When Your Au Pair Complains About A Fair Schedule

by cv harquail on March 9, 2015

File this under: “Grrrrrr.” 

You are a lovely family with an adorable child.  You offer a reasonably cushy schedule to your au pair.

Most days it’s 2 hours in the morning and 4- 4 1/2 in the afternoon/evening. You go out some weeks nights here and there, to book club or (gasp) to the gym.  And you give yourself and your spouse a weekend date night once or twice a month.

All of this was communicated clearly as your ‘typical schedule’ when you were interviewing your au pair. 101883

Yet, as JG Host Mom discovered:
Fast forward to a month into the job and now she’s saying she’s unhappy with the hours. 


She thinks we work her too much even though we’ve typically remained under 40 hours a week.


She said she took the job thinking I wouldn’t use her more than about 30-35 hours a week. I know I never said that, and don’t understand why an au pair would assume that if the family is allotted 45. I’m wondering how most au pairs feel about the 45 hour work week.  


Are there Au Pair situations where the scheduled has significantly shorter hours? 
What about HFs? Do any of you get frustrated hearing complaints over time worked when it’s still way less than 45?

 If only we could just say to our Au Pair:  No Whining. You’ve got a good gig. Appreciate it.

But we can’t.
I have experienced this situation in one form or another in over half our au pair relationships. Either it’s been a concern about the overall number of hours, or about the number of Saturday / Friday nights our AP has had to work, or about whether or not she could have a regularly scheduled off duty time during the hours when I really needed her to work (like, when my husband and I were at work!).
Our one and only ‘flameout’ Au Pair got sassy and quit because she thought that it was too much to ask her to work on a Saturday night– And she did this after we had sent her copies of actual schedules and explicit explanations that 2 Sat. nights a month would be expected of her!

What if you do all the right things and your Au Pair still complains?         

— The Host Mom made it clear what average amount of hours would be expected of her au pair, and when the Au Pair could expect to work these hours.

— The Host Mom kept these hours and their scheduling within the legal limits ( e.g., no more than 45 hours, no more than six days a week, no more than 10 hours per day, one day with no more than five hours).

These efforts address only part of the problem. Alas, doing all these sensible, rational things, should have eliminated the problem before it began, but it hasn’t quite worked out. That’s because there are several pieces of the problem that a rational approach can’t completely handle. These pieces of the problem include:

— An AP can work ‘up to’ 45 hours a week. But, some families need (and ask for) less on-duty time each week.

— Some au pairs will complete all their on-duty hours Monday through Friday. Other au pairs will be needed on weekend days or weekend evenings. So, even between au pairs working the same number of hours, one Au Pair can have a schedule more favorable than another Au Pair .

— Au pairs often make friends with (and want to schedule their social activities with) other au pairs with different schedules. So, they become aware of all the times that they are working when their friends are not, regardless of whether their onduty schedule is legitimate and fair.

Of course, when they get here in reality sets in, and especially when they start to compare themselves to other Au Pairs, they’ll only really notice the Au Pairs who have schedules that are somehow lighter or “better” than the one that you have provided for them.

What can you do? Try one or more of these suggestions…

I’m not sure when it’s all said and done what really works best, but here are the ideas that I’ve come up with… Please, add your own suggestions to these — maybe together we can help figure it out!

1. Give “just the facts, ma’am”. Take a totally rational, completely objective approach.

— Remind your Au Pair that she signed up for a 40 to 45 hour week job.

— Show her that her overall compensation only makes sense for your family if she is employed full time. One way to emphasize that it’s a 40 to 45 hour week job is to show her that her pocket money and other non-cash compensation are based on a 45 hour a week schedule. (I’ve done this, and I’ll eventually explain how I did it, but it’s too long to post here.) Basically, you total up all that you’re giving her, divided by the number of hours she works, and compare that to the minimum wage and/or the hourly babysitting rate in your area.

Remember — don’t compare it to the salary of a professional nanny! If she works less than 45 hours, she would be earning a much higher hourly wage, and you could argue that at that point you would simply hire someone who would live out and who would be simpler to manage. (You might have to pretend this, but you can at least say that this was the alternative you considered).

— Keep an accurate and cumulative count of her work/off work schedule, so that she is aware of how much she’s been on duty, how much she’s been off-duty, how many Saturday nights she’s been on or off duty, how many vacation days, and so forth. It can be easy for Au Pairs to think in terms of week to week (e.g., Damn, I’m working Saturday night again!) and simultaneously to forget that they had two full weeks off while your kids were at Camp, and they still got paid. I know of host moms who have kept a running tally of hours actually worked versus hours that could have been worked, to show Au Pairs that when it’s all said and done, the Au Pair is still working less than she might actually have been asked to.

Recognize that these are “rational” argument, and these won’t address the emotional parts of the problem, so also consider….

2. Ask for some support from your Au Pair community counselor.

The community counselor is there to enforce the procedures and rules, most often for the protection of the Au Pairs but also for the protection of the host family.

— Ask your community counselor to discuss this issue directly with your Au Pair, and/or to discuss it at cluster meeting, or in an e-mail. She should remind the au pairs that they have been hired for a 45 hour work week, and that this is the norm. She should remind them that they should feel lucky if they work less than a 45 hour week schedule, and that it is unreasonable to expect to work less or to be irked if you work a full week.

[(Keep in mind, though, that some Au Pair Agencies paint a pretty and unrealistic picture of what being an Au Pair is like… they de-emphasize the work and highlight the sight-seeing, setting every au pair and many families up for disappointment. Shame on them.)] There was a time when I went to my local community counselor for help with this issue, and it didn’t help. The counselor responded that I needed to ‘realize’ that other host families asked for fewer hours and that other host families didn’t use Saturday nights, and that perhaps I should adjust my expectations accordingly. (Hello? If I wanted a part time childcare person, that’s what I’d have hired. !! ) Maybe you’ll get a better response. What I took from her advice was that I started to emphasize how the Au Pair had 2 Sat nights a month off, rather than 2 on.

3. Ask for support from other Au Pair Host Parents

— Talk to other host families about their schedules, and determine whether or not your Au Pair’s schedule is out of the norm.

You might find that other host moms are intentionally or unintentionally hiding from their Au Pairs the actual number of hours that they work. (I had the situation with a friend, who told me that she thought her au pair only worked 30 to 35 hours a week. Because she didn’t write it down explicitly on a calendar or schedule, she never kept track of the exact hours. However, when we together went over her Au Pair’s hours and counted up the total — it turned out that her Au Pair was regularly working over 40 hours a week! But, because the host mom and the Au Pair never saw this number in writing, they both assumed the number was less!)

– Talk to other host families about their schedules, and talk with them about considering whether they should have their Au Pair’s on-duty for additional hours.

Sometimes, host parents think they’re doing themselves and their Au Pair a favor only counting as on-duty time hours worked directly with the children. However, some Au Pairs are on-duty for uncounted hours/unrecognized hours, when they’re doing laundry, watching TV while the children sleep, or eating dinner. Or, maybe the host mom could add a new job or two (grocery shopping? Washing off the high chair? to use up some time in a legitimate way.

— If there is a specific post families/Au Pair that your Au Pair is comparing herself to, consider talking to that particular host parent about having her au pair be on-duty for more hours, even if she has to make some work up or force herself to take some time for herself.

4. Change the framing from ‘how bad s/he has it’ to ‘how good s/he has it”.

— Find a worse case situation, and offer that to your Au Pair as a comparison. One way to help your Au Pair feel better is to show her a another situation where an Au Pair is being taken advantage of. Look around your cluster– it would surprise me if there wasn’t an Au Pair who had a bad deal and/or whose host family was breaking the rules. Not to revel in her misfortune, but her situation could show your Au Pair that ‘it could be worse’.

— Talk about how many days/night she has off duty, how many evenings she has free to plan social events, etc. In Acicala’s case, she could emphasize that her Au Pair has two days a week free, nearly every week!

5. Be Firm about what you need from your Au Pair.

– Tell your Au Pair that this is a job, s/he signed up for it knowing the schedule, and s/he should just deal with it. This is usually my husband’s line of reasoning. Maybe you and your partner could play good cop/bad cop on this one.

– Print out or purchase the lovely image, above, and post it on your fridge. Next to the Au Pair schedule.

6. Be Clear about what you need from your Au Pair.

— Be clear that this is what you need, this is the job, and stop at that.

— Be clear with your Au Pair when you are being flexible, making a concession, or giving her something extra. Sometimes I think that Au Pairs keep a running tally in their minds of when they give in for something you need/want versus when you give in for something they need/want, and I often find that there is a loser. (I think this is generally human nature regardless of why or what we are tallying up.)

7. Whether this is your problem or not, consider how you can help other host families who have this problem.

For example, here’s how every host parent might help: 

Every host family who has the hours available could schedule their Au Pair to work one Saturday night a month — even if they don’t “need” childcare for a specific event.

