When Your Au Pair Complains About The Schedule

by cv harquail on October 31, 2012

Even when we host parents follow all the rules about scheduling, we can still run into trouble when au pairs begin to resent that their on-duty schedule cuts into their off-duty social time.

Whether it’s a Saturday night that you need her to work, a school holiday he too thinks he should have ‘off’, or a sudden ‘need’ to take a class on the very weeknights you need your au pair to be caring for your kids, these sorts of conflicts can be frustrating.

We Tell Au Pairs What Schedule To Expect

owl yard signs.jpeg

Most of us do our best to head these concerns off at the pass.

We inform prospective au pairs what they can expect in terms of the regular weekly schedule. We tell au pairs up front that they can expect to be on duty one Saturday night a month, or always on weekdays between the hours of 2 pm and 7 pm, or in some cases at early times in the morning (e.g., 5:30 or 6:00 when host parents must leave early for work). Or, we tell them that we work shifts and can only schedule them two weeks in advance.

We clearly communicate our scheduling needs, and match only with au pairs who agree that these schedules are okay with them.

We Follow the Rules About Scheduling

Once we’ve communicated our needs and expectations, we scrupulously follow the rules.  We work hard to make sure we are fair and that our au pairs have no reason to complain.

And yet, they do complain. And they ask us to change their schedules.

When we try to be accommodating and move the schedule around, we can run into trouble. Once we’ve cancelled our Saturday Night ‘Date Night” so that the au pair can go to a party, some au pairs can take advantage of that and assume that our plans for ourselves don’t really matter. Flexibility is seen as a sign that everything is negotiable.

We can find ourselves accommodating so much that at some point we sit up and ask “who’s working for whom?”

And so, this host mom below finds herself in a quandry:

Dear AuPairMom–

We are a 1st time host family and have an au pair from the EU. I work full time in a demanding job. My husband is a consultant who works out of town, he is often gone all week long.

I was becoming overwhelmed with daycare dropoff/pickup, cooking dinner, laundry etc, because I was often on my own. The few nights out I had to myself were pretty limited, and required a babysitter.   We decided to get an au pair to help my life be a little more manageable, and to allow our daughter more time at home. We thought getting an au pair would alleviate some of the work-day stress on me, provide some opportunities for date nights with my husband and/or friends, and have more quality time with our daughter.

I feel like our Au pair has a pretty cushy gig. She watches 1 child (7 yrs old) who is a little high energy but fairly well behaved and is super sweet. She goes to school, so we only schedule our au pair to work ~33 hours during the week.

She often takes her to activities, and we will pay so they can go to the zoo, etc.   She gets to use the car whenever she wants. We pay for whatever she wants for groceries, allow her to have friends spend the night, include her in everything we do (travel, dinners out, etc). For her part, she is good with our daughter and often will do extra work like doing our laundry or cooking dinner. She is in general a responsible, hard worker.

Where we are running into trouble may come from misaligned expectations.

We have a constant source of struggle and tension around the schedule. When we were interviewing, we made it very clear that the schedule would not be the same every week, and that the reason we were getting an au pair was because we needed some help and flexibility.

I showed a sample schedule that had her working on a weeknight one night and working a Saturday night.

After about 3 months, when she had more friends and was making more plans, she began complaining a lot about the schedule. I have heard over and over that her friends only have to work M-F, and always have the evenings and weekends off. I recognize it is frustrating to have a fluid schedule, but I have never asked her to cancel plans and have made huge efforts to finalize her schedule one week in advance.  take responsibility.jpeg

However, she is still complaining. A perfect example… I do my best to give her a schedule in advance, so that she can plan ahead. I set her schedule last Sunday for the following week, which included watching our daughter Saturday night (at then end of the same week). I have not asked her to work on the weekend for over a month now.

She is upset because there were some parties going on that Saturday. I pointed out to her that if it wasn’t this party, it would be something else. Essentially, she is unhappy anytime I schedule anything on a weekend.

I would like to know from other host families if we are being unreasonable. Is it unfair for us to expect that she work 2 weekends per month, give that she only works 33 hours during the week?

I am getting tired of the constant attitude I get about the schedule, and this has morphed into attitude overall.

I would like to remedy this situation, but at this point I don’t know if it can be saved. I am hoping there will be some great tips, and also would love to hear from folks who have travelling spouses, as this adds some unique scheduling challenges.

See these post for more wisdom:

The Saturday Night Situation: When your Au Pair doesn’t think it’s fair that s/he’s on duty
Classic Case: Your childcare needs are not your Au Pair’s priority
Scheduling Your Au Pair: The Half Day
Au Pair Asks: How can I get my Host Mom to give me a schedule?
Almost-done Au Pair Refuses to Work Weekends!
When your Au Pair complains about working too many hours, but still less than 45… what can you do?

Images: Owl Yard Decorations from The Paige Spot, available on Etsy
Please Take Responsibility from barnowlprimitives, available on Etsy


Mom Of 2 Cool Kids October 31, 2012 at 6:27 pm

I can relate since both my husband and I travel frequently (not at the same time).

It is a relief for both of us on those weeknights while the other is away to have an extra set of hands in the evenings, get help with pick ups/drop offs, laundry, and having the flexibility for date nights which can be difficult when you and your spouse feel like two ships passing in the night.

So far, we have been able to coordinate a date night every other Saturday night. So to answer one of your questions, it is not unreasonable to expect your au pair to work those nights – especially since you set this expecation early on.

It sounds to me like your au pair has created a fruitful social life – which generally is a great thing. My fear is that I will have an au pair who is lonely and/or only wants to hang out with us. But, maybe it is getting a little too enjoyable and she needs a little reminder that she needs to balance that with other responsibilities and commitments she has made.

