Ultimate List of Au Pair Interview Questions

Ultimate List of Au Pair Interview Questions

Hi, Abbie and Maddie here. Asking the right questions is crucial to making a great au pair match.

There is a fine balance to strike. On one hand you need to learn about what it will be like for this person to live with you and care for your children. You also want them to feel comfortable enough to answer your questions honestly and ask you questions back. On the other hand, you don’t want them to feel like they’re being interrogated.

Then add technical issues, time zone differences, and a potential language barrier to the mix. Interviewing is stressful!

We have some help for you. Here is our ultimate list of Au Pair interview questions (and our accompanying list of Au Pair Host interview questions coming soon!). We designed this list of au pair interview questions to be a conversation. Most of the questions are open-ended, and any yes/no answers have easy follow-up

As the discussion evolves you can choose questions from the list to keep up the dialog and get to know your au pair candidate better. We don’t recommend asking every question on the list. Start with the most important ones, then follow up afterwards with extra questions if needed.

Most importantly, make sure to make it a conversation. Ask your au pair candidate if they have any questions for you! Even if they are too nervous to ask, they might if you’re sharing information back and forth.

Au Pair Basics

  1. How did you find out about the au pair program?
  2. Why would you like to become an Au Pair?
  3. Have you ever traveled outside of your home country? When? How long were you away from home? Who did you travel with?
  4. Have you ever flown on an airplane? Where did you visit?
  5. Have you ever been to (fill in the blank country)? Where did you go?
  6. Why do you want to come to (fill in the blank country)?
  7. What are the things you wish to do and see in our country?
  8. When you take your vacation holidays, where would you like to go and what would you like to do?
  9. If we traveled as a family, would you be interested in traveling with us?
  10. Are you considering au pairing in other countries as well? Which ones?
  11. What are you hoping to gain or learn from the au pair program?
  12. What are you looking for in a host family?
  13. How long are you planning to be an au pair? What you want to do after being an au pair?
  14. What are your expectations concerning your stay as an au pair?
  15. Do you have any worries about becoming an au pair? What are they?
  16. Does your family have any worries about you becoming an au pair? What are they?
  17. Are your family and friends supportive of you becoming an au pair? What about your boyfriend / girlfriend?
  18. Do you wish to be fully integrated in our family’s life or do you prefer to have more space and time for yourself?
  19. We love that you’ll hang out with our family, but it’s also really healthy that you have other friends to hang out with as well. What are your plans for making friends and combating homesickness after you arrive?
  20. Would you like your family/friends/partner to visit you while you are at our home? What would they like to see during their visit?

Background and Personality

  1. Tell me about your family. Do you live close to each other? How often do you see them? What do you like to do together?
  2. How would you describe yourself? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  3. How would your friends describe you? How would your teachers describe you?
  4. Do you have any degrees or certificates? (CPR, etc.) Which ones?
  5. Have you thought about what kinds of classes you might want to take while you are an au pair?
  6. Are you working? What do you do? Do you like it?
  7. Are you going to school? What do you want to do with your degree once you graduate?
  8. What does a typical day look like for you?
  9. Do you like animals? What kind?
  10. Do you have a pet? Who took care of feeding and cleaning up after the pet?
  11. Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend? Have you talked about how you will deal with being apart from each other?
  12. What is your favorite color? Book? Type of music? Artist? Movie?
  13. Is there anything important we need to know about you?
  14. What is your usual bedtime? Are you a morning person or evening person?
  15. How well do you follow instructions? If I ask you to do something and you don’t understand why/how to do it, what will you do?
  16. What languages do you speak besides English? Would you be comfortable teaching new languages to my children?

