Would You Recommend An Au Pair to This Family?

by cv harquail on July 5, 2015

We have a new and unconventional need for childcare.  

should we get an au pair?Would an Au Pair be the right choice for us?  How would we know?

My husband and I have had an awesome nanny (who does not live with us) for the last year since our son was born. However, my husband has to leave the state for training for a year, and as I am on call all weeknights and 1 weekend in six, we need to transition to in home care just so there will be someone in the house at night in case I have to leave or don’t get home until very late in the evening.

I will send my son to daycare/school for 5.5 hours a day, but the care giver would be expected to work in the morning until school started, in the afternoon till I got home and then be in the house every weeknight all night. They could go out but would be expected to come home if I needed to leave.

I only know one person who had au pairs and thought they were wonderful, but that was 15 years ago; she does the same job as me, but her husband was home.

Is an au pair totally the wrong direction for us?  I’d love your thoughts. ~Nervous in Nebraska

The challenge this mom faces is with the overnight hours.  Officially, if your au pair ‘has to be there just in case’ you have to count those as hours worked. Overnight hours: Should we be able to schedule Au Pairs to work overnight?    If you could find a way t0 keep the hours at 45/wk, it might be possible (e.g., she’s on duty from 12 midnight to 8 am, then from 2-4). Still, you might find yourself up against  The Au Pair Scheduling Constraint That Might Surprise You.

Moms & Dads? Ideas?

Au Pairs, is this schedule too onerous? 




Multitasking Host Mom July 5, 2015 at 9:21 am

This is a very curious question? I use to work a job where I was on call a lot. Mostly it was at night during the week from about 11:00pm to 6:00am and then all weekend. There would be some weeks where I wouldn’t be called in to work at all, then a “bad” week would come along and it would be several days in a row.

At the time, we were not using APs for child care, so I can’t share my perspective in that regard. (My kids were in half day preschool during the day, plus we had an in-home day care right across the street from the preschool that watched my kids for a few hours in the afternoon, and a babysitter who came to my house in the morning. Not the best situation, but it was what I could come up with at the time.) My husband did travel a lot for work though, so if he was out of town I would have to beg my co-workers to cover my on-call hours in exchange for covering their hours later on…hence why I ended up being on call most weekends…so I do have empathy for this mom being in this situation trying to get creative with her child care needs.

CV mentions that the on-call hours for the mom would count as hours of work for the AP….even when they were not actually actively working. I am not sure if I totally agree with that…although I honestly don’t have a great solution to still keep everything fair on both sides. Don’t get me wrong since I in no way want to take advantage of an APs time, but I wonder if this could work out in some way if the APs on call time/not actually working was counted as half or something like that. After all, wouldn’t this fall into flexibility of hours that having APs as child care offer?

Let me point out how my American employer handled on call with me as their employee. I was only paid a few dollars an hour when I was scheduled to be on call, so my employer did not consider the on-call hours full working hours. I had to be able to report to work within one hour of getting the call. Once I got the call, I was paid my full salary, including my commute time, and of course the hours I was actually at my job working. Could something like this be worked out for the AP?

Once again, I know this is not a “best case scenario”. The host family would have to find a very specific AP who would be willing to always be on-call, and not wonder far from the house. And of course everything would have to be stated up front in the matching process. It would also depend on how much the host mom actually was called into work…if she was called in several days at the beginning of the week would there be enough AP hours to cover the end of the week?

Once again not sure if I really have an answer to this dilemma, but wanted to share my perspective.

German Au-Pair July 5, 2015 at 9:25 am

The thing is that 2-4 doesn’t really work given the issue of “In case I don’t get home until very late in the evening”. Basically, what that Hm is saying is that her AP would only have REAL freetime during daycare-time. Add unforseeable issues like sickness or snowday…
I understand the HM’s needs but there is no way an AP, who is NOT a childcare professional, can spend every single week with basically no reliable free time. No dinner dates, no concerts, no simple dates with friends -ever.
Plus distances are pretty long in the US -I assume especially in Nebraska (ARE there even APs in Nebraska? She might have a hard time finding an AP agency that has a cluster there?) so coming home right away when the HM needs to work might take 30-60 minutes (and I was in a pretty populated area…)
The only way I see this working is having a nanny AND an AP or two APs. That would have one person working during the day and one during the night. Besides the costs I could also see potential unhappiness if one is always actually working, the other is just on call (or the one on call still has no social life because her evenings are gone) etc.
This is a tough one but I personally cannot see a reasonable way to make an AP work in this situation.

TexasHM July 5, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Wait wouldn’t she have all weekends off except the one every six that the HM is on call? That would all be planned free time in addition to the daycare free time. Can the OP chime in with more specifics on the hours so we can do the math? Specifically when she normally starts and finishes work, when she would get called, when she would start and finish and the max she could ever be called in a week and then what she on average is called for in a week.

Midwest Au pair July 5, 2015 at 4:29 pm

I think the problem is that the mom is on call every weekday. Sometimes she has to leave sometimes she doesn’t. That way she would have to count the hours towards the 45 even though she might not use them…the OP can’t expect the au pair to be around/close by and then not count the hours because she didnt get called in. The au pair would never be able
To fully enjoy her night, maybe even drink if she can because she never knows if she has to work or not.

TexasHM July 5, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Yes I understand all of that. I was responding to German APs comment that her AP would only have real free time during daycare time – which is not true. She would have almost all weekends completely free as well. My last AP was an ER nurse and she would have loved a schedule like this (assuming you can stay in the hours rules). Without additional detail from the OP I can’t do the math or offer much in the way of suggestions. If it did put her over hours another alternative would be to try to find an am sitter to get kiddo to daycare so she could schedule the APs for full coverage week nights but again, I can’t do the math without specifics here.

German Au-Pair July 6, 2015 at 4:15 am

Yes, she would have the weekends as planned free time but that’s it. Daycare may be planned but surely there are weeks where the kid cannot go for the reasons I mentioned before and that would leave her with no free time. Even considering those hours -if she’s always on call with the HM, assume most people would not sleep as well as usual. Basically she would be working full time during the week.

WarmStateMomma July 5, 2015 at 10:12 am

I think you would need to host two APs to make this schedule work. They could alternate their schedules each week so neither had the “better” schedule. Or you could get a local person to handle the mornings before school and a single AP could handle afternoons and evenings. You would need to figure out school breaks, too.

Unfortunately, you just need a lot more coverage than one person can consistently provide (at least at a high level of care). It’s a tough spot but I hosted an AP who never left the house. She was sad and her sad cloud lingered over the house until the day she left. I promise you don’t want that.

AlwaysHopeful HM July 5, 2015 at 10:22 am

I agree that 2 au pairs with alternating schedules would work best. If you can make the hours work, maybe 2 educate APs to help on costs? Is educare even still an option?

HRHM July 5, 2015 at 10:51 am

So, what you’re describing can possibly work. When we started with APs 7 years ago I was in a surgical fellowship (every other week on call) and DH was stationed 4 hours away and came home every other weekend.

Our first and second APs knew when they took the job that their main reason for existance in our life was to be an adult asleep in the house in case I got called in. We had full time daycare (generally 9-3 but we could go as long as 6-6 if needed) and in reality, I only had to go in on call at night maybe 3 times that whole year. When I got called in, I would go in and gently wake her to let her know I was leaving, I would turn on her baby monitor receiver (DD was 3 mos at the start of her year) and I would leave, allowing her to go back to sleep. Only the hours I was gone would count as work hours.

On the weekends when DH didn’t come to visit, she would watch the kids for a couple hours on Saturday morning so I could go in and round.