It is probably time for a converation with her. Here are a couple of suggestions to alleviate some of the stress:

1. I understand the need for a fluid schedule (we have one ourselves in my family). But even when I don’t know the weekday schedule for sure, I try to mark down on our calendar a month or so in advance the Saturday nights we need her to work so she can make plans. This might help her get in her head when she can make weekend plans. Also, when I have done this, on a couple of occassions my au pair has had something come up she really wants to do on a night she is scheduled to work. She asked me if we had special plans on those nights and would it be possible to schedule her to work on a different weekend. It ended up it was easy for us to move things around so it wasn’t a big deal and it only happened a couple of times during the course of a year.

2. Consider a date night on a Friday or Sunday night. This may not always be possible with travel schedules, but maybe this is something you can compromise on so that she feels like she has more Saturday nights free.

3. Explain to her because of your husband’s travel schedule how important it is for you two to have this time together. I know my au pairs understand it because they see how hectic our lives are and the limited quality time we get together. This would be a good opportunity to let her know you appreciate it that she gives you the opportunity to have date nights and reconnect.

Good luck!

spanishaupair October 31, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I think it’s something it usually happens because the aupairs don’t realize how much work is really take care of children, in your case is not so much that problem i think, and when they accept babysitting on saturdays will mean that she can’t go partying with her friends that should be free, but is part of the job.
About your special one, i don’t think is a good idea to don’t ask for that nights of babysitting, what you can do is if possible plan them a bit in advance and negotiate if you wish with the aupair which weekend (when possible) could be that one weekend she really has an important party: like birthdays, goodbyes or whatever. And if possible give her schedule a bit in advice, really is kind of complicated to plan anything if you don’t know when you are working. My hostmum is cabin crew so i have very different hours but i appreciate to know them with some advice to plan my free time. One thing you can do as you don’t ask for lots of hours, to schedule her more hours and give that hours you don’t need as a treat.

Posie October 31, 2012 at 7:18 pm

We ask our AP to let us know in advance of any weekend plans and we will do our best to plan around them (ours also works about 2 date nights/month…usually on Saturdays). If it’s a super special occasion for us or something planned like theatre tickets that we can’t reschedule we will just let her know.

I have come to realize though that Halloween, New Years Eve, and July 4 are holidays where the au pairs want to do something American. My husband and I have decided not to schedule them for those days (or on the Saturday where everyone is doing Halloween parties), which is kind of a bummer, but not that big of a deal. Last year we had our AP watch kids for a few hours early on in the evening on NYE so we could have dinner and then she went out to a party when we got home around 9 (and then we cracked open the champagne).

My point being is that I feel like as host parents it is definitely our job to find out the events that are truly important to the AP and work around those, even if it means we miss out on the occasional event. Conversely, it’s TOTALLY within our rights as host parents to schedule the AP for a weekend night shift when we have something important planned (and even sometimes if we just want to go see a movie!!)

From a practical standpoint, I think you can point out to your AP that some girls work every weekend (except the one weekend off per month). This is true of several friends of our current AP.

You can also offer (if you’re comfortable with it) that your AP can go out after you get home on a Saturday night. Our kids go to bed by 8 and usually we are home by 10 at the latest. Often times our AP will get herself ready after kids asleep and just leave as soon as we get home (and she’s not much of a party girl but lots of parties don’t start until around 10 anyway!)

And finally, if she really wants to socialize on a night you have her working and you’re comfortable, let her have a few girlfriends over after your daughter is in bed. That might make it better.

But bottom line is it’s well within your rights to have her work on weekends, she’s in need of an attitude adjustment on this one :)

Taking a Computer Lunch October 31, 2012 at 8:56 pm

When I had infants and toddlers, my AP worked 42.5 hours a week, and the other 2.5 was a cushion for failed trains and no-show buses. She had every weekend off (although occasionally we paid her the going babysitting rate for a couple of hours on a weekend night – but more often DH and I had “date night” after the kids went to bed because it was cheaper all around).

For the past several years we have school-age children and our APs have worked 25-30 hours per week on average. When I make the schedule, I build in a cushion (e.g. travel time home for driving, extra time to feed The Camel) and don’t deduct it from the AP’s schedule when she doesn’t work every minute possible. We, too, send out a sample schedule in our “dare to match with us letter.” We have found that young women itching to match say “Yes” to anything, which includes our 6:00 AM start time and the 5 hours on Saturdays 2-3 times per month. And, yes, sometimes we get push back once friendships develop.

In my 11 1/2 years of hosting, I have had more push back from young APs who have not had practical work experience as part of their education. My extraordinnaire APs knew the score and were either ready to go out the minute I got home (I don’t have a curfew and DH and I have no stamina), invited friends in for after the kids were asleep, or had a quiet night in.

With those who complain, I’m blunt. I say “I know you came here to have a good time and to hang out with friends, but I matched with you because I need you to work.” I point out that they have six hours off most weekdays, plus most evenings. Most get it. I don’t feel the need to beg. I don’t feel the need to explain. The schedule is the schedule. We ask for flexibility because The Camel is medically fragile and the schedule can change on a dime. In exchange, we are willing to be flexible. If our AP suddenly finds herself working 2 10-hour days in a row because a child is sick, we automatically give her the weekend off when we are able (and certainly would not make her work if the total hours would exceed 45).

With those who work hard, I give in. “You’re doing such a great job, and I appreciate how willing you are to do X. Sure, we’ll change our plans this one time.”

