When seasons change, so do family schedules. When family schedules change, so do au pair schedules. And when au pair schedules change, sometimes you uncover a problem.
For my family, there is a big difference between winter and summer. In the summer, we spend weekends and even some full weeks at my dad’s house at the NJ shore. Also, when the girls go to day camp during the week, my weekday childcare needs are reduced, so I shift the hours to cover the weekends we’re at the shore. Our au pair goes from 35 hours over 5 days with an occasional Saturday, to 45 hours across a weekend with a weekday off and two or three Saturday night per month on duty.
To my mind, this isn’t a horrible change, after all, even the longer work week is still withing the guidelines. And, I have made sure to tell every prospective au pair just how different the winter and summer can be. They all have known what’s coming come June.
Even so, a few of our au pairs have been disgruntled by the change. And that’s understandable— after getting $174 for 35 hours and no Saturday, to do “more work” for the same about of money often doesn’t feel right.
Even when au pair “knows” that changes “will” happen, what you tell them is less important than what you do. If you have asked your au pair to work for several months only Mon-Fri, you can bet that when your family schedule changes, and her schedule changes, she’ll find the adjustment challenging.
Now that I think about it, probably each of our au pairs has found the shift challenging– but only the few less mature ones have ever complained. But, oh, when they did….
So what do you do?
Listen to the story of Momof4 —- she’s done just about everything right, and her au pair is still displaying the “summertime blues.” What do you think she should try now?
Our Au Pair has been with us for 4 months now. We have been fortunate enough to be able to give her every weekend off since she’s been with us, until this month. At the beginning of this month (May), we sat down with our au pair and reminded her about my husband’s busy travel schedule and that this month was going to be a bit different because he was going to be traveling for 20 days throughout the month. We also explained that our routine was going to be a bit off and chaotic and we would need her to work weekends.
We were only able to give her the mandatory 1 weekend off this week and she just yesterday expressed her displeasure about it. She also told me (in her words), “it is very important that I have my weekends off so I can make plans and get my rest”. Needless to say, I was floored by this statement! Maybe I shouldn’t have been, but I was.
We have always been very clear about our very busy lives with 4 small children (i.e. Included it in our host family letter, went over several different scenarios in e-mails back and forth before matching, etc. about how quickly things can change with 4 small children each week and the need for flexibility).
Anyway, she stated that with summer coming up, there are a lot of things she wants to do, plans she wants to make, and trips she wants to take. I explained to her that we will do our best to honor any special days off during the week or weekend, but also explained to her that just because there is a change of season, our needs for our children do not change. Husband still has to go to work each week, he still has a heavy travel schedule for work, our preschoolers will still attend preschool a few days a week, I will still need help with the babies each day, daily routines for the children will still be the same, etc. YES, we will take a fun family vacation out of the state and go on fun sightseeing outings with the children to take advantage of the beautiful summer weather, go to the swimming pool, etc., but she will still have a job to do and we will still need her to work each week.
I discussed this with our Coordinator and applied her solution. I went over the Household Handbook again (since our au pair has been with us for 4 months now) as a refresher about the guidelines & rules and established a “give us 2 weeks’ notice if there is a special day off during the week or weekend that you need off” so we can figure out if we will be able to honor it or arrange back-up childcare if we can.
After an hour of going over everything, I asked her throughout if she had any questions or input about anything. I also explained that if I am the only one doing the communicating and she doesn’t give me any input, I don’t know what she is thinking! She stated everything was very clear and she did not have any questions. Then she proceeded to go to her room, shut the door, call a friend and vent about how mad she was! What the???????
‘puppy needs her rest’ JDM on Flickr