Free Time

  1. What do you like to do when you are by yourself?
  2. What do you like to do with your friends?
  3. What are your interests and hobbies?
  4. Do you like to have friends over? What do you like to do together? Do they stay the night?
  5. When was the last time you were at a party with your friends? Was it a big or little party? Did you host the party or was it at a friend’s house?
  6. Have you ever hosted a party? Do you like to host parties?
  7. Do you smoke or vape? Have you smoked in the past? When was the last time you smoked?
  8. Do you drink alcohol? Socially or at home? When was the last time you drank? What was it (beer/wine/hard alcohol/mixed drink/etc.)?
  9. Do you like being outdoors? What are your favorite outdoor activities?

Childcare Experience

  1. Tell me about your childcare experience. How long have you been working with children?
  2. Have you worked as an au pair or live-in nanny before? How did you and the parents communicate and share responsibilities?
  3. How many kids have you watched at once? Were you by yourself? Were you comfortable with that many kids?
  4. Have you ever worked with (fill in the blank age) kids? What did you do with them?
  5. Have you ever been alone for 8 to 10 hours with (fill in the blank age) kids?
  6. How do you plan to keep the kids busy when the weather is bad?
  7. Have you ever soothed a crying baby/changed a diaper/made a bottle? When was the last time? What would you do if the baby won’t stop crying? Has a poop all over them? You run out of bottles?
  8. Have you ever potty-trained a toddler/introduced solid foods to an infant?
  9. What is your favorite thing about working with children?
  10. What do you find is the most challenging about working with kids?
  11. What is your least favorite thing about working with children?
  12. Is there anything you are excited to share with or teach children? 
  13. Can you help the children with their homework/virtual school? What would you do if the child is not paying attention or has a bad attitude about learning?
  14. How do you help a child who is angry? Sad? Having a tantrum?
  15. How were you punished as a child? Did it work? Do you use the same/different techniques on children you are caring for?
  16. Do you have experience with children who have allergies/medical needs/special needs/learning disabilities? What needs did they have? What did you have to do differently to make sure they received the care that they needed?
  17. How much screen time do you think is appropriate for children?
  18. What do you think children need most from their au pair or care giver?

Driving

  1. Do you have a driver’s license in your country? How long have you had it?
  2. Where was the last place you drove? Is that far away from your home?
  3. Do you own your own car or use your family’s car? What kind of car is it? Is it a stick shift (manual) or automatic?
  4. Have you ever driven a big car like a van / pickup truck / SUV?
  5. Who takes care of putting gas in the car?
  6. Who cleans the car?
  7. Who fixes the car when it is broken or needs maintenance?
  8. Have you ever been in an accident when you were driving? What happened? What did you do? What was the outcome?
  9. Have you ever been in an accident when you were not the driver? What happened? What did you do? What was the outcome?
  10. Have you ever gotten a ticket? What happened? What did you do? What was the outcome?
  11. Have you ever driven in a big city / highway / dirt road / other side of the road / long trip / snow and ice?
  12. Have you ever driven with kids in the car? Where did you take them?
  13. Have you ever buckled kids into a car seat? How old were the kids and what type of car seat (Infant bucket, forward/rear facing, 5 point harness, seat belt booster, etc.)?
  14. Have you ever installed or uninstalled a car seat before? When was the last time? Did you need help?
  15. Pretend there is a police car with lights on behind you. What do you do?
  16. Pretend you are parking the car on a busy street and accidentally damage another parked car. What do you do? What if no one saw you do it, then what would you do differently?
  17. Pretend you are in my car and you get into an accident. What would you do?