Push back yourself. So she’s desperate for that Saturday night off? Give her a choice, “Would you rather work on Friday night or Sunday afternoon?” DH and I sometimes book the AP to work on a Saturday afternoon so we can go to an exhibition or do some Christmas shopping together. Or, if she insists that she needs that Saturday night off, tell her that she’ll be using half a day of her vacation time if it’s that important to her. (Once again, I personally would not push back against a stellar AP, it’s the one who’s ready to run away from work any time it’s possible.)

Your best bet against complaints about the schedule is to make it in advance. I do my best, by the 25th of the month, to make the schedule for the following month. I keep a wall calendar in a common place in my home, and the AP’s schedule is inked in. It’s not carved in stone, but it is there in plain sight, along with all the kids’ activities, the afternoons I need to work later than typical, DH’s travel, drs. appts, and special events.

It’s okay, even gracious to be flexible. It’s a great tool to reward the stellar AP. But in return, you get to demand some flexibility back. Fair is fair.

American AP in Europe November 1, 2012 at 5:58 am

I think you’re getting a lot of good advice, but I wonder how empathetic you are being to your AP because of this line:
” I pointed out to her that if it wasn’t this party, it would be something else.”
You completely dismissed her concern when she brought it to you and treated her horribly in this particular instance.

This party was important to her, for whatever reason. Instead of recognizing her feelings, you completely invalidated it. No wonder she didn’t care about what was important to you.

If you want to work with your AP, you don’t have to bend over backwards to accommodate her needs for the schedule, but you must acknowledge and validate what is important to her, even if you don’t give in.

Calif Mom November 3, 2012 at 9:24 am

Her point is that this au pair is now HABITUALLY pushing back on the schedule.

This host mom is bending a LOT. I think you’re over-interpreting one phrase.

azmom November 5, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Yes, those may ‘seem’ as important when you’re first gaining friends, but honestly, because i work i missed a LOT of things I’d prefer to do. I’d rather head to the gym, go to playdates with my kids, etc, but I have to choose to do what I do… some families can’t choose for a parent not to work, but the au pair CHOSE to come to the US as an au pair, she’s working a full DAY+ worth of hours and has ONE charge. ONE!

i agree with the other comment below – au pairs, once they get a good group of friends will likely have something to do every weekend night. it isn’t the “nicest” thing to do, but the alternative is scheduling in 40+ hours each week. “Important is a going away party for someone to me” not just a birthday party for a friend of a friend of someone they sorta met last week.

The other thing is most of the time host parents are back by 10-11 pm anyway, and that’s when a lot of the parties are just starting, if that.

exaupair now european hosmum November 1, 2012 at 6:38 am

When I was an au pair, I used to work every single saturday night, and several other nights during the week. My at that time recently divorced host mum had a busy social life, so my social life was not so busy. Still I greatly enjoyed my time au pairing in the Usa. Your au pair’s schedule sounds like Heaven to me….

London Au Pair November 1, 2012 at 6:45 am

I think it’s important to be open with an AP about these kinds of issues – sooner rather than later. It’ll could make a huge difference in the long run.

Best wishes, Alex.

Newhostmom November 1, 2012 at 7:52 am

I think her schedule sounds 100% normal. In fact, that’s exactly the schedule that the other au pairs I know here have when they have school-aged kids. I’d venture to say that for many (most?) host parents, the #1 benefit of the au pair choice over other child care is the flexibility with the schedule.

We have almost the same schedule for ou au pair – mornings and after school on weekdays (about 25-30 hours) and then 5-7 hours every other weekend. We also sometimes ask her to work on one weeknight. We usually do one Sunday night date and one Saturday night date a month.

We are very clear about this schedule when we match and very clear that we will be using hours for date nights and not just for work and that it’s important to our marriage that we get out together once a week.

We set the schedule a month in advance and sit down to talk about it each month and mark which times are necessary and whih are just dinners out that could be changed if something comes up. I think setting the schedule as far in advance as possible (a week early is probably not enough) is really helpful.

We also tell our au pair that she can let us know when her plans begin and we can sometimes have an early date night so she can go out after (we don’t have a curfew). With our last au pair, we welcomed her to have friends over after putting the kids to bed. I’ll likely suggest that to our new au pair after we get to meet her friends and gain some trust.

Anyway, your schedule is 100% normal and reasonable and you sound like you have an ineffective communicator. I personally would not be able to tolerate the immaturity, whininess, and ungratefulness. Maybe agree to set the schedule earlier and tell her when you ca be flexible and when you can’t, and beyond that, tell her that’s the schedule you need, it’s the one you agreed to at match, and the relationship won’t work out if she can’t work the required hours.

WestMom November 1, 2012 at 7:58 am

Your Au Pair does have a cushy gig. She is caring for a single child who is in school all day. She probably gets a large portion of the weekdays off. It’s unfair to compare her schedule to her friends’ who might be working all day with younger kids, therefore w/ schedules that do not allow for evening and weekend babysitting. Other APs’ schedules is not your problem.

You sound like a nice and generous mom who is doing a lot to keep her AP happy. I think it’s time for a little talk about the reasons for her being here in the first place. You welcomed her into your family in exchange for caring for your child 45hrs per week. She is already working at least 10hrs less than the hours you are entitled to. There should be no whining here.

With our first AP, I only used to schedule her for 38-42hrs per week. I realized over the years that I should always start with a 45hrs schedule. This helps set the expectations for the year ahead. I would rather be the nice mom who gives a couple extra hours off here and there, than the one who suddenly starts to ask for more…

A few tips that might help: Continue to plan your date nights ahead of time (even farther in advance if possible); Ask you AP to let you know in advance of any important plans she might have on weekends (we always work around plans for concerts, goodbye dinners, Halloween parties, etc.), agree to come back a little earlier so she can still join her friends later…

Newhostmom November 1, 2012 at 7:58 am

In reading it over again, I think working together on the schedule at the beginning of each month might help a lot. She probably already had it in her head that she was going to that party and then a week before, found out she had to work. Communication would probably help this a lot.

