Your Au Pair is not a Maid

by cv harquail on June 17, 2010

What’s the difference between an au pair and a maid?

In some host families, not very much.

Some host families expect their au pairs to do basic housework in addition to caring for children. In the US, “housekeeping”is limited to cleaning up the kids rooms (but in my mind, not vacuuming them), keeping the play areas tidy, cleaning up in the kitchen after kids’ meals and the au pair’s meals, and keeping his or her own room clean. In my house, au pairs have also had a daily ‘family chore’ of emptying the dishwasher. And, au pairs are expected to “pitch in” with some limited activities like setting or clearing the table at mealtimes.

In Europe, the expectations are a little broader, with au pairs doing a larger variety of housekeeping tasks, but still having child care as the primary responsibility.

201006172007.jpg“Light housekeeping” does not mean “Maid Service”

Light housekeeping”, whether broadly defined in Europe or specific to the kids in the US, is not the same as acting like a maid. While an au pair can be expected to clean up any kid-related mess that’s made while s/he’s on duty, the au pair is not expected to pick up the mess that’s been made in the kids’ rooms during her weekend off. S/he is not expected to wash breakfast dishes from the morning that Dad was on duty.

An au pair is absolutely not responsible for picking up after host parents.

Au pairs (especially tidy au pairs) are vulnerable to abuse when host parents and other adults leave their messes all over the house and expect the au pair to clean up after them. Host parents leave their dishes in the sink, their dirty pots on the stove, crumbs on the counter tops, and ingredients everywhere but on the shelves where they belong. And, they expect the au pair to clean up after them. Host parents often (think that they) get away with this behavior, because the au pair is responsible for leaving the kitchen clean at the end of her or his work day with the kids. The crazy double standard is that while some host parents expect the au pair to leave the kitchen clean at the end of the shift, these same host parents leave behind an absolute mess when the au pair comes on duty.

To me, that kind of host parent behavior is absolutely rude.

I myself am a bit of a kitchen neatnik (which I’m sure you’ve figured out by now). As a neatnik and a person who often works in her home office, I know that I can spend hours tidying the kitchen as a way to avoid revising that journal article. I have a personal rule guideline that I only clean the kitchen once a day, at the end of dinner. So, if I make myself a lunch, I might leave the crumbs on the counter or my pan in the sink. But my au pairs are *forbidden* to clean up after me. I have been very explicit with my au pairs that anything I leave behind during the day is *my* stuff to clean up, not theirs. Similarly, I don’t expect our au pair to fold up my Wall Street Journal and put it in the recycling bin, and I don’t expect her to hang up the dog leash if I’m the one who left it on the floor.

I’ve heard this concern from several au pairs, most recently from “Tired of Tidying”, who writes:

My problem is that…my host parents don’t respect the fact that I clean the house. I have never seen such unorganized people in my whole life! They leave the shopping everywhere, nappies, bottles, bags, plates, cups. They just don’t care.

201006172004.jpgTo be fair, I’m here at their place to give them a hand with the children and “light” housework. But the problem is that my host parents don’t even bother to wash their own cups and plates. Since I’ve been here, I have never seen them washing a single fork! Not to mention the amount of crumbs they leave everywhere.

The same mess happens even when I’m off. A friend of mine advised me not to work, or wash anything in my time off. But….i’ve tried that. And guess what? When Monday comes, we don’t have clean dishes. In the end, it will be my job to clean the kitchen anyway.

I know I was supposed to help with the cleaning, don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to clean up after the children and the pets, but not the parents. I even make their bed, but when I have to take their cups back into the kitchen or when I see they don’t put the bottles to recycle and they just leave them there for me to do, I feel like a slave. I constantly have to clean behind them.

How can I ask my host parents be more tidy,without being rude or making them feel embarrassed? Overall, they are nice, kind people and we get along well. They keep saying that they know an au pair is not a full time nanny or a full time maid, and that they don’t want to take advantage of me, but this is what is happening anyway.

On the surface, it looks like an easy job. I’m supposed to work from 5 to 8 on weekdays and have weekends and the day times free. But on top of my evening schedule, I am working all day, walking their dog, washing the dishes, doing laundry or cleaning other rooms from the house. So it’s almost 3 hours of cleaning, daily!

It’s not my house, really. And I don’t want to be bossy, intrusive or to make the rules. I do really feel like I am the grown up here and I have in charge 2 teenagers. What should I do? if somebody can give me an advice, it would be more than appreciated.

Note: We have already discussed some issues related to housework and what’s appropriate to expect of an au pair. This situation has its own specific twist– the host parents are leaving their messes behind, day in and day out, expecting their au pair to clean up after them. Cleaning the house for 3 hours a week is one thing. Putting away every one of the dishes every one else uses? That’s another thing.

See also:

How much cleaning do you ask your Au Pair to do?
What skills has your Au Pair learned… from You?
How did I become a doormat?


PA AP mom June 17, 2010 at 10:39 pm

It’s a fine line and it’s complicated by the fact that the AP’s place of employment and residence are one and the same.

I would never expect the AP to clean up after me. That being said, if there are dishes in the sink, I don’t see the big deal with her putting them in the dishwasher. If I am using a glass and I leave the house and she makes the kids’ lunch and puts my glass in the dishwasher with the lunch dishes, I don’t consider that overworking her. If I NEVER put my own dishes in the sink and always expected her to, that would be different.

We have a cleaning person who cleans the house, including the AP’s room and bathroom weekly. In between, our AP pitches in with keeping the house tidy. I think it goes back to part of the family. She volunteers. I ask. We do each others laundry sometimes. Whoever gets to it first folds it or hangs it up. If she didn’t do it, I wouldn’t be upset, she just does.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 17, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Haven’t we had the tidiness conversation already?

I’d rather my APs spent time with my kids when they’re at home than doing chores. When my kids are engaged, they’re less likely to be glommed on to me the minute I get home because they’re bored. When my kids were babies, my AP had absolutely no household chores, because both kids were in early intervention programs. The Camel had 5 therapists that came to our home every week and the AP was responsible for understanding the training, practicing it, and conveying it to us. In addition, our son had bacterial meningitis as a newborn and was developmentally delayed as a result. He received PT until he was 15 months old. With two kids functioning as newborns for her first year with us, our AP didn’t have much time to do chores.

Now that our kids are school-aged, we ask APs to do one load of kids laundry, hang it on the line to dry, bring it in, fold it, and put it away. We ask that she vaccum and tidy the Camel’s room. We ask that she vacuum and mop, and wipe down The Camel’s bathroom. My son’s hovel is a lost cause – it’s clear the acorn doesn’t fall far from the oak. We state that we prefer she does this on her own time, since we only have her working 25-30 hours per week (except in summer when she works 45 hours per week).

I must admit, while HD and I do a lot of cleaning (we don’t hire a housecleaner and it shows), we tend to leave stray items next to the sink (a lunch container found in our work bag as we prepare to leave, etc.). We thank the AP when she washes them, and don’t complain when she leaves items behind (although I must admit, this evening I chafed at having to wipe down the stovetop yet again – neither HD nor AP seems to do this often enough for me. I like a wipedown of the counters and stovetop every evening (although I must admit, I didn’t sweep the floor).

My mother always complains about the state of my house when she visits, but then I tell her I’d rather she spend time with her grandkids then clean my house. The Camel’s life expectency is shorter than typical children and my son won’t be living at home forever – I’d rather have a few dust bunnies roll in the corner and get down and dirty with my kids than have a spotless home.

However, we are always up front with incoming APs. One of our questions is, “Would you describe yourself as messy, tidy or in-between?” It’s one that often eludes them – either because they’re trying to guess what the correct answer is – nothing is a deal-breaker for us, or they don’t have the vocabulary. We warn them that we’re slobs – that no matter how hard we pick up, the tide of stuff keeps flowing back and then we spent a weekend playing with the kids and we’ve lost the battle. We tell them that we don’t want them picking up after us, that they’ll end the year angry and frustrated. Every AP, with the exception of our first, has been much tidier than we. All of them have tried to organize us, and I hope they made their peace with it when they gave up.

cv harquail June 18, 2010 at 9:23 am

TACL, we’ve had a similar conversation, about housework, but not one that focuses on the issue of having to constantly clean up after presumptive host parents … I’ll make that clearer in the post. cv

Au Pair in CO June 17, 2010 at 11:51 pm

I have this problem at home. If I have the morning off, the dirty dishes from breakfast/lunch will be waiting for me when I start working, even if I don’t start till late afternoon. I don’t mind cleaning up after my host parents’ breakfast, since they make breakfast for all of us, but they also leave their dirty dishes out after their lunch, which I have to clean up when I get back home with the kids. If it was all stuff I could put in the dishwasher, I wouldn’t mind, but most of it are pots and pans that have to be hand washed, so I always spend an extra 15 minutes cleaning up after them, when I could have been spending time playing with the kids or helping them with homework.

I already do at least 6-7 loads of kids’ laundry every week, empty the dishwasher every morning, clean the kids’ bathroom every morning, make their bed, tidy their rooms, keep all the living areas of the house tidy, sweep the floors of the mudroom, hallway and laundry room (for some reason this is considered kids areas, even if my host parents use that entrance more than the kids and me), as well as keeping my own room and bathroom tidy, so I don’t feel like I should be cleaning up after them in the kitchen as well.

Is there any nice way to ask them to please clean up their own mess? It’s tempting to just stop doing it, and see what happens, but that just feels kinda childish:P

Dorsi June 18, 2010 at 12:54 am

I am one of the messy ones, but I do try very hard to not take advantage of my AP. I am not a kitchen cleaner, except in spurts. When left to our own devices, the kitchen will build up for a few days, and then everything gets cleaned. My AP likes to clean the kitchen every morning before work (or maybe that is in my imagination, maybe she thinks she has to). If she doesn’t do it, I will, eventually. However, this is the only thing she does around the house (we have professional cleaners every two weeks, including her room and bathroom, and I have yet to see her take out the garbage) other than light kid chores — one child’s laundry and tidying of her room.