In general, we tried to make up for the “unusual expectations” of the job by making sure to generous elsewhere. She had full time access to a car, was allowed to travel as far as she wanted when she was off, went along as a family member to some pretty great vacations (her own cabin on a carribean cruise) and didn’t really have any household expectations except kid’s laundry. Neither of the 2 APs seemed to mind.

With my current AP, I pretty much have the same situation, as DH and I are once again, not working in the same state! Of course, now my kids are old enough to stay home by themselves if I need to round on the weekend, but they still need someone in house if I have to go operate in the middle of the night. Current AP is fabulous and volunteers to do way more than she should so I REALLY try not to take advantage. So far, I’ve only had to go in one time at night and she’s just about to have her one year anniversary (she’s extending)

You don’t say if you are in training (and therefore stuck with this schedule) or employed (everything is then negotiable). Also you don’t say how often you can reasonably expect to be called in at night or on the weekends.

If you think you can dodge the bullet of getting called in, then it may work for you. You will need some extra help on the call weekends since you can’t reasonably ask her to work all weekend (she needs 1.5 days off per week) and you can’t reasonably ask her to be on call if she’s “off” on the weekend and wants to go sleep over at a friend’s house or travel out of town that night. If you have co-workers or friends with kids you may be able to swap childcare with them. Either way, it’s good to build a “village” to help when the wheels fall off and you need emergency help.

If you know that you’re going to get called in more often than not, finding a live-in nanny who has more flexibility would probably work better for you. Good luck.

Midwest Au pair July 5, 2015 at 11:36 am

I think there are some great ideas already. It’s true, this schedule is hard…but maybe if you either keep your nanny, or have the baby in daycare most of the day, this could work. I would look at au pairs that come from big families. I feel like they know what it means to pitch in, and to “suck it up” once in a while. I’m sure that there are other great au pairs that are from small families and are equally great. I know, having an au pair for “just” emergencies sounds kind of expensive, but I don’t think there is anything else you can do…it would for sure give you peace of mind knowing the au pair is there if you need her, the question is, can you afford it and can you find an au pair that wants to do that kind of schedule. Because even if you don’t have to go in, the hours still count. For example, if you’re on call from 6pm-6am you can technically only be gone til 4am. Now you could have your other nanny or babysitter work til 10pm and the au pair can take over the night and drop off at daycare etc. yes that way you would have lots of people in the house even when not needed, but that could give you some free time as well? Catch up on sleep or go for coffee etc. good luck!!!

Midwest Au pair July 5, 2015 at 12:23 pm

Add on to my previous post: are you able to build a list of local babysitters? Maybe high schoolers? They could possibly sit until 10,11pm on nights you are on call. This might be cheaper since high school students usually ask for 10/h but I might be wrong. That way the au pair could still go out with friends and start her “work day” at 10,11pm and be on call til daycare/nanny
Starts? Just an idea

exaupair July 5, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Dear OP, given your situation I would not recommend your family to anyone who is thinking about a fun gap year full of adventure.
The way you presented yourself can be read as if you needed your AP to be on call whenever you are on call, which at times would probably exceed the maximum of 45 hrs/wk you as a host parent would be entitled to.
The only way I see it working with the use of AP program is hosting two APs who would work shifts. I’m not sure whether you would have pay double agency fee, but as long as you space for two APs in your house why not try that.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 5, 2015 at 6:55 pm

The only scheduling fights DH and I have are over sleep time. He argues the AP is not working if she’s asleep, and I argue that if she’s the adult-in-charge, then it doesn’t matter whether she’s asleep or not. This rarely comes up in our house, but it did recently when we had to get child #2 to the airport for an international check-in at 3:30 am. I held fast – the AP was working from 3 am to 1 pm.

Any AP “on call” does not truly have free time. She cannot go out for a drink with dinner because her HF would be unhappy. She can’t take a course, she can’t go to a concert or a movie.She might agree to the schedule at matching, concerned that she wouldn’t find a “perfect” family, but after a couple of weeks or months, she would probably be chafing at the bit – and would have legitimate grounds for rematch.

I agree – if the family’s goal is to host an AP – then two would do – but that means two separate bedrooms. If the goal is to have cheap childcare, then – in my opinion – she is considering an AP for all the wrong reasons, given her schedule.

It’s really hard to be a working mom – I get that. I manipulated my schedule to make it work for DH and I when the kids were babies.

Host Mom in the City July 5, 2015 at 9:42 pm

Sorry, OP. This sounds really challenging, but I don’t see one AP being your solution unless you are able to keep ALL working and on-call hours to ten hours a day, 45 hours a week. You must count on-call hours as working hours. It would be incredibly unfair not to, I think. Especially if she were truly working 45 hours in addition to on-call hours, that would basically mean working 24 hours a day for the week. Yes, weekends would be off, but I don’t think that’s fair given the intentions of the program, nor do I think you would have yourself a happy AP.

Two APs (swapping weeks), a nanny AND an AP, swapping on-call duties with a fellow “single” parent? Regardless, I think you’re going to have to choose between easy and affordable :(

Anon for this one July 6, 2015 at 6:53 am

For the records my comment below is based on the understanding that it can be done within the rules/spirit of the programme.

@ OP – I’d give the AP programme a try if I were you.

But I’d be totally honest with any incoming AP – even putting an easy breakdown of your schedule on the profile – so that you only get hits from APs who are interested and everything is completely up front – also you would want the backing of the LCC etc behind you.

Another thing might be to get an AP who is either under 21 (and therefore can’t drink/party etc) or go much older (i.e. for those who have done their partying and are concentrating on other things) this might work for you – especially if the AP is sporty and would like to use the day time to go to the gym etc..

You’d have to agree on how you would propose to work it, i.e. any night that I am on call and get called in, from when I wake you, phone you, etc, you’re on, i.e. you put your monitor on and go back to sleep – unless needed – you say that you’re on call every weeknight but that does not necessary mean you are called in every weeknight??

Also what time would your AP need to be home on those week nights – what time does “on call” begin – I mean if “on call” begins at 11pm – and most AP (or their cars!) have a work night curfew anyway – then does this really curtail the AP from meeting a friend for coffee or going to the movies.. even on a weeknight.

Your situation is not ideal – but then again you do have weekends off (working one is six is not bad) and if you were totally brutally honest and sent any potential APs your schedule – then you MIGHT get a winner – does it cost to have a look?

No matter what brutal honesty is the way to go – I’ve found that with flexibility on both sides – many situations that are not ideal work..

Best of luck and please let us know how you get on.

Anon for this one July 6, 2015 at 7:08 am

so many typos!!

Multitasking Host Mom July 6, 2015 at 8:00 am

I was also thinking of the curfew thing. After all I require my APs (at least when they first arrive and haven’t proven themselves) to be home eight hours before their shift starts. Since I leave for work quite early, this normally works out to a curfew time being about 10-11pm the night before. This time they are home in order to meet curfew, obviously does not count as working hours.

Now “playing devil’s advocate” here….if in my case when I worked a job that my on call was 11pm-6am on week days. I could theoretically require a 11:00 curfew for the AP (something that a lot of families do anyway) then if I had to leave the house in the wee hours of the morning, those hours where they were the only adult in charge (even if the AP could go back to sleep with the baby monitor turned on) would count as working hours for the AP. You would still have to have at least some alternative day care hours during the day to keep under 45 total/10 hrs per day in case the HM is called in several times that week. Would this still be within the spirit of the program?

Host Mom in the City July 6, 2015 at 8:40 am

I don’t know (and full disclsure – I am a big anti-curfew host mom anyway) – I feel like there’s a difference between saying you have a curfew of 11pm and saying you have a curfew at 11pm, but you need to be ready to be on-call at any minute.

I know I personally would get less good sleep if I knew I could potentially have someone coming into my room to wake me at any minute and then even if I were allowed to go back to sleep that I might at any minute be woken up by a child I was responsible for.