Tell her “as we indicated during matching, I need you to work one Saturday a month and one weeknight a week. I can be flexible about which one usually, so lets work together to find the days that work for both of us. This will be the schedule after we set it, so if this process doesn’t work for you or you can’t agree to working at all during evenings and week nights, then I will need to find an au pair who can work the schedule I need her for.”

HRHM November 1, 2012 at 8:23 am

BTDT. You have an entitled AP…there’s probably not much you are going to say/do that will improve things, short of giving her exactly what she wants.

When this happened to us with AP3, I was just about to be deployed and we wanted her to be happy and care for our kids while I was gone and hubby was on his own. So we caved (over a vacation week, not a Saturday, although that came later). Huge mistake. It was just the signal that we would eventually give in if she pushed hard enough. She was unhappy that she had to work on bank holidays (“You have off, shy shouldn’t I have off?” – REALLY!) and mad that she had to work on weekends (in the middle of the day no less, didn’t even cut into her party time – but she wanted to be free to travel every weekend)

By the time I returned from deployment, it was like DH was working for her! And BTW, all the rules and schedule were explained to her and given to her in writing in advance of accepting the match. It didn’t matter, she just wanted what she wanted and nothing could dissuade her. In the end, I realized that we should have rematched with the first incident. After her,we actually took a year off from APs to recover!

Hold your ground and if she’s really miserable she should rematch into a family with small children where she can work her whole 45 M-F from 8-5. She may have her evenings and weekends free, but she’ll be too exhausted to enjoy them! LOL

Calif Mom November 3, 2012 at 9:26 am

yep — I’m sniffing entitlement and immaturity here too.

HMinDelRay November 1, 2012 at 8:48 am

I think you have been fair and this AP is maybe not so cognizant about how hard others may have it.

Our AP has 3 kids under the age of 3. When she is working there is hardly a moment to breathe. She does the FULL 45 hours and we schedule in advance. We know there are social activities and parties with friends on Fridays and Saturdays. She generally gets to go to one of those nights. She works every other Saturday during the day which means that the Friday night before working she has to be home 8 hrs before starting. She gets every other weekend off. My husband is a chef and works odd hours. Flexibility really is important.
Maybe the area coordinator could also generate a conversation and moderate it a little to vet some of these issues. Maybe if the AP saw that her schedule is actually better than others she might have a little more gratitude in her attitude… ?
Good luck! Let us know how it goes – when is her 12-months up? Just curious…

HMinDelRay November 1, 2012 at 9:08 am

I agree was some above posts who say that it is a slippery slope when you have a person with a poor attitude on an issue. I am as positive as they come and always optimistic but my AP also did not start with a curfew, but when I saw her come home a few times in the middle of the night for a 7 am start, and overslept 3-4 times, we imposed the 8-hr before you start, you need to be home rule. During a recent clarifying conversation, she pointed to that change as a source of resentment.
There are a few options and depends on each family and AP: have a talk and be stern. Possible suggestion “if you don’t like or accept our realities – we know its not for every AP – we were honest and upfront about our needs. We wish you had been, too. Now if you prefer not to abide by the schedule as it is, let us know if you want to rematch. If you decide to stay – it would include accepting the situation with a smile.” Just my 2cents…

Calif Mom November 3, 2012 at 9:28 am

just be sure when you “offer” rematch the au pair doesn’t then find a way to poison the well with your counselor.

Just happened to us. Start talking with the counselor so she is on alert that things are not going well.

Dorsi November 1, 2012 at 9:17 am

If your LCC is any good, it would help to involve her. Your AP needs to hear, that 1) this is allowed, 2) this is normal, 3) this is easier than many other AP situations. You may have already said this, but it will resonated coming from another person. She is hearing one thing from you and something else from a dozen different APs. The LCC should help her understand what the rematch landscape would look like (working full, long days with small children, or moving to another state).

I don’t believe that getting this AP the schedule much more in advance will help a lot. In my experience, most APs do not plan things far in advance. I do try to let my AP know when her one (1!!!) weekend off a month is, so she can plan travel. With our current AP, I often am able to let her start quite late on Monday (2p or so) which gives her time over the weekend to travel, etc. I also limit weekend nights out, because I know they are very important to her, and I can get my quality DH time in on weeknights. I do this to be kind to an AP who shows an excellent attitude and never complains. Otherwise, I would not be so interested in working around.

Also, as a general rule, most experienced HMs on this site (myself included) can tell you the story about the AP that they should have rematched with sooner. It is hard when you have a semi-stable situation to think about shaking things up, but regretful in retrospect when you realized you spent the last half of the year thinking “just 6..5…4..3…more months”.

Emerald City Host Mom November 1, 2012 at 11:50 am

I was going to comment that I think a good LCC will point out the benefits of whatever schedule the au pair has when they talk about it at the inital “how are you settling in” meeting.

Ours right now has a M-F 45 hour per week schedule and we are hitting the icky weather, so that has to be physically and mentally draining to do that every week.

Calif Mom November 3, 2012 at 9:30 am

Few of them plan — and the ones who do often have to shift their plans because their friends don’t.

Half the time they are getting ready to go out without knowing where they are going, or with whom.

I’m not sure calendaring is going to help. advance calendaring WILL cover your butt, though, with the counselor, and you will need that counselor’s support during rematch.

