Vacation – All she ever wanted?

by cv harquail on June 10, 2009

Another wrinkle on vacations!

Our second au pair has arrived, and I need some au pair mom support and suggestions :)200906102013.jpg

This second au pair has been much more difficult than the first. She’s in the midst of her third week here, and we’ve already had a 3-point meeting with
the LCC and there have already been discussions about rematching.

Here’s one point where I’d like some guidance — vacation time. Before our au pair arrived at the end of May, I told her that my husband and I were both going through very busy and stressful times at work, and it would be like that until the end of July, so things were likely to be crazier than usual at our house during that time. On her first day here, she asked for the first week of July off so she could visit friends on the other side of the country for the holidays– a week when we really need her, AND when she has no vacation accrued.

She accepted when I said that wouldn’t work for us, but now she’s asked for the last week of August off, and is getting ready to buy tickets.

However, between her talk (and attitude) of not being happy here, and us not being 100% sure that this match is going to last, I want to tell her we aren’t prepared to give her more time off than she’s accrued for the first 6 months– the issue being that if we decide to transition and she’s already taken her vacation, she’s going to owe us money, which I am concerned we wouldn’t get. I feel that would be less likely of an issue after she had been here 6 months. Is this reasonable or unfair/over-controlling/being mean?

HostMom in Seattle:

I think you are smart to be cautious with the vacation time. Based on your first month so far, it doesn’t seem like your new au pair has a ‘service’ orientation– In other words, it doesn’t sound like she understands that being an au pair is a job. It makes sense that you’d want to hold off on giving her too many privileges ( like paying her vacation time) before they are earned.

If I were in your situation, I’d meet her halfway on this one, if I could.

First, I’d explain again that she will have earned (only) 1/4th of her 10 vacation days (slightly less than three), and explain that your agency contract says that vacation days should not be taken or paid before they are earned.

Then, if it is not an issue for you with needing childcare right then, you might offer to let her have an UNPAID week off. You could offer to pay her for the two days she’s earned so far, with a written-on-the-calendar commitment to give her the $ for the other 2.5 days when she hits six months. In other words, let her take the time now but be paid later. That way, (1) you’re not out any money, and (2) she doesn’t assume that time off is free for either her or you. And, you get to look flexible while holding your ground.

You could have this conversation as part of a larger conversation about how you expect the year to go– when she will be able to take vacation, when there are US holidays that she might work, how you will handle Christmas/Passover/Ramadan/Other and New Years’ and so on. You can also use this talk to suss out what her expectations are re: her free time to travel, her 13th month, her priorities for holidays, and other big picture scheduling issues.

Potential downside?: She might ask you to give her 8 paid vacation days in the future, claiming that the unpaid days did not count as vacation. You could explain ahead to avoid this.

What do you other host parents think HostMom in Seattle might try?


Be sure to check out these other posts about vacations:

Poll: Exactly how long is two weeks vacation? Advice wanted: Au Pair changed her vacation– now what?
Plan ahead for the holidays: How will your au pair celebrate with you?

{ 17 comments }

Anna June 10, 2009 at 10:55 pm

My old agency, upon rematch, calculated who owed what to whom (including vacation balances taken and not earned, and education money either owed by the family or by the au pair proportionate to the amount she stayed) and the check was written by the owing party right there. I think agencies do (or should) take care of all the balances upon rematch; find out.

But in your situation, I would just try stopping all talk of vacation plans until you know where you stand with her. It really sounds like she will not last in your family that long.

Anna June 11, 2009 at 7:43 am

Also, one agency suggests no vacation in the first 6 months. I think it is actually in my handbook (a little secret: I am actually flexible about it, if the au pair asks). But try swinging this rule by her and see how she reacts!