Roommate

  1. What did you have for breakfast this morning? Is that a normal breakfast for you?
  2. What did you have for dinner last night (tonight)?  Is that a normal dinner for you?
  3. When was the last time you prepared a meal for others? What did you prepare? Do you cook for others often?
  4. If you cook the meal who cleans up afterwards? Who cleans up when you are not the one who cooked?
  5. Do you like to cook? What is your favorite meal to prepare?
  6. Would you be willing to cook meals for the kids?
  7. Would you be willing to take a turn cooking meals for the family?
  8. Is there anything you don’t like to eat or can’t eat? (Funny story – one of my au pairs was terrified of mushrooms. I couldn’t even have them in the house or she wouldn’t open the fridge.)
  9. Do you eat meat / pork / fish / shellfish / dairy / gluten / etc?
  10. Are you willing to prepare types of food you don’t eat?  
  11. Have you ever tried (fill in the blank family favorite food)?
  12. Who do you live with now?
  13. Have you ever lived away from your family before? Did you live alone or with roommates?
  14. When you lived with ___ who did the cooking? Dishes? Shopping?
  15. Who takes out the trash? Cleans the bathrooms? Cleans the kitchen?
  16. How often do you do laundry? Do you take care of your own laundry? Or take care of laundry for others?
  17. Would you be willing to help us with light housework like kids laundry / cleaning up after kids meals/ picking up toys / etc?
  18. What are some challenges you’ve faced in past living situations? What did you do to resolve it?
  19. Is there anything that drives you crazy? What are your pet peeves?

Culture

  1. What is your favorite holiday? Why?
  2. Tell me about a tradition in your family. How do you celebrate birthdays / births / weddings / new years?
  3. Do you have any favorite traditional foods? Do you know how to make them?
  4. Are you religious? Do you actively practice your religion? What does that look like to you?
  5. Do you enjoy going to church / temple / synagogue / mosque? What’s your most favorite part?
  6. When was the last time you went to church / temple / synagogue / mosque? What was the occasion?
  7. Are there special things you do or don’t do in observance of your religion?

Problem Solving

  1. How would you help two young children who are angry and fighting over the same toy?
  2. What would you do if Wednesday afternoon swim practice is cancelled and you find yourself with a free afternoon with my 4 year old?
  3. What would you do if I was stuck in traffic and couldn’t be home at 5:00 as I originally anticipated?
  4. Imagine you are given two hours to play with the kids. How would you keep them occupied?
  5. What would you do if the children were disrespectful or disobeyed you?
  6. Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with someone. How did you work through the problem? What was the result?
  7. Tell me about a time you faced an emergency situation. What happened? What did you do? What was the result?
  8. What would you do if a child locks themselves in the bathroom? A car?
  9. What would you do if a child is choking on something?
  10. What would you do if my baby had a fever? What if the baby fell and became unconscious?
  11. Pretend that your host parent said something that you disagree with. What would you do?

Medical and COVID-19 

  1. Do you have allergies or medical conditions we need to know about?
  2. Have you been vaccinated (or had) Chicken Pox, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Whooping Cough, etc.? Would you be willing to receive vaccinations if you joined my family?
  3. What are the COVID-19 laws where you live now? 
  4. How seriously are you taking social distancing? Who did you see this week/month? Where do you go and what did you do? Did you were masks or social distance?
  5. What COVID-19 precautions are you following now? Would you be willing to (fill in the blank safety precaution) when you arrive?
  6. Would you be willing to quarantine/wear a mask/get tested before/during/after your arrival?

Our Experiences with Au Pair Interviews

AbbieAbbie says: I like to send my au pair candidates a list of questions ahead of time so they can prepare. They are working hard at English, so it helps if they have time to think about how they are going to answer in English. It’s okay with me if their English isn’t perfect. I’m going to try my best to make the relationship work, and I want to know they are going to try their best to make our match good, too.

Maddie AvitarMaddie says: I can usually tell in the first few minutes of an interview if an au pair will not be a good fit for my family. I don’t follow the scripted questions that the agencies provide. Instead I like to have a conversation. I ask questions like “what did you have for breakfast?” or “where was the last place you drove the car?” I need a au pair who can converse – answer my questions and follow up with questions of their own.  I don’t expect perfect grammar or for an au pair to know all the words in English. As long as they find a way to communicate.

Do you have favorite interview questions? Comment below or head over to the My Au Pair and Me Host Parent Community on Facebook. We would love to hear from you!

