The recommended approach to scheduling an au pair’s vacation time is rational and fair... at least in our eyes.
We choose one week that we need her/him to take vacation (usually when we are traveling with kids and don’t need her, or when Grandma is visiting) and the we have her pick a week that suits her (way in advance, so that we can plan for childcare). Often, our au pairs have saved a vacation week to take at the end of their year so that they have a stipend for at least one week of their travel. We’ve also had au pairs use up about half of their two weeks of vacation by taking a few days here or there.
Always, we need our au pair to make plans in advance so that we can cover our childcare needs another way.
Sure, I could occasionally plan to work at home or even take a day off myself, but that’s only when I’ve had the luxury of scheduling my own work time. (That’s somewhat easier for me as an academic and a consultant, than it would be for someone with a set work week routine.)
All the good au pairs understand that their vacation time needs to be coordinated with our families’ schedules. And, thoughtful host parents do their best to give their au pairs a combination of vacation days that we set and vacation days that they choose.
Problems occur when we host parents don’t know what we need in time to schedule vacation or close off vacation, when we host parents don’t address vacation planning proactivly and way in advance, and when au pairs buy non-refundable travel tickets or invite friends to visit and vacation with them without clearing it with their host family first.
Galavanter’s Host Mom wrote, below, with her situation… she’s got some practical problems about what to do now that the conflict has occured, and she has some hurt feelings and questions about whose needs should take priority. Read to give some advice?
Dear Au Pair Mom,
Our au pair, who has been with us for five months, scheduled a week-long vacation with her friends to Mexico without asking us first. That’s problem #1.
The other problem is that her vacation partially overlaps a two-legged vacation that my husband and I are planning. My husband has a four-day job interview trip, after which we have a week-long family reunion. We’ve been on the fence as to whether I would go on the interview trip, because my vacation days, as well as our cash, are running a bit short. This is the time during which my au pair is going to be away, meaning that I’m forced to either pay to go on the interview trip anyway, using up every last vacation day I have for the year, or stay home and either pay for expensive drop-in care or beg one of the grandparents to make a 10+ hour trip to watch their granddaughter for a few days.
If we had been given the chance to come up with a mutually-agreed upon vacation time, we would obviously have had our au pair take her vacation while we were at the reunion. As it is, she is going to be forced to take the remaining week of her vacation days while we are away.
Our LCC said that if push came to shove, the au pair should reschedule the vacation at her own expense. However, she is going with friends, and I don’t have the heart to punish her that way, nor inconvenience and penalize her two trip companions. I’m starting to feel that simply “losing” her last week of vacation to sitting around the house alone may be enough of a penalty. At least that’s one less week of back-up care to work out later in the year.
Still, my husband and I feel used and hurt. Interested in getting feedback/encouragement/advice, as well as hearing other similar stories.
Galavanter’s Host Mom
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Poll: How long, exactly, is “two weeks vacation”?
It’s YOUR vacation, not hers. Okay?
Don’t take your Au Pair on vacation during her first 3 months!