That would also mean that yes, you have to be home by 11pm, but ready and willing to work every night – sober, going right to sleep in case you get woken up in the middle of the night, etc.

I just really don’t think it’s fair to expect someone to be on-call, but then not count it as hours, especially an au pair. A professional who signs up for that knowing what it means and who is compensated appropriately, yes. An under-21 who really wants to make a match and doesn’t really get the implications of this – no. Again, if the host mom can truly keep working and on-call hours to the rules of the program, sure. But I feel like any time you start thinking about not counting on-call hours, I just don’t think that’s fair.

Multitasking Host Mom July 6, 2015 at 9:16 am

I do agree with you on two of your points…
-As someone who has lived with that beeper sitting on my night stand, even though I was asleep, I knew subconsciously I was never fully at rest.
-Also, when you mention not counting hours…It is a slippery slope once you start talking about that. Now that it is summer, my AP has told me a few stories about what her friend’s host families have done to get “creative” with the APs schedule. I will just say that what they are doing is over the edge of what it strictly within the program guidelines, but in no way outrageous. But it does bother me that while everyone might be ok with it now, it could easily slide into abuse of the AP’s time. In general, I feel like it is just safer for both the host parents and the APs to follow the rules. It truly protects both sides.

Host Mom in the City July 6, 2015 at 9:26 am

Totally agree.

German Au-Pair July 6, 2015 at 9:19 am

I feel like you plan COULD work if it fit the OP’s schedule. (You cannot really set a curfew at 8pm, right? So if that’s when she starts, it wouldn’t work.)
I also don’t think disclosing the schedule would help all that much. Sure, she would need to do that but I don’t think one can fully grasp the concept of not having any real scheduled free time during the entire week. Especially because the Hm did say she might also need to work late sometimes.
One COULD say it’s her problem if she agrees to something and ends up in over her head but it really is the HM’s problem as well. An unhappy (or simply overwhelmed) AP may be terrible to be around, do a crappy job or go into rematch.
I didn’t consider the class-issue before but it’s a good point -when would she be able to take those?
Also, not to be rude or shallow here, we’re talking about Nebraska. I know AP’s shouldn’t base their matches on location and I wouldn’t recommend that either. However, we are talking about a state that doesn’t necessarily have anything greatly appealing location wise, that may have VERY few APs, great distances to cover to go to the fun places (problem with the staying close by)….I admit that I know nothing about Nebraska but fact is, it’s not at the top of the list of desirable locations. I COULD see doing research and maybe going there if I got a really good gig with a family but not with a crazy schedule.
I would also assume that the HM might not have the energy/desire and simply time to actually spend a lot of quality time with the AP, that may get pretty needy being faced with the lack of friends.

I don’t know how much work the application process is for HPs but I assume it’s too much of a hassle to hope for that one AP who may have already worked on call hours and would like this sort of arrangement.

That said, I would just like to applaud all those (sporadically) single parents who deal with what seem like impossible situations like that. We’re talking about the needs of the AP here and why this arrangement doesn’t seem desirable but that’s the reality for so many people out there. I’m not trying to be harsh or anything, I just don’t think finding an AP within the spirit -or even rules- of the program is likely.

HRHM July 6, 2015 at 12:00 pm

I think you have a good point about the location. Omaha is actually a great city, but NO AP has ever heard of it!

IME, an AP will be much more likely to accept going to Twentynine Palms, CA than Denver, CO any day – which just goes to show the lack of judgement/research that goes into choosing where you want to live with most APs!

She will have a hard time selling NE, even with the best schedule/perks on the planet! And so the willing candidates will likely be the desperate bottom of the barrel ones…

WarmStateMomma July 6, 2015 at 12:09 pm

No candidate I interviewed did any research on my location at any point before their visa interview. They could have ended up in Nebraska for all they knew. I imagine this might be a cultural distinction, though.

Desperate doesn’t necessarily mean bottom of the barrel. It could mean the AP comes from a country with a terrible economy or an oversupply of candidates. Or the AP’s English is weak. She could still be a great caregiver.

Totally agreed with full disclosure, and providing worst-case scenario expectations.

German Au-Pair July 6, 2015 at 6:26 pm

Before my matching period I only had one location requirement: Anywhere but the South. Guess where I ended up?! :D I turned down one family in Ohio and the location was a major reason but not the only one. When I found my family, I really wasn’t sold on the idea of living in the South. I wanted a coast -I HATE heat. I ended up doing extensive research and actually felt it was quite charming. It’s my home away from home now and I feel Southern at heart now but I ONLY ignored the undesirable location because the rest of the experience promised to be a really good fit.
I’m not saying that it’s impossible to find someone willing to go to Nebraska (though I would still raise the question: are there enough APs for the agencies to actually have clusters there??) I’m just saying that the combination if a very unusual schedule and a very unsual location will probably make it close to impossible to find a good fit.

exaupair July 6, 2015 at 5:18 pm

An now I have my previous post justified – if the OP could host two APs they would not be so lonley in Nebraska, which from what I read is an au pair no-go area :-)

TexasHM July 6, 2015 at 10:43 am

Ok so here is where I was going with wanting more info from the OP – CV maybe you can chime in and find out.

It’s unclear what the on call hours are. Meaning are the OPs on call hours 5pm-12am or are they 5pm to 5am or 8pm to 8am or what? Also what is the duration of an on call shift? Does she go in for an hour and then is back home? And if so do they go to the next person on the on call list after that and she is off the hook? So many variables! All of this would influence whether or not she could stay within the program rules. For example, if her on call hours are until 12am then she could schedule an AP to work an hour in the morning and then afternoon to 12am and still be within program rules.

My humble opinions on themes covered so far:
Fair to not schedule on call hours – no. If she can’t ever take a class or buy concert tickets or plan a trip during those timeframes then she needs to be scheduled.

Disclose before matching – absolutely and in gory detail. Give worst case scenario examples for scheduling, talk about how they couldn’t take classes at night or make plans during the week (but free almost all weekends which is a big plus). Talk about why other APs might not find this schedule desirable but honestly, being in a secondary geo you will likely weed out the princesses first round anyway.

Secondary geo – I am not going to judge your location. The most miserable APs I have ever met all lived in CA/NYC/DC. They were broke all the time. The advantage to living in the midwest is her college classes would likely be far cheaper and her stipend would go a lot further. For an AP that wants to study and take extra classes or do that and wants to send money home or save, this could be a great match. Full disclosure – we joined the AP program in Kansas City and moved to TX and I thought at first we wouldn’t get a match because APs wouldn’t understand the advantages to living in KC. I was wrong. We got responses and the APs I met in KC loved it there. It’s less about the zipcode and more about the match. If an AP wants to study nonstop and you live across the street from a very affordable community college it’s not going to matter if you live in Wyoming (I literally googled “least populated state” so no hate for Wyoming here!), the AP is likely going to be pleased if that is her priority. If however, her priority is living in downtown SF then those candidates aren’t ever going to engage with this host mom anyway. Particularly if this host mom is flexible (lesser english level, less experienced or younger AP) she will have plenty of candidates to choose from. There are always far less families than candidates. Yes, you want your AP to be happy and that is why you disclose all this and align priorities. Having a lot of APs in an area isn’t necessarily a plus either. All four of my APs within months of arrival determined that they far preferred American friends to other APs. Particularly if this HM is in a college town this AP might have a blast having free weekends and taking classes during the day with her American peers.

