What really counts as "work" and when are we willing to bend the rules? This mom’s getting a workout– and not the kind that makes your heart healthy. …
"We are family members at our local gym, which provides childcare while parents are working out.
We added our au pair to our membership (didn’t change the cost for us, but saved her a ton of money), and encourage her to take our little boy (almost 2) there occasionally to interact with other children and get a bit more excitement.
Now, she wants to take both kids (the other being a 6-yo who is now out of school for the summer) to the gym for 1.5 hours everyday so she can exercise.
I feel if she’s going to do that, she should consider part of that time as not working time (for example, if she leaves the kids in childcare for 7.5 hrs/wk, 3 of those are "on duty" time for her, and 4.5hrs are "off duty" time, and we can therefore schedule her for an additional 4.5 hrs during the week). Is this unreasonable? After all, I have to figure out how to schedule my workout time around my work time– my boss doesn’t let me work out for free while someone else does my job for an hour and a half everyday…
I would love to hear what other host moms have to say about either (and both!) of these issues! Thanks for being a great resource for host moms–
HostMom in Seattle"
Dear HostMom in Seattle —
If the earlier issue about vacation days didn’t raise red flags for you, this one has "taking advantage of you" written all over it. Here’s my opinion, then we’ll go to the wise Host Parent readers for more.
1. It is inappropriate for your au pair to take the kids to childcare at the gym so that she can have time to herself. Childcare at the gym is for the parent who otherwise can’t find the free time she needs to exersize. Your au pair’s job is to watch the kids, not to work out. Watching the kids should be her top priority.
2. When she is at the gym, is she really paying attention to the kids? If not, she’s not working.
3. You can’t really be sure that when the kids are in the gym’s childcare that your au pair is actually working out. She may be chatting with the personal trainer or taking a long shower. That is not what you are paying her to do.
4. Childcare at the gym is NOT free. You are already paying for it, in your gym membership. So, if you are paying both the gym and the au pair for the same hours, you’re getting ripped off taken advantage of.
5. Let’s face it, childcare at the gym is perfectly fine, but it’s not the same as childcare with ones own au pair. If you wanted to have your kids in group childcare outside your home, you wouldn’t have an au pair, would you?
Childcare at the gym is a nice additional experience for a little one, and it may not be right for the 6 yr old. It is fine for 1.5 hours two or three times a week, when parents are working out and when the kids have had lots of personal attention, but it really isn’t the same quality as formal "childcare", it’s really babysitting. Are you sure that you want a chunk of your kids’ week spent there?
6. Childcare at the gym is a privilege you should reserve for YOURSELF first. How will you feel on a Saturday, when you want to work out, your au pair is off duty, and your kids have already spent 5 days times 1.5 hours at the gym already? Do you think you might feel bad about taking them there a sixth day? This is a privilege that you have paid for, for YOU, and if you let her use it so much there is not enough left if and when you or your partner needs it.
6. IMHO, you are being entirely too nice to let her go to the gym every day during her on duty time, even if it is only partially on duty. The girl has other time in her week– she doesn’t have to do it during her childcare time. Sure you might allow her to do it once a week– but no, not more than that.
7. You are already paying for her to be a gym member– sure, your cost did not go up when you added her, but you already paid for the "family" plan, with your au pair in mind. Had you paid for just you and/or your spouse, you or she would have had to pay for her. Just because is not additional out of pocket doesn’t mean it isn’t a cost. You have *already* been generous; you don’t need to be even more generous.
8. Finally, if she really wants to work out a lot, can’t she find a way to do it with the kids? Running, walking with the stroller, flying kites!
Have you ever heard of the term "hedonic treadmill"? She wants more and more and nothing makes her happier. Your au pair seems to be on one…. where what she has, no matter how good, is not enough.
Consider too, that underneath your initial well-meaning generosity (based in part I’ll bet on a good relationship with the previous au pair) you know you are being taken advantage of. So suggest something moderate and yet still generous– maybe once a week she can take the kids there, or maybe twice, but NOT counting the whole time as work. That’s my $.02. cvh
Okay Moms & Dads & au pairs– what else should HostMom in Seattle consider?