How do you teach an au pair that ‘childcare’ includes more than just caring directly for your child/ren, in real time?
We all know that childcare means not only one-to-one interacting with the child and the child’s needs, but also doing child-related work ‘offline’.
But many au pairs (especially new ones) struggle with this, because their idea of child care is more literal. For these au pairs, childcare is more like babysitting or working at the church nursury, where caring for kid laundry, kid bedrooms, and kid playroom mess isn’t part of the job description.
Child Care Chores: Part of being an Au Pair
When I talk with au pairs and host parents about these tasks, I usually call them “Child Care Chores” since, at least to me, the term ‘chores’ refers to the work that you do to keep the household and family running.
These Child Care Chores *are* part of your au pair’s responsibilities.
The basic Child Care Chore tasks are usually outlined for the au pair in the materials that s/he gets at orientation from the Au Pair Agency.
Then, as we host parents are orienting our new au pairs to how things are done in our homes, we usually refer to these chores as part of our procedures, routines and guidelines in our au pair handbooks.
We’ve been careful to itemize these offline kid care activities in our au pair handbooks. (And we all have au pair handbooks, right?)
[If you have an au pair handbook, but it's not being followed, check out this post: R.T.F.M. Making sure your Au Pair Reads the Family Manual .]
It should be pretty clear for an au pair that these chores are part of the job, and these chores should just get done.
Yet, sometimes, they don’t.
Teaching Your Au Pair to Do Child Care Chores
Host McMom wrote us asking for help with getting her Au Pair to take responsibility for Child Care Chores. Her au pair has plenty of on-duty time time to do these tasks.
HostMcMom has done all the right things. She has
- Provided the au pair with an explicit list of the chores for her children
- Taught the au pair how to do each of these chores
- Added these chores to the list of daily and weekly tasks on deck
- Discussed with her au pair that this work needs to be done, after the au pair has failed to get it done.
- Given her au pair a few strategies for mingling interaction with the kids and working on these tasks.
After all this, her au pair still doesn’t seem to understand and execute on her responsibilities.
How can HostMcMom get her au pair to complete these less fun child care chores?
What to do?
I think our new (2 months here) au pair is wonderful with our children. They love her and she is fun and loving with them. The problem is, that’s about all she wants to do. She’ll work directly with the children, but never seems to do the other work involved.
We have had several sit down conversations about her to emphasize the need to do her other responsibilities, given her email and hard copy lists and reminders. She has always apologized and promised to do better. And she does, for a week or so and then she starts ‘slacking’ off again.
I get the feeling she really feels like she shouldn’t have to do so much ‘other work’ and doesn’t seem used to having to clean up after herself, never mind children. I realize that au pairs are only responsible for tasks related to the children and contributing to a reasonable amount of household tasks as any other adult in the family would.
[She itemizes the list, which will be posted for another conversation.]
Our au pair has about 3-4 hours a day when the baby is sleeping and the older kids are at school and about 25-30 hours when she needs to care for and play with the children, take them to the park, library, play space, playdates, etc.
Also, I have encouraged her to spend some time helping the children do some tasks to teach them how and give them some responsibility. This has backfired however, when she uses that as an excuse: oh, I was going to have Susie help me, but I got busy with the baby or the baby needed xyz.. This of course, can and does happen, naturally. But I think it happens less than it says she does. Our baby is very easy and low maintenance.
Also, I have told her what tasks are “priority” i.e laundry, getting ready for activities, fixing formula, etc. vs ‘can wait till tomorrow when kids are sleeping’ or skipped that day if there are other pressing tasks to do (i.e skip making the beds so you can clean the carseat after baby’s diaper leaked, or vaccum car crumbs tomorrow if you cannot find the ballet shoes and tutu for the ballet recital tomorrow morning)
Frankly, the fact I needed to tell her how to prioritize in this way is bit concerning: it speaks to judgement and if the person caring for your child has judgement issues, well…it does make me wonder if she is caring for them as well I think she is, what she does when I’m not with her, how she would handle a crisis, etc.
Also, sometimes it seems like she just doesn’t pay attention: she leaves cabinet doors and drawers open, cereal boxes open (even if she puts them away!), leaves her personal papers and items lying on the kitchen table and counters (where they could and have get damaged or lost) so does that carry over to child care when I’m not around?
I am just generally questioning everything now, I guess.
Of course, taking good care of the kids is most important, but must it be ‘either/or”? I feel like I have another child in the house…I sometimes have more work to do when I get home from workbecause she is here, rather than less. I don’t know what else to do. Advice?
Where to Begin: New Host Mom, New Au Pair
Is Your Host Family Handbook Too Long?
What exactly is a Host Family Handbook?