PA Mom June 11, 2009 at 9:46 am

I like Seattle’s suggestion but suggest another twist. Pay her for the days’ she’s earned and as she accrues them (should she last that long) you can pay her for the “unpaid” days. This way you don’t have 3 weeks of vacation even with some unpaid if that’s not what you can do. meanwhile – if it doesn’t improve in the next 2 weeks – start a rematch. Sounds like you already are on the wrong page and why make it a 4 month problem. I presume you’ve had APs before and so get the balance.

Hula Gal June 11, 2009 at 10:02 am

The issue of unpaid vacation came up for us and our LCC told us we could not do it. The au pair always has to be paid (whether we choose to have her work or not) unless she refuses to work. I suppose you could negotiate this off the books or possibly your LCC won’t have the same guidance but I thought I’d share what we were told. If I were having doubts about my au pair I would only allow her to take off the time she earned and wouldn’t negotiate or consider any other creative solutions. I’m with Anna, she probably won’t be there long.

Calif Mom June 11, 2009 at 10:16 am

You hear the red flags snapping in the summer breeze, right? She’s here for the wrong reasons. Pushing abt vacation in week 3?! I would tell her no and wait for her to ask for rematch, then help her find a family closer to her friends.

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NJM June 11, 2009 at 2:31 pm

We had almost the exact same situation with our first au pair…and to be honest, it was one of the first red flags we really should have heeded. (We made it through Month 4, with us bending over backwards to make it work, and then she walked out on us in the middle of a workday and jumped her visa. Of course, that’s not to say that you’d experience the same mess!)

Listen to your gut on this one.

Franzi June 11, 2009 at 2:46 pm

it’s early in your year so of course, you don’t want to jump to conclusions too soon. but be aware of the current red flags and weigh them against what you would need for that week.

would you require her to work that week or could it be convenient for your family to have her be away for some time? i’m saying this because my first host family always told me i had to work dec 24 and 25, there was no chance to take those days off. bummer working on christmas even though both parents were off. so i could not go on vacation with my friends. turns out, on those two days i did not work a thing because the parents changed their minds. can you imagine how upset i was – being the holidays and all that, but mostly because they clearly stated they needed me these days and then all i got was a cold “oh, we thought about it, we don’t need your help” 15 minutes before i was scheduled to work. thanks. *sorry about that rant* i guess what i’m trying to point out is the disappointment and frustration of the AP when schedule that seemed so set in stone change.

also take into consideration that the week before a vacation and 1-2 weeks after the vacation, things will not go as smoothly as they normally do. if there is some important event for you 2 days after she is planning to be back from her vacation, make her come back sooner.

technically, she could also schedule her vacation AND her once a month long weekend off in that week as well. that would provide her with time off but not make her go over the earned vacation days (given she wants a 5 day trip thing – i’m sorry, i don’t know for how many days off she is actually asking)

Southern Host Mom June 13, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Here’s a lesson we learned the hard way from our last Au Pair . . . She was a rematch and had already made plans during her time with her first host family to use all her vacation days for a trek across the West Coast with her sister. We agreed even though she had been with us only 3 months or so. The major down side for us was my husband and I using our vacation days from work to accommodate her plans. Unfortunately, she became ill a month or so after returning from vacation and had to return home. We found ourselves in rematch AGAIN, and now I had to take off additional days from work to train a new Au Pair. We now discuss this “possibility of you not being able to complete your year because of something beyond your control” (and how we have limited vacation time) when we make Au Pair vacation plans!

AnnaAuPair June 14, 2009 at 11:32 pm

I think that in quiet a lot of families the vacation days get to be a problem, because a lot of AuPairs think, they can just take them whenever they want to. I know of some hostparents, who have the opportunity to get additional childcare and they let their AuPair take their days off whenever it’s best for them, but I also know of a great deal of parents who (like my hostmom who’s a teacher) can’t just take off whenever they want to.
I would suggest to talk about vacation as soon as possible and tell the AuPair during which time she CAN and during which time she absolutely CAN’T take her vacation. Sure, she may not yet know, when she wants to take it, but with a general time line in her head, she’d be less likely to plan at a for you inconvenient time.