Scheduling rules – definitely follow. The rules are there for a reason and regardless of what the AP says, I have yet to see a scenario where it doesn’t breed resentment/exhaustion/frustration and/or rematch in the end. It’s a slippery slope. Do the math, figure out if you can make the hours work within the program rules and if you can – go for it! If you can’t you can explore full time daycare, explore an am nanny/sitter to buy you the difference in hours or see if you can’t put together a PM sitter list for on call nights and then have AP work the rest.

Motivation – as others have said, if the motivation is saving money this likely is not the route to take. If however you had been considering this program because of your friend’s great prior experience and the cultural exchange then why not try to make it work. If you can afford and house two APs as several have said, that would eliminate all scheduling challenges and might be a great way to get you through the year until your husband returns and you can settle into something more regular. Or get a live-in nanny and save the AP program for when he returns and then you don’t have to try so hard to juggle the schedule all the time.

As far as classes are concerned, the AP can take classes while kiddo is in daycare for 5.5 hours a day or on weekends. Honestly this isn’t that dissimilar to a school aged kids schedule. AP would help in the am getting the kid to daycare, be off during the day and then back on in the afternoon. As long as the OP can follow the scheduling rules this AP has plenty of free time and opportunity to take classes. More than her scheduled 8am-5pm Mon-Fri counterparts for sure.

AuPairNJ July 6, 2015 at 10:56 am

Personally I don’t think its moral for this family to get an au pair. This really does limit the kind of time this person would have in the USA. Yes the weekends off are great but really putting a child in daycare for 5 hours per day is not enough to warrant having to be ‘on call’ all the time. Assuming a typical work day for you would be 9-6 the au pair would work on the morning maybe 7-9 then after daycare 2.30-6 thats 6 hours a day of childcare, so 35. You effectively only have 10 hours left of childcare and you’re asking her to be available every weeknight. I obviously don’t know if your schedule is what i’ve outlined but I do think this is unfair. As an au pair we come here for an experience socially as well as childcare. To embrace ourselves in the culture and enjoy it, something that I don’t think can be done when you’re at someones beck and call. As others have outlined the location isn’t great to begin with and I doubt this AP would get the experience she was hoping. I think sometimes people forget that we are not simply here for the childcare experience, otherwise we would stay in our own country and get paid more for it!
Sorry to sound so negative but i’m here on the side of an au pair!

Mdhostfamily July 10, 2015 at 12:15 am

I totally agree with this poster. Some of the arguments here why it is ok to find someone desperate enough is reminiscent of the arguments against any kind of labor laws in this country.
I also don’t think people are being honest with the OP about what the AP may do or act like after she/he get here. Big big rematch risk. Many APs just want to get to the U.S. And then seek rematch. If not rematch, the. Big risk of getting a u happy AP,who,didn’t quite appreciate all,the disclosures.

Kristy-Go Au Pair July 6, 2015 at 11:19 am

From an agency perspective, I likely would not recommend an Au Pair for this family. While they MAY be able to stay within the regulated hours, I have my reservations as to whether or not an Au Pair could be happy in this type of situation. Having an Au Pair be “on call” would likely cause a lot of problems. The Au Pair needs to be able to have her free time really be free time. We always consider “off” time to be time when an Au Pair is free to leave the home and come and go as she pleases. If on the “off” time she have limitations due to needing to be “on call”, I would not consider that to be actual time off. The only thing I can think of, that might work for this family to ensure they stay within the hours and also ensure a happy Au Pair, would be to have two Au Pairs. We have families, on occasion, house 2 Au Pairs. This allows more flexibility in the hours and if they had two, they could schedule one in the evening and one in the day time hours. If having 2 Au Pairs isn’t an option for this family, I wouldn’t recommend this specific program for them.

NBHostMom July 6, 2015 at 11:22 am

I’m really curious what the on call hours look like during the week … Are they within a defined window (e.g. 10pm – 2am) or are they any time? If it is more defined, you might be able to get away with an au pair and stay within the 45 hrs rule. If so, clear expectations during matching will become very important.

Another alternative, what about a live in local nanny for this? It may work out to be less stressful in the end, especially given your husband is going to be away.

WarmStateMomma July 6, 2015 at 11:25 am

I really don’t think the location is a problem unless the family wants an AP from a specific region. APs looking to work on their English and take classes would accept Nebraska in a heartbeat. Two of my APs know lots of happy APs in square states and they say that most Chinese APs would accept any location.

I’d look for APs whose goals are more academic than adventure/travel, which would be expensive and more difficult from Nebraska.

Anon again July 7, 2015 at 5:01 am

Also can I just say that there are many economies in Europe right now that are on their knees (Greece/Spain anyone – unemployment at 20%/higher in Greece??) and if the OP was selective – she would find a candidate with the right traits who would jump at the chance to be in an English speaking environment – and I’m not saying this so that a potential AP could be taken advantage of – just that they wouldn’t “be getting paid more in their home countries” – and the incentive would be there to make the situation work – if it’s fair and workable.

I too work very long hours – I’m not stateside but my AP regularly gets calls to say I’m not coming home and won’t be home for a long time and guess what, it’s not a problem because I communicated this to her BEFORE she matched, I was brutally honest. I said that when she takes classes etc I would get alternative care for her class times and then she takes over when she returns.

It’s not ideal – but we make it work and she’s been with me for a long time and we’ve supported each other 100% and she is one of the most amazing young ladies I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and will know for a long time to come and I make sure that I give back in spades and not just in perks.

The main reason why most of us choose an AP is because we need the flexibility that goes “normal” childcare – that means thinking outside the box.

I feel that if the OP can stick to the spirit of the programme and keep to the rules – and I’d only count the hours that she’s called for as work time – which means that the 45hr rule would be achievable etc – whilst trying to find a compromise, i.e. arranging a babysitter on Tuesday night so that AP can attend class, then having an AP could be a great experience for all (including the AP)

The fact that the OP asked the question shows that she is already thinking of the AP’s wellbeing and whether or not it would be a good match – and if she takes appropriate guidance and can get her schedule sorted to any sort of reasonableness then I think with the right AP and proper commitment from the OP to stick to the schedule then it would work.

Because there are tons of bright young ladies right now stuck in situations in their home countries that would hop at the chance to be an AP …… even in Nebraska!!!

Best of luck

Jennc July 6, 2015 at 11:57 am

In my interviewing i would discuss this with The aupairs u are interviewing . The aupair is expected To be home At night during The week, hence live in. If you are home those are not work hours, If you are called in i would expect u would Let aupair know and then those hours count,for weekends u may need back up person because The aupair had To be off certain Number of weekends and 1 1/2 days a week. I think It could work following The rules, if you are up front About This. You have To make sure u keep With in 45 hours a week and no mire than 10 hours in day. If you are home and Its week night call the aupair is home, if u leave you have To count those hours sleeping or not. Jen

Dorsi July 6, 2015 at 2:06 pm

To play devil’s advocate, I think this could work depending on the nature of the call. I am guess that the OP is a sub-specialist of some sort – it is unusual for someone to be on call 5 days per week, every week unless they have a unique and rarely used skill set. I would like to know with what frequency she goes to the hospital and what her required time is to be present. If she goes in 5 times per year and has to be there within an hour, that is perfectly workable.

I occasionally make last-minute changes to my work schedule, and am up front about this during matching and orientation. Specifically, I make a sudden change about 5 x per year. My ability to adjust my child care during those times is one of the reasons I host an Au Pair. I will call/text my AP and say, sorry – looks like you are working 7a-5p tomorrow instead of 2-8p. I will compensate her with my thanks, altering other hours, or an extra day off (and usually a starbucks card, too). This never requires me to go over hours.

If this is a very occasional problem, it might not be that big of a deal to say, “Sorry, I need you to be home in 30 minutes because I have to go in for a few hours.”

The every sixth weekend on call is actually more difficult – you would need additional child care just so the AP could have her 1.5 days off that week.