Seriously — she sounds like just another superficial girl who wants to go on vacation with her buddies in the states for a year.

westcoastaupair November 1, 2012 at 9:25 am

wow! i had to read this twice:)
i have a hard time to simpatize with this au pair… she simply is not being fair..you sound like a great hostmom…working around HER schedule as much as you can, wow, you woudn`t have to do that! She sounds to me like she is very lazy.. a 7 year old, in school all day? ok..my idea would be to schedule here every saturday ( exept the one in every month) if you need her that saturday, great. if not, give her off. i am sure she will make plans at the minute you tell her. but like this she assumes she has to work. i have a friend, and her hostfamily does it like this as well. the need her usually 2 nights out of 3. she is here to work! YOU pay her! i am in my second year. i have two kids 3 and 6. i work around 38-42 h. i usually work saturday nights. saturday is their date night, and i know that. it was always like that. they don`t need me every week. maybe 1-2 times, so if i plan something for saturday, i always ask my hm first.
An other idea is, to tell her how things are. i know rematch is not fun, but you can tell her, that you might send her into rematch if she keeps complaining on the hours she is supposed to work. ( and believe me, she does not want to rematch. it is hard to find a family with only 1 child over 5! she got what se wants! she just tries to get more out of you to make her life even more easy! but she is here to make YOUR life easy! i am usually on the au pairs sides, because i am one myself, but this is not OK! i hope it goes well! good luck!

Anonamomma November 1, 2012 at 9:48 am

IMO you need a reset conversation. Stop being nice!

As in sit down with the AP and the LCC and explain to the AP that she works for you and you are not there to provide her with play money and pad that she can crash at between parties. (I’m taking this from the “it would be something else” reference)

You need the LLC there to show her that you mean business and let the LCC know that you are having issues.

Personally I always play hard ball when I have an issue with my APs and it has alway worked for me and I have never had an AP leave me and have had two extensions – but I am very honest (nearly brutally so).

In your instance this would mean explaining to your AP that you are well within your rights to schedule her for 45hrs a week – with one weekend off and that is what you will do if her attitude doesn’t return to the girl who first arrived (assuming there was no attitude then).

Also from now there will be a date night every second weekend – no matter what – even if it means going to the movies on your own – so be it.

And sorry but when it comes to the schedule – you said before she came that you can only do this one week in advance – and she agreed – end off. It might be an idea to print off some of the emails sent prior to her arrival where the AP agreed to the schedule (or lack thereof) and ask her to reread them – as an actual reminder that you are not the big bad wolf and that in reality she is the one being unreasonable.

APs are required to be flexible and if they agreed to not getting a schedule until the week beforehand then that was the agreement – I can not tell my boss that his schedule doesn’t suit me – nor can this AP.

And I know that some might say that you are gettin into a power struggle but it sounds to me like you are nearly in one. Time to take back that power.

If not save yourself a lot of time, stress, and money and rematch.

Another thing to note that if she is not with you that long and this is already an issue, it’s not going to get better unless you get on top of it. That is why I do not recommend trying to accomodate her because by the sound of it “it will always be something else”

Keep us posted on how you get on

Calif Mom November 3, 2012 at 9:32 am

I need you to come shadow me if we ever get another au pair! :D

I have no problem playing hard ball at work, but boy these au pairs are another matter…

anonamomma November 4, 2012 at 4:29 am

I’m hearing yah!

It’s so funny because I know when my posts are read I sound so harsh and honestly I really am that harsh. I’m very simple like that in my thinking – with me there is no bs.

I don’t have time for the middle ground (i.e. let’s make everybody happy). I’ve learned the hard way that when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one, so I put myself and my family first.

For me it’s important that our AP understands that there is a chain of command.

I support her 100% in her projects/travelling/social life/partying, etc as long as it does NOT interfere with my schedule and my family’s needs. In the rare occasions that there have been conflicts then we work it out (fairly).

IMO this the way the programme is supposed to work.

But APs must realise that they are here to help first and foremost.

And I love it when APs post I’m glad you’re not my Hostmom because that’s a lesson for them in themselves.

Consider me the (harsh!) voice of reason.

Should be working November 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Weird, sometimes my posts don’t show up here. Anyone else have that problem?

Anonamamma, I need to channel your toughness. AP just told me she got surprised by friends with an event planned (and bought) on a night when I have a commitment. I don’t want to cancel my own stuff. I don’t have to cancel my own stuff.

Anonamomma November 6, 2012 at 4:24 am

Correct – you don’t have to cancel your own stuff.

In this situation my event is concrete (unless it’s something that can be easily rescheduled).

I look to my AP and ask her to come up with a solution so that she can attend her event. I put all the responsibility on her.

How can she fix this you ask – well does she have a (suitable) friend who would be willing to babysit for her (at no expense to me), i.e. a friend who would do HER a favour.

If not she has to suck it up – and no I would not offer to buy her a ticket for another occasion – I wouldn’t offer to pay for half the ticket that she is loosing.

Why – because it’s not my problem (harsh eh!)

Really why? Because by offering to do those things (i.e. replace/cover the ticket) suggests that I am even a little responsible for her missing out or worse that I feel guilty – implying that I have done something wrong – when I haven’t – so I don’t.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 6, 2012 at 8:10 am

I agree. You sit her down and talk face to face (most of my AP conversations tend to take place when I’m cooking, so my back is to them most of the time – which is NOT COMMUNICATING – I can’t see their faces or read their body language). For routine communication, it doesn’t matter, but for important stuff, it does.

