung out with APs from her own country).

I’ve never had an AP work in a bar or restaurant (to my knowledge) during her year here. Some babysat for other families with special needs kids or took in neighbors kids before school for a little extra cash. Some were supporting family members back home. Most have chosen to use their free time for their own amusement — and this increases as their year goes on.

I agree with CV – your number one priority is to your kids. And if your AP is working late in bar, can she get up in the morning and play with your kids, keep them entertained and engaged? And yes, the money may look better to her, but she won’t know that you’ve been providing housing and food, which go a long way to making an AP salary “affordable.” I had one AP who chafed at my “cheapness” until I laid it on the line – housing, food, access to a car that I maintained (but did not fill with gas), and university tuition meant she was making far more than the friend.

DCMomof3 April 5, 2011 at 4:26 am

Do not allow this! I allowed my first au pair to babysit for a neighbor and it was a huge mistake! The neighbor was paying the local going rate in DC for childcare – around $20 an hour. This quickly led to serious resentment of the $195 per week that we were giving her for a full 45 hours of work. The neighbor then started scheduling her to start babysitting pretty much immediately after she finished her shift with us. This led to the very unwelcome change in our relationship with a toddler and baby being pushed into my arms exactly at her quitting time so she could run out the door to her “real” job. The neighbor then asked my au pair to move in with her! I am not kidding.
Just don’t go down this road. Its not worth it. It depends on the au pair, but I found that the more economic freedom she had through this other job, the more she felt that she could ignore my rules and requests. So, if I tried to withhold car privileges? No problem, au pair had keys to the neighbor’s car and could just go over there and get it whenever she wanted. I realize that this was an extreme case, but I will never allow au pairs to break the program rules like this again!

NJMom April 5, 2011 at 11:26 am

Don’t do it! I agree. I let all of my APs do a little extra babysitting on the side but the last one really went overboard. THis particular neighbor ended up using her as her own au pair for her three year old and it was a HUGE thorn in the side of my relationship with the AP. She definitely was making more money from them, my kids were jealous of the bond she had with this “cute baby boy.” They invited her on fancy vacations. It was out of control! Don’t agree to any outside work. It totally upsets the apple cart, not to mention it is a total visa violation.

Gianna April 5, 2011 at 4:17 pm

I agree and I don’t think this is such an extreme case – I think it happens more often than most people realize. People see a great babysitter and try to steal her. You are paying the agency for her insurance, her ticket home and room and board. So really, this neighbor is paying her less than you are but is deceitful enough to pretend she is paying more.

HostMom April 5, 2011 at 8:28 am

I also made the HUGE mistake of letting AP #2 (we are now on #6) take a part time job. She really needed to send money home, it was only on Sundays, please please. Sucker me gave me in…. the one Sunday turned into whenever she could get an extra shift. When i did need her on the very rare occasion on a Sunday she complained to high heaven since it interfered with “her job”. And i believe the people she worked with were like – wow why are you working for that amount of money, you should just leave… so all around not good influences and certainly no understanding of the costs of room/board/car, etc. And when i finally told her this just working out for me or for our kids, she was very angry. things went rapidly down hill and she ended up leaving at her 9month mark.

And really this is an easy one to answer, no grey area – it is ILLEGAl, against all AP and JI VISA rules. I highly, highly encourage you to say no and instead work with her on some other social outlets as have been mentioned previously.

emmiejane April 5, 2011 at 9:28 am

One other comment that I just have to make, although I understand that it is not exactly to the point of this thread. My au pair basically has $800 of disposable income a month. She spends this on shopping, eating out, going out, and travelling. She has no bills; I recognize that there are some au pairs sending money home, but from what I have observed from my au pair and her friends, most spend it amusing themselves. I do not begrudge my au pair this fun at the age of 21. I am happy for her, but I do not feel in the least like I should feel sorry for my pair that she only makes $195 a week. My au pair has far more “disposable income” for entertainment and shopping than I do. Comments about the $195/week are just so misleading; I do know those reading this blog definitely get that.

Hostmom April 5, 2011 at 10:15 am

So true. when i was that age, i was lucky to have purely disposable income of $5/month after all my required living expenses. :-)

Hula Gal April 5, 2011 at 9:34 am

We allowed our au pair to have a second job at a restaurant, reluctantly. We did regret it afterwards, she was always tired and was just dialing it in during the day while working for us. We had planned to tell her she needed to quit but fortunately the restaurant she worked for closed down before we had to deal with the issue. I’d suggest that you say no and encourage her to find other ways to get a social life.

aria April 5, 2011 at 11:49 am

I don’t think you can officially give her your blessing without putting yourself in a very tricky situation… if you ever want her to stop working the second job, for example. But at the same time, when I worked for a family in the country, I did not have access to the car, there was nothing within a 20 mile radius, and it was unbearable. I literally went to bed at 9 every night because I had nothing to do. Another job would’ve been nice, especially since my family paid dirt.