Seattle Mom July 6, 2015 at 5:45 pm

The OP would probably be better off getting a roommate of some kind who can pitch in with childcare for on-call hours, and stick with a nanny or daycare for regular hours. Or if she really wants an AP, get an AP *plus* a roommate- they can divide the on-call hours so it doesn’t overwhelm the au pair.

It is not feasible to expect an au pair to be home every single weekday evening for on-call hours, *in addition to regular daily childcare*. Even if you could manage to squeeze it within the 10 hour/day, 45 hour/week limits, it sounds too hard on the AP. Don’t forget, in addition to making friends and seeing the sights, this AP is going to need to take some classes. When will that happen?

Taking a Computer Lunch July 6, 2015 at 5:48 pm

While there has been a lot of discussion of the hours worked – no more than 45 hours per week/ no more than 20 per day, a few of us have alluded to other requirements that might be a game stopper for Nervous in Nebraska: 6 credits of university-level coursework (do any other agencies besides APIA have online courses if the AP couldn’t make the 5.5-hour daily window work for her?). Remember most institutions offer ESL classes at the convenience of the majority of attendees – afternoons, evenings, and weekends. The other is 1.5 days off per week – some agencies require this be contiguous, others don’t. The half day can’t be longer than 5 hours. It sounds like most weekends NiN could make this work.

Finally – the reality – the advertising slant for HF differs greatly from that for APs. The majority of HFs just want childcare – the exposure to another culture comes as a bonus. APs, on the other hand, have their own agenda – as you learn quickly days into hosting your first AP. It’s true that you might find an AP who is determined to improve her English without a lot of other options that will accept living in a relatively small, isolated cluster because she has the opportunity to meet other goals – improving English – and is less interested in the other aspects of AP life (my Chinese AP shunned AP meetings and focused on studying). If the OP absolutely needs someone who can drive, and adds in the Infant Qualified AP requirement – she might find that the venn diagram might be close to zero.

While I still don’t think an AP is the best choice for this family, my advice to the OP is to interview local LCCs and see what they recommend. They’ll give you a pitch, of course, but they also won’t want to deal with a lot of messy rematches. The OP will want to know that there is more than one potential candidate out there in the event she needs to go into rematch.

Host Mom X July 6, 2015 at 6:29 pm

If this situation is pretty much exactly what HRHM describes as her situation in the past, then I think an AP (with absolute full disclosure) and daycare could be the way to go. I can imagine that many AP candidates would probably be just fine with, and really like this situation. After all, in the situation HRHM describes, it sounds like the AP didn’t have many waking hours of actual, physical looking after the kids time. If I were an AP and most of my scheduled hours were sleeping hours, I think I’d be saying “wheee!” (I do not agree that it’s not “good” sleep as some posters have commented because you’re always sleeping with one eye open. If the kids are of the age that they typically sleep through the night, the AP will be able to sleep normally once she acclimates to the home. Just like we parents learn to! (OP’s child is a year old: that usually means basically sleeping through the night – though not always! – but probably waking rather early, and of course having the occasional small child middle of the night wake-ups. Perhaps we all become lighter sleepers than we once were in our carefree, childless youth – but we can still sleep.)

That said – APs really aren’t the solution for the type of childcare needs that most posters are envisioning (if that’s OP’s situation, or something like it). And that’s precisely BECAUSE the rules are what they are, are there for a reason, and are non-negotiable. APs have different expectations than a nanny or housekeeper because it ISN’T just a job – it’s a year abroad. And if this OP would already be thinking of two APs, it seems to me that a live-in nanny/housekeeper with whom you can negotiate pay, benefits and hours (and a fair, legal “on call” hours and pay schedule) is really the better solution, and may not cost you more than two APs. (Plus you only have to have one bedroom available.) Many live-in nannies/housekeepers negotiate such situations with open eyes. And they are not looking for an “AP experience,” and won’t have AP friends with whom they are trying to schedule certain types of travel, outings, etc. The live-in nanny would have negotiated time off, and would understand what that meant – I think with far less chance of changed expectations than an AP.

My only experience with this is literally ONE night that HD and I went out of town. We scheduled my mom and the neighbors around a 10 hour overnight shift for our AP – which required my mom to bring the kids back from her house (where they had been staying for the weekend), put them to bed, and stay in our house till 10pm (she had to go home so she could get to work on time the next day); then AP was scheduled from 10pm – 8am, at which time AP handed the kids off to the neighbors to get them to school. And of course the AP couldn’t work the rest of the that day because the 10 hours were already used up. Luckily we got home before school let out! It was great for AP – kids didn’t wake up during the night, so she actually worked for only 1 hour, getting the kids up and dressed and giving them breakfast. But I think that illustrates how this really doesn’t work if it’s an ongoing thing – you truly can’t use your AP for ANY OTHER HOURS if you do something like this, and what if you’re on call from, e.g., 8pm – 8am?

Seattle Mom July 7, 2015 at 7:12 pm

Lol my younger daughter didn’t sleep through the night until she was 2 1/2. Ever. I’m not kidding. She’s intense. But I know that’s not the norm.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 7, 2015 at 7:32 pm

The Camel did not sleep through the night until she went on Prozac at the age of 6. Immediately after her first dose she slept through the night. When the psychiatrist talked about weaning her off six months later, I said with a straight face, “I’m addicted to it.” My APs had the “luxury” of sleeping with earplugs – we were all healthier and happier with a good night’s sleep.

Should be working July 7, 2015 at 9:49 pm

In the throes of our illness situation, I have for weeks been up most nights at least twice between 1am and 5am. Younger kid is needier under all the stress and wakes up needing comfort; ill teenager has had terrifying nightmares (possibly owing to SSRI, which also evoked suicidality–very scary–and now with a switch of meds both of those seem to be abating). Never thought I’d be up most nights with kids at my age.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 8, 2015 at 6:54 am

The most important thing you can do for the healthy children – as hard as it is – is to parse out time for each one. I used to take child #2 to the movies, on a walk, to a museum – whatever he chose, and said explicitly to him “You are important to me and that’s why I’m spending time with you alone.” When he was little and his sister was hospitalized, friends would come to take him on a play date and he would say, “Just because my sister is sick doesn’t mean I want to be away from my parents.” He just needed us more than ever in the chaos of our different lives. When one person in the family is really sick often the whole family becomes sick – agitated, stressed-out.

This is a great time to ask your AP to step up and do some more tasks to free you up for that one-on-one time to calm your healthier children down.

Should be working July 8, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Yeah, it took me a few AP-years to really accept that I can have the AP work while I just silt around and play with a kid (or more than one). Now during these more relaxed-time summer days I hang out with a younger kid over breakfast while sick older kid is still asleep or busy, and AP is making breakfasts, lunches, etc. I used to feel self-conscious about this, because it feels more “servant-like” to have her doing kitchen stuff while I sit at the counter with a kid, but now I prioritize the time with my kid so that the servant-like feel for that half hour doesn’t matter to me as much.

SKNY July 9, 2015 at 10:15 am

I still feel very self conscious about it.
I think because I was an au pair once and used to complain about it, and I also used to be in an au pair support group (got kicked out once I started hosting) and au pairs complained about working while parents were at home ALL THE TIME. Like dozens a day.

So I want to go to fun (for me, not so much for au pair, I realize) places where I could use help, or I want to take one kid and leave others, or similars, but once I start getting the eye from au pair (they all do this… seems like once I am home, they forget there is anything else they can do, and sit in chair by me looking with that bored face of: why am I working? … Or one child will ask for me and there she comes with all others, and again give me the: well, when mom is home…

And I cave in and let them out early…. And usually get frustrated… oh well

Returning HM July 10, 2015 at 11:40 am

SKNY, I don’t know how old you are but I think maybe much younger than I am. One of the good things that can come with age, besides wrinkles and the inability to sleep late in the mornings anymore, is that we often stop caring what others think of us. There is, literally, not one shred of me that cares what an 18 or 19 or 22 year old thinks of how I organize my day or how I parent. I do the best I can, for my family and myself, and I don’t care one iota how someone not in my shoes or deeply connected to me reacts.