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Ultimate List of Au Pair Interview Questions

Ultimate List of Au Pair Interview Questions

Ultimate List of Au Pair Interview Questions

How to Calculate Au Pair Vacation Time Off

How to Calculate Au Pair Vacation Time Off

Hi, Maddie here. Summer is almost here! When I think of summer I think of sunny days, watermelon, and vacations. Summer is peak travel season in the USA and the season when most of us want to cash in our vacation time. This also holds true for most au pairs.

Your au pair is entitled to two weeks of paid vacation over the course of the 12-month program. This is on par with the average American worker with 1 year of service. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, US workers receive an average of 10 paid days (or the equivalent of two working weeks).

In this guide I will cover:

  • Basics and norms of au pair paid time off
  • How to calculate the equivalent of two weeks of paid time off

How to Calculate Au Pair Vacation Time OffBasics and Norms of Au Pair Vacation Time Off

I spent a good amount of time digging through the information about au pair vacation time on the various au pair agency sites. I found that the contracts and guidance around au pair vacation time varied slightly from agency to agency. But, across the board, they agree that

    1. Au pairs are entitled to a minimum of two weeks paid vacation.
    2. Vacations need to be scheduled for a mutually convenient time.
    3. Au pairs are on a cultural exchange and should be encouraged to discover.
    4. Vacation for you is not necessarily a vacation for your au pair.

Au Pairs are Entitled to a Minimum of Two Weeks Paid Vacation

According to the US Department of State, au pair host families are required to “provide a minimum of two weeks paid vacation for each 12-month exchange term.” Au pairs on nine or twelve-month extension are entitled to two weeks of paid vacation for their extension period. One week of paid vacation is covered for au pairs extending for 6 months.

This does not mean your au pair should get 14 days of vacation. Instead, she/he gets the number of days off that is normally worked in a two week period. Also, when your au pair decides to use vacation time they should still receive the weekly free time and one complete weekend off each month.

It also doesn’t mean that it needs to be taken as 14 consecutive days. The time can be divided however the au pair and host family decide. Although, it is much easier to calculate if the au pair takes 7 consecutive days off at a time.

Au pairs are entitled to a minimum of two weeks paid vacation. This means that you can give your au pair more than two weeks off, but it has to be paid time off.How to Calculate Au Pair Vacation Time Off

As an example, let’s say you decide to take your family on vacation without your au pair. Your au pair has already taken one week of paid vacation. The second week is already scheduled at a mutually convenient time in the future. You have two options as a host parent in this situation. You can give your au pair extra time off or you can have your au pair work on child-related duties while you are gone. In both cases, you still have to provide for your au pair as described in your contract. She/he is still paid her/his full stipend. You also still need to provide her/him with room and board for the time you are away.

Vacations Need to be Scheduled for a Mutually Convenient Time

Ok, so I have to admit that there is never a convenient time for my au pair to be on vacation. However, there are times that are less inconvenient than others. Typically we pick the timing of one vacation week and our au pair chooses the timing of the other week. We try to schedule her vacation time during these less inconvenient times.

Many au pair agencies suggest that the host family picks the timing of one vacation week and the au pair chooses the timing of the second week. One agency suggests that au pairs should take the first week of vacation within the first six months, and the second week in the second half of the year. In practice, my au pairs tend to take one week for a major trip and then a few long weekends for local trips.

Most of the agencies recommend against scheduling vacation time in the first month. This early time together is important for building trust and learning about culture.

No matter how you choose the timing of your au pairs vacation, it is important to plan it in advance. This allows the host family to find an alternative childcare provider. It also allows the au pair to coordinate with friends to make travel plans.

Au Pairs are on a Cultural Exchange and Should be Encouraged to Discover

Remember that the au pair program is intended to be an exchange program. As a host mom, I encourage my au pairs to use their vacation time to experience US culture. I also try to help them discover safely and cheaply. In the spirit of the cultural exchange program, you should not give your au pair an extra week of stipend instead paid time off.