I know this seems ridiculous, and when I’ve suggested it before Au Pairs in particular have been irked.

BUT – if there is anything I could ask host moms around the USA to do, it would be to schedule their Au Pair for at least one Saturday night at month it they have the hours available.

Who among us host parents doesn’t need a Saturday night out every once in awhile?

And, if you are one of the lucky host families that doesn’t need to use all 45 hours a week to cover when you and/or your partner are working, you should definitely take some of this time to have a night out, even if it just means going shopping for yourself Target.101883

8. Finally, Be confident about what you need from your Au Pair.

— You are being reasonable. You are holding up your end of the contract. You are being fair. You are being kind. Your kids aren’t devils.

Being an Au Pair can be a tough job, but at your house it’s a fair job and there’s time for fun too. You are a caring parent and Host Mom, and you deserve an Au Pair that does a good job without complaining about the basics.

— If you need someone to remind you of this, email me.

What else can JG Host Mom do? What have you tried? What do you recommend!

Tell all……

Image by Green Girl Laura, via the fun blog  Things With Wings. You can email Laura at greengirldesigns@gmail.com to inquire about purchasing her art.


TexasHM March 9, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Ok now that I am done reminding myself to breathe and counting backwards from ten… :) Honestly, this is something that would put me over the edge. Assuming you were clear with the schedule during interviewing and have not changed it drastically without cause (APs have to understand that if a job changes or there is a major event that things will change and they will have to decide to stay or give notice and work through transition) I find no circumstance where this type of complaint is ok. Now, the one complaint I hear over and over is that the APs can’t make plans or enroll in classes because they never get schedules and I think that is horribly unfair but does not sound like the issue in this case.
As long as you are within the rules of the program anything they DO NOT work is bonus. I am sorry, I am sure many APs will disagree with me on this but the stipend and agency fees are based on 45 hours per week of work. If you are working 40 then you are getting paid for 5 hours per week you aren’t working and so on from there.
We honestly can say that when it gets down around 35 hours per week we could hire a nanny for less! We have a nanny right now until the next AP arrives and our childcare expenses are the same or less honestly right now. Now we have lost the advantage of the additional hours for date nights and kid chores have to be done while watching kids but they are getting older and can help so that’s not a big issue.
Maybe this is the wrong tactic but I discuss this a little bit in matching. We explain that we are looking for a family member and someone that is expecting to work hard and play hard and that we are prepared to invest a lot in the AP program and that yes, it would be easier to hire out a nanny and not have to worry about car accidents/insurance and higher utility bills and paid vacations but that we join the program and make compromises because we want the cultural exchange and we want someone that is prepared to give 100% as well.
We have never had an AP complain about their hours and up until the last 6 months all of our APs worked 45 hours per week every week and the first two had infants/toddlers in their care and 3 kids total so it was not an easy gig. I agree shame on the agencies that market it as “travel the US, be treated as a family member and make lots of money” and you know who you are! I was with one of those agencies but spent several rounds of interviewing convincing the APs otherwise and what this experience truly is and it worked out but I feel for newer families that don’t know they have to outsell some of the agencies expectations.
There are huge pluses for both sides as long as they appreciate each other and I think this is the definition of not appreciating your situation. If you are in an area where nannies are expensive you might think about hosting rematch APs. From what I have seen they are generally VERY appreciate of ONLY working 45 hours per week and being allowed to eat with the kids! There are APs in rematch that have REAL problems and I don’t think working 35-40 hours per week vs 30-35 hours per week qualifies as a real problem, I really don’t.
I guess if it was me I would sit down and have this conversation explaining it all (in case she really just doesn’t get it) and if you still have pushback or a sense of entitlement honestly I would go into rematch and allow her to search for that 30 hour per week gig she really wants. I really believe in our case a happy AP = a happy house so I don’t want someone who is dissatisfied. Anyone can have bad days or bring us feedback to make things better but “reduce my hours to 30” would be grounds for moving on for us. Sorry you are dealing with this. I hope she just doesn’t realize how inappropriate the ask is and you are able to turn the lights on for her and get it sorted out. So I guess my answer is #1,2 and 5. :)
Whether it is the schedule or what car they drive or how many host kids they have or where the host family goes for vacation I tend to find that glass half empty APs will always see it that way and the grass will always be greener so I would let them go find it and would not be encouraged to give extras and go above and beyond because I would doubt it would be appreciated. On the flipside, those that give us 200% get that in return via extra days off, special gifts/occasions throughout the year and generousness of free time of HPs so in our case you get what you give and then some. Good luck!

Should be working March 9, 2015 at 1:07 pm

Our AP rarely *actually* works over 35 hrs, but I often schedule extra hours for a Saturday morning or something else–with the intention to use them if I need them–and then if I don’t need them I make a point of SAYING that I could have had her work so that I have some me time, but I want her to have the full weekend off to enjoy herself.

In general we are very generous with the AP but I have learned over the years to call attention to our generosity (against my usual understated style): “We like our APs to have an opportunity for sports, so we pay for their YMCA membership IF they actually will use the YMCA”; “Some HFs make their APs pay for private gas use; we like to help our AP explore our area and so we are willing to pay for their private gas if they stay within a 15-mile radius”; “We know APs like to go to New Year’s Eve parties so we are going to stay home so that you can go to that famous party in the city”.

Otherwise it is way too easy for APs to get quickly used to how nice we are. The larger topic here might be “AP expectation creep”, how at the beginning of the year APs are full of ideas for playing with kids, helping out, and by month 7 ours tend to get snappier with kids and much less helpful, and are prone to grumble when I schedule a Sat night working.

HRHM March 9, 2015 at 1:14 pm

I have had this issue before and honestly, it likely is and probably should be a prelude to rematch. If she is unhappy with the schedule and it is a reasonable, legal one that she knew about prior to matching, the only way to make her happy is to stop using her when you need her. There is no win-win here. One of you will have to lose for the other to win.

I disagree that you should ask other area families what their AP schedule is and I also disagree that they should work their AP more or recalculate her hours to make it look like they are. In the grown up world, everyone has their own situation, their own hours, their own benefits and their own challenges. For any AP to compare her own set of circumstances (which she totally agreed to prior to taking the job) and pout or cry foul is VERY immature. Life isn’t fair.

If I take a job and then find out that someone else at my work has better hours, a shorter commute, makes more, has a nicer office, gets more vacation (guess what – lots of folks in my office have one or more of the above!) I don’t go to my boss to pout. My choice is to accept that these differences exist everywhere, that maybe I have some other benefit that they are missing. Or if I really don’t like it, to give notice and find a position that better suits me.

NJmama March 9, 2015 at 6:27 pm

I completely agree. Every host family is different – and we all have different needs at different times of the year. Some of us need split shifts, some require five 9-hour days. Some of us use all 45 hours every week and some only need to a few times a year. This may sound harsh but I just don’t care what other host families do or what their schedules are as long as everyone abides by the rules. And I don’t think talking to other host families gets you anywhere. We all – host families and au pairs – sign contracts agreeing to up to 45 hours a week with a day and a half off a week, one full weekend off a month and two weeks off a year. End of story.

Amelie March 9, 2015 at 1:50 pm

I guess there are many ways in which a schedule can be unfair, unreasonable or illegal. But using all the 45 alloted hours is not one of them.

Tristatemom March 9, 2015 at 2:14 pm

I wonder if the AP’s position comes from a misunderstanding. We are with CC and when you submit your HF application there is a space where you need to provide what specific hours the AP would work. So for us, we know AP will work from 7 to 9am and then from 3-7, this adds up to 30 hours per week but we use the additional 15 hours for AP to do chores, our date night etc. There is no space in the application to put this additional time and it is highly fluactuating anyway. We do make it clear that our APs work 45 hours a week (but it may actually be less depending on what we have going on).
Anyway, when interviewing candidates, one AP pointed out to me that we only posted 30 hours but from our discussion it sounded like we require 45 hours and how do we explain the difference. We passed on this candidate for other reasons but maybe that is what is going on with the AP is this post?

Dorsi March 9, 2015 at 2:29 pm

This is one of the reasons that I look for women who have worked long days. Current AP worked at a shoe store in her country, 10-12 hour days, and was paid (to some degree) on commission. She has a challenging AP job (we use all 45, we often need 10/day, schedule fluctuates, 3 small kids), but she compares it to the shoe job and says it is easier (due to naps and preschool, she often has a 2 hour break, on-the-clock, there is other down time, etc.).

I know that we are one of the more challenging jobs based on hours and number of kids. I wouldn’t put up with this at all. I am very explicit about this during matching and have had a number of candidates turn me down due to it.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 9, 2015 at 2:45 pm

Weekend hours were an issue with one AP – and it became a rematch issue for both of us – she wanted her weekends off and I thought she behaved horribly toward the kids whenever she had to work weekend hours. Once, when I came home from a religious service on a Saturday, I found her cooking a dish for a potluck she was attending that evening and ignoring The Camel (after she was done for the day she took the dish out of the oven and hid in her room for several hours – plenty of time during which to have made the dish!). Other events happened that day, too.