Anyway, it may be that the patterns of cleaning are off. Eventually, if the AP doesn’t pick up after the parents, they may do it themselves. Just not on your timeline.

Anon Nanny June 18, 2010 at 1:30 am

I’m a messy Au Pair, and proud of it! Haha, don’t get me wrong, I clean up after the kids (mostly, or make them do it. it’s THEIR mess! I supervise and help) and I do the dishes and I’m pretty much the laundry queen, but I’m terrible at keeping on top of it. I always end up doing it in my spare time because I’m looking after kids and playing rather than cleaning. I think my host parents appreciate this. Having said that, one of my favourite moments as an au pair was when the parents came home, we had dinner, and they went outside and played with the kids while I did the dishes. I feel sad for children that never get to play with their parents, and I feel sad for parents that miss out on the fun stuff.

So… my point is – it’s a give and take. My host parents clean up after me sometimes (like when I left the tent up in the backyard for a week because the kids loved it so much, and so did I!), and I clean up after them – I do everyone’s laundry together – what’s the point in spending all that time separating the kids from the adults and mine? we’re one big family!

If you feel like you’re au pair is taking more than giving, have a word. If you look at yourself and you can see that you (as an HP) are taking more than you’re giving – give a little.

Having said all that, it’s REALLY annoying when they leave stuff in the hallway on the weekend and expect me to clean it. SO I DON’T. That is my advice to the Au Pair – with the dishes – do the ones that you need for Monday, and just consistently leave the rest. When they ask, say that they were their’s and that it’s not your responsibility. In fact it’s not your responsibility to do any of the dishes from your time off. Same as their bed – WHAT THE? you should not have to go into the HP’s room and clean their mess! I worked for a family once where I was more of a maid than an Au Pair and I left pretty quick – you’re a child carer, not a maid.

I also have conversations with my host mum while we’re doing laundry, about how I don’t mind helping with certain things, but leave out the stuff that I will not do. for example “I want to help more with the ironing. I’m going to get onto that. And I’m sorry that I’m not more responsible at cleaning the kids rooms” and she’ll say “don’t worry, we’re all a big mess here! we don’t expect you to clean up after us”

conversation over.

Anon Nanny June 18, 2010 at 2:36 am

Scrap that about the laundry queen – I keep accidentally washing woollen stuff. Just got “told off” for it, again. I feel terrible, but I just don’t think to look out for it since my family in NZ is a “in it all goes” style family. we also wash in cold water and with wool safety detergent. (I do sort colours though).

OnceAnAuPair June 18, 2010 at 6:28 am

As an au pair in Europe, I did a lot of cleaning. Maybe even a bit more than the normal european au pair should do.
For example my week went like this: fold and hang laundry to dry (remember the mom’s neurotic washing rule) and put away the kids laundry and place the parent’s laundry on their bed, after folding. “Tidy” the kids’ rooms, make their beds, put toys away. Once a week vacuum and dust kids room. Vacuum common areas upstairs (weekly), vacuum common areas downstairs daily. Unload the dishwasher daily, put away breakfast dishes(parents included). Clean up after lunch (2x a week with the kids), take trash out, walk the dog (2 or 3x daily).

Occasionally I would get in trouble for not cleaning well enough, actually often. Under the little girl’s bed there was a drawer and appearently it could be pulled out, which I had no idea about. I got in trouble for not doing that and not vacuuming behind it. I had never been shown that was even possible. Also every night after dinner, which I had to go to if I had worked, I cleaned all the dishes that needed to be hand washed and put the others in the sink, then tidied up the kitchen for everyone. This became so annoying that I never came to meals on days off because I didn’t want to to be stuck cleaning up after everyone which happened even on my off days. In the end, 3/4 of the times they left the dirty dishes in the sink for me to deal with in the morning anyway. I also had other “chores” variously thoughout the year, at one point I was asked to pick the cherries off their cherry tree, which I thought was so absurd I thought they must have been joking. It wasn’t and I got told off the next day for it. I was also told to fetch packages at the post office or take the dog to the kennel. I rarely heard a thank you, usually just what was wrong.

NOVA Mom June 18, 2010 at 6:53 am

I would say that my family is on the tidy side. We always do the the dishes after dinner, wash and dry or in the dish washer. We are constantly cleaning here and there. We do not have hired maid service. So as a family, my expectation is that my kids and AP should help out. The kids may have ice cream after dinner, so there will be a few items after the main wash after dinner that end up by the sink and remain for the morning shift. We ask that our au pair do these items when she is cleaning up with the kids in the mornings. Our au pairs are also expected to help clean up after dinner, but only when they eat with us. There are occasions when/if AP needs to leave for class or meeting friends that I just tell her not to worry about it.
She must make beds every day, tidy bedrooms everyday, wipe down bathroom as needed, clean bathroom top-down once week and vacuum/dust kids rooms occasionally (has been more like once/month). She does laundry once/week and if there is anything in there that I or HD toss in there, to please add to the wash if there is room. HD and I generally do not toss anything in laundry room so this might be only 1-2 garments. I in turn do mine and HD laundry and any other items (AP and kids included) that have accumulated on the weekend. I have never asked our AP about her room, so she lives as she feels. Fortunately we haven’t had a complete slob for an AP yet and we are going on our 6th AP this summer.
With all the chores that I listed, my AP still does not have enough to fill a day b/c kids are in school all day. So I think it would be nice if an AP took the initiative to help out in other areas. Like, I often get my kids to pick up their toys that they leave laying around in the family room, kitchen etc. It would be nice if for whatever reason, I was unable to get kids to put it away, that my AP would doe it while the kids are in school. Little things like this would help me out a great deal. Instead I currently have an AP that may sleep and spend empty hours skyping. There is something that really bothers me when I paying for my AP to sleep after my kids are in school. And one other item that really bothers me is having to clean up after my AP. HD and I really would like for our next AP to honesty earn the stipend that she receives.

Au Pair in CO June 18, 2010 at 10:32 am

I think that if you want your au pair to do more work while the kids are in school, you have to tell her. If you don’t have a written schedule, or at least tell her specifically, she’ll think of that time as her time off, and won’t do anything. If you say that she has to spend at least one full hour doing things like picking up after the kids, then I’m sure she will do it, but she’ll probably never do that on her own initiative.

SotaGal June 18, 2010 at 5:26 pm

I agree with APinCO, you should just ask her to do certain things. When our kids are in school I schedule our au pair for 1-2 extra hours that the kids aren’t home for some cleaning and laundry things. This may mean cleaning the play room, running the vacuum in the playroom and kids room or a general mass clean up of toys. SHe also has to clean her own bed and bathroom and she prefers that I schedule time for her to do it rather than leaving her to her own devices to get it done. Thankfully we have the hours! We also rotate toys and I include this in her time as well. I’ve let her know in the beginning what the time is for, then leave a note with what I expect to get done as it changes from time to time. She also enjoys knowing how much free time she may have on any given school day.

pia Aupair June 18, 2010 at 7:18 am

well when i matched with my family i was told by the HM that they were really clean and tidy. And i was scared that i wasnt able to fulfill their expectations cause my room is always a mess.
Well once arrived here I had to say that yes they are tidy and she does like it clean she just doesnt do anything to keep it that way.
they are not expecting me to do it. I do have some chores though.
monday wash the kids laundry
tuesday wash the kids sheets
wednesday wipe down all the toys
thursday wipe down and vacuum kids bedroom
friday clean kids bathroom and i mean really clean since they dont ever wipe anything down in there.
additionally clean my room+bathroom and clean all the messes the kids or i make over the day.

well i dont think thats so bad.
but like i said she likes it clean just doesnt do anything for it. she was alway expecting HD to do everything which i started feeling so bad for him that he never had time to relax (he leaves the house by 6.30 and gets home around 5) and never has time to interact with the kids.
So I went and vacuum+ cleaned all the floors (except of their bedroom) clean the kitchen a couple of times a day. often help/do dishes after dinner (i am off at 3.30) clean the fridge regularly (which i guess they have to think they have a self cleaning fridge cuz for the 2 years i am here now i have never seen anybody take a wipe to that thing) dust and clean windows occasionally.
I usually do all that stuff during nap time so i guess my host parents thought we had a house cleaning fairy. so since they weren’t realizing that i did all that stuff i didnt get a thank you either but got complaints when my official chores didnt get done perfect or on time.

i know i should have just left it how it was but if nobody does it i kinda feel like it is my responsibility.
my own room is still a mess though :)

NOVA Mom June 18, 2010 at 10:23 am

You would definitely get a thank you in my house and you definitely earn your stipend. You are going well over expectations. I sure hope your HP’s realize this and thank you for your hardwork.
I never say anything about our APs room. The one with us now, her room is messy but not a slob. I would say something if I noticed that dishes were left in there, cups etc. That causes bugs to come and no one wants that.

Calif Mom June 18, 2010 at 10:43 am

Hear, hear! I would faint if an AP wiped the fridge on her own initiative!

You sound like a sweet person, and unfortunately, sweet people can often be taken for granted. So Pia, go read the doormat post that CV put a link to — if no one else does it, that does NOT make it your job. They may just be waiting to see if you will. You are *training* them to act that way, and it may only get worse as they discover you will not hold up a stop sign.