Can you just tell her that it’s up to her, in a way that washes your hands of the responsibility but doesn’t forbid her? Make it clear that things with your kids should not change, they’re her #1 responsibility, but what she does in her free time is up to her? After all, it wouldn’t be you breaking the rules, it would be her. But let her do it; 5-10 hours can’t hurt.

MNtwinsPLUSone April 5, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Thank you everyone for leaving comments; it helps so much!! I agree that it could definitely be starting down a road we don’t want to venture, and that I do not want to do. I am interested to know what kind of trouble she/we can get into by allowing this? Does anyone know? I told her the last thing I wanted was for her to be sent home (she of course agreed) but is this possible even? What ARE the legal repercussions?

azmom April 5, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Basically it could be immediate cancelation of her visa and someone who has a cancelled visa most likely won’t get a tourist one in the future (assuming she’s from a country that requires a visa to return).

I’m for a don’t allow it. She came here knowing her hours, her cash situation, and i’m assuming the car situation. She has to choose to be happy and find alternatives. We went through this with AP #1 – she didn’t WANT to do anything, and in the end NOTHING would have made her happy.

So, go over ome other options she has for socializing, invite your LCC to come along as well, because you don’t want this placed on “You” later if she decides to go into transition again. THis shouldn’t be your “strike” if your agency has them.

Calif Mom April 5, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Yes, she could get kicked out and sent packing. In our area, the local restaurants are under intense scrutiny right now for both serving underage drinkers, but also for visa violations. So restauranting is a high-risk setting.

What she really needs is a larger network of friends, and places to go, and ways to get there.

You have to talk to your sister and explain that sorry, but her situation is different from your sister’s. You have to figure out solutions to transportation issue, and you have to make it possible for her to find real solutions to the “nobody to hang out with” problem.

Where do the au pairs in your area hang out? Call your counselor in order to discuss THAT problem (I would not mention the proposed solution of waiting tables) and see if she has any ideas.

As for the side issue of the host mom who resents her car being used as a taxi, I think you need to talk about this with your au pair. We have been the family that both gives the au pair free reign over the car (this was the one who could drive decently) and the family who makes her au pair schedule it well in advance and find her own way.

The “Finding her own way” quickly devolved into my being asked at the last minute to “just quick drive me in to the train station” — “quick” for her, but round trip for me is no shorter than 45 minutes, though it’s close as the crow flies. So that is a slippery slope, and I hated that.

The key to both these issues is making it easy for the au pair to build an extensive network of friends — not just a couple close friends. Make them actually go to the cluster meetings and branch out. If the conversation groups aren’t working (and I have been around those, I can see why they aren’t exactly shakin’ for an extraverted AP) then find alternatives. Church based groups can be less stodgy than library groups, believe it or not, because the church may have a youth group and they see this as a way to build their congregation. (Smart marketing, no?)

If it’s your car, tell the au pair/cabbie to start charging for gas money. That’s a win-win-win (as long as the money makes it back into the tank, and not her purse!) :-)

Calif Mom April 5, 2011 at 4:32 pm

BTW, we’ve been able to kill this idea by showing the au pair that link above. “For our own work, we can’t let you do this or we would be at big risk.”

This either scares them or sends them underground. Which, honestly, you don’t have a lot of control over anyway. You can appeal to their higher values, but if you can’t help them figure out viable, honorable alternatives to building their social circles, they may go there anyway.

I’ve had a couple do brief babysitting gigs (I mean, the moms in our ‘hood will come up to them and *ASK* them to, because they see how much fun the good ones are, so the –clueless? shameless? they’re missing something but I’ll let you name it — moms are practically throwing themselves on the au pairs) — you could tell them that these often sour! We had one au pair later ask my advice on how to get out of a regular gig that paid 20 bucks an hour because the mom was causing her grief.