In my experience, APs will say yes to almost anything when they are anxious to match. I try not to match with any AP who hasn’t spoken to several HF already – because I want them to match with us and not just leap at the first opportunity. While my LCC typifies the schedule as “light” because our AP works up to 2.5 hours in the AM and between 3.25 and 4 hours in the PM, in reality The Camel’s school bus usually comes 2 hours into the morning shift, and the AP is usually done feeding The Camel and free to leave up to 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled shift (and sometimes more) most evenings. I stick to the rules, even though my AP usually works 5 hours or less during a split shift, it’s not a half day under the spirit of the State Dept. regulations. Thus, unless she has had a shift or a day off during the week, I don’t schedule her to work more than 5 hours at the weekend.

I am up front during matching that she will work up to 3 weekends a month, but then when she talks to the current AP she’ll learn that in many months it will be more like 1 or 2. I’m also likely to cancel a Saturday night shift after a week in which the kids have had several snow days or the Camel has been home sick, forcing her to change her plans for the week and work a few full 10-hour days.

My only question to a HM who receives a lot of AP push-back on weekend hours, is: Do you have everything scheduled? Not just a week at a time – have you scheduled her hours for the month? Put it down on paper. If there is a special event, all of her friends are taking a trip, or a class requirement, you can be flexible and give a little. “Oh, you want that weekend off? Then what about working this weekend?” If she’s pushing back on every weekend, then you could ask (as nicely as possible), “I can give you that time off, but then I’m going to count it as 1/2 of a vacation day. Is that what you want?”

It is not possible for an AP to make every trip, attend every concert, go to every party. When an AP expresses disappointment over not being able to join her friends, I am sympathetic, but I tell her, “There will be times one of your friends won’t be able to join you because she has to work.” (Now, I’ve hosted some pretty quiet APs who didn’t need to go out every Saturday and some party girls who were ALWAYS ready to go the minute we returned home on a Saturday night. Clubs don’t get going until 11 pm, so DH and I would book our 5 hours between 5 and 10 – plenty of time to catch an early movie and have dinner).

If you’ve made the schedule, been a little flexible, and there’s still push-back, then it’s time to have a “reset your attitude” conversation, because maybe she isn’t the right AP for you. An AP would have to be a rock star during the week for me to give up my date nights with DH.

Host Mom in the City March 9, 2015 at 4:05 pm

We’ve been very fortunate not to have an au pair complain about our schedule, except one who took every opportunity to point out every au pair situation she heard of that was better than hers (can you believe so-and-so has her own separate apartment?? can you believe so-and-so only works every other week since her host parents are divorced and the kids trade off weeks?, etc, etc.). It drove me insane and honestly I wish I had rematched with her. There are always going to be au pairs with better situations – better rooms, more vacations, better schedule, their own car, whatever. Hopefully there are enough pros to each family that their au pair is happy even so, but I got the feeling our one au pair wouldn’t have been happy with anyone because she wasn’t looking at the pros she had with our family at all – only the cons. Some au pairs are going to be like this, and it’s not something I would put up with again.

I feel like we have a very normal schedule and although our au pairs are usually scheduled for 35-40 hours during the school year, we generally only use 30-35. Now in the summer we use all 45. But again, I get the impression that’s totally normal. Most of the host parents I’ve heard of use about in the 35-45 range. I have heard of the rare family that uses only 20 or so, but I honestly don’t understand how it makes sense to have an au pair at those hours.

It costs us about $25,000 a year to host an au pair (we have extraordinaires) plus of course sharing the house, the car, and taking on all the “caretaking” of an au pair. If we did just before/after care, summer camps, and an occasional sitter, it would be between $10-12k, so considerably cheaper. If we did an after-school nanny, summer camps plus occasional sitter, it would be around $15-20k. So for us, given what we need, an au pair is much, much more expensive than other options. The main pro for an au pair is the flexibility, and that’s what keeps us. If an au pair refused to work anything other than an exact set schedule on weekdays and/or refused to work 45 hours in the summer, then it wouldn’t make financial sense for us to have an au pair.

I do think au pairs sometimes forget how expensive the program is for host families given actual cash outlay, time needed, and “inconveniences” of living with an additional person, and feel they should be compensated at the same rate as a live-out nanny. I’ve loved my au pairs and love the relationship I have with them, but there is no way I would choose the au pair program if it cost the same as a live-out nanny for the simple fact that is a LOT of work and a lot of risk to have an au pair.

Anyway, we don’t have weekend hours (except for 2-3 times a year when we have a major event on a Saturday night), so that’s a big plus I think, and honestly, I think very rare. Again, most host families I know use at least two weekends a month – either an evening or some random hours during the day.

So all that to say, that if I was sticking to the program limits, scheduling my au pair far enough in advance that she can plan, being flexible as possible with the au pair’s schedule if she has things she really wants to do, and was totally upfront about the schedule, and my au pair was complaining – I’d honestly have to tell her that she’s free to find another host family if the schedule I need didn’t work. But honestly I think she’d have a tough time finding a host family that had an easier schedule, because I imagine most people use about what you describe. I can’t imagine that plays well in rematch either – an au pair looking for a new family because she didn’t want to work 40 hours a week…

Host Mom in the City March 9, 2015 at 4:13 pm

I should add that one thing we do very well and highly recommend is schedule our au pair months and months in advance. Not to say things don’t change as we get closer, but we try to give our au pair a heads up on what the schedule is going to be and any anomalies in the schedule months ahead of time (e.g., days school is closed and she has them for the full day, spring break, summer break, any big events we have planned,etc. – those things you can plan a full year in advance typically, so why not let her know?). I think our au pairs have appreciated this and it has eliminated any of the “hey we need you Saturday night, so cancel all your plans” conversations because they already know to plan not to have that Saturday night a month or two earlier.

We also don’t schedule hours just because, especially on weekends. Not saying you can’t do this, but I do think it would be annoying as an au pair. I know a family that schedules their au pair for five hours or so on a Saturday or Sunday during the day (9-2ish) three weekends a month just because they have extra hours and they *might* want to do something. I get the impulse, but their au pair is really irritated by it because she never quite knows if she’s going to have that day off or not. Half the time, they don’t end up doing anything anyway and she could have gone out. Some of the time, the host parents just make up something to do to fill the hours just to use her. Some of them time, they’ll go out and so the au pair doesn’t make plans, but then they’ll come back after only 45 minutes and give her off. It just makes it so that she can’t ever go away on a weekend three times a month or make concrete full day plans because she’s never quite sure. Even though it’s within the limits of the program, I still think that’s really not fair to do someone more than occasionally.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 9, 2015 at 4:56 pm

I’m a person who blocks out weekends (date night w/DH, encouraging the teenager to do a special activity with us without having to drag The Camel along) and if my AP came to me and said, I really want to join my friends on a trip to X because we’ve never been to that city, 50% of the time I’d end up saying “Okay,” and canceling my plans. If she wanted to go to a movie, I don’t think I’d change my plans. We’ve chatted about this elsewhere – most APs don’t plan far along in advance (although I admit, I’d be chaffed if I showed up for work at 2:00 or 5:00 on a Saturday afternoon and was told “Oh, we don’t need you after all.” That’s not fair!)

DH and I don’t always go out – but usually because we feel badly that we’ve trapped the AP in the house for a few unexpected 10-hour days that week and want to reward her for being flexible.

I keep a paper calendar (call me paranoid, but Google just doesn’t need to know the details of my life) and I circle the “must-have” dates, so the AP knows not to plan anything for that day – whether it be a morning doctor’s appointment from which she’ll need to drive The Camel to school, an weekday evening event for DH and I, child #2 graduation, or a weekend when we have theater tickets. I also write in the 3-day weekends so she can plan ahead!

Multitasking Host Mom March 9, 2015 at 4:28 pm

I know that the initial advertising that APs see from the agencies make the program seem very “glossy”. I learned a lot with our first AP and the big thing was she really didn’t know what she was getting into. She was just out of high school and had only done evening babysitting. She was totally overwhelmed by working all week…and I was overwhelmed with how much help/training she needed. She was a sweet girl but never was more than just a so-so AP. Now the second thing I look for, when selected APs to match with, is that they have worked some sort of Job, All Day, for preferably a few times a week. It doesn’t have to be child care related. I am just looking for someone who has the experience of showing up and being accountable. I also tend to side on the “dare to match” philosophy when interviewing APs. It has worked well for us. And have matched with great APs who were good fits for our family, so far. Our last AP said to me, after being here a few months, that I made the job sound much worse than it is.
I am not sure how I would handle it if the AP complained about the number of hours worked. I have always hosted APs with school age children, so except for during school vacations, they only work before and after school hours with a few weekend hours here and there. I guess pointing out other APs situations with younger children and more hours to work would be my first line of defense.