MommyMia June 18, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Ditto that. We joke at our house that the “toothpaste fairy” or the “toilet tissue fairy” forgot to come when these supplies aren’t replaced (no one considers that maybe mom, AKA “everything fairy,” didn’t have a car to get to the store, or no one wrote on the shopping list that they used the last or next-to-last of something – and sadly, mind-reading isn’t one of the mom fairy’s many talents!). Pia, your HM will have a rude awakening about her self-cleaning fridge when you are gone, or otherwise she’ll train the next AP to take over your cleaning role. You sound phenomenal to me, and you’d definitely be getting all sorts of thanks and appreciation if you were doing all that for us!

Lisa, PA HM June 18, 2010 at 7:26 am

We try to be neat, but it’s difficult with 2 children (2 and 3 yrs. old), a 50 lb. dog, and a husband who works in construction. That being said, we ask that the au pair be responsible for children related cleaning – and to have them help her with the cleaning because it will be there responsibility as they get older. The AP is in charge of overseeing them put their toys away after play, light dusting/vacuuming their rooms and her own weekly, their laundry (about 2 loads per week with AP’s laundry included), changing their beds weekly, and putting their dishes in the dishwasher when she feeds them. We do have someone who comes in and cleans 2x a month, but she does not clean the children’s or AP’s room; rationale – once we no longer are in need of an AP I still won’t have her clean the children’s rooms, I want them to learn responsibilty – as a full-time working mom I pay to have someone clean the common areas of the house and my room so I can spend my free time with my children. An AP is not a maid, but someone to help in the household and as a family member our AP often helps clean up after dinner clearing the table (if she has plans, we don’t expect her to help with this) and she occasionally empties the dishwasher if I didn’t get to it in the morning (this happens 2 – 3 times per month).

Deb Schwarz June 18, 2010 at 7:54 am

NOVA Mom – here’s an idea for you: build an hour or two into your schedule after school drop off, and write it on the schedule and importantly, what you want done during that time (e.g. tidy up family room of kid’s toys, kitchen, etc.). It sounds like your au pair doesn’t realize that you’d like these things done. You refer to “empty hours” but if they aren’t on the schedule, your au pair won’t know that you’d like her/him to work during that time. I’m usually flexible about my hour of “tidying” (e.g. if they’d prefer to do it later in the day before the kids come home, that’s fine). Try that out – and I think you’ll notice a difference.

Related to this more general topic, the way that my agency defines “light housekeeping” is no scrubbing floors or toilets. This usually helps host families realize that they aren’t getting a maid.

Another related topic (and one that I get asked on a regular basis by au pairs) is what about cooking? This is one that is such a grey area. As our kids get older, we try and sit down for a “family dinner” at least 3x a week. We ask our au pair to prepare these family dinners (although we have them delivered weekly so it’s more “heat and eat”). I usually tell au pairs in my group that if they are preparing food for the kids that the whole family would enjoy, then it’s really not outside the scope of their job – as long as it’s not a daily thing and everyone pitches in for the clean-up. I once had an au pair in my group that was asked to shop for and prepare (from scratch) a family meal every night, Mon-Fri. She first complained but then realized that she had such an easy schedule (kids in school all day) that she didn’t mind it in the end.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 18, 2010 at 8:15 am

When my kids were young and home all or most of the day, my APs cooked lunch for them or heated up leftovers. Now that they are older and eat at school, they don’t cook as much for the kids. Because I am usually home around 4:00, I have my APs feed my daughter (either heat something up or cook for her) while I make dinner. Occasionally, when HD and I are both out on weekdays or having a night out, we ask the APs to cook for the kids (or if they are non-cooks, order pizza in). Some of my APs have definitely not been cooks!

Our current AP is a Vegan and seems to have rejected everything American. Even though I make Vegan food several days a week, she doesn’t eat the meals I prepare. So that she has more food in the house that she wants to eat and so that we have one meal a week when she actually sits with us, I have asked her to prepare dinner for everyone once a week (it’s a night I take my daughter to therapy and HD gets home too late to get a proper meal on the table at a reasonable hour). We get to eat a variety of foods, my kids are exposed to new tastes, and she has leftovers that she wants to eat. (She seems to cook for herself during the day.)

OnceAnAuPair June 18, 2010 at 12:56 pm

I am vegan too and I think its great that you’re ok with letting your children and yourself try vegan food. and that you’re even cooking it! Vegan food is so much more than most people think. What are the vegan things you’re making though? Sometimes I think non-vegans get stuck in a rut with what to cook us and usually make pasta, rice, tomato sauce, etc. Personally as a vegan these are foods I only eat 2-3 a week, as they are not the healthiest. Maybe ask her for her favorite recipes or let her show you how she likes to prepare and cook food. Good lcuk!

maria July 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm

I think you can ONLY ask your au pair to cook if its a meal that will be eaten during her work hours. And the only one i really think the AP has obligation to prepare a meal for is the child. So if you husband (HD) is getting home late and want to get a proper meal, that is HIS problem!!!

Taking a Computer Lunch July 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm

That AP is now gone, but yes, we made it part of her working hours (mainly because she was responsible for my son until DH returned from work while I took child #1 to therapy). We just added the meal into her working hours and ate together with her when we were all home. We rarely had her work 30 hours per week even with the preparation of the one meal.

As for me, I’m a severely lactose intolerant and the only meat I eat is fish (and then once every-other-week usually). I try to limit my pastas to once a week. I use quinoa, rice, tofu, mushrooms, beans, nuts and tempeh to get protein. While I eat sheep and goat cheese, as well as eggs, I have one child who does not, and cook around him – hence the tendency toward veganism. Both my children eat meat. I rarely cook it for them (although once cooked, I will heat it up). Both kids eat a wide range of vegetables and will happily try new foods most of the time.

anonamomma July 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm

@ Maria – we do girls like you become Au Pairs if that is the way you think. I ask my AP to cook a meal for the whole family a few times every week – the time is scheduled into her working day and she has no issue with this. She understands that she is here to help out.

I think that AP’s who only want to do what they are obligated to do soon find out that they are the losers.

For instance, I am not obligated to allow my AP have friends over on the weekends, providing snacks and drinks (few bottles of beer here and there) for said friends, paying for her gym membership, paying for extra activities for the children (and her), inviting her on holiday (fully paid with no duty time), giving her extra time off to go to concerts including a full five day festival, inviting her family to stay with us on two occasions, letting her use my Dior perfume (buying her a bottle of same for her going home present basket), ensuring that she always has enough shampoos and lotions because they are expensive and I know she is saving her money, etc, etc.

I am not obligated to do any of these things – it works both ways.

azmom July 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm

I have to agree with anonamomma – either it is a cultural exchange and treated like an adult member of the family where there is some give and take on both sides, or we should all just get live out nannies and APs can just go on with their lives rather than having this temporary time in the US on an EXCHANGE visa.

An AP can’t expect the families to do anything at all extra for you (including providing you with toilet paper, more than one set of linens, a curling iron, weekends with the car, pizza ordered when you watch the kids in the evening and we let you have your other AP friend over (within the 45 hours of course!), etc) if you don’t want to do anything that resembles family-like behavior in reciprocity.

Maria, I hope you were really thinking “I’m not sure if you can” and not really a snarky response because your response is why I dread even thinking of a new AP. We aren’t extending, because while things are some-what more than tolerable and she’s overall an 9/10 with the kids, I hate to see a year two if the “other” things dwindle. Knowing I can end up with someone like YOU, who may look great on paper and knows English well enough to muster her way into a family… Ugh, ugh! UGH!

Back to the point of the original post – this isn’t about being a maid, but about looking at what small extras go into making it a real cultural exchange versus a party year for the AP and a headache for the host family.

My 2 cents July 18, 2011 at 4:13 pm

I don’t think you are right on that one Maria — at least as to the “eating” aspect of it. And i think you may have the context confused with one in which the host family is expecting the au pair to cook the host parent’s meals strictly, as opposed to a family meal where everyone partakes and enjoys and no one person is responsible all the time for cooking.

Our LCC requires her au pairs to cook a family meal twice a week with the expectation that they then eat that dinner with her family which would be of course dinner time and when they are technically “off” duty. The idea is to break up the group work load on meals and to have some time to sit down and be a family.

azmom July 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm

my 2 cents – i think you’re right on there. many families struggle for that family/adult/independence balance, and sitting down for dinner once or twice a week helps with communication, ensures that the AP has input on food and can help relax everyone.

hOstCDmom July 18, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Maria – I think you may have read TACL’s post incorrectly. I believe that when she stated “I have asked her to prepare dinner for everyone once a week (it’s a night I take my daughter to therapy and HD gets home too late to get a proper meal on the table at a reasonable hour).” She isn’t saying that the HD gets home too late to “get” a meal as in to be SERVED a proper meal that is prepared by someone else, but rather he gets home too late to “GET a meal ready”, meaning too late to PREPARE the meal for the ENTIRE FAMILY including kids and AP at an early enough time that it works for the kids, their schedule, their hunger, bedtime etc.

But, in any case, it seems the bigger issue you have is with the notion that the AP would be required to pitch in and prepare a meal(s) for the entire family, including herself, because she is an adult member of this family for her year in the USA. And on that point, I fully DISAGREE with you.

(TACL, apologies if *I* misread your post and thus incorrectly interpreted it above — but based on all your (great!) posts, I have the sense that your DH is a fullly participating co-parent and co-household manager/task do-er who is NOT the type of guy who comes in late and expects someone to serve him his martini, have his meal waiting, and hand him his slippers!)

Taking a Computer Lunch July 18, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Oh, he has his fantasies. Fortunately I’m married to a guy that my boss says “Gives husbands a bad name.” Tonight he made a lovely dinner after he fed The Camel hers, while I went to pick up our son from camp and our AP went to the gym (because she had already put in a long day which included dropping The Camel off at school, then taking my son to camp, meeting both of them at home, going for a swim and then taking The Camel to physical therapy.