Sit her down, say that it was really nice of her friends to surprise her with a ticket, but as she can see from the calendar you have a commitment and she has to work. Tell her that you’re not sticking to your plans to be mean, but because they’re your plans and they were on the calendar first. Remind her that living with other people requires compromise. Do tell her you’re sorry that she has to give up her plans.

If you feel comfortable with her finding a friend to babysit, then certainly go ahead and take Anonamomma’s advice and let her find a solution that will let you both do what you want. I would advise her that the friend must come and meet you and the kids at least one day prior to the event.

My guidelines say that the AP is allowed to ask for time off from the regular schedule to attend events in advance. While most of their planning tends to be spontaneous, concert tickets have to be purchased long in advance.

The only time I will cancel my weekend plans is 1) if DH or I get sick or 2) a child has been so sick that we have maxed out our hours for the week. This happens frequently enough, that our APs have tended to work weekends only 1 or 2 evenings a month.

If the AP works full-time for a couple of days (we have school aged children and most days our AP works less than 5 1/2 hours) and all DH and I have schedule is dinner and a movie, then we’ll cancel our plans and stay in. If we have an event or tickets and we haven’t maxed out our hours, then we don’t cancel.

The bottom line – being an AP is not like being a high school babysitter. An AP cannot cancel HP weekend evening plans just because she found something better to do. She has a commitment to and a relationship with your family – and like all of those, there always has to be give and take.

Should be working November 6, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Good ideas. I communicated by email because we weren’t actually going to cross paths anytime soon, and told her that if she has special plans that produce a conflict that she needs to 1. Tell me what she sees on the calendar as her responsibilities during that stretch; 2. Tell me what she wants; 3. Suggest solutions so that I don’t have to manage it all. She wrote back and did just that. I felt better. I might be willing to work it out so that kids get farmed out to friends for a few hours until I’m home. Especially if I feel like it’s not ME scrambling for a solution so that SHE gets what she wants.

OpinionatedHM November 1, 2012 at 10:51 am

You ask if you are being unreasonable by scheduling your AP on weekends when she only works 33 hours a week. The problem here seems to be that your AP does not appreciate the hours she does have off because she is only focused on the hours she does not have off. I agree with TACL about AP’s with prior work experience being easier to schedule. AP’s with work experience, and those involved in competitive team sports, understand what it means to adhere to someone else’s schedule.

You are not being unreasonable. When we had pushback from our AP on scheduling I explained to her that we matched with her because we really liked her and thought she would fit well with our family and would be great with the kids, but that the entire reason we need an AP is to provide the flexible childcare that we require. (My husband also travels frequently, often with only a day’s notice and my class schedule sometimes requires evenings and early mornings.) I told our AP that I understood completely if she felt our schedule didn’t work for her and she was always able to rematch, but that i hoped she’d find a way to make it work because we all really love her.

I find that the “you are wonderful and we’d be sad to see you go but we understand if you choose to leave” approach is effective in these situations. This way if she chooses to stay, she is choosing that schedule and recommitting to her decision to be an AP to your family. She is in control of her fate. If I were to threaten to rematch if she didn’t work the schedule, then she can still feel resentful and we get nowhere. Of course, you have to be prepared for her to leave, but wouldn’t it be better if she took herself out of the game and let you move on with another, more accommodating AP?

BTW we schedule our AP 45 hours a week, she works one or both weekend days every week except for her weekend off, and we have date night every Thursday that my husband is in town or i’ll go out with friends if he is not in town. We do ask our AP’s what they want to accomplish with their year in America and do everything we can to help her make it happen. I also do everything I can to accommodate advance requests for days or weekends off. But I am unapologetic when I can’t accommodate them. It’s part of the deal.

It reads to me like you are doing everything you can to make her happy and you did mention that she is doing a good job in other areas. Hopefully weekends off aren’t more important to your AP than remaining with your family. I think it’s time for you to find out.

newhostmom November 1, 2012 at 11:38 am

I love your approach – thanks for this!

CA Host Mom November 2, 2012 at 1:04 am


Au Pair in Chicago November 1, 2012 at 11:47 am

Hi! From this post I get the feeling that the schedule is not the only problem, as you say you’re not sure the relationship can be saved. I strongly recommend that you talk to your LCC/AD or whatever your agency calls her, and explain everything, without holding any details. If she is a good and experienced LCC, she will tell you what to do. I don’t think it’s unreasonable but as your AP thinks it is, it’s going to be hard for you because even if she doesn’t complain directly, you’ll have to look at her face before you go out and that can end up killing your relationship.
If I were you, I would try one more time to solve the situation through the LCC, and if that doesn’t work, I would tell her how about we rematch.
maybe it was just a feeling, but I’m sure with all the advice that you got above, it will be easier for you :)

EU.AP November 1, 2012 at 12:21 pm

My HM gives me about a week notice for weekend babysitting, and I have a set weekday schedule which gets redone every few months. If there is some traveling I want to do, I pick a weekend (or two) and ask my HM if that works for them before booking. Never has there been any complaints on either side.

Also, I have multiple kids spanning in age. Planning activities that everyone agrees on is a pipe dream, and settling “s/he hit me” “s/he hit me first” “but s/he called me stupid” arguments are exhausting.

Your AP needs to learn to see the benefits and stop focusing on what others have, it will do her well the rest of her life.

EmmieJane November 1, 2012 at 1:03 pm

I only plan my au pair’s schedule a week in advance. I have thought to try to move it to two weeks, but I haven’t made the move. Honestly, my 2 au pairs have been such last minute planners with their social lives (on Saturday morning, they usually have no idea the plan for Saturday night), I don’t think it has really made a difference. My first au pair, who was more social, would occasionally tell/ask me about tickets or trips away, and I would try to accomodate.