ProPair March 9, 2015 at 4:50 pm

I have one general suggestion for HPs in this situation to add/elaborate upon: have your AP track her OWN hours, even when you’re sure you won’t need her for all 45. Keep a journal or day planner in the kitchen and have her write down when a block of work starts and finishes. Ask her to also include a brief description of activities during each block (ex. 1PM to 2PM: folded and put away kids’ laundry, made beds). Have the schedule as a part of the journal as well. The journal will also help the au pair see the reality of work, and help you claruify conflicts. For example, you could say “We see that you’ve counted an hour between six and seven as work during dinner. We love when you join us, but this is your free time and you may eat alone if you’re finding eating with the kids stressful”. Or, “I see you spent 2 hours doing laundry Monday. Let me show you my method so that laundry doesn’t cut into your free time”, which is really an offhanded way of saying “If it you spend six hours a week on laundry because you iron my child’s clothing at a leisurely pace while watching Gossip Girl re-runs, you will not be getting any overtime.” ;)

I also want to give some advice specifically to the OP; it could be something else that makes your AP a poor fit for your family. Maybe she finds entertaining an only child constantly more challenging than she found joining in games with siblings in previous experiences? Perhaps your child and her don’t get along when you’re not home? It could also be she’s having a hard time bonding with your child, which can shatter AP confidence and give her a generally pessimistic outlook on your family. Ask her first if there’s something else going on.

Lastly, consider her previous work history. This could be her first full time job and she’s simply not adjusting. As an 18 year old who was spending 50 hours a week elbow deep in dishwater, I gladly welcomed the opportunity to spend 40 painting and playing hide and seek.

Over all, as an (happy) au pair in Europe, I tend to think APs in america have it pretty good-concrete hours, legal protection, and plenty of spending money-so I imagine there’s a lot of “give an inch, take a mile” territory, wherein an AP who has the most feels comfortable asking for more.

Anonymous in CA March 10, 2015 at 2:23 am

Having AP track his /her own hours! +++ that’s a brilliant idea! Thanks.

Swiss AuPair March 10, 2015 at 3:18 am

I think the “Dinner-Time” counts as work time, when she is sheduled right before and after. Of course not the breakfast on sunday or whatever meal when she is not on duty. But since the “break” needs to be more than a hour to count as a break, I’m sure she can count dinner as working hours. Am I wrong?

ProPair March 10, 2015 at 5:38 am

Not at all! I was mostly referring to the common situation where an AP is “off” when the parents are home at five and the whole family eats at six, finishing at seven, and then doesn’t need any help after.

Swiss AuPair March 10, 2015 at 6:30 am

That is what I said: When the AP has a shift right before AND after the meal it counts as working hours. But if the AP is off before dinner starts it of course does not count.

I had that issue with one HF who ate dinner at 5. I was on duty right before dinner and also after dinner for 2 more hours. The family told me that the “Dinnertime” was off-duty time. They told me that I could have dinner wherever I want, but seriously: the next restaurant was a 20 minute walk away, I could never go there eat and come back within 30 minutes. So I feel that Dinner-Time must count as “on-duty”. At least all 3 Other families counted it as on duty time.

Mimi March 9, 2015 at 4:50 pm

Our schedule is presented during the interview process (M-F, 8-5) and we specifically talk about what happens when HD travels, during summers, and any working vacation schedules in the interview process and it’s in our handbook. We have often given the APs a half day on a Friday or a federal holiday completely off, sometimes just because. On these occasions, I always make sure to let them know if we expect them to make up the hours that week (we usually don’t) but I want to make sure that they have the expectation that we reserve the right to do that. If we have a busy week where HD is out for business or traveling, we often go over 5pm (but never over hours for the day) because of my commute and I will then ask a friend/grandparent or whomever to come by to relieve her early on a day of her choosing so we stay under 45 hours for the week.

These weeks they usually work fewer hours because by having them choose what day they want to shorten, I usually end up overestimating how much time we will need to make up. I’m okay with this and usually don’t have them make up the time because I know that these weeks are usually more hectic with one less adult around. I’m with SBW on the AP expectation creep and I usually make sure to point it out so that the understanding is there that this should not be an expectation on their part and there have been a few times where I’ve had them work longer so I can run an errand or have 15 minutes of consecutive silence for myself. :) Realistically, if we have a good relationship and they are cooperative and flexible in return, they can expect I will always do this when I can. Likewise when any of them have asked for a short day or to leave early for a weekend trip. All schedule changes are discussed at least a week in advance.

This has been a recent problem for me. Our last two APs both complained about hours because others in our cluster don’t work their full allotment of hours. However, these other APs are working split schedules, weekends, nights, and/or week to week schedules. They also do a lot more housework and chores than ours do and this is what we point out. We also offer other perks that some other APs don’t have and we let the APs know this (in a tactful/subtle way). For us, the hours issue was part of a bigger issue related to their expectations of the program overall (which manifested right about the same point you’re at) and we went in to rematch with both.

If like TACL says you’ve made the schedule, been a little flexible, and there’s still push-back, then sit down and have a discussion about it. Depending on how she is in other aspects, it may be one of several conversations; “is this really/only about hours?”, reset your attitude/expectations, or “you’re welcome to find another family.” If you haven’t had those conversations before, practice them beforehand. Regardless of what works for other families, you need a schedule that works for you and an AP who can work it without drama.

NJ Mama March 9, 2015 at 5:06 pm

I always talk at great length about the schedule before matching. It’s something that we discuss quite a bit. I also use a spread sheet that adds up the hours worked each day. I do the schedule every Sunday so it’s clear to everyone what the au pair’s hours are for the week (I’m not with Au Pair Care anymore but had a great spread sheet for this that I still use). I don’t typically use all 45 hours in a week – but I also don’t tell the au pair candidates that when I’m interviewing. I used to, but you never know when things will change, and if they expect 30 hours and suddenly you’re doing 42 a week, resentments can build. I also tell candidates when I’m interviewing that we do like to go out on weekends occasionally (I just don’t say how little that is). And I really do try to give my au pairs advance notice when I need them on the weekends and if I can give them extra time off during the holidays — which I know they appreciate. I’ll also will sometimes ask them at the start of each month if there is a specific weekend that they want off. We can’t always accommodate but we at least try.

Also, my au pair works a split shift, so I build in an extra 30 minutes to every day to account for laundry and cleanup. (So even though my youngest catches the bus each day at 8:30 a.m., I’ll have her on the clock until 9 a.m.) I doubt anyone spends 2.5 hours a week cleaning or doing laundry outside of when the kids are with them, but I think it acknowledges the time spent on extra things. And I think it’s a good thing when you have school-aged kids. I also try to build in a cushion at night. So if I’m pretty sure I’ll be home from work at 7:30 p.m., I may put down 8 p.m. a few nights a week — again, just so the au pair can plan and there are no hard feelings if I get stuck at work really late. I realize not everyone can do this, but I’ve found that it’s helped.

I’ve never scheduled an au apair to work on a weekend unless I had something planned. I think it would be a little annoying to the au pair after awhile. That said, when my kids were little, I would often ask the au pair to work for 2 1/2-3 hours on a Saturday morning so I could go to an exercise class or grab coffee with a friend. But it was never every Saturday — maybe twice a month. If anything my au pairs told me they didn’t mind because it was just a few hours in the morning (say 7:30 – 10:30) and it still felt like they had their weekends. I even had one au pair who would volunteer to work on a Saturday morning if she didn’t have plans just so I could get in that time to myself. (So yes, these amazing au pairs do exist!!)

I did have one au pair who complained and compared us to other families. She was very young when she was with us. It was annoying, but I put up with the complaints (even if I didn’t always give in) because she was so great with my kids. And it took me some time to realize that while I may have had an earlier curfew, my car rules were a lot looser — to the point where she was the one who was almost always doing the driving. So it really is a give and take. She came to realize that as well, and the complaints eventually stopped. In fact, at the end of the year, I was really pleasantly surprised when it came time to find a new au pair that she told them that while we didn’t live in the biggest house or go on big vacations, we were a nice family, and that was more important than big houses and vacations. So I think it was her just trying to see how far she could go with me. Since then I shut those things down a lot sooner. It’s like when you’re kid whines and asks, “How come Jane gets to stay up until 11 on school nights?” I don’t think … oh jeez, I’m so horrible, because I don’t let my kids stay up til 11 on ANY night. I say, “First, you don’t really know if Jane stays up til 11 every night do you? Second, I really don’t care how late Jane stays up. I do know that if you stayed up that late you’d be incredibly cranky. And we don’t do cranky. Third, that is my rule. And I am the supreme ruler of the household. So until you’re old enough to live somewhere else this is what you get!” I may not use the “supreme ruler of the household” line with the au pair — although I do with my kids lol! But you get the point.
I think you just have to remind her that this is what she signed up for and leave it at that. Really it’s not a subject open for debate. If she really wants to quit because of it, then as painful as it is, you’re probably better off finding someone more appreciative and more flexible. Also, if you do get to that stage, she may realize it’s not worth risking a trip home early to try to find a family that can give her more weekends off. And you may call her bluff. That said, be just as wary of rematch candidates when it comes to this attitude as you would be for regular candidates.