Ladies, I think you’re being too hard on poor Maria. Her English is good enough to understand my post, but not the nuance, as HOstCDmom pointed out – that get in my context meant to prepare (I don’t think to get dinner is American usage, is it? Or is it just a truncated form of “to get dinner going”? I guess the American way of saying it is “to make dinner.”)

It’s all moot this year – as the AP who is outgoing hasn’t been particularly enthusiastic about cooking, although she can prepare a meal that makes my son happy enough on the nights that DH and I go out. On the other hand, she’s been quite happy to sit down and eat when I do cook, and we’ve had the pleasure of listening to her English blossoming. It’s hard to remember those early days when she struggled to understand our family repartee, and could not yet think quickly enough to participate in the conversation. She’s been a full family member for months.

Mom23 June 18, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Deb — I think having the au pair prepare dinner a few nights a week is one of the benefits of the au pair program once you have school aged children. In our household, we get home at 6 and the kids go to bed at 8. Having the time to connect with the children in a relaxed environment is important to us. Dinner time allows that. I ask our au pairs to cook simple meals Mon-Thurs and I cook fancier meals Fri-Sun. We do not ask our au pairs to clean up dinner dishes.

Jan June 18, 2010 at 8:20 am

My family tends to be messy or maybe cluttered, but I can’t stand a house that is truly dirty and nothing makes me happier than just washed windows. We don’t have a housekeeper so most of the cleaning falls on me. We don’t want our au pair to clean the house during the day because this takes away from her watching the kids.

Most of our au pair’s have swept the kitchen floor once a day, and they help to unload the dishwasher plus they tidy up the kids bedroom and wash their bed linens. The kids are supposed to help with these chores.

I don’t expect or want the au pair to do the cleaning and having someone else in the house has made me more aware of what I leave behind so I try to minimize my impact. Unfortunately, I tend to remember things by visual cues so I might leave out a “visual cue” to remind me of what I need to do – if I don’t see it I forget it. For example, if I need to return a form for a preschool event I have to leave it on the counter next to the door so I remember to take it with me. After a neat au pair put away my visual cues several times, I made the spot on the counter mine only or a no touch zone.

StephinBoston June 18, 2010 at 8:40 am

We have cleaning service every week and they do clean the kids and au pair’s room. So it leaves very little to actually do. I expect au pairs to keep their rooms clean enough so that the cleaning service can clean it, start or empty the dishwasher when it’s full, do the kids laundry/sheets and pick up after themselves when they eat and cook. I think as a family member those are basic things she should be OK to do. I’ve never asked an au pair to vacuum or clean floors. I’d be happy if they picked up a broom sometimes when mid week it’s messy or when the dog hair is overwhelming because honestly, with a two demanding full time jobs, DH and I really don’t have time for it. Some have been better than others at taking initiatives like that, it makes me appreciate them even more but it’s not expected.

Calif Mom June 18, 2010 at 10:00 am

Au pairs seem to have 3 options:

1) just stop doing other people’s work. This is probably what I would do, because I’m a conflict avoider by nature. However, this could lead to confusion, resentment, and misunderstands that could damage an otherwise decent relationship between HPs and AP. If you are one of those people who just *can’t* leave a dirty glass sitting on the counter all day, I don’t know what to tell you but I acknowledge that this can be very difficult for you. You need to find a way to deal with this. (My SIL is like that, so I’ve seen it in daily practice. It doesn’t look like much fun.)

2) explain to the HPs that you don’t mind tidying after the kids, and they probably don’t intend this, but it feels like you are expected to tidy up after the parents, too, which feels unfair. (This is made very clear to parents in program materials, so they really have no excuse.)

3) Start a summer campaign to teach the children how to do a lot of this cleaning and tidying themselves. One AP above put it very well–they are the children’s messes, not hers, and she supervises but does not do all the work. That’s exactly the standard that I expect in our home, but I will also say that our really nice APs tend to be doormats and the kids get off easy. It drives me crazy for two reasons. First, because the kids expect the same level of service on the weekends, and are cranky when their “staff” (ie, HPs) don’t deliver. And second, because the work really doesn’t get done all that well, because the AP ends up scrambling around behind the kids right before I come home, and a lot gets left undone.

I think an AP’s best bet in situations like this is to focus on “I” statements, and frame your concerns in terms of what is best for the children.

At your next check-in meeting, say something like, “It feels like the children expect that I will do all the cleaning up for them, but I really want to teach them how to take care of themselves. I was reading that learning how to do these things makes children feel very proud of themselves. Now that summer is here, there will be even more messes made in the house, and I would like to focus on having them work *with me* so it gets done faster, so they can feel proud of learning new skills, and earn some rewards. Here are some of the ways I’m thinking of doing this. Can I count on your support?”

An AP might want to put a call in to your counselor, so she has a heads up, just in case. Counselors can include advice on topics like this in their monthly emails to parents in a general sort of way, so your family wouldn’t know it was inspired by you!

AP in CO–Pots and pans can sit until after dinner. I would leave them for the parents to do.

Wow–one load per day just for the kids? How many clothes do those kids own? Are you running small loads? 6-7 per week just for the kids seems like a lot to me (I have 2 kids, in elementary school. I think our AP runs 3 loads of their clothes per week.)

If the kids are old enough for homework, they’re old enough to learn how to wipe toothpaste out of the sink in the bathroom and clean the mirror.

Tactics for getting kids involved in cleaning:

1. Make it a game.
Use a timer to see just how long these things really take. Playing “beat the clock” makes chores fun. Seriously! For example, my kids and I know that working together,we can unload even the most loaded-up dishwasher in 2 minutes and 35 seconds.

2. Require that chores must be completed before the fun begins. Remind them that the longer the chores take, the less time there is for fun *and then stick to it*. I’ve never seen a bedroom floor get cleaned up faster than when ten minutes of “screen time” awaits them at the end (watching “I Love Lucy” segments on youtube is a favorite right now).

3. Invest a tiny bit in kid-cool cleaning products. Mine absolutely LOVE the Method brand lavender-scented window cleaner. It’s not full of ammonia and it works great, so I’m fine with my 6 yo using it, and no, they haven’t squirted themselves in the eyes yet. They also like the “Magic” eraser scrubby things that you put a bit of water on — they will happily scrub pencil marks off the walls and grungy stuff off doors and light switches. (Those require some supervision so the wall doesn’t end up with bare spots, though!).

4. Let them accumulate rewards, if that’s what motivates them. an AP could talk to parents about what works for them. Might be stickers on a chart, points toward the latest Riordan book they are just DYING to buy, or an extra ice cream from the truck at the pool, whatever.

5. give the kids the assignment and a deadline, and let them figure out how to get it done. Make up silly awards for the most creative approach.

6. Acknowledge that house cleaning is annoying and gets in the way of fun. Get a copy of “Free to Be You and Me” and crank up the song about detergent advertising while you’re picking up. :-)

Au Pair in CO June 18, 2010 at 10:47 am

Thank you so much for this comment!

Yes, it’s actually 6-7 loads of laundry a week now during summer. 1-2 of those are beach towels and swimwear, and then there’s 2-3 of regular clothes, 1-2 with underwear and 1 with only whites. I do my own laundry with the kids’ stuff, but that’s more to save time and fill up each load. The kids are 4 & 8, but I still have a hard time making them put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket and dirty dishes in the sink, so having them help clean the bathroom would just take way more time than I wanna spend on it. My host parents have also scheduled me to do most of the cleaning when they’re both in school, and then there’s no way I can make the kids help.

MommyMia June 18, 2010 at 1:33 pm

LOL – those Magic eraser cleaners are the best invention, ever! I have felt like Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence – “ooh, wow, look at that! That big handprint just disappeared like magic!” Everyone came running to see and I had to get all four of them out of the box so everyone could try it – became a contest to find all the smudges on the walls, while I happily moved on to something else. You have some excellent points here, Calif Mom, and are bound to have some skilled and happy adult children someday when they move into their own homes!

cv harquail June 18, 2010 at 2:02 pm

O. M. G. you are full of ideas lady! cv

NewAPMama June 18, 2010 at 10:01 am

I have always found it rude and disrespectful to just put one’s dishes in the sink, and expect someone else to put them in the dishwasher, especially if the dishwasher is empty or dirty. If it only takes someone else a minute to do it, then you yourself can do it. My DH leaves dishes in the sink constantly, and I do not expect my aupair to deal with it. If I come home to dishes in the sink, you can bet I will be speaking to my husband about his laziness, and not getting upset with the aupair for not doing it. However, she will hear it if they are her dishes! Same with laundry, etc. If our clothes are in the dryer, the aupair just puts them in a basket. For a while, to be nice, she would fold it for us. But I told her I wouldn’t fold her clothes if they were in the dryer, and to avoid hurt feelings, she is to just put ours in a basket. She is responsible for all cleaning/household chores regarding herself and the children. This includes cleaning up the kitchen after they are done with each meal. Seems to be working so far!

Mumsy June 18, 2010 at 10:14 am

Being a member of the family has its benefits and responsibilities. Helping out around the house is a shared responsibility. We all clean up after each other when it comes to the common shared areas of the house (e.g., kitchen, living room, family room, basement). Being a member of the family is a two-way street and requires give and take from everyone.
We were too shy to ask our first AP to help out and used to clean up after her. She was terribly messy and lazy, which made me resentful. We are now on our 4th AP (in as many years) and we have a good balance in terms of everyone doing his or her share of keeping the house neat and clean.
Our first AP came to visit us earlier this year and was shocked that current AP actually washed the pot after dinner. First AP actually asked her why she was washing the pot and current AP answered, “Because I want to.” First AP just did not get it.