I ask my au pair to work on Saturday nights often. A lot of times we are home before she is even ready to go out. Our au pair worked last Saturday from 4p-8p and will be working this Saturday from 5p-10:30p. She had the weekend before completely off. It really varies for us, but she has lots of time off during the week. We do try to go out a lot on Friday nights, to free her up more on the weekends, but lately that hasn’t worked for us.

I am only on my 2nd au pair, and honestly have not had this problem yet. I have seen other au pairs have much worse schedules; I think you sound completely reasonable. I would just tell her-she will need to work some Saturday nights, but can certainly go out after you get home.

Cindy McLoughlin November 1, 2012 at 2:34 pm

It is absolutely within your right to have her work the schedule you CLEARLY communicated to her before she came- the schedule she agreed to!! She is her to help you! That is why she is in the United States. You aren’t asking her to give up every weekend night for the year. She was well aware of what she was getting into, and I think she is being quite immature complaining that she is the only one who has to work aomw Saturday nights. You’ve really done your best to accommodate her, make her feel part of the family, but you absolutely should NOT sacrifice your quality time with your husband so your AU-pair can have the perfect social life!!!!

Cindy McLoughlin November 1, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Sorry- auto correct! She is here to help you! And some Saturday nights. I also love what opinionatedhm wrote. Please let us know your outcome.

angiehostmom November 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm

We’re also in a flexible schedule situation. I talk the schedule through with my au pair each week, with the whole month calendar in front of us, rather than just hand it over. I find that then she can tell me about her parties or whatnot and I can tell her about my moms night out and we can generally find something that works. If there is an argument about a date, we look at the whole month to see if there is a way we can both be happy. Generally works.

Au Pair in Australia November 1, 2012 at 11:02 pm

To be honest, I believe that if they work hard in the week, they deserve the full weekend free, otherwise they can not change their minds, and start with energy next Monday, I have always given my au pairs Friday and Saturday nights for them, I only ask them to work 2 hours on Saturdays to make beds, breakfasts, tidy kitchen, etc and then they are free till next Monday, we usually go out for our date night on Thursdays, this way we have some privacy as well, as most of the times by the third week they start to stay at their friends house to sleep on Saturdays night, which is a private night for us !

hOstCDmom November 2, 2012 at 11:46 am

In the US, the reason many HF choose APs, instead of daycare or live out nanny, is precisely to have childcare on weekend days/evenings. This is a huge benefit for many families and what they are paying for.

US program parameters specify 1.5 days off per week, but not that these 1.5 days must be on the weekend. One full weekend per month must be off/free per program parameters, but the other three weeks the au pair could have Tuesday afternoon and all day Wed off and work Saturday day/eve and Sunday day/eve.

This possibility is part of the written program parameters, and part of the K they sign. If they cant live with it, then this program isn’t for them.

CA Host Mom November 2, 2012 at 1:09 am

You are completely reasonable! And very nice!

i agree with a lot of what has been stated already. I strongly agree with rematch once you know you’ve ended up with an immature and entitled attitude. I tried my hardest to work with one of those a few months ago and, in hindsight, it was never going to work.

I like the suggestions about communicating to give her the chance to remember why she’s in your home in the first place.

In the end, and based on my previous experience, after too much whining, moping, and complaining … I won’t hesitate to rematch. It’s not worth the stress.

Good luck to you!

Reb November 4, 2012 at 9:09 am

It sounds to me as if your relationship with your au pair is breaking down. You said: “I feel like our Au pair has a pretty cushy gig” and “I pointed out to her that if it wasn’t this party, it would be something else”. Perhaps you are starting to resent her becasue of how you percieve her attitude to be.
I think it is reasonable to expect your au pair to work over the weekend (as long as she gets her 1 weekend off each month). I think you need to be clear with her what you expect of her. I also think you should try and plan one month ahead (as much as possible). How will your au pair be able to plan weekends away or holidays if she does not know when she is working?

You have two options.

Nr 1
Tell your au pair how you are feeling and what your expectations are. Have an honest conversation about how you feel about her attitude. You said she is hardworking and gets on well with your child so perhaps the relationship you have is worth reestablishing?

Nr 2 –
Start thinking about rematch. Perhap you have already tried option nr 1 and you feel your relationship is beyond repair. If so, start going down the rematch route ASAP.

Good luck!!!

Molly November 8, 2012 at 10:54 am

How old is this au pair? I’m 24 and working as an au pair in Germany, and I actually have to tell my host parents to go out and that I’ll babysit! It’s a two way street, and it seems your au pair takes more than she gives….

Rosie November 14, 2012 at 7:24 am

I am a british au pair in Spain, and was wondering whether it was reasonable for me to be leaving my family because of the schedule? I work Monday-Friday from 4-10 or 5.30-10. I also work on Sundays from 2-10. I feel like this gives me little free time to explore the city ! Also I feel more and more like an employee than a family member as I was in bed for one day really ill and my host mum took the money for that day off my pocket money. Also if the family go away for the weekend I’m not invited and they either expect me to make up the hours or take money off my pocket money. Seeing as I work 6 days a week I take the money off option as it would mean working for 2 weeks without a break. They never spend any time with their children even though they are in the house the whole time I’m looking after them! And they’re not even working when they’re at home, they’re always watching the tv. I feel the mixture of a bad family atmosphere plus a full on time table is making me leave! Is this unreasonable or have I got the wrong expectation of what an au pair is?