MultitaskingMama March 10, 2015 at 4:19 pm

I’m going to have to borrow the “Supreme Ruler of the Household” when talking to my kids! Love it.
I agree with you 100% that there is a give and take involved. And it involves so much more than just car rules (as you mentioned too). Building in that flexibility and showing that you’re making adjustments to fit their needs and abide by the guidelines helps foster mutual respect and trust.
We had to work pretty hard for our APs to “see” the flexibility and give and take and the sacrificing we were making, but once we did that, things ran much more smoothly. It was harder than I thought it would be. At first, I just assumed the sacrifices we made were obvious, but I was wrong.
To your point, “I think you just have to remind her that this is what she signed up for and leave it at that. Really it’s not a subject open for debate.”…. I would have to agree that it’s not a debate, and these reminders need to happen when there are scheduling issues. Once we had a sit down and verbalized the gives and takes and flexibility we provided everything changed, for the better.
As we approach matching with our next AP, I might actually bring up the “gives and takes” in our interviewing, so there are no doubts. I also have our schedule listed right in our family profile. So they can see, before they agree to interview or not, what our needs our.
We have a full 45 hour schedule for our AP but it rarely (and I’m talking maybe once or twice per year) wavers. And yet, we are always very flexibile with the schedule when it comes to AP’s vacations, flights, schooling, etc.
In the end, our APs have told us that although they had to work a full 45 hours, and that it can be tough at times, that they much preferred that steady schedule over a varying one that invovled evenings, weekends and restrictions on when they could take their vacation. But it wasn’t until we had those conversations about the gives and takes involved for ALL of us, that it “clicked” for them.

Seattle Mom March 9, 2015 at 6:17 pm

I tell our au pairs up front when I first contact them that we need our au pairs to work 40-45 hours per week. And I have taken the suggestion from this blog to heart, to make the first few weeks full weeks, I try not to go under 43 hours in the first couple of weeks.

But it sounds like the OP may have done all of that, and still the AP is complaining. That would bug me. I guess I’d talk candidly about our needs, how much we are paying, and why we have an au pair. I’d ask what made her think she would get to work less than 30 hours per week. And I would try to find out if there was anything specific she wanted time to do that the schedule wasn’t allowing her to do- because just maybe there is something that could change that would be a win-win. But I would not be sympathetic to an au pair who thinks 45 hours per week, including about 2 weekend days per month (at <5 hours per day) is too much work. That's what they signed up for, I don't care what other people get.

old au pair mom March 9, 2015 at 7:02 pm

t1 with Seattle mom. That said, if I had an AP grumbling about hours, I would contact the LC as the original OP did. If, however, I was given some nonsense response that I had to fall in line with other local parents, I would contact the home office and create a stir and make sure that the LC was properly schooled. Lastly, if the AP continued to fuss (for only this reason) I would make it clear that any potential rematch family would be notified that the issue was the AP’s reluctance to work the previously discussed schedule and that she was essentially failing to live up to her end of the bargain. That would make for a tense conversation!

I know that sounds mean. Some APs do get here and then start shopping for new HFs. We had one come and was gone within 5 days, joining a family not working through any AP program (so we basically paid for her airfare to the US. She had the temerity to ask for her pay when my DH unlocked the driveway gate to let her leave early the morning following being informed of her leaving the night before.) Interestingly, her beloved predecessor AP told me that the new one would be gone soon and that was within the first hour of meeting her!

Is this AP worth adjusting your schedule or worth this aggravation? I think everyone above agrees it is nice when there is some compromise on both sides, but sometimes schedules are such that they cannot be altered and the compromise might be another offering.

old au pair mom March 9, 2015 at 7:11 pm

sorry I realize it was CV who had the LC who needed to understand that workplace hours don’t change because “the other parents are doing it.”

Swiss AuPair March 10, 2015 at 2:05 am

“I’m wondering how most au pairs feel about the 45 hour work week.” – I would like to share my view on the 45hr work week:

Before I became an Aupair, I had a job working 42hours a week (every hour I worked more was paid), 5week paid holiday and earning about 5000$ per month (when I was 19 years old). To be an Aupair in the US is working up top 45 hours, paid less than 1000$ a month (I know about house and food, but that is for sure less than the 4000$ I earned more before aupairing) and „only“ have two weeks of paid holiday. Some aupairs will earn way more than they did in their homecountry, they will be in the US to save the money or send it home to the family. You can clearly see, that this is not the reason why I was in the US. I wanted to have a shedule where I can explore the city and the country. I would not have signed for a 45 hour week. Not at all. Never. But I looked around before matching and checked if the family would need me during the year more than 35 hours a week (even in summer). I luckily found the perfect family and loved my year in the US! But I would not have been happy if I had to work 45 hours per week.

I was also an Aupair in 3 european countries. In Norway, a AP can work max. 30 hours a week, no more than 5 hours a day, and the AP earns 1000$ a month and has 5 weeks paid holiday and about 15 more days paid „public holiday“. I just wanted to show you, that the AP shedule in the US is very hard, compared to the AP shedule in Europe, or even compared to a „normal job“.

But of course it is not okay to sign up for 45 hours, the HF tells you to work all the hours and then complain because you have to work all the hours. I knew that I might not find a family, because I wanted to work less than 35 hours a week, but it was worth it to wait for that family. And it would not have been a good idea, to just sign up with a family when I’m not a 120% happy.

WarmStateMomma March 10, 2015 at 6:46 am


I think the compensation for APs in Norway and the US is about the same per hour worked if you account for the different costs of living. The Norwegian scenario you describe is working 44 weeks @ 30 hours, per week. That’s 1320 hours in a year. At $1000/mo., that’s about $9/hour. You could just barely buy a fast food lunch at McDonald’s for that last time I was in Scandinavia. The US scenario is 2250 hours/year (50 weeks at 45 hours, paid $10,400), or roughly $4.50/hour. You can buy the same McDonald’s here for $4.50.

American work schedules must seem like endurance marathons to people in a lot of countries, but I think the hourly compensation sounds similar.

Swiss AuPair March 10, 2015 at 7:54 am

I absolutely agree that you can have a nice life as an AP in both countries. My life in the US was as good or maybe even better than in norway and I ended up spending all my salary every month in both countries. I really could not care less if I can buy a burger or not because IMHO to be an AP is the time to have fun and enjoy the place where you live. I find 30hrs/week less stressful than 45 and my AP-Time was always time to get away from my “normal” work, take a break for some months, get out of the routine I had. And with 45hrs I would have been working more than I had before.

I know that this is not for every AP since they don’t all come from western european countries (or other “rich” countries around the world). I am happy and thankful to be in such a good situation. My opinion is most likely just not the one that “most of the AP” have about the 45 hour week.

Host Mom in the City March 10, 2015 at 7:05 am

This makes sense to me, Swiss Au Pair – thank you for sharing. I have no issue with an au pair candidate knowing what they want and turning down families that don’t fit what they are looking for. Every time we match we get 2-3 immediate “thank you, but I’m looking for something different” emails back from candidates and I always respect that.

Seattle Mom March 10, 2015 at 10:57 am

I get those emails too, and I am so happy that there are au pairs out there who know what they want. They never tell me what the deal-killer is, but I assume it’s either the hours (I specify 40-45 hours/week every week) or the location (not everyone wants to live in an urban rain forest).

The funniest ones are from au pairs who my agency matched me up with (I didn’t choose) and they turned me down before I got a chance to turn them down. Then I think to myself “well it’s mutual- another bad match-up from the placement adviser.”

Swiss AuPair March 11, 2015 at 1:23 am

I can’t believe that the APs don’t tell the HP why they don’t like each other. I find this always a very important step while looking for a host family. If 3 families tell me, that they don’t like me because I have not enough hours of childcare experience, I could work more to collect hours. If they tell me that my english is not good enough I can take classes in my homecountry. Maybe there is one sentence in a application that could be missunderstood because of language issues. And this is why I always tell the HF why I don’t want to be their AP. You are in a rural area with no public transportation and the AP can not have a car? Maybe you did not thought about it, but if 5 AP tell you that this is what they don’t like, you might think about it again.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 11, 2015 at 7:08 am

When I run through hundreds of applications, I reject several candidates so the agency doesn’t populate my profile for them (while I can only see “special needs willing” candidates, I actually only want to see women who have actual experience with people who have special needs). I assume they never know I’ve even looked at their profile, but I need to keep things moving. Once I see an application that both DH and I agree is a potential AP, I start sending what another HM branded “the dare to match with me letter.” I know, from experience, that few APs who have experience with children who have special needs want to spend a year changing diapers and feeding a teenager with special needs. I don’t begrudge them their desire to have a different year. When some who I think are particularly strong candidates reject me, I might follow up with an email expressing regret, but also telling her I know from her application that she’ll make a fantastic AP for another family.