HRHM June 24, 2010 at 2:28 pm

HAHAHA – this sounds just like AP2! She found a new family for extension, and boy is she having a rude awakening! She just called to tell my that her new HM complains all the time about what she isn’t doing or isn’t doing right. And I am so glad that I no longer have to pick up her coke cans and empty plates around the house!

NewAPMama June 24, 2010 at 4:15 pm

I’m curious, why did you? I would have no problem telling our aupair to clean up after herself. I already have two young kids, and do not need a third.

Calif Mom June 18, 2010 at 10:36 am

Our current, beloved AP started out washing pots and pans after dinner because that was her chore at home. Somehow–shockingly–that habit faded away in the first 6 months! :-)

We have the same assignment as CV, that the AP empties the clean dishwasher once per day. This inadvertently leads to the AP needing to load a few HP-generated dirty dishes, though.

Since AP does not get up early enough to unload the washer before breakfast (and she has decided to not engage the kids in helping, as I insist they do when I’m on duty), there is no place to put dirty breakfast dishes except the kitchen counter or sink, so AP does load those for those lazy host parents, who have already left for work. ;-)

She also washes any pots that she used for lunch time, mostly because they will be needed by the HP who’s cooking dinner.

HPs do the pots and pans and stove after dinner, and run the final load of dishes. I would never ask her to touch our laundry–she doesn’t even sweep the floor unless there is a big spill. I’m mostly happy if the art table gets cleaned up and the toys put away where they actually belong. But we ALL have a greater tolerance for clutter than Martha Stewart would ever consider tolerating. (Or that SIL of mine, for that matter!)

anonmom June 18, 2010 at 11:51 am

**blushing host mom here*** our host is very cluttered with laundry (albeit clean) patiently waiting to find a home while is waits in the den. Too many books and kids’ toys litter the home! With 3 children, 2 dogs, and 2 parents working full time, life is hectic. I tell all the AP’s that our home is chaotic, and I am no neat freak! In our manual, there is a paragraph about what is expected, such as vaccumming the areas they play, their laundry, sheets, etc. however, I also put in it that if the tidying does not get done, I prefer that they spend the time interacting with the children.

Realisticly, however, now that all of them have been in school, the AP’s duties have morphed into more housework, more homework help, and more taxi driving. 7 years ago, we tried to keep the children’s laundry separate, but that was not practical. So, our au pairs have thrown in all the laundry, and they are told they don’t ‘have to’ fold ours, but all have done so anyway. Similarly, we have folded AP’s laundry put it in drier, etc. As for the dishes and cleaning the house, we all chip in with the dishes, but our AP’s (except for 2) have been more than helpful cleaning for us without being asked- and even in emergencies such as company is coming- we asked and they helped.
One AP was beyond helpful- making me throw things out that I was reluctant to do myself! 2 AP’s organized the linen closet- again clearly not in their ‘contract’ but something they did on their own volition. Was it because the house is a mess? who knows! But I am eternally grateful! We do have some helpe to clean the house 2x month, but a day after the house is cleaned- you’d almost never know it!

JBLV June 18, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I have the opposite problem. My AP mostly considers herself a guest. I have to put in our daily log once a week, “this is your day to help put away the dishes in the dishwasher.” She never helps with any other adult-related household activity. Her room is a train wreck (so we keep the door shut), and I’m constantly picking up “mineral powder makeup” off the bathroom floor (just one example). We have a cleaning person that comes once every-other-week, but most of the time it’s my husband and I keeping the household together.

As far as tasks revolving around my 19-month-old (her only charge), I have to put in her daily log every “once-a-week” task, as after 8 months she still cannot remember what the 3-4 items are. The only thing I don’t have to put in the log are the daily tasks of picking up the toys when they are done playing, and doing his 3-4 dishes a day. My AP gets a 1-hour lunch break, and after that my son goes down for a two hour nap. I feel it’s entirely appropriate for my AP to do my son’s small bit of laundry, etc., during that two hour nap – it usually takes her an average of 20 minutes (total) to do these tasks. And then she can “rest,” for basically 2hrs and 40mins during the day in total. (Yes, she is a princess, but she is good to my son -and that is something I have to constantly remind myself about.) Anyway, these 20 minute tasks/day add up to almost two hours of housework that I don’t have to do, and can therefore spend more time with my family.

I also don’t feel it inappropriate to ask the AP to vacuum our small bit of carpet (4 ft by 6ft) in the play area every other day. We live in a desert that is dusty, and for several months out of the year, *FILLED*, with pollen. Keeping the carpets cleaned is, therefore, important to everyone’s health.

It would be so nice to have an AP who felt some sense of being part of the family, and would therefore help with the dishes, etc. I would love someone like “Tired of Tidying,” the AP who wrote in above. Instead, I have an AP who upon seeing the clean dishes in the dishwasher, simply puts her dirty dishes in the sink and heads off to watch 4-hrs of television and write mean things on Facebook. Ugh.

Nina French Au Pair in Germany June 18, 2010 at 1:19 pm

I’m currently an aupair in Germany and I have to say that I am shocked by some aupairs behaviour. For me, if you are part of the family, you don’t mind doing some stuff that are not part of your job. I don’t know how to explain that but for example here in my HF, I do the laundry whenever there is some to do and I honestly don’t care wether it’s from the kids, the parents or mine. The same way I would never leave the kitchen in a mess after dinner just because I’m not on duty … My HP asked me at the beginning if I wanted some fixed schedules and I answered that I didn’t … because if I had a precise time to finish my day, I wouldn’t feel like a member of the family but more like and an employee ….
We’re all a big family and I just want to make their life easier …

Tired of tidying June 18, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Thank you for your reply.
‘we’re all a big family’ sounds nice, in theory. Because, at home, in my REAL family, I’m not the only person entitled to do all the cleaning.Even if I used to help my mother around the house with daily chores, my parents would never expect of me to clean the house while they enjoy themselves.
Besides this, if it’s my day off and I’ve been out all day long, why is my duty to clean the dishes that I find in the sink, in the kitchen or somewhere else? And they’re not even mine.
Why am I suddenly a ‘bad’ AP (or a lazy one)?
Why do they all say at the beginnig: ‘ you have to do only the children’s stuff ( like laundry, toys, their rooms,their dishes), but in reality its EVERYBODY’s stuff? If they were honest from the beginnig, the things would have been different. I much preffer to be told from the beginnig ‘look, we are 2 busy parents and we are not so tidy, but we would apreciate if you can help us with the cleaning, with the dishes and clothes, or whatever else we want’. I’ve been AP a few years ago, somewhere else, and my HM wanted ALL the windows to be cleaned every week, and my HD wanted the grass from a big garden to be cut every Monday. So..yes, it was weird, they were obsessed with cleaning, but they never left a cup somewhere for me to pick it up. They always used to put their dishes either in the sink or in the dishwasher. And I call this respect.
The other problem is that …I don’t know about you, but myself I feel like I will go mad if I keep washing the dishes 3 times a day. Sometimes, when they have parties in the house, or relatives staying over, i’m the only one left in the kitchen,with a mountain of dishes,and I have to ‘make it shine’ ( because I’m the au pair, right?), while they all laugh and watch tv. And if I don’t do it, because nobody told me it’s my task, the dishes will stay there forever. Yes, maybe they wait for the Fairy Wonder to come and clean the house.
And even if they ‘appreciate’ and say thank you, I find this just a way to manipulate me. By showing their grateful, it’s a strategy to make sure I will be doing the same thing over and over again. No, but no thank you. I would ‘appreciate’ not being in the situation to have to do that. And I wouldn’t mind skipping the ‘thank you’ part.
About the part ‘ my AP likes to clean the kitchen every morning’. Well…. I like to clean the kitchen, too. In fact, I really like to clean the whole house. But not every morning, and not everytime somebody else is leaving a mess behind. I bet my HP think the same. That I clean because I like. But honestly, I am also human. And I would much prefer to watch a movie or to read a book, then to scrub the cooker.
Living together with other persons has its ups and down, of course. That’s why I don’t want to make my HP feel permanently constrained by my presence in their house.

Thank you all for your kind and considerate comments. And thank you for your nice tips.

Nina French Au Pair in Germany June 18, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Moreover, when I see how much they appreciate what I do and how thanksful they are, it just makes me want to keep doing my best …. They are so happy when they come home and everything is done and they can relax and play with the children …

Former Aupair June 18, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Very nice topic. I think there are so many things to consider. For example, when I was an aupair, I did the majority of cleaning at my Host house for one simple reason: I am a very tide person and i cannot function in a disorganized and dirty ambient. However, to not seems fair, my host family decide to pay me an extra amount every week, to they wouldn’t feel guilt about it, and i wouldn’t feel they were exploring me. That was a perfect deal that made everybody happy, and i lived in a clean place, (thank God).

Reading the comments here, there is one thing I strongly disagree. Some host mother said that her aupair “likes to clean the kitchen every morning before work”. She also said “If she doesn’t do it, I will, eventually”. Let’s put this in a different way. For example, if every day when you get to work, your desk is a completely mess, left from the person who uses the same desk than you on the third shift… Would you clean the desk before you start work because you like to do that every morning, or because otherwise you will work in a mess desk?? Same with the kitchen!!! Who likes to start the day or cook in a mess kitchen??? And how about if the “eventually” means every 4 days? And how about if your aupair decides to clean after here eventually??

I really think that if each member clean after their selves, this problem would be solved!