The beautiful thing about this is that it enables me to say to my AP, “I work best from 10am-3pm so this is the time I want to sit in my kitchen and not be interrupted. If you have friends over during this time, please don’t engage in long chats with me – I will be polite at first but then get antsy to get back to work.” And “Since I like to work during the time my children are in school, this means I will do things like have coffee with friends, pinch back the roses, fill the birdfeeder, and workout whie the children are at home” – often from 4-6pm. It is not uncommon for me, on a busy work day, to ask my AP to stay on an extra hour so that I can get my workout in. So he will do HW and bedtime with my son so I can have a workout.

I have no idea if my AP judges me for the fact that he ends up being on many evenings while I am doing my Insanity workouts down in the basement, but even if I did know, I don’t care at all. My children know I adore them, my family knows they are my first priority, but eveyrone who knows me knows I am a much happier and more balanced person if I have coffee with friends, chat on the phone, workout daily, and have a beautiful garden — and all these things take time. So what if I use AP help to do these things? It could be that I am 46 and getting curmudgeonly already, but i assure you, I am a lot happier person doing what is right for me than worrying about whether my AP is judging me for having him work while I am home. I hope you can get here too at some point too. It’s a lot more comfortable way to live. I have no resentment at all because I’m doing what is right for me and my family, not letting anyone else dictate my schedule and my on and off times.

NJ Mama July 10, 2015 at 12:48 pm

+1000 to ReturningHM

I will say when first I hosted was sensitive to the comments. I remember my first au pair saying to me more than once, “I’m just not used to having the parents come home and me still working.” So judge-y. Not to sound too cranky but getting used to a new way or different way of doing things is all part of the program.

On the rare occasion – like today – when I get to work from home and don’t have to wake up 2 hours before everyone else to get to work, I will often make a joke and say “I’m going to act like a rich lady and let you get up with the kids and get them ready for camp while I do X.” This morning X was a workout. Sometimes X is an extra hour of sleep. When my kids were young I’d often ask the au pair to work 2-3 hours on a Saturday morning so I could go to a yoga class or meet a friend for coffee. So what?

Another way to look at it: Au pairs can pitch in and help with the kids while you’re home just like any member of your family can. There’s no shame in it. If anything I know I should be putting the au pair on the clock more often for things like this. I really scaled back as my kids got older and became more independent. My au pair hardly works any weekend hours at all, and there are some Saturdays, especially when my H is working, where I wished I had her on the clock to get them to turn off the TV and get outside while I got things done.

The whole reason we have au pairs is to help with the children and make our lives a little easier. And being able to do things for yourself – or spending special time with each child alone – is all part of the package.

Should be working July 10, 2015 at 1:28 pm

RHM & NJM, This is such a timely and huge topic for me. I’m not as advanced as you are about not caring what the AP thinks. This is precisely where I need to move forward to where you are–how do I change this ABOUT MYSELF in advance of a new AP? I do feel that the APs judge, even the good and kind ones, and it bothers me despite my objectively not caring. The part about kids’ chores is one aspect of this–yes, my kids are certainly “spoiled” in the eyes of some of our APs (although one said they are much less spoiled than other American kids she got to know). Yes I ask AP to do things that I don’t do myself very often (pick up after kids, play games with kids). Yes I go to sometimes great lengths (especially these bad, hard days in our family) to get a kid something or somewhere s/he really wants even though it is inconvenient, expensive, means more driving around, or whatever.

Part of my management problems with APs has been that I feel like they do judge me, the kids, and our childrearing. DH doesn’t care at all, which is nice for him, but he also doesn’t manage them and is older than me and has a certain unimpeachable gravitas. This is one reason I’m trying a bro-pair this time. My hope is that the girl-judgey-vibe won’t be present in the boy version. Or that if it is, I can ignore it better.

How can I cultivate a lack of concern in myself for the judginess??

HRHM July 10, 2015 at 2:36 pm

RHM, I too am 46, and your reply could have been written by me! RIght now I have an awesome, mature AP who I never feel judged by, but the prior two were the young (19) German girls who needed to be directed to do anything unless I wanted them to sit staring blankly at me. I know they thought it was crazy (1 had the lifetime SAHM who would NEVER let a stranger raise her kids…) but if you aren’t making my life better, as my AP, then I don’t need you.

German Au-Pair July 10, 2015 at 4:42 pm

@sbw maybe put a line in your handbook along the lines of “I’m a mom but I am a person too and sometimes I will ask you to work so I can take care of myself and energize”. And re-read it whenever you need to, too ;)
I really thing young girls need to understand that being a mom doesn’t get rid of the person you are.

Angie Host Mom July 6, 2015 at 6:36 pm

I love the AP program, but it’s not a fit for this family. You can’t expect an AP to be home every weekday morning and evening and night plus one weekend in 6. And if they can’t make plans to go to a concert or sleep over at their boyfriend’s house it counts as working. Sorry, that’s just how it counts. If you happen to end up in an off situation where your AP needs to be home at night once in a long while and you talk about it and don’t count it as hours, more power to you, but that isn’t what is being talked about here.

WarmStateMomma July 6, 2015 at 6:42 pm

I realize that caring for kids every weeknight in Nebraska is not an enticing working vacation for APs from privileged circumstances. But imagine this:

You are a young woman in your early 20s in China with a degree in Tourism or English from a third rate college. Your English is lousy because you’ve never even had a teacher who spoke English well. You will be morally and legally responsible for providing for your parents when they reach retirement age. That should happen before you turn 30. You are not a beauty and therefore won’t fare well on all those interviews that require a woman to be physically attractive for an office job.

This is pretty much the candidate pool from China. For these APs, the chance to spend a year somewhere luxurious (clean drinking water from a tap! Hot showers from reliable water heaters!), learning to speak English for real, your certificate from completing a community college course or two, and having prestigious work experience on your resume (you lived abroad! You worked for Americans!) is a game changer. Your future earnings in China are likely to be much, much higher. Your English skills and experience will outweigh your general level of attractiveness and provide you with a lifetime of increased opportunities. Your obligations to care for your parents will be met with far greater ease. Imagine you will enjoy far greater social freedom as an AP than you ever have at home.

Imagine a kind family in Nebraska is considering whether to host an AP. The family cobbles together a solution to stay within he restrictions of the program. They live near a cheap community college where you can take classes and make friends while the host kid is at school. Imagine they decide not to host an AP because privileged APs don’t think it’s fair to offer this opportunity to anyone because it doesn’t sound like an adventure.

Not all APs have the same goals. This family could make someone’s dream actually possible.

WarmStateMomma July 6, 2015 at 8:55 pm

I realize this sounds harsher than intended. My apologies!

Returning HM July 6, 2015 at 10:34 pm

I didn’t think your post was harsh at all. On the contrary, I really appreciated reading that perspective. Goals like that are so far from those of the APs we host (generally 21ish year old German-speaking males from Western Europe), so I really appreciated the reminder that APs come to the US for widely varying reasons.

WarmStateMomma July 7, 2015 at 8:39 am

My use of “privileged” sounds snarkier than I meant to be. I am a little sensitive to this issue because AP#2 finished her year in March and has been emailing me about how the AP year changed her career prospects.

