Caveat: This is NOT a post about (1) when you work at home and your au pair is on duty, [post for another day] or (2) when you are absolutely off duty and she is on duty…[post from earlier today]. This one is about:
When you both are at home and available to the kids— how do you manage who does what?
Here are the two general situations:
1. Times when it actually takes two adults to manage what has to get done.
2. Times when you are around and technically available… you could participate or you could not.
As Maya explains:
It is those times when I am sort of available, but AP is still working, that cause me the most trouble.
With my previous AP, who more of a take charge personality, it wasn’t so much of an issue, because she would still deal with kids and be in ‘working mode’. But, with my current AP, who even when all by herself barely manages the ‘managing the children’, when I am at home, completely withdraws from her duties. Unless, I keep telling her things she needs to be doing (i.e., please help child1 put toothpaste on the toothbrush, please unload the dishwasher, kids are hungry – give them dinner, etc), she would just sit there, or just stand in the middle of the kitchen (seriously!) and not do anything.
Unfortunately, I have that situation a few times a week, when I get home around 6pm, but have to leave again around 7:30pm to get my husband from the train station; the AP is on duty till 8pm almost daily because of this. That 1.5 hours that I am home and AP is ‘working’ are a daily struggle for me, as I am sure they are for her too.
Just as an example, yesterday, I cam home at 4pm because I needed to take my kids somewhere by 5pm. My plan was to have some time to change and clean up after work and leave the house by 4:30 with kids and AP. I asked AP to give them snacks around 3:30 pm and start kids getting into their uniforms around 4pm so that they are ready. When I got home at 4:10pm, both kids were on the couch watching TV, *starting* their snacks, and the younger child was in PJ (from the morning) and has never brushed her teeth or hair that day. Forget about my changing and cleaning up. We barely made it out of the house by 4:50pm, all the while I was dealing with kids and AP was standing by the kitchen counter watching us. OK, so this last paragraph is more of a rant that probably belongs to a different topic.
Cynthia chimes in :
… It does make it difficult if I am in the general area and expecting her to work because I either want to jump in or she will jump in and someones toes get stepped on. I find just by telling her how long I expect her to be working and giving a brief explanation seems to work for us. As a teenager I used to babysit for a woman and she’d be home the entire time, I felt really uncomfortable and felt like I was being scrutinized – I had nothing to hide and was in no way waiting to do something wrong, so I sympathize with the au pairs comment about when the parents are home. I think just saying to the au pair – if you just want to sit watching tv with your honey – “we expect you to work until 2pm today – we’d like to spend some time together catching up” is reasonable and I think is courteous to the au pair as well. I do agree that they are paid to work but I know even at my own job, I tend to like an explanation for what I have to do ….
It makes me very uncomfortable (when she just stands there in the kitchen) , because she looks uncomfortable and I can feel that she is uncomfortable, and I don’t know how to make her more comfortable, and unless I tell her to do something she just stands there, and I feel like a slave driver telling her things to do because she knows she has to do them and doesn’t – just stands there, and …well, it’s like a never ending cycle of thoughts in my brain.
Does anyone have any suggestions (other than trying to find a more ‘take charge’ AP for next year)?