Former Aupair June 18, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Very nice topic. I think there are so many things to consider. For example, when I was an aupair, I did the majority of cleaning at my Host house for one simple reason: I am a very tide person and i cannot function in a disorganized and dirty ambient. However, to be fair, my host family decided to pay me extra every week, so they wouldn’t feel guilt about my extra cleaning and i wouldn’t feel they were exploring me. That was a perfect deal that made everybody happy, including a clean place for everyone (thank God).

Reading the comments here, there is one thing I strongly disagree. Some host mother said that her aupair “likes to clean the kitchen every morning before work”. She also said “If she doesn’t do it, I will, eventually”. Let’s put this in a different way. For example, if every day when you get to work, your desk is a completely mess, left from the person who uses the same desk than you on the third shift… Would you clean the desk before you start work because you like to do that every morning, or because otherwise you will work in a mess desk?? Same with the kitchen!!! Who likes to start the day or cook in a mess kitchen??? And how about if the “eventually” means every 4 days? And how about if your aupair decides to clean after here eventually??

I really think that if each member clean after their selves, this problem would be solved!

Anna June 18, 2010 at 3:44 pm

I am all for reasonable balance. I agree au pair is not supposed to wash the dishes after host parents (especially a messy host dad who leaves his dishes unwashed for days “)
but on the other hand, if I am washing dishes after breakfast, I wash my au pair’s dishes also. I don’t leave her breakfast cup on the counter until evening, and that is what irked me about our previous au pair – almost perfect in every other way. She would wash dishes after hers and kids’ breakfast, but leave my cup, that looks like every other cup but was used by me, dirty on the counter for the whole day. Ok, I didn’t have time to wash my own cup in the morning. But if I did, I would wash hers too!

Jill June 18, 2010 at 3:48 pm

I am a local care coordinator and when I meet HF & AP for orientation, I give them this helpful tip sheet:

So, What is Light HouseKeeping?

This is what the Department of State says:

“While the primary responsibility of the au pair is to care for the children, au pairs can perform some household duties that are child related (meal preparation, light housekeeping, etc.)”

But what does that mean to you?

• AuPairs should expect to do any necessary cleaning associated with the children
o Children’s Laundry
o Children’s Bathroom
o Children’s Bedrooms
o Children’s Toys/Belongings
o Preparation and Clean-up of Children’s Meals

• AuPairs should not do anything associated with the parents
o Parent’s Laundry
o Parent’s Bathroom
o Parent’s Bedroom
o Parent’s Belongings

• AuPairs should clean up after themselves
o AuPair’s Laundry
o AuPair’s Bathroom
o AuPair’s Bedroom
o AuPair’s Belongings

• AuPairs should always leave a room as neat or neater than when you arrived
o If you sleep on it, make it up
o If you wear it, hang it up
o If you drop it, pick it up
o If you cook or eat from it, wash it up
o If you make a mess, clean it up
o If you open it, close it.
o If you borrow it, put it back

Above all, don’t give the host family any reason to feel that
having you in the house makes more work for them.

It is a fine line because everyone lives in the same household. If the AP who posted her concerns came to me with her problems, I would advise her to share this tip sheet with them. The AP is not responsible for cleaning up after the parents and if she keeps doing it, you know that they are never going to do it themselves. The HF is taking advantage of her. But on the other hand, I have had AP’s who never took out the garbage or emptied a dishwasher yet they are contributing to the trash and dishes. Living together is definately a give & take.

cv harquail June 18, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Jill, this is a great list. Thanks so much for sharing it!

I’m wondering how to apply the list concept to a situation where the AP is expected to do some additional housekeeping– the OP is (I think) an au pair in Europe, where more housework is okay but where being a maid is still too much.

OP, can you imagine revising a list like this that included what was your responsibility and what was your Host Parents? We could fill this out for European au pairs and put it up for anyone to download who needed it.

AUPAIR Momma June 18, 2010 at 10:41 pm

actually all my aupairs do none to little help w/ cleaning, keeping clean etc except for maybe the 1st couple weeks when they are here or if icomplain. if i say would you straighten playroom? just a – i dont know where to put stuff and they pile it up or shove under bed. or would you vacuum playroom floor. basically no. A nanny would do this. The aupairs we have all seem to think basically any of this is beneath them. Especially since the primary resp is to take care of an infant who sleeps 1-4 hrs a day … I think that straightening playrooms well or doing the laundry and folding it nice would be ok without having to remind them. if the aupair kept on top of it or had the kids do it every day it would be fine. instead it goes on and on and of course itshard to do.

Aussie AuPair June 25, 2010 at 6:05 am

So I just recently finished my Au Pair year and have spoken to new au pairs or soon to be au pairs and this is a big concern of theirs.

When i first moved into my family i did what was required of me, but the longer i spent there the more comfortable i became and iwas no longer an employee i was part of the family, i was my host moms grown up daughter and that is how she reffered to me. So it wasnt doing chores it was jsut being part of the family, im a big believer in the more respect you give an au pair the more they will do for you.

We had a cleaning service fortnightly so they did majority of the cleaning, but i would clean my family sheets every week or them and if there clothes were in the dryer i would fold them for them why the kdis were naping. I shoveled snow, i cooked fmaily meals, i vaccumed the house, whatever it was that needed to be done i was happy to help out because i knew they would do the same for me. However the days that my host dad was rude to me i was much less likely to do something for them, but the nicest thing was that every time i did something no matter how little it was my host mom would come home from work and thank me, and then she knew that when we were having guests she could ask me and i would do extra cleaning for her.

to me its all about how much you respect you give your au pair, friends of mine thought i did too much cleaning, but i never once felt like i was a “maid” i was jsut part of the family.

NewAP July 7, 2010 at 6:51 am


I recently started working as an AP in Sweden and I didn’t go through an Agency. I’ve lived abroad before and on my own so I’m not really doing this for the “experience” but more, I moved to this country and needed a job and this was offered. I’m 25 years old so I’ve had a bit of experience.

But reading through the post & the comments, I feel like my host family is taking MAJOR advantage of me.
But I guess they can in a way cause we didn’t go through an agency?

Here’s a few examples of what I’m expected to do every day (Mon-Fri)
Get kids up (ages 2,4&6)
Give them breakfast, tidy up after breakfast
Make sure they brush teeth & hair
Make sure their rooms are tidy (make beds, no clothes on floor etc)
Do an activity until lunch
Give them lunch & clean up after lunch
While the youngest one is napping
Prepare dinner (we get food delivered each Sunday & recipes for the week) and that means cook the dinner so it’s ready to be heated up at dinner time.
Tidy up indoors and outdoors
Do whatever laundry is needed done, iron, put a way dry clothes etc

Then once a week I’m expected to vacuum & mop floors in the entire house, all bedrooms including the parents.
Dust off all surfaces in the whole house (incl. light fixtures, objects, furniture)
Do all laundry (incl. HP)
Clean toilets, sinks, bathtub, mirrors,
Clean toothbrushes & hairbrushes
Empty trash in the whole house
Fluff pillows
Air out all mats/blankets etc
Dust the tops of books, spines of books, shelves etc
Clean the fire place
Dust staircase banisters
Discard food and beverages that are past their date
wipe inside oven & microwave
wipe inside and outside of trash & recycle bins
clean fridge
wipe hand prints throughout the house
Clean windows as needed
organize linen closet, make sure everything is folded neatly and organized by size
put out fresh towels in bathrooms & kitchen
change the sheets on HP bed, every other week in kids room
and once a month I should additionally to all that
scrub grout in bathroom
wipe inside medicine cabinet
wipe tub surroundings
kitchen – scrub floors & wipe inside all cupboards (if needed)
Hallways – scrub floors.

Now Host Mom’s…. is this normal?
I work 37 hours a week and get the regular pay so in that way there is nothing wrong with that. But I feel like this cleaning stuff is a bit much.

What do you all say?

Anna July 7, 2010 at 8:24 am

I say that rules in Europe are different and from my understanding, more housework is allowed.
If you knew about these conditions before agreeing to come to this family, I say you knew what you were getting into. Now if you change your rules, it is unfair to the family. Don’t you sign some sort of a contract specifying your responsibilities before you come there?

37 hours a week total is still less than 45 my au pair works here in America. She doesn’t do cleaning the house, our laundry (she does the kids’ laundry), and cooking for the family (she does cook for kids sometimes). But these are rules here in America.

To me, it does seem like your family got childcare AND a maid all in the same package. But, if it all was discussed and agreed to by you before, I think its OK. If not, then you can talk to your family if you are not happy with it. But then you should be prepared to take a paycut, since your hours will be probably less than they are now.

Az. July 7, 2010 at 8:40 am

I think you’re being taken advantage of. 37 hours a week is still much more than the 25 you’re allowed to work in Sweden ( — American au pairs might work more hours, but they’re also paid more.

I’d bring it up with your host family, and ask if they’re aware of how many hours you work. Look out your contract and compare it with the European regulations. I don’t agree with Anna that you shouldn’t say anything because you knew what you were getting into — your host family should be sticking to the regulations of the programme and I think it’s within your rights to bring it up if it’s come to your attention that you shouldn’t be working that much. If it’s something you can’t live with and they aren’t prepared to change, look for another family on Au Pair World.

NewAPMama July 7, 2010 at 8:47 am

I think it comes down to whether or not you agreed to everything you are doing now, or if they told you it would be “light” housework. If you didn’t agree to it, then you shouldn’t be doing all of that now. Light housework would mean laundry, sweeping, vaccuming, and picking up after the kids. Anything else, including ironing imho, is not considered light. You need to pick a time to sit down with them and say X is the amount of hours an aupair is allowed to work in Sweden, and these are the chores that I am allowed to do. If you want extra money, try to negotiate that. But if you just don’t want to do them, then put your foot down. I do not think you should just stay silent.