Au pairs, even ambitious ones, don’t always think these things through to the logical finish, so that’s something you can offer here. Be an advisor, not just a boss or a mom type figure who only says no. Explore the whys behind the No and you’ll be better off.

anonmom, April 5, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Putting aside the very good responses and the fact that the AP can get in trouble, . you have to understand that YOU as the HF can get kicked out of the program for violating the rules by your acquiesecence. Perhaps you can advise the AP that if this happens, you cannot afford to lose hosting an AP either now or in the future. I totally agree with the slippery slope this allows. As an aside, I have a neighbor who asked all my AP’s if they would ‘pet sit’ their dog and cat when they would go away. They were semi retired and went away frequently for long week-ends. While not a ‘job’ since they never offered the AP money to start, they always paid the AP. So, I think each AP told the next one that there would be money in it for them if they did this. Perhaps your AP could do volunteer work somewhere. Is she interested in learning first aid? Maybe she could learn and volunteer with a volunteer ambulance, or volunteer at the pet shelter. This way she can meet others, use her English and do something else aside from stay at home. Another idea, don’t know if you have adult continuing ed classes at the school. I have had AP’s take those ‘classes’ whether they were photography or volleyball, and they met other young people to socialize with. Good Luck.

KM April 5, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Frequently asked questions on the U.S. Department of State web site states:

“Exchange visitors must never accept unauthorized employment.”

The only “authorized” au pair employment is wages earned as an au pair for the host family.

HM Pippa April 5, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Here is a link to the federal regulation regarding J1 Au Pair visas.

It states “(b) An exchange visitor’s participation in the Exchange Visitor Program is subject to termination when he or she engages in unauthorized employment. Upon establishing such violation, the Department of State shall terminate the exchange visitor’s participation in the Exchange Visitor Program.”

NJMOm April 5, 2011 at 6:25 pm

I made a point of telling the girls when I interview them that they will NOT be making a lot of money (that’s not the purpose of the program) and that they will NOT be allowed to take outside employment because of visa restrictions. until this third AP I always said on the phone that I might allow some extra babysitting but after this last (ridiculous) situation with my neighbor I would not allow more than an occasional weekend job. This woman totally took advantage and she did it in a slow creep kind of way that was very hard to fight. By the time I realized how bad it was it was too late to fix without creating extremely bad will between me and AP. I really felt trapped by it and could barely speak to this neighbor for a while. Not good because we run into each other several times a week.

anonmom April 5, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Sorry to hear it. That is such a terrible situation your neighbor put you in. Unbelievable! People truly think that the AP’s get nothing- when in reality if you add up the expenses from the agency, the cost of living, and all the extras so many HF cover. it adds up.

Former Aupair April 6, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Maybe an aupair point of view is welcome? I think your aupair must be a really nice lady, very loyal to your family just for the fact she is telling you the entire true about her feelings, and considering a second job. Most aupairs just get it without telling anyone. Disregard to the fact that it is illegal work a second job, I think that taking care of 3 kids under 3 yrs is already hard and require lots a energy. For this reason I wouldn’t think that it is a good idea for your aupair to work a second job on the regular bases. How ever there are many options for her to socialize and work like doing voluntary jobs once a week/month… Many churches offer voluntary jobs and have meetings with people her age! Another idea, if she is just trying to make some extra, is allowing her to do extra babysitter. When I was an aupair, I used to babysit my HFamily friend’s kids, neighborhood’s kids, and aupair’s friends kids. It would be nice if you let your friends/neighbors know how wonderful aupair she is and that she may would be interested in babysitting in the evenings/weekends

Anna April 6, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Yes, she is nice for telling. But she might be trying to save her back, to prevent a breakup with a family when the family discovers she did it without their knowledge.
Also it would be impossible to hide if hostmom’s sister works at the same place.

imperfect host mom April 6, 2011 at 6:43 pm

We have had two (of four) au pairs get jobs – both on the sly and we later figured it out and stopped the situation. I am a stickler for program rules /laws and we make it clear in our handbook that we don’t bend. Both girls were too tired, driving our au pair clunker all over and became too focused on money. If your au pair actually asked you for permission, don’t approve or enable. These girls are here on a cultural exchange visa – not a work visa, for which most all of them would NOT qualify.

former au pair April 8, 2011 at 10:51 am

As Far as I know, and that I learned before I left my country is thatAu Pairs are forbidden by law to have another job.

used to be an AP April 9, 2011 at 7:27 pm

It is illegal for her to have another job. Period. And that includes baby sitting for neighborhood families as well. I wouldn’t let her do it and I also see the danger of other people telling her that she doesn’t get paid enough. At the beginning of my year I used to hang out with some college students who kept telling me that I was being exploited. I didn’t see it that way and stopped meeting with them because they were going on my nerves but depending on how much she actually likes the people she is working with/for, this may not be good for her work ethic concerning her AP job.
I like Former Au Pair’s suggestion of volunteer work. She’ll definitely meet new people and her work will be appreciated.

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