PA Mom January 21, 2010 at 4:22 am

I feel like a doormat! Within the first month of my au-pair’ arrival she was scheduled to work a Saturday half way through the week she went to my Second au-pair and ask her to cover her hours! So she could go to NY with another au-pair friend! She complained that she really wanted to go and that the other host family was paying the expense. Since the other au-pair offer to work her hours she went to NYC. She arrived in Aug of 2009 and by Sept she was asking if her sister and the boyfriend could stay with us! expressing that they could pay whatever is cost to stay in our home.

In November the sister and boyfriend came for 1 week from Germany, NEVER offer to pay a cent and said good-bye! Than in December 2009 the boyfriend came for 3 weeks to stay with us! I wrote in the communication log , since your boyfriend is arriving soon, we need to come to terms with what is fair for him to stay in our home, she disregards the note! He too… never pay any $$$ to stay. They ate food, took showers and washed clothing! Brought donuts up and ate them in front of my little boy and never offered him ONE ! Bought a few things from the local grocery store like bagel and so on….

The boyfriend, the sister and the sister boyfriend used my home as a Hotel to visit the USA. Shopped, shopped, shopped. She talked about my husband and I visiting her country, So I thought ok, when I go to German maybe it custom to not have a guest pay for staying in your home! I thought… wow we can go there any stay for FREE! Not one of her guests offer to pay anything to stay here. I thought the favor would be returned if we ever visited German. The 3 weeks the boyfriend was here she worked for most of the time asked for a day off during the week to go back to NYC. Went to Florida for 5 day in which I prepaid the trip! found a suitable hotel since she was not 21 years of age to be accepted to any hotel, Some require you to be 21 with a major credit card. I did this a a favor because she really wanted to go! She waited to long to plan the trip for the hotel and airfare, so the money from the boyfriend would not get here in time before his arrival, so i agree to place the trip on my credit card.

The boyfreind pay the trip before they left for Florida, only because I had to ask for it! Needless to say, she was very ticked off that she had to work new years eve, even though she is not of age to drink! This au-pair friend that she went to NYC is so Negative that she has no other au-pair freinds in our local area that wants to be friends with her. So what does the Neg au-pair do she starts posting comments on my au-pairs facebook about me! Back to the witches house! She was also so ticked off because my au-pair could get off for New Years Eve, She told her to find a way out of not having to work! My au-pair came to me and ask me to try and find another childcare provider because she doesn’t wanna work! I do not have any family that lives in the area for me to do such . Au-pair #2 left a few months ago and the New Au-pair #2 was not arriving until Jan of this year! The negative au-pair has turned my aupair into a nighmare. I told her she is not welcome in my home anymore, last weekend both girls ventured out of town, my husband ask who is driving and she said my friend is driving, well we went to the HP home and I knock on the door, go figure… My au-pair lied to us , she was the one who drove! My biggest concern was the last time they went out together they were drink ing and driving, she lied about that too. So the Host dad said to me… do you want me to bring them back! I kindly said No, I will deal with her in the AM. Well I said to her that I will not be lied to again, she said I drive to home and her host parents were not a home, so that is why I drove. I said to her STOP lying it’s bad enough lie and than lie some more to cover a lie! I suspended her driving the car! and within 24 hours she called the LCC wanting to pursue another family! LOOK like I will never get the return 1 month of free housing in GERMAN… Never again will i tolerate this, and it boot it!!! The Negative friend that had the nerve to call me a witch ALSO stay in my home for a weekend with her boyfreind , because the boyfriend was not allowed to stay with her at her host family home. I have treated my au-pair like Gold.. Gifts, Paid for all her meal out, trips etc… and to be treated like this…. she can GO! Go! GO! I hope she is return to GERMAN…

Anonymous January 21, 2010 at 9:52 am

http://aupairmom.com/how-did-i-become-a-doormat/2009/09/16/celiaharquail/

There was a great post a while back about being a doormat (no offense, but you are) You need to to rematch yesterday. I can’t believe the crap you’ve already tolerated. Been there, done that, never again.