NewAP July 7, 2010 at 8:50 am

I actually haven’t signed a contract yet. So in all reality I’m still a free agent. However I do like the family and I wouldn’t want to leave them in a bad spot by just leaving but I can still change the rules if I want to cause there is nothing written and signed.
I’m from a EU country working in a EU country so I don’t need a visa to stay here or anything like that. So I moved here first and lived for a few months and then got this job.

However I do feel in part that they weren’t completely honest about everything. And my friend who is the former Au Pair hasn’t been happy for the last few months of working here but she didn’t want to influence my opinion about the job so she left out a few things that I’m just finding out now after having been here for about 3 weeks.

But the family did have someone that did the cleaning for them.
During our interview they mentioned that maybe come fall when the youngest one starts pre-school that they might lay off the cleaning lady and ask me to do some extra work instead since the kids will be at pre-school for a part of the day. However they seem to have already laid her off and I am now doing all of this.

It’s definitely not the hours that bother me cause I have great hours. I can’t complain about that at all. But like you said, it seems like they got an au pair & a maid in one package.

So I just wanted to know if this was considered normal. Especially to be so specific about the cleaning (cleaning the spine of books 1x a week)….

NewAPMama July 7, 2010 at 9:06 am

They sound neurotic about the house being that clean. However, normal is relative here. What is normal for an aupair to here in the US may not be normal elsewhere. Find out what kind of housework aupairs do in Sweden, and then go from there.

NewAP July 7, 2010 at 9:16 am

Thank you! :)

I appreciate all the answers. The family is away right now so I can’t talk about this with them until they get back but at least I can do some more research in the mean time :)

Rossana Sasso August 12, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Yes, I do feel like a maid (not to say slave) in my host persons home (anything but a family). And it is true,European au pairs shouldn’t work more than 25 hours a week, but that’s a complete myth.
And you know what? It’s not even having to do all the cleaning of a 3 floor house, or even having to do all the cooking and the dishes, it’s not coming back on Mondays to find the house I left immaculate filled with dirty dishes, dirty clothes and piles and piles of my HPs mess , it’s not even the fact that they don’t have the common decency to at least put their dirty clothes in a laundry basket but leaving them for me to pick up from the floor ( instance in which I have found that my HD doesn’t know how to wipe correctly and HM can’t apparently use a tampon …yes, yuuuuk),making and changing and washing their bed laundry,solely taking care of the garden and the pets and generally just picking up discarded food and items and working all through the day …it’s the fact that I never get a thank you.
It’s the fact that I get bullied over the amount of toothpaste I use to brush the toddler’s teeth ( yes, i get it, it’s dangerous if he has more than a pea size, it was a one time accident, it’s better than him not getting his teeth brushed at all, which is what HM does on the weekend!) , over the fact that the kitchen foil is not wrapped up “correctly” and other stupid stuff like that. And I mean screamed at and pushed.
And to be honest, I really don’t think it’s a smart move. I don’t want to sound insane or menacing, but this is someone who is in charge of your kids and food and home, frankly you WANT to be nice to them. I’m not saying I would ever do something to harm the kids, but the fact that I get treated like that certainly doesn’t improve the quality of my work. And my HM’s toothbrush has been in places…

Europhile August 12, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Rossana — why are you still there? You should get out of there asap and look for a new place, to make sure you get something out of your being an AP. Best of luck.

Rossana Sasso August 12, 2010 at 7:51 pm

I am here because I want to stay in this country and the law is such that I cannot get another family here if I rematch. They, however ,would get a new slave in no time.
Only 50 days to go though, and I am counting backwards each minute of it.

Europhile August 12, 2010 at 9:13 pm

50 days and counting. I feel for you. What a rotten situation. Good luck! I would never treat my AP like that. But if I remember correctly, you’re in the UK, right? Is it really just 25 hours that you are supposed to work? Even in Switzerland, where this is very regulated, it’s 30 hours.

some au pair August 13, 2010 at 12:26 am

why excatly is it not possible to rematch? I never heard of such a law.
I guess you are not European? But even then you should have the chance to rematch.
I have met many girls who have worked as Au Pairs in France, Germany, Finnland, Italy… and all of them would have had the chance to rematch/had a rematch. O.o

some au pair August 13, 2010 at 12:28 am

Just by the way, every European country has a different laws for the Au Pairs when it comes to salaray and work hours.
In Belgium your Au Pair should not work more then 25 hours. In most other countrys its between 25 and 40 hours a week.

Rossana Sasso August 13, 2010 at 4:03 am

In the UK I have had to obtain an accession work permit from the Border Agency ( I am European, but from a new member country, so draconic restrictions apply to me) , which clearly states that an aupair is not allowed to work more than 25 hours/week.
And yes, I am not allowed to rematch, not here in this country anyway. Again, maybe the restrictions only apply to my nationality in the UK, but we always have special provisions.
Thank you for the good wishes, I’m off to scrub all the drawers in the kitchen ( by special phone order from her majesty HM).

some Au Pair August 13, 2010 at 11:11 am

That just can not be right. (I dont want to believe that something THAT unfair is the only possibility *%/$(§/$§#* )

What agency do you have? How come Au Pairs from the other European countrys can just “hang out” in Italy, Sweden, France for 3-12 months WITHOUT any kind of documents but you have to stay with people who got the whole Au-Pair-thing wrong?????
Thats not right, its not fair. :’-(

Host Mommy Dearest August 13, 2010 at 11:56 am

I agree this is unfair and unreal, but Rossana sounds smart and I bet she will make it through the 50 days and then express (in as professional a way as possible) how wrong it is for HF/HM to treat her or anyone that way. If I were in Rosanna’s shoes, I would make sure I make it through the 50 days and get what I need to stay in the country, but then I wouldn’t leave without expressing in a not-sugar-coated but not over-the-top-harsh way, how I felt about my experience and how I was treated. I would probably express my feelings in writing because I like to write down my feeling then edit it several times over the following weeks to make sure there is the correct tone to my msg and there is nothing in there I will regret sharing either immediatly or in the future. I like to share what I have written with someone who can give me some neutral feedback before I share with the person in question. If you decide to write something I would be happy to read it. Also, if you think you might be able to prevent some other poor au pair from experiencing the same thing, I would share a copy of the letter to her with your agency or whoever can impact their ability to get another au pair to mistreat. When you are out of harm’s way from them, I would let her know that you plan to share the letter with others to let them know how you were treated and to try to prevent others from being treated the same way. Your main purpose would not to be to embarass her for her actions, but if that is a side effect, in my opinion all the better.

amber November 23, 2010 at 12:08 am

my father will not agree to me being an au pair. in his mind, au pair = 100% maid in fancy term.

in my country, there’re thousands of maid from neighbouring poor Asean countries. they work long hours and paid minimally, not to mention regular abuse from employers.

preciously of this, my father won’t want me, a degree holder, to be a maid overseas. who cares it’s a developed country in europe or US. in his exact words, “if u wanna au pair so much, start here in asia.”

Should be working November 23, 2010 at 4:38 am

Amber, this is something I’ve wondered about, i.e. how the AP’s parents feel about them becoming APs, especially in countries where cheap labor from abroad is a common source of household help. I wonder if the agencies have some materials for AP parents. I can imagine they might, e.g. Cultural Care is one of the big agencies and might be used to dealing with reluctant AP parents.

Please post updates!

hostMom November 23, 2010 at 7:40 am

I think you should not become an au pair.
Because here in America, most of us don’t have maids, and we do ordinary household tasks ourselves, and there is no “dirty” job. Obviously, as a member of the family, au pair has to have the same attitude. Of course she doesn’t clean the whole house, but I expect her to wash the dishes after the kids and herself, help unload the dishwasher, sweep and wash the kitchen floor after a dirty day… pitch in in little things in a very democratic way. If she has an attitude that those tasks are beneath her and she is a teacher only with a college degree (the girl can be a good au pair and a very sweet person otherwise and say nothing to me on the subject), I feel the attitude, it rubs me the wrong way, and I hate it. I had one au pair who was like that – her parents felt exactly the same, that being a “nanny” was beneath her as she was a teacher with a degree in her own country. I felt it. I knew she was thinking about it. She never lifted a finger to do anything beyond what she thought was her duty, and it meant I ended up cleaning the kitchen to my standard after a full day of work. I kept mum about it the whole year because I loved the girl and she did a great job. It felt small to tell her “please make sure to wipe the counters so that they are dry” and “wipe the kitchen floor if you spill stuff “. But hey, I was the one doing it after her and resentment is still here. She did tell my daughter once that something was “not her job”. Hey, everything in the house is MY job, not beneath me. Believe me, I didn’t ask or expect anything out of the ordinary, just leave things the way she found them – I am the maid in the house, I don’t have one I pay to come and clean.

Should be working November 23, 2010 at 8:10 am

From Amber’s post it was clear to me that *her father* should not become an au pair, for precisely the reasons hostMom states here. But it was not at all clear to me that Amber shares her father’s disdain for housekeeping tasks. Parents’ values are not necessarily a barometer for determining APs’ values, especially when it comes to feelings about being an AP in the first place.

hostMom November 23, 2010 at 10:31 am

I understand, but I know that for even the most upright, good, conscientious and sweet person, growing up with household help rubs off on you… I also got the impression that she was looking for ways to dissuade her father and is sure that au pair work doesn’t involve household work. I was offering a dose of reality that it does; and for someone not used to doing household work, having to do kids’ laundry, change their beds, wipe their butts, pick up their toys can seem like fair amount – and these are just the very basics! I haven’t even started talking about helping clean up after dinner if you eat with your host family, getting the trash on your way out, and other things that are obvious to us who grew up like that, and can possibly be totally demeaning to someone who grew up like Amber. It is a cultural difference that might not be worth adjusting to from both perspectives (family and au pair)

Taking a Computer Lunch November 23, 2010 at 8:24 am

There are other visa programs in the United States. A friend of a former AP came back and worked for Marriott Hotels for two years. She spoke English well, so she was able to land a receptionist’s job, but most of the people in the program cleaned the hotels. My understanding, based on her experience, is that she didn’t make much money, as she had to pay rent for her living quarters and purchase her own food. APs, on the other hand, receive those as a benefit.