The only time I get down to the nitty gritty, is when I reach the interviewing process. When DH and I have interviewed 4 or 5 fantastic women, then I feel the ones who haven’t been selected have the right to know why they haven’t been chosen, but it doesn’t make them any less valuable to another family. (And, almost every year, our first choice rejects us – and that’s okay – because we’ve made an equally great match with our second choice.)

Seattle Mom March 12, 2015 at 3:18 pm

It doesn’t bother me because I assume it’s usually something I can’t (or won’t) change- the number of hours, facts about our home or where we live, ages of kids, etc. I’ve been through this enough times to know that I will eventually find someone mutually agreeable.

I have given APs reasons for turning them down, but usually only after they have invested some time in communicating with me (email and/or skype). My reasons are almost always personality once I have gotten to that point- I don’t require great English skills, and if they don’t have enough experience then I wouldn’t have contacted them in the first place. I have had a few really tough ones where I really *liked* the person but just couldn’t see them taking care of my kids. I’ll say it has to do with personality fit, but I don’t give a lot of details. There have been exceptions- once I was talking to an AP who was very allergic to dust and in the end I decided I probably couldn’t keep the house clean enough for her, so I told her the specific reason. I know there are host families out there who naturally keep their houses dust-free, so she would find something better than us for sure.

spanishaupair March 12, 2015 at 10:31 am

Thats the main reason i decided not going as an aupair in USA. I think 45 hours a weel and only 1 and a half day off a week was to much. I was thinking about it before going to UK and working 35 hours week and weekends off realised i prefer less money and have the chance to enjoy more my time. Since then was an aupair again in uk and spent two years in Ireland.

TexasHM March 12, 2015 at 11:11 am

First off, this is misleading because our APs don’t have “only 1.5 days off per week”. Let’s be real. That may be the agency rule to prevent abuse but there are 168 hours in a week! Let’s take out sleeping hours (8 a night) and you are still at 112 hours per week. Let’s say you work 45 hours per week as an AP that is still 67 hours a week of free time! That means 60% of your waking hours are free time even if your family is using the max hours every week! Even when we were on the full time schedule I never once had an AP say they didn’t have enough free time to do something. Ever. The challenge was always funds/planning.
Like most other things in this program, it is all relative. The first 4 years we hosted our APs worked 45 hours per week (Mon-Fri 8am-5pm) and all three actually said at some point that they felt like they had the better job over their friends that worked 30-35 hours per week on a school aged schedule. When I asked why they all said having all nights and weekends free and the same schedule all the time was a big plus and allowed them to plan really well. When we put our youngest in part time preschool during the AP term and I asked that AP which schedule she preferred and she then said she liked the latter! When I asked why she said that the majority of the APs work afternoon/evenings anyway so she wasn’t missing anything because they were now all working the same shifts and she had more education options during the day than she did looking at only night and weekend courses. We still scheduled well in advance so she didn’t lose out on trips (let’s face it, most APs can’t afford weekend trips every week anyway) as she planned those trips on her weekend off every month and we let her pick the weekend to align with cheapest travel or events where she wanted to go. So this AP had what I would think is the hardest schedule we will ever have (40-45 hours per week but off during the day Tues and Thurs) and she still took 9 trips in 9 months which is more than any other AP I have heard of anywhere!
I guess what I am trying to say is I think it is less about the # of hours and more about expectations and planning. A partier is never going to be happy working early in the morning or on Saturday nights. An AP that is focused on education however, I think is much better suited for a school aged schedule and we actually didn’t match once (mutual) with a candidate because at the time she wanted to take extra classes and having toddlers we knew that would be unrealistic.
Plus we all know that an hour in my house doesn’t equal an hour in any other HFs house. I have seen MANY APs say they wanted only one host kid because they wanted an easier gig – imagine their surprise when they realize that they have to engage/entertain/manage that child every second! I have had APs of single kids tell my APs that they think she has the easier job! So while yes, I have three kids we are strict and they respect boundaries and our APs and can entertain each other and play well together for the most part. I would take my kids and happily watch them 50+ hours a week over some of the single kid 30 hour a week jobs in our city!

AuPairFrance March 12, 2015 at 5:31 pm

Looking at the maximum hours for the country definitely doesn’t show how much free time you will have to go out or take trips, it is much more dependent on the schedule and the family. Here the max is 30 hours (or realistically 35) which sounds like you end up with a lot more free time. However, lots of school aged kids come home for a long lunch break, so many au pairs work 7:30-8:30 before school 11:30 – 2 and then again after school for 3 hours, which leaves you with two 3 hour gaps in the day (and normally the morning break isn’t that long after sorting laundry, cooking lunch..), so unless you know other au pairs with children at the same school (the timings are different at each school) there aren’t a lot of times to meet up during the week. Having said this, the 30 hr limit does mean that I’m free for weekends 3/4 of the time, as I’ve always finished 30 hrs by the end of Friday.

Swiss AuPair March 13, 2015 at 1:35 am

That was also why I wanted to take care of school-aged-kids. My HD was a professor at a well known university. I was allowed to “sit-in” in every class for free! I loved that and was there almost every day.
I’m totally with you TexasHM: 2 or more kids often play so well together, that the AP has a easy job! I was with kids in many different ages, and the hardest job was with a 8 year old single kid.

ReturnAupair March 10, 2015 at 11:24 am

I was twice an Aupair. And since i found out what kind of things i did not like the first time, i looked at a different kind of family in the second time. Since i really knowed what i wanted i talked to a lot of familys and found the right one.

For me was 3 important things about the shedule.

1. Not to work 3 Weekends a month. I would not have a problem with every other weekend. I know how short a year can be and how much i want to see from my state and country. Working every weekend, when the most girls travel, would be something i miss out. So i looked upfront for a family who has small kids or who did not need me every weekend.

2.) Counting time. In my first family i feld horrible about they managed my time. I feld just like a person who works her. I worked 9h a day and every day when the hostmom came in i was of. But if she came home 10min early on Monday and 20min on Thursday i had 44.5h this week and startet 8.00 to 8.30 on Sathurday to make the Kids Breakfest. I do not had problems working 45h but counting every minute was nothing that made me happy.

3.) Iam not a late Person and for sure not somebody who stays up all night. So some of my friends worked till 9.00 oder 9.30pm every day. Usally i fall a sleep around 10PM and i need some time to just come down, clean the room, talk to friends and family home. I rather start ar 5.30am then 10am.

I dont feel bad about looking for a family that has the sames needs as iam. So my year was great because the second time i just know what makes me happy and unhappy.

I guess some Aupairs just dont know how much 45h childcare means. And how they feel if all of her friends travel to Washington while she stays home on almost every sathurday.

AuPair Paris March 10, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Au pairs shouldn’t complain about fair schedules that they’ve agreed to. If they do the response should be simply “this is a fair schedule that you’ve agreed to” – and that should be the end of it. I know the world doesn’t work that way – I really do… But how do you resolve all problems when you think someone over whom you have authority is being unreasonable? Talk it out, tell them calmly what you think, compromise if you’re feeling generous and have a mind to, and otherwise simply say “that is the job”. That’s what all my bosses would always do if someone didn’t want to do their job – in every sphere in which I’ve worked.

I definitely do not buy the idea that you can try and change your au pair’s *feelings* about these things. You can explain why they’re lucky or why it’s fair, and maybe an au pair will change their attitude or not, but you really can’t make them feel a certain way. Trying to make an au pair feel lucky by manipulating the schedules of other host families makes me feel really uncomfortable. Trying to make au pairs to feel grateful for any free time by withholding courtesy (ie booking them when it’s unnecessary and then not telling them til much later that they could have been free) makes me uncomfortable.
Not only is it quite manipulative behaviour, but it’s pretty condescending. Host families presumably want au pairs to be mature adults – whether they are or not. Well, adults don’t need to have their feelings managed by their bosses. And bosses don’t have the right to dictate their employees feelings.