PA Au Pair Mom January 21, 2010 at 10:01 am

I got angry just reading your story. Not sure how you have held on this long.

The other things were bad, but the outright lying about the car an then drinking and driving….NO WAY!!!!

PA Mom January 21, 2010 at 4:28 am

I am so tired, I haven’ sleep in days, my spelling is aweful! I meant to Write GERMANY..

Darthastewart January 21, 2010 at 11:02 am

I’m sorry. :( I’m in a heck of a situation right now too, and trying to figure out how to deal with it too.

Anonymous January 21, 2010 at 11:04 am

Yes, you need to get her out of your house, get yourself together, and find a rematch candidate who will be grateful to join your family. You had bad luck, but it can change.

HM in VA January 21, 2010 at 1:09 pm

PA Mom
you need to call your LCC now and remove her. And if you do get another AP, make sure you are clear on what you will and won’t tolerate and expect. My AP cannot have overnight male guests. The car has to be in our driveway every night. We have had AP family visit, one had her mother come, 1 her brother. and that worked out OK. it was for a short and agreed to period of time.
sorry to hear what you are going through, but it can be better! and quickly. best of luck

PA Mom February 10, 2010 at 2:29 am

Thank you for your replies :) I am so glad to hear that everyone stated “she should have gone” I feel some relief from your postings.

I think we went above and beyond for this girl. I think if I listed a few more things it would make you sick to think that she told the agency she wasn’t happy here. ( The only thing she mention on her exit interview form was that she was not feeling so good here, and that if she went out with her Au-pair friend she would feel uncomfortable being with her , because we didn’t like her) She had NO other reasoning to give to the agency as to why she wanted to rematch! I know why! because she didn’t liked that we checked up on her and we know that she was a liar. From the extended visitors, to the can I use the GPS, can my sister use the GPS, can I borrow your camera to take with the NYC. Adding International calling to my plan for 4.00 a month so she didnt have to pay $12.46 a min. To taking her to Hershey Chocolate World, to Hershey Sweet Lights, to Christmas Village and paying for all her meals when we dined out ( which was often)to amusement parks, the list goes on and on.

I even let her drive 3 times to Phila in which I we stated we didn’t want the au-pairs to drive in that city! This is the best one yet! 2 days before the boyfreind left she took the children out and didn’t even tell me she was leaving. Do you know where she went? to Hershey Chocolate World on her work time so her boyfriend could visit before he went back home. I was like where did you go? and when she told me… I was upset…

She never showed any gratefulness nor did she ever say thank you. She has since left and went to another Host Family in MD. They never called to speak with me about her.

The question is was I wrong for doing all of this for her? The answer is YES! However the agency NEVER gave me the tools and guidelines to set for an Au-Pair. Not that I am an idiot, I did have household rules, but I never had a handbook to give to the au-pairs upon arrival, nor has anyone suggested for me to do such. The LCC in our area completely disregards her responsibilities. She never calls the Host Family once per month, she only visits with the au-pairs to have them sign off, brings friends with her to the meets, leaves the meetings after 15 min. Our program manual states they suppose to have 4 meetings a year for important safety, conduct 2 host family gathering, etc and none of this is done. I didn’t not know that the LCC is suppose to be in contact with the Host Parents until I called another agency in which I switched! However one of my girls are still with this agency and the other girl that will be arriving in March is going to be with Au-pair care.

I have received so much helpful information and support from this company that I will never use CC again! I now have a handbook for the au-pairs. Any additional feedback is greatly appreciated.. I am still torn up over the fact that she was allowed to go with another family, after CC states it was full disclosure to the NEW Host parents of her past behavior! I don’t believe it! Who would accept a girl that was drinking and driving to care for their children? and it’s not hear say, I had the pictures to show the agency if they requested them.

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