In the same vane, your au pair is not an hourly employee. If your au pair wants to take off part of a day that should not count towards her/his vacation time. Also, if you choose not to use the full 45 hours, this should not count against her/his vacation time.

Vacation For You is Not Necessarily a Vacation for Your Au Pair

How to Calculate Au Pair Vacation Time OffWe love to travel with our au pairs. For us, the convenience of an extra set of hands is well worth the extra expense. Our au pairs have flown with us to San Francisco, Maui, Puerto Vallarta, Colorado, Florida, Texas, and joined us for road trips across the western states.

When traveling with your au pair it is important to talk about working verse free time in advance. Some au pairs may want to stay with the host family and work for much of your vacation. Others may want to only work for part of the time and use some of their vacation time to go off and explore while they are away from home. Either way, you will need to make sure that you follow the program rules. Allow your au pair to have time away from the family to rest and recharge.

Vacations in the Time of COVID-19

Vacations are difficult right now because of COVID-19. Depending on how restrictive the government is where you live, your au pair may need to postpone or rethink their vacation plans. Au pairs typically aren’t interested in staycations because it does not allow them to discover and experience the US.

You also need to take the personal risk situation for your family into account. I have seen some families ask au pairs to quarantine for 14 days after traveling. I have also seen some au pairs use their two weeks of vacation time at the end of their contract so they can quarantine after traveling home. If you require your au pair to quarantine outside of your home, most agencies will require you to provide room and board for this quarantine period. Make sure to talk with your agency about their specific policies and the obligations under your contract.

How to Calculate Au pair Vacation Time Off

Because the US Department of State, requires “a minimum of two weeks paid vacation,” the actual calculation of the paid time off can get a little confusing. Here are a few examples of how some families calculate vacation time off for their au pairs.

Vacation Example 1: Consistent Au Pair Schedule

My au pair works Monday through Thursday and every other Saturday evening. This adds up to 9 working days for her to take off as vacation over the year. (We make it 10 working days to be nice.)

We are pretty flexible, so we can usually switch days off to help her stretch her vacation plans. Let’s say she wants to take a 5 day weekend from Thursday through Monday on a week she is scheduled to work a Saturday.

  • Thursday is a vacation day
  • Friday is her normal day off
  • Saturday would either be a vacation day or a trade for another Saturday where she would work
  • Sunday is her normal day off
  • Monday is either a vacation day or she can switch days and work Friday that week

This gives our au pair the choice of using 1, 2, or 3 vacation days. Of course, this assumes it was arranged well in advance. It would also need to be a week where we could be flexible, which is not always the case.

Vacation Example 2: Inconsistent Au Pair Schedule

Here is another way to look at it if your typical schedule is not as consistent as ours. In this example, two weeks of paid time off is equivalent to 14 vacation days because of the inconsistent schedule. Let’s say your au pair leaves Friday after work for vacation and returns the following Sunday evening. The work week in this example is Monday through Sunday.

First Saturday is not a vacation day (assumes that your Au Pair has worked her full 45 hours for the week already)

First Sunday is not a vacation day (assumes that your Au Pair has worked her full 45 hours for the week already)

  • Monday is vacation day 1 (the start of a new week)
  • Tuesday is vacation day 2
  • Wednesday is vacation day 3
  • Thursday is vacation day 4
  • Friday is vacation day 5
  • Saturday is vacation day 6 because your Au Pair has not completed 45 hours for the week, and is not available to work
  • Sunday is vacation day 7 because your Au Pair has not completed 45 hours for the week, and is not available to work

If the au pair returned Friday evening and was available to work Saturday and Sunday, those would not count as vacation days. The host family could choose to use those as working days. Also, if your au pair chooses to use vacation days to take off a weekend they are still entitled to their one weekend off a month on another weekend (in this example that week end off could be the first Saturday and Sunday).