Au pairs need to do their jobs. And they need to do their jobs with a certain amount of good humour – real or false. That doesn’t mean they always have to be happy with every aspect of it… Totally stick to the schedule you need, and explain to an au pair firmly why complaining about it will change nothing. Fine. But you can’t *make* someone be happy – even with something they agreed to do, and something fair. You can’t ever force anyone to be happy…

hOstCDmom March 10, 2015 at 1:11 pm


MultitaskingMama March 10, 2015 at 3:53 pm

We’ve had both of our AuPairs bring up the “unfair” schedule before. It’s unfortunate. We are very regular in our scheduling and use all the 45 hours, however our AP’s rarely, if ever, have to work anything on the weekend or an evening. That’s because by the time the week is up we’ve run out of hours. We don’t schedule week nights or weekends typically and yet they’ve still complained. Mostly because their AP friends have better or more flexible schedules and there’s been the occassional “you went over 45 hours” complaint. Most of the complaining is the result of comparing themselves to other APs that managed to get a nicer house or better schedule (I wrote in about this a few months ago).
What I realized in talking to them is that both had a very “skewed” perception of what an average work week was in America.
They were thinking a 40 hour work week gave them 5 extra hours each week… why did we need them a full 45?
It wasn’t until we sat them down (I used the same approach with each) and said, in America, our typical paid work day is 8 hours. That doesn’t include lunch for us.. We’re at work 9 hours a day plus time to commute. That 9 hours per day is already 45 hours per week without commuting time. So after explaining that we’re in fact shifting OUR schedules and hustling to/from work and often having to rush home only to jump back on the computer and finish working, all to stay in regulations, they both finally got it. We still got the occassional “can you stop at the store on the way home” request, to which we firmly had to remind them there’s no time in the schedule for that, but they understood.
They both at times, acted as though we were out galavanting around while they were slaving at home with our children. Not so! And to be fair to us, their complaints weren’t that we always went over, because we were very careful, it was complaints that ONE time we were late one night. Why? Because AP asked me to go to the store and get her tampons and then go pick up her other AP friend who didn’t have a car and my husband was still in the middle of his 1hr commute home. It wasn’t until I pointed out the “overage” she complained about was to run her errands for her, that she backed off. She had full access to a vehicle and could have done this after I returned home. Or the other time my husband and I both got stuck in traffic when the freeway was closed. We did our best to make up for those extra hours, but we also have work demands and can’t always just leave when we want to.
Our current AP didn’t realize that work in America doesn’t include a lunch break, and that we’re really at the office 9 hours per day. Once she was educated she piped down very quickly. Although I know she’s exhausted at times, she’s also never worked an evening or weekend. Which means, my husband and I never get dates unless we have family in town, which is like… never.
I know there are families who abuse the program, and there are other families who love the convenience and flexibility and barely work their AP. I think for the majority of HF’s, we’re somewhere in the middle and strive to stay in compliance as best we can. And showing APs the amount of time they could be working, when they’re not, or the sacrificing that we’re making to make sure we’re not abusing the system is crucial to their understanding. And, it’s already been mentioned but making the schedule clear during the interview process, so there is no confusion is also very important!

NewbieHM March 10, 2015 at 10:51 pm

I would just tell her that those were the hours we agreed to during matching and are within the 45 hrs as required by the DOS. How many hours other au pairs work is irrelevant and I would let her know.

I wouldn’t ask other parents to make their au pairs work more simply because their schedule is none of my business. I would consider it an intrusion if another HP were to ask me to change my schedule, add more hours or any other thing at the detriment of my au pair just so her immature au pair stopped whining.

We use all 45 hours, it was communicated in advance and I don’t feel guilty about it. If I needed less hours then I would just hire a live out nanny. We occasionally change her schedule so we can have some hours during the weekends, but that rarely happens. As the kids get older I might start doing that more but not because someone asked me to.

Au pairs should also understand that a lot of people like to exaggerate, they either like to brag about how good they have it or they want to sound like their situation is worse, all just to get attention. My first AP (we are on our second one) was always looking at what other au pairs on facebook had, materially speaking. She would talk about other au pairs living in Manhattan and LA near famous people, dropping one kid in school and sightseeing the rest of the day. One of her friends told her that she went into rematch and had dozens of families to choose from (I think she said something like 30). Anyways, she decided to go for it with our blessing (we wanted a rematch too but never had the guts to do it) and it didn’t go as she expected.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 11, 2015 at 9:07 am

One thing to consider is that sometimes it really isn’t about “the socks on the floor.” OP noted that the complaints started about a month into the year. Could it be that AP is really feeling a little homesick, or at least nostalgic for the day when she didn’t have to be “on” for so many hours each day? Maybe the glow of newness is wearing off a bit and she’s realizing that it’s a job-job…and all that that entails. Maybe she’s feeling unappreciated and views adherence to the hours as one more sign of her just being a worker in the HF’s eyes. If any of those things are true, the solution may be simply to remind yourself that it’s tough to get into the groove of a new job (or new school year, etc), even when it’s what you really, really want to do. And to remind her that you understand it’s tough, that you value her effort, that you care abaiut her and are glad she’s ther,e and that her feelings are normal. Then, gently remind her that you still need her to do the job she came to do.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 12, 2015 at 6:41 am

For APs who have never held a job that required them to be present on a regular basis with some sort of responsibility, the realization that the AP year will not just be “an adventure” but also is a job can be a shock. I have had the least issues with APs who have worked, had practical work experiences required by their school, or worked in a summer camp (especially a sleep-away camp). The one AP I hosted fresh out of high school needed constant job coaching.

In my initial email I use the words work, job, and responsible frequently. I repeat them frequently during the interview process. Being an AP is work, and I need someone who can land on their feet and own the job (which is why I don’t overlap – the one time I did, the incoming AP ceded to the outgoing AP constantly). Now my year has rhythms. There are months when I work – either for my paying job or in my role as a volunteer in the school – constantly on weekends. There are other months when having an AP work so DH and I can go out for our date nights (because we do a lot of homebound date nights, too) is a luxury for which we pay by hosting an AP.

If the AP feels that traveling to another city on a particular weekend is a “must-have” experience, then she is free to ask for the time off. If I’m in the position to be flexible, then I will cede to her wishes. If I’m not, then I expect that she will remain pleasant and do her job. We rematched with the one AP who pushed back on weekend shifts, because she was miserable and unpleasant about them.

Peachtree Mom March 11, 2015 at 6:09 pm

Wow, that would really FRUSTRATE me. Our aupair usually hits between 40 and 45 hours per week and during matching I told her I need the 3 Saturdays per month so I can get laundry done, cook, go through bills, take a nap, watch a Netflix without fallingn asleep etc. With a split schedule she is usually off from 8:30 to 4:00 Monday through Friday and done by 8:30 pm, she is free to do as she pleases during that off time. On Saturdays, she works from 9:30 to 3:00 ish and is then free until Monday morning. If Monday is a holiday, she gets that off also. On the same token, she wanted to take an impromptu trip to California for 5 days. I scrambled to find childcare, paid the money and allowed the extra vacation. Our aupair has never complained about the schedule. The aupair before her complained once that her friend had every weekend off. The friend was from the same agency and they arrived the same day so it stands to reason our families were matching at the same time. I pointed out that the family did not chose her and she was with us. Good grief.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 12, 2015 at 9:36 pm

Just being a Devil’s advocate here, but I don’t see that your AP really gets 1/2 day off a week, unless there’s a holiday. I, too, have my AP’s work a split shift, and depending on whether they drive the middle school carpool, they either are scheduled for work 5 1/4 or 6 1/2 hours each weekday (in reality, the Camel’s bus cuts their morning requirement & I often relieve them before their evening schedule ends, so it is often 4 3/4 or 5 1/2 hours a day). Nevertheless (and even though my APs often spend the time between their split shift sleeping or hanging out in their room), I don’t count it as a half day, because it’s not. I’m anchoring their days. Therefore, I only book the AP to work 5 hours at the weekend — unless she has a holiday during the week or DH and/or I are able to give her an AM/PM shift off.

And I will admit, this will be harder for me to stomach, come September, when child #2 is in high school, and we only need the AP for a max of 5 hours each day to care for The Camel.

Should be working March 12, 2015 at 10:09 pm

I thought Sat 3pm until Mon morning IS 1.5 days off. We have talked about this before: Is a half day off half the amount of usual hours, or approx 12 continuous hours? For instance if an AP worked 5am to 2pm on a Saturday and then not again until Monday, I would consider that 1.5 consecutive days off.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 12, 2015 at 10:37 pm

I disagree – if she’s working, as PTM indicates, from 9:30 to 3:00, then she’s working more hours than she normally works on a weekday. Half a day is 5 hours or less of working, in my book.

For the record – I assiduously (and perhaps pedantically) hold to 5 hours on a Saturday – unless my AP has had a holiday weekday, or DH or I have given her an AM/PM shift off! I also believe strongly in “the adult in charge.” So, even if it’s okay if my AP goes to bed and sleeps, if she’s the only adult in the house, then she’s not free to leave and must be “the adult in charge.” Therefore, she is working. DH and I fight about this on snow days all the time (because now I have two teenagers who routinely sleep in – it just happens to be that one of them has absolutely no self-help skills and could not escape on her own in the event of fire).

Also for the record – DH has been out of town all week and child #2’s Christmas present is concert tickets with both parents on Saturday. I really wish I could book my AP for more than 5 hours, but in addition to working her regular shift, she has been the “adult in charge” for extra hours because I traditionally leave for work before the kids wake up! I’m just sucking it up and sticking to 5 hours.