She interviewed with a guy who went to high school in my city. She was offered the job of being someone’s assistant but said it wasn’t enough money. So they offered her a manager’s job! She turned that down too and recently started an incredible job for a UK company after turning down other good offers.

While she was helping me search for her successor, she and I handsome frank discussions about why Chinese young women wanted to be APs and what they would get out of the experience. Pretty much everything she said was confirmed by a guy in my office who splits his time between China and the US.

China has more people living on less than a dollar a day than all of Africa combined. It’s hard to believe what a difference this AP year can make. There must be other countries where the AP experience also makes a huge difference in their lifetime opportunities. That’s why their parents pony up thousands of dollars from their savings just for their child to apply for the chance to be chosen as an AP. That’s why (some of) them work for free at daycare centers or orphanages for MONTHS to get the requisite experience.

I’d love to see a post about what happened to APs from around the world who completed their year and returned home.

AlwaysHopeful HM July 7, 2015 at 9:21 am

WSM, the “privilege” term did stand out to me when I first read your post, in light of the discussions of privilege, class and race that are going on in our country right now. I reread the post though, and I got it. I agree that au pairs come here for a variety of reasons.

My first au pair, from South America was very determined to use the experience to better her life. This was not just a fun adventure for her, although she also wanted to have fun. She told me that back home, with 2 jobs in her profession (she had a college degree), she made less than she did here as an au pair. She au paired in Europe before coming here, then extended in another family for her second year in the US. All of her movements were purposeful, and while she would likely prefer a place with opportunities for fun and travel, she was happy to go anywhere with a good family and her desired educational opportunities.

My current au pair is also most focused on finding a good family and the opportunities the program affords. He is European, but not from a privileged background. He was decidedly not interested in a big city, which he thought would be overwhelming (lucky for me), and would probably be okay with the Nebraska situation, as long as he still had lots of interaction with the family. I just think in fairness, it would be better to have 2 au pairs if the schedule really is as it seems.

WarmStateMomma July 7, 2015 at 10:27 am

@ AlwaysHopeful:

Privilege is just so relative. AP candidates in China are privileged compared to many in their communities because they’ve received a formal education and have the resources to apply to be an AP. And yet there’s such a huge gap between them and your typical AP candidate from developed countries.

Sometimes we are so focused on who has more privilege than us that we don’t realize how many people have less privilege.

TexasHM July 7, 2015 at 9:17 am

Warmstatemomma I was seeing it the same way. The question isn’t will she find an AP. The question is should they try? Assuming like WSM says and they find a way to get their scheduling to work within the guidelines of the program there is no reason this family shouldn’t consider hosting an AP.

For the record I did some quick searching and every agency I looked at had clusters in Nebraska. Omaha has a population of over 430,000 which puts it just behind Kansas City which is where we lived before and met many happy au pairs. It is a quick cheap flight to Chicago from there and that’s an easy hub to get the AP anywhere she wants to go and quite possibly easier than her west to east and east to west coast travelling counterparts.

There are pros and cons to EVERY location. When I say secondary geo it in no way means its a secondary place to live. It means by perception, APs will not consider it a primary desirable geo (which has been backed up by several of the comments already here).

Piggybacking off WSM we too host APs and know APs for which this is not a “gap year” or “fun adventure”. In fact we have yet to host an AP like that in part probably because I prefer and screen for APs that have strong goals for their time here and aren’t just looking to travel. First APs English was terrible and she needed English to get the good paying jobs in Brazil she wanted. Lucky for us she was IQ and we had little ones so we invested a lot of time in teaching her English and she was a great caregiver for two years for us. AP2 was also from Brazil and needed to be proven fluent in English to fulfill her dream as an international flight attendant (which she has!). AP3 was a french ER nurse that needed proven English fluency for an international aid program she wanted to join (crushed TOEFL with flying colors). AP4 was from Poland and the job market was so bad that to get most jobs that even had a salary (vs commission only) she needed English fluency and it would help her greatly to say she did any job in the US because of the prestige of that in her home country. Current AP is from South Africa and is our closest to a gap year (took a year off from college because she is changing majors) and even she has lofty goals for studying, taking extra courses, testing English fluency, making/saving up money and challenging herself. Our APs are not desperate but they do have different priorities than a lot of the other au pairs (and that quickly surfaces which is probably why they prefer american friends to other APs).

We have also had the pleasure of knowing APs from other countries that have less than desirable circumstances right now. I know a couple from Spain that extended or came here because the economy is so bad right now at home. In some countries (like China as WSM mentioned) having an AP experience can drastically change your career opportunities and put you ahead of the field in a way that will impact the rest of your life (ask our Brazilian international flight attendant!). It is presumptuous at best to assume that because you don’t find this location or schedule desirable that someone else won’t. I don’t think it’s fair at all to tell this OP she shouldn’t try (again assuming she can schedule the on call hours and stay within the rules) and its certainly not “morally wrong”.

The fact that the OP is here asking tells us that she cares and wants to make sure she is setting her family and AP up for success. There have been several good ideas on this thread to help her figure out how to schedule and stay within the guidelines. Her location should absolutely not be a part of this conversation. I am sure I am sensitive to the location bias because we get it so much during interviewing. APs have a lot of assumptions about Texas and yes I do have to weed through all that to find the smart and open minded ones and it’s always worked out but is frustrating and time consuming! It is all about matching priorities and fit. Believe it or not, I have had an AP turn us down to go live in rural North Carolina. Rural as in only one other AP in cluster and that other AP was an hour away! Classes 45 minutes away! MUCH smaller than Nebraska and guess what – AP loved it and so did their previous AP! Lid for every pot. If she can get the scheduling figured out she should absolutely put her pot out there and see if she can find a lid. :) (Too far with the analogy…???)

momo4 July 7, 2015 at 11:59 am

I agree 100%.

Location is irrelevant to the OP’s question for all the reason’s listed above. I live in a city that no AP has heard of on the border between the midwest and northeast, and I have never had trouble finding excellent AP candidates who have enjoyed their time here, many of whom really didn’t want to be in a bigger city, and 8/9 of mine have been from western European countries. There have been numerous posts where the advantages of NOT living in a “desirable” location are discussed.

I see no reason why the OP shouldn’t host an AP if she can keep within the rules and spirit of the program. I have seen several commentors in various posts who say that families with unusual schedules are not good candidates for hosting APs, but I respectfully and completely disagree.

OP’s AP would need to be a piece of her childcare coverage puzzle since it doesn’t sound like a single AP could meet all her needs, but for those of us who work unusual schedules an AP can offer a unique flexibility that we desperately need.

When my husband and I hosted our first AP we were both medical interns and an AP was our best (and probably only) option for covering those awkward “inbetween” times, especially early mornings, evenings we were on call, and occasional overnights. On our salaries we could not have afforded a nanny, and we did not have any family who could help. Our daughter was in daycare 8am-3pm (with option to stay until 6pm) and we had to be at work at 7am (and sometimes as early as 5am). We got home between 6 and 9pm. AP would get up with our daughter at 7ish, get her ready and take her to daycare. AP was then off until time to pick her up and watch her until we got home. Sometimes AP would work Sat or Sun mornings when one of us had worked a 36h shift and needed some sleep in the day while the other went in to work. Our agency had no 1.5 consecutive days rule. We kept track of AP’s hours so we did not violate program rules or agency requirements.

It sounds kind of insane (and I can hear all the posters who would never recommend an AP come to our family), but AP was perfectly happy with this arrangement. She was truly part of our family and our daughter adored her and was in turn adored. AP had access to a car whenever she wanted it, had most of the day to do whatever she wanted, managed to go out with her friends a lot (no curfew for her or the car). It was actually the AP who asked if she could pick up my daughter at 3 instead of 6pm! She had a great year, and came back to visit when her year was over. We are still in touch with her all these years later.