HRHM November 14, 2012 at 9:42 am

Your expectations should have been cemented by what you agreed to prior to arriving. Did you know the schedule and agree to it in advance? If they lied, then you are right to be upset, but if you agreed, or just didn’t bother to find out in advance, then you have to take responsibility for that. In your contract or negotiations, what was the agreement about pay? In the US, we can’t dock pay for hours not worked, our AP gets her full stipend whether we have her work 45 hours or 10. But I know that in Europe the rules are different so if you agreed to be “paid by the hour” then they are within their rights to only pay for hours worked.
In addition, you won’t likely find much sympathy here for the fact that they are home but asking you to work regardless of what they are doing at the time. My AP works every evening while I am home, occupying the kids so I can make dinner or running one to dance so I can get the other one through homework. APs aren’t just babysitters for when the parents are gone. They are whatever the family needs at the time, within limits. And at the end of the work day if I want to watch a grown up TV show, I have no qualms about asking AP to handle the kids so I can do so.
I’m sorry you are unhappy but you have to ask yourself, how much of what you are complaining about did you know before you took the job, how much of it is contrary to what was promised and how much falls between (not discussed before accepting the job) After all, caveat emptor!

JJ Host Mom November 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm

I’m slightly baffled that you have all day, every day, off, until 4 or 5:30, and don’t feel you have any spare time. There’s a lot you could do with that time if you put your mind to it….

Former AP November 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm

I was just thinking the same! You have A LOT of spare time!

newhostmom November 14, 2012 at 4:39 pm

I agree – maybe we’re not understanding the times? If you truly have off every day until 4pm or 5pm and then all day Saturday and even some full weekends, that sounds like a ton of free time. In fact, if you’re quitting, maybe I’ll come take the job ;)

As to the other issues such as sick time and payment when you are not working, it’s hard to say what’s reasonable as if there’s no contract, it entirely depends on each party’s expectations. Your host parents could legitimately think that you only get paid if you work. These things really need to be figured out prior to matching. How much sick time do you get? What happens if they don’t need you to work? Do you get your salary even if you don’t work the full hours? Etc.

We had a conversation on another thread about how difficult it can be to be a parent and how it’s hard to fully account for how much “free time” a parent is getting from the au pair’s perspective. I’d suggest reading through that and dropping the complaints about what your host parents are doing with their time. It’s really not your place to be commenting on their parenting as you don’t know the full story of their lives.

All that said, if you’re truly unhappy, I would suggest revisiting the issue with your host parents in a respectful way and seeing if you could come up with some type of contract to resolve your concerns. But to answer your question, no, from the sound of it if we’re understanding your question, quitting because of your schedule doesn’t sound reasonable.

Southern HM November 14, 2012 at 8:05 pm

newhostmom– can you direct me to the thread you mentioned?? Would love to read it… thanks(;

newhostmom November 15, 2012 at 11:34 am

Oops – sorry! It was on this thread: http://aupairmom.com/what-can-this-host-mom-learn-from-her-experience/2012/10/19/celiaharquail/

Maybe about a third of the way down after a comment from HMinDelRay (the OP) on 20 October at 4:01pm. Although the whole thread is interesting.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 14, 2012 at 9:30 pm

My guess is that you’re a) not a morning person and b) looking for some young adult action and finding it hard to start out at 10:00 in the evening. From my point of you it looks like you have plenty of time to a) take a language class, b) meet friends for lunch, c) tour your city, d) exercise, and e) meet friends on the evening on Saturday, stay out late and still get to sleep in.

I guess the question for you would be, do European Au Pairs have a legal right to work less than 44 hours a week? My guess it comes down to – do you have a contract and can it be enforced. Time and time again, HP on this list from the US (and we do make up the majority of posters) have reflected on the differences between the rest of the world and the AP experience in the US.

Should be working November 15, 2012 at 12:56 pm

I believe European au pairs are limited to 25 hrs per week, in some countries 30. And they get much less pocket money, less than half what we pay. But it is also allowed to then pay extra for extra hours.

vdotw November 24, 2012 at 2:18 pm

First, I would like to think that with an AP/HF relationship there would be a willingness on both sides for some give and take and that such things as one weekend evening per month would be a no-brainier as a favor or occasional schedule adjustment. However, this appears to be a situation where the expectation was set early on, and the hours during weekdays are few compared to the allowed 45. It does not seem at all unreasonable to schedule these Saturday evenings, especially since the schedule is made weekly, in advance.

From a HM perspective, I completely understand the desire to have occasional weekend evenings with my spouse. My husband is full-time military, so weeks or months as a single parent are the norm for us. Our AP will be here next month, and while my husband is still home before a long deployment and even after, she understands that occasional weekends with notice is an expectation and is in our agreement. I doubt we will have any problems, as she is mature, level-headed, and openly communicates so far. There is always a chance for the unexpected…

In your situation, I would have a friendly but firm chat about the schedule, perhaps bringing the original agreement along, and remind her that just she needs to have a clear understanding of her schedule and expectations, you need her to be reliable and accountable for what she agreed to. Any regular job where she is paid for the work she does would set a condition of employment that she be available and working when the schedule required.

I would try to offer as much consistency and flexibility as my own situation allowed; letting her pick between every first or third Saturday that would be designated as date night or mom’s night out, regardless of whether I had firm plans or not. I think that if I consistently used my own Saturday evenings when I had paid for care (even if it meant grocery shopping alone, or reading a book in my favorite cafe), the AP would see that I was serious about the weekend hours and wouldn’t have much excuse for not resorting the schedule unless there were a really compelling reason (like an ageny-sponsored event).

It’s important to keep the give-and-take in a relationship, but if you’ve already set the standard of bending multiple times over, now is the time to regain the respect for your schedule that she has lost. Have a conversation, restate the expectations, and make the schedule as consistent as possible

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