It is also possible, with a fair amount of money, to attend university in the United States if your goal is to have an experience outside your home country. When I attended graduate school in the 1980s, my university subsidized foreign student education by offering paid work, but my understanding is that there have been huge economic cutbacks, so that you might need to have thousands of US dollars to attend.

The bottom line: if your goal is to come to the US, then you need to understand that unless you’re wealthy, Americans might well expect you to live as we do – and the bottom line is that most of us don’t have cleaning ladies and cooks. Most of us, even if we have a college education, clean our own toilets.

Lej May 19, 2011 at 8:17 am

I just had yesterday a two hours conversations from 9 in the evening till 11 -.- (in my free time and so late, this morning my host mum even got mad at me for being a little tired, after getting to bed that late… what I’m totally not used to..) with my host parents about the fact that I have to do much household chores and other things…

I do the laundry of the parents and kids, fold them and bring them upstairs and pack them in their closets, look after the kids, tidying up the kids messes, cook every day, do the dishes, make the table ready, clean the kitchen every day, clean the floor every day and hold everything a little tidy.that isn’t bad, it’s that I also have to clean after the parent’s mess… they say it’s just a little thing to do so it’s nothing to bother about and it would go into the 30 hours a week. but still, shouldn’t I be there for the kids instead of having to clean up the mess of the parents?

in the morning before I bring them to school the parents make themselves sandwiches and stuff and just let everything there for me to clean it up… also dirty glasses and cups from the evening before are always standing there waiting for me and also after the weekend everything is pretty much a mess… they also expect me to clean the entire house with them (before alone, but now with me ’cause they said I didn’t clean everything good enough…), bathrooms, toilettes and the parents room included. even thought in the law stands I shouldn’t have to clean any bathrooms or toilets I don’t solely use. We never took that in the contract, and first they told me it is for the insurance and that it else surely fits in the 30 hours a week and that I shouldn’t nag about an hour more or so.

And also when the kids have vacation I have to take care of them all day, plus my chores in the household what makes me work around 11 hours every day then… that is then 44 hours a week, because I work 4 days a week. They say it gets compensated with the holidays like easter, christmas and that. but shouldn’t you be free then anyway? or am I wrong in that? and to work 44hours is well kinda a lot.

When I read that I was actually allowed to work 8 hours a day / 30 hours a week maximum here in the Netherlands, I was shocked about it. But they don’t want to know about that rule.. they tell me if I want to go strictly after the rules, then I should better go, that it would come out right after a year with the hours and I shouldn’t nag. but I would still have to help them find a new au pair and stay till the new one comes. but honestly, I don’t want to do that.

They are acting like I’m being really unreasonable and also get mad at me when I forget something small and they have to do it. Tell me that if this would be a real job, I would get fired immediately and that I should consider myself lucky. Or if I forget to clean a little corner in the house and they have to clean it, it’s a big deal to them to have to clean up themselves. I feel like I’m not an au pair but a maid. Isn’t an au pair mainly there to look and clean up after the kids? They also tell me that I should act more like an au pair and spend more time with them in the evenings and weekends. I go to my boyfriend at the weekends who I really love and in the evenings I’m mainly busy learning Dutch and other stuff I need to learn for the future, also for the study I want to do I pre learn.

They also take it bad that I don’t talk a lot about my “personal” life to them, what rooted out of the fact that they saw my boyfriend once and always start judging him when we enter a conversation :( it always starts with “and how is it going with your boyfriend, does he finally have a job? don’t you want another one? we think he isn’t good for you.” and so on… It really annoys me, they even tried to match me with some other guy! because my bf is looking for a job at the moment and is having trouble with it… but that doesn’t make him a bad person does it now?? They know how much I love him and still they are being so mean… and also if I tell them about other stuff that is interesting to me, like new things they found out about science, they just laugh me out and tell me to stop bullshitting… or act in other ways like I’m a retard.. also when I told them that I won’t eat pig any more, but still cook it for them, they started being all mean about it. even thought I told them that it’s because of the antibiotics and that pics are genetically really near to us and that it is unhealthy because of that, they still wanted me to eat it. even thought I said no. They are also really unfriendly to the environment and animals what I can’t stand at all… they had a sweet bunny and their dog made it run away… and they didn’t even care, they where happy that it was gone :((((( I liked the bunny so much :'((( My entire family tells me that I should just go and let them be ignorant fools. That their behaviour would be a bad influence to me.

But in general they are nice to me. So it is hard to do, I don’t want to be a bad person :( anyone got advise? I always think about it if I’m the one being wrong, so I would really appreciate another opinion..

_ May 20, 2011 at 1:34 am

I’m not trying to be rude, & I’m sorry if I come out strong, but…”in general they are nice to me” Did you even read your post?? It seems you are far from comfortable living with that family, try to work it out, if you can’t, move on. Life’s too short to be miserable over things you can actually make better.
My two cents.

sidenote: Remember you ARE an adult. Stand up for yourself without whining about the situation. try in reality to make if work, but if you can’t, just face it…

Anonamomma May 20, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Okay – I’m going to stand back and play devil’s advocate.

From reading your post – this is what I get. They have told you that they would like you to spend more time with the family (as an au pair) and you don’t want to do that.

You work four days a week – mainly coming in under 30hrs (during which time you are expected to do household chores) which they are now helping you with because you don’t do them correctly alone.

You have decided that you won’t eat pork anymore – and explained why (fair enough you are entitled to make your own decisions) but would your HF have selected you if they knew this during the matching process? (I would not like an au pair with a selective diet).

You are expected to tidy up after breakfast/lunchmaking in the morning (which you have a problem with). I personally don’t see an issue with washing a few bowls/cups but obviously you have.

So let me break this down – you work just over a 30 hour 4 day week and spend every weekend with your boyfriend. During your on duty hours the children attend school and you do not like doing chores.

During the school holidays you are expected to help out and you do not like doing this either.

Not once have you mentioned the children, how you love them, or any relationship you have with them, etc.

The parents have told you that if you have a problem then you should leave.

I think you have your answer.

Michigan Mom May 20, 2011 at 6:04 pm

In fairness, though, she shouldn’t be doing the parents’ laundry and she shouldn’t be expected to clean the whole house. Small things like filling the dishwasher shouldn’t be a big deal, but it sounds like she’s being asked to do more than that.

However, it does raise a red flag that based on this post she doesn’t seem all that interested in the children.

Anonamomma May 20, 2011 at 6:51 pm

I agree on the parent’s room & laundry thing but the post does read that she cleans the whole house with them (I am allowing for a bit of shall we say embellishment!). I also assume that the host family are also involved in the cleaning. In Europe it is not unheard of for au pairs to do laundry or ironing for that matter. It is actually quite common and this au pair would be aware of this.

But the elephant in the room for me was the complete non-mention of the children or any sort of relationship with them – even the pet rabbit is mentioned!

In fairness the HF do seem to want to be more involved with her – they have come out and asked her to spend more time with them, they ask about her boyfriend (she does not seem to welcome this), they spend two hours speaking to her about her role in the family and she came down “tired” the next morning.

My read on this – I think this au pair knows she has an arrangement that suits her needs (4 day week – evenings off – and weekends with boyfriend) and perhaps that is why the family are “not so bad”

German Au-Pair May 19, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Am I guessing right that you are German? So the Netherlands wouldn’t be that far from home…my advice would be to look for another family as it would be not that bad to go home and keep on looking from there and then go back to the Netherlands. The risks don’t seem that high as when you’re on a different continent.

I honestly would not stay with that family. Not only are they taking advantage of you, they also act very disrespectful towards you and your feeling and I would not want to be living with people like that. How ironic that they dare to complain about you not spending your freetime with them.

I’d just go and look for another family, especially when the risks of going back home and then returning to the Netherlands are not that high.

Au Pair in Italy February 11, 2012 at 10:24 am

I think that the issue with cleaning is one of those give and take situations. If, as an Au Pair, you do light housework because you are a good person, the host family should always thank you for it and acknowledge that it is a help. In addition, the host family should be prepared to give you something back from time to time. (ie…maybe offer to clean the table for once or do your dishes from time to time.)

Honestly, I feel very taken for granted in my current position because I never hear so much as “thank you” for all the work that I do. The parents just seem to expect me to set and clear the table, do the dishes and clean up after them like I am a serving wench! In their add they stated that they have cleaners who clean so that would not be a part of my job, but both parents are so messy (to the point that if they take a sweater off they just let it fall on the floor! LOL! Who do they think they are, royalty?!) My issue is that I am a neat freak, especially where children are involved. I hate dirty dishes and other unhygienic mess that is left and would rather clean it than wait for one of the kids to get sick because of it or for vermin to be attracted to our home. Once again they have gone away this weekend and left a sink full of dishes and even left a pint of milk to go bad on the counter! What if I had left for the weekend as well? It is my free time after all…would they just let all of that sit there until Monday? Probably!

The end result is that I feel taken advantage of and I have little respect for the parents and their rude behaviour!

Oh and another thing…I bought them all Christmas presents this year. What did I get? Nothing! Not even a card! I even bought the cleaners some chocolates because they vacuum my room twice a week! LOL! My mother always tells me not to let their rude and selfish behaviour poison me but man…sometimes it’s hard!

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