Incidentally, this AP was a classic 19 y/o gap-year AP from a very privileged family in a western European country who did lots of shopping and partying, was not particularly studious, but had a flexible, easy going, sunny personality and rolled with the punches.

8 years later, our schedules are no longer crazy like that, but we still require flexibility on the part of our APs to make it work. We are always diligent about keeping track of hours, but if one of my husband’s patient’s is suicidal, or one of mine is crashing in the hospital, we are going to be late getting home, and our APs have always been very understanding about this. We are, of course, utterly upfront about the reality of our lives when interviewing candidates, and the program has worked well for us and for the AP’s who have been a part of our childcare puzzle.

Host Mom in the City July 7, 2015 at 12:50 pm

To be clear (and I hope it didn’t come across that way) – I’m not suggesting that APs aren’t a good fit for irregular schedules. On the contrary, I would imagine that’s why most of us have APs! I’ve read through this thread again and most posters (all?) have said that as long as she can fit in the rules of the program, go for it. Those of us who have said it is probably not a good fit said it because it doesn’t sound like the host mom’s schedule would fit into the 45 hours, ten hours a day, not because it’s an irregular schedule.

Host Mom X July 7, 2015 at 4:56 pm

Right – momo4, your residency schedule actually sounds just fine for an AP and not all that strange. It sounds basically like your typical split schedule for families with school-aged kids (the “classic” au pair families), with maybe a slightly earlier start time and a slightly later end time. It didn’t sound like you ALSO had on-call overnights where after working that split schedule, the AP would also have to be in the home the entire night in case you or HD got called in (or that the AP then was actually “on duty” because you and HD did in fact get called in a lot). I wasn’t clear on what OP was originally talking about for her proposed schedule – but it sounded like OP needed someone to do split-shift kind of hours AND be on-call nearly every weeknight and many weekends. Which I just don’t think could work within the rules and spirit of the AP program IF that is indeed OP’s situation.

Regarding the posts about APs from less-privileged environments wanting such a job – I actually think many APs would be happy with momo4’s job, not just less-privileged APs. But I’m not sure that’s the issue. I think there is a vast difference between “taking an AP opportunity off the table” and thereby depriving a young woman from China from getting an AP job because the AP job doesn’t sound attractive (though is within the rules), and “taking an AP opportunity off the table” because it is in fact not within the spirit and rules of the program EVEN if a young woman from an under-privileged situation would want that AP job rather than no AP job. WarmStateMomma, I know you were not suggesting this, but I do not believe that families whose needs are beyond what the program rules allow should enter the AP program with the justification that they are providing opportunities for APs who’d be more than willing to take that job anyway and would otherwise not have any AP opportunities at all. That opens the door to waaaay too many grey areas and potential for abuse. That’s why we have minimum wage laws, labor laws, etc. (Going to stop here before getting into a whole other topic…..)

WarmStateMomma July 7, 2015 at 5:38 pm

I’m not suggesting that HFs take advantage of someone’s desperation and operate outside the rules/spirit of the program (although I firmly believe lots of candidates would happily accept circumstances we would find abusive). I am suggesting that because APs have different motivations for being in the program, many would be happy to match with a family for an experience that doesn’t sound like fun (because of the schedule, number of kids, location, etc.). Think of it as a “language residency” like doctors have their residencies.

Anon again July 7, 2015 at 5:09 am

I second this – but change it to Greece/Spain/Italy – where most 20 somethings have degrees coming out of their noses but zero chance of getting work (because there is no work and again their English is basic but not good enough to secure work in London, etc).

So they take a year out – improve their English and then literally the world market opens up for them.

Now doesn’t Nebraska sound wonderful…

German Au-Pair July 7, 2015 at 3:23 pm

Great perspective! I hadn’t realized the many different reasons APs come -I guess we usually see things from our own POV.

But I still do see the potential for a blow up if the mindset you described is not the one the AP has, so if the OP can make the hours work, she should really make sure the AP is 100% aware of what her life will look like. If she’s there to work hard, safe money and get good credentials like you suggested, she might not mind.

As a Western European, active in more than one AP forum, I can say I have never met someone who would consider such an arrangement. Forget the APs who only want to go to L.A. or New York, but even the ones I know with a more open mind wouldn’t combine crazy work hours and undesirable location. (What makes a location undesirable, BTW, is not not having heard of it. It’s the proximity to anything interesting. What makes NYC for exammple desirable is not JUST NYC but the proximity to several interesting cities/sights/locations. If you’re in it for travelling and seeing a lot of interesting places, you don’t want to go to a place that is not close to anything -especially when you consider that Europeans have a very very different understanding of what “close to” means…)
My point is not “no one’s going to Nebraska” but I know we all had an imaginary list (I was even interviewed about that list…) and for the right family you could overlook certain factors.

My POV is colored by my AP-friend’s experience though. We were in a comperatively undesirable location, she had a single mom and a schedule that made it almost impossible for her to go out during the week. She didn’t have a car to use in her free time and there was no bus. She got off so late (and had a curfew) that it wouldn’t have made sense to pick her up as the ways to anything fun were too far. So she basically was stuck in the house all the time. In addition, due to her demanding job + children, the HM did not have the greatest relationship with her . My friend was miserable her entire year. She had inteded to extend but was so worn down by her situation that she left after her year.
So if this HM can make things work regarding the hours, I hope she really is into building a positive relationship with her HM because for a great family you can overlook location and schedule.

WarmStateMomma July 7, 2015 at 4:20 pm

@ German: I love getting your perspective on this blog. As exhausting and disappointing as your friend’s year sounds to me, it could still be a huge opportunity to some people. Especially someone who comes from a country with a low AP-match rate and high application fees.

TexasHM July 7, 2015 at 4:57 pm

I think this says it all about your AP friend’s situation GermanAP: “She didn’t have a car to use in her free time and there was no bus. She got off so late (and had a curfew) that it wouldn’t have made sense to pick her up as the ways to anything fun were too far. So she basically was stuck in the house all the time.”

I have heard that same sad story from miserable APs here (Texas), California, Pennsylvania, Boston, NYC area and plenty of other desirable locales. This HM said nothing about curfews or car access. Any AP stuck in the house all the time is likely to be miserable regardless of her location. Assuming the OP can work within the program rules then her schedule would essentially be a school aged kids schedule with free weekends which most APs I know would find desirable!

Seattle Mom July 9, 2015 at 7:39 pm

You’re making me want to consider a Chinese au pair…. but I think it’s too late for me. It wouldn’t fly with my kids, who get frustrated with their Japanese au pair’s limited command of English. Her English is perfectly functional, but she doesn’t always understand what they are talking about. I think it’s sort of good for them, to learn how to deal with someone from another language/culture and not always be perfectly understood. They like our au pair, but they do complain about the language situation. I think a Chinese au pair with even worse English would mean they would never forgive me. My kids are 4 & 6 and the 4 year old in particular is highly verbal.

American Host Mom in Europe July 8, 2015 at 7:42 am

As I’m not in the US, I’ve never thought much about the specific details of scheduling (although follow similar broad guidelines). But as someone who has hosted two au pairs at the same time (for two years consecutively), I can say that it definitely has benefits: 1) they have someone to hang out with or just go out with if they don’t meet others, 2) it helps for sure with scheduling, and 3) as long as you go into it honestly up front, it isn’t usually a problem. I had three children under 2 and a husband who was away Mon-Fri, so I scheduled one for Sun-Thur, and one for Tues-Sat, and it worked great. They each had a two day “weekend”, and I had sufficient help when I needed it. In the OP’s case, it might make more sense to split the week differently, but assuming other scheduling requirements are met, and the OP has capacity to host two, could be a great option.

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