SKNY March 12, 2015 at 11:05 pm

I agree that a half day should not be more than 5hs. If Au pAirs are expected to work 10hs max on a weekday, it makes sense that a 1/2 day would be 5hs max.

TexasHM March 12, 2015 at 11:34 pm

I asked a counselor at CCAP this and you’re correct, it’s no more than 5 hours on the half day.

Peachtree Mom March 13, 2015 at 1:37 pm

You are right about 1/2 day being only 5 hours for the day. But our agency does not require the day off and the 1/2 day be consecutive. So if she only works 3 or 4 hours for the day during the week or even has the day off during the week because I am home, I am still allowed a full day on Saturday. I specifically asked about the days having to be consecutive and was told it was not required.

Peachtree Mom March 13, 2015 at 2:17 pm

OK, it took me a minute to understand what you meant by anchoring their day and not having a 1.5 days off for the week even if they only work 4 hours on a week day. Honestly I did not think of it like that. I will have to think about that.

Schnitzelpizza March 12, 2015 at 12:13 pm

“I’m wondering how most au pairs feel about the 45 hour work week. ”
I actually worked more than 45 hours a week (Mo – Fr 7 to 5/5.30) but still loved my schedule because… I had every evening and every weekend off and because I knew I worked more because my host parents worked.

1) From my experience, it’s often not a problem with total hours worked but with how the hours are scheduled.
During matching, they usually see the total hours when trying to figure out if they are getting a good deal. Only 35 hours instead of 45? Kids at school all day? Two full weekends off instead of only one? Great!

But after arrival, they notice that their friends have evenings off and do fun stuff (movies, dinner etc.) and they can’t join. They notice that their friends have every weekend off and can travel or go on day trips. It’s then easy to forget that their friends only have every evening off because they have already worked 10 hrs that day or that their friends have every weekend off because they have already worked 45 hrs that week.

Only after they have worked a split schedule can they notice that only working 7 hrs a day is not that great if that means getting up at 5 am to start working at 6 am, then being off from 8 am to 4 pm with “nothing” to do because their friends are working, and then being on duty from 4 pm until 9 pm while their friends are enjoying their free time together. If you add a curfew to the mix or living a bit further away and maybe a 30 minute trip to wherever their friends are meeting… They work a very nice schedule, hour wise. But for their social life, it might not be that convenient. Especially not if you add working Friday/Saturday night to the mix.

It might help to match with an applicant that has previously worked either full-time or part-time while at school full-time. But working full-time in a regular job will usually still mean having evenings and/or weekends off (unless retail or nursing or similar). And additionally you are putting them in a totally new environment that is much more interesting than their home town. Not only that but for a limited time – they only have one (or two) year to experience “it all”.

Plus, most never lived under one roof with their employer before (unless you find an applicant with previous au pair experience). Being an au pair is different to being a kindergarten teacher or working an office job. It’s also much more lonely than most other jobs where you have colleagues or clients to talk to.

Just because somebody has work experience does not mean they know how to be pro-active and plan activities for their time off during the day. Especially not alone (who wants to go to the gym alone without anyone they know in a foreing country?). In that case it might help to give them ideas on what to do during the day. Do you know of any host families who schedule their au pairs like you do? If not, maybe your LCC can get your au pair in touch with somebody with a similar schedule? Even if they don’t become best friends maybe they can do things together while your au pair gets more confident?

2) It’s not that I don’t see a need for mom and dad to relax, watch Netflix, go to the gym, join a book club, have a date night… but for many au pairs it will be easier to stomach if they work when their host parents work.

Not all au pairs are as mature as they think they are… we are after all usually talking about young adults who are still developing. Studies suggest that the brain developement goes on until 25, meaning with most au pair applicants you are still dealing with adolescents even though they might be of age (in their country or in the US).

An immature au pair will see that they give up their free time to make sure mom and dad get their free time.
Depending on how they were raised that might be completely foreign to them. When I grew up, my parents did not schedule me a babysitter to go to the gym or to watch tv. This was done while I was at school, in bed or at my own activities (I was raised by a single mom who scheduled her gym hours for when I was at ballett or swimming or handball practice). Free evenings were scheduled by allowing me to sleep over at a friend’s place for a night. My husband is from a traditional two-parent family where the parents scheduled their activities in such a way that one would always be with the children – mom would meet friends after dad had returned home from work, dad would go play cards when mom was home in the evenings. I doubt his parents ever had a “date night” while the children were young enough to need somebody home all the time.
If that’s your “normal”, being scheduled to watch your host parents’ children because they want to lock themselves in their room and watch Netflix might feel strange. They might, from their own upbringing because which other experiences can they rely upon?, expect their host dad to take over childcare while host mom is joinging her book club instead of going to the gym.

If that’s what you are scheduling, you might find that the complaints will decrease if you explain why you are scheduling it that way. Mom’s book club meets every Tuesday night and unfortunately that’s the night dad’s bowling league meets and you cannot move either of these so au pair needs to work. Do you have to explain it? Of course not. You are paying for 45 hrs of childcare and you are free to schedule them as you need. But you might find that actually explaining why you schedule as you schedule might make it easier for both sides.

3) Some applicants might match with you for reasons that have nothing to do with a schedule you drew up.
Some will match because they are desperate to find a family – because they age out, because they have been looking for a long time, because they need to leave by date x to be back home by date y to start unversity / training / job.
Some will match for location.
Some will match to just get going knowing you are not “the” family for them, planning on going into rematch after arrival.

4) It might have NOTHING to do with the schedule.
Your au pair might either be home sick, slowly getting out of the honeymoon stage, realising that the au pair experience is not as they had expected…
Your au pair might not be happy about something totally different in your family and be looking for an easy way out.
Your au pair might simply be spoiled and a little princess.

There are dozens of reasons why an au pair might be complaining about a schedule that she knew about and that sounds totally reasonable to an outsider.

Peachtree Mom March 13, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Funny you brought up locking yourself in the bedroom watching Netflix. I have a day off today and I am making our aupair’s favorite soup while doing my daughter’s laundry and getting ready to vacuum her bedroom ( I swear grass and sticks grow out of the carpet). Our aupair is in her room watching Netflix….everything is give and take. I love it when our aupair tells me how much she loves this soup and I love it when she takes my daughter to gymnastics. :)

JJ Host Mom March 13, 2015 at 12:00 am

We had this problem with our last au pair (that we went into rematch with.)

Our schedule is a split school shift and we said during interview that she would work one Friday night, one Saturday night, and one Saturday morning a month, and have the fourth weekend off. She agreed to that schedule. Even with weekend hours she still only worked about 40 hours a week with plenty of padding built in. We make up the schedule months in advance, we asked her which weekend she wanted off each month and scheduled around that, and made changes when she requested them. We also gave her all federal holidays plus at least a few weeks of extra vacation each year. And still she complained… we ended up getting bullied into never scheduling her for Saturday nights. That was just one in a long line of rematch cues I should have tuned into long before I did.

SKNY March 13, 2015 at 10:09 am

I know it is not completely related, but how do other host parents deal with au pairs passive-agressive behavior of dropping here and there how “other au pairs were soooo lucky!”.
Every single one of my former au pairs did it. Even my awesome ones! Even the most loved one. We would be talking lightly about something and I would hear a relaxed: “oh, you wont believe… Remember Mary Joe? Well, she is going to DC (6hs away) driving her (family’s) car. It is far right? but listen to it: they even filled the tank for her, so she doesn’t pay gas. And she doesn’t even work that much… You know, only one baby, her host never uses her hours… It seems amazing…”
So while they never really “complained”, it annoyed me to pieces. With one au pair I tried the: “well, but I think she works Saturday nights, right? so she has her share of…” but learned it was not worth it, because she would go right back to: oh, but it is only 1 Saturday”, or “well, but the baby is so calm that doesn’t count…” So I decided to just reply to those comments like: “oh, really?” or “oh ok” or “nice for her”… But they still annoyed me to death….
Does it bother others, or you guys just ignore completely?
I even heard once: “did you know that xxxx host mom lets her spank the kids when they misbehave? I don’t think I’d feel comfortable but they let her, and boy are those boys well behaved”
Seriously… what did she expect? Me to say: “Really? Lets try! Starting today you are free to spank too???” geezz

DowntownMom March 13, 2015 at 9:21 pm

SKNY, I also had a number of those. One did it so frequently that I finally asked what the point was. She stopped and I wished I had called her on it much earlier.

exaupair March 14, 2015 at 5:31 pm

I guess it’s in peoples nature to complain, even if there is no *actual* reason for complaining. Show me one person who never vents about their job :-) On a serious note, I understand how frustrating it can be to have an AP complaining about the schedule they were aware of BEFORE they matched with you. Unless the rules dramatically changed after they arrived, APs should just try and live with it.

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