Have a question about how to count time off for your au pair? If you are a host parent, reach out in the My Au Pair and Me Community on Facebook for help from other au pair host parents.

We would also love to hear about your method of calculating vacation time in our community or in the comments below.

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How to Calculate Au Pair Vacation Time Off

How to Calculate Au Pair Vacation Time Off

How to Calculate Au Pair Vacation Time Off

Host Parent Interview With Jenny Coleman

Host Parent Interview With Jenny Coleman

This blog is part of the host parent interview series where we get to know other families who are hosting au pairs. Every family is different and we like to represent the variety of views.

We’d love it if you’d consider being a guest on our blog. Message us on Facebook or Instagram, or email us at hello@myaupairandme.com if you are interested.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

Au Pairs enjoying a sunny day by the waterHi there! So just to tell you a little bit about us. I am Jenny, I am 44 (nearly 45…but the last few months of being 44 are VERY important!) I am married to Julian (52) and we are coming up to our tenth wedding anniversary. Julian and I both work within the emergency services.

We have two children, Megan age 11 and Emily age 7. We also have two dogs, Rosie (a Welsh Springer) and Lacey (a working cocker.) To add to this family, we have 11 amazing au pairs who have been a HUGE part of our lives in the last ten years.

We live in Penarth in Wales – UK. Penarth is a very diverse and beautiful seaside town. It’s an affluent area, but full of middle aged professionals or retired people. It’s mainly a family based area with exceptional schools. We live slightly outside of our pay bracket, but to us a home for au pairs and children to grow up in, you cannot ask for a better set up.

Q: How did you find out about au pairs?

I was traveling the UK, lecturing on a specific topic related to work, and met an amazing woman from the World Health Organization. I stayed overnight with her around 13 years ago and I was introduced to her au pair. I didn’t really understand what an au pair was until this point. I had a nanny as a child, as my mother was single at the time and also worked within the Emergency Services.

My husband and I live over three hours away from my parents and siblings, and he has no family, so when I got pregnant I panicked a little. I was worrying about how we would cope with the demands of our jobs and a child. My position demanded 18+ hour days most of the time, so I knew that conventional nannies or nurseries were never going to work for us. I recalled the au pair I had met and started to do some research.

I learnt that an au pair was a person 18-30 looking for a cultural exchange, who in return lived in with you. One thing I noticed about the au pair I had originally met, was that she wasn’t really a part of the family. She went to her room as soon as her chores were complete. I definitely didn’t want this. I didn’t want a ‘live in’ maid or ‘servant’ – I wanted an extension on our family and a friend. My au pairs have all become so much more than ‘a friend’ – they have become surrogate daughters to both Julian and I.

Q: Why did you use an au pair (instead of daycare, nanny, etc.?)

We love our au pairMy hours of work can be in excess of 18+ a day. I never wanted either of my children to be bounced between friends or family. To be rushed to breakfast clubs or after school clubs. I also, (as much as I hate to admit it) am not the most maternal of people.

An au pair for me, offers stability, routine, friendship, a big sister, a confidant, love, fun and support for my girls. Personally, they have each made me grow as a person. They have been there through some of the worst times of my life, been a pillar of strength, a shoulder to cry on. They have told me off, made me see sense, laughed with me, cried with me, drank copious amounts of wine and danced around the house with me. They have only extended my family for the better.

If something serious happens at work, meaning I have to stay on (sometimes this has been for days – I literally have not seen my children for a week at a time, and this happened quite often before I changed departments)…I was always able to relax, knowing they were safe, in routine, homework done, a hot and healthy meal in their tummies and to bed on time. We ensured that the time and hours worked by the au pair was made up and paid back.

Thanks to the love and dedication of my au pairs, I have two happy, emotionally well balanced and bright young children.

Q: Which au pair agency (or agencies) have you used and why?

I have always used AuPairWorld. AuPairWorld was the first site I ever tried. It was easy, I liked the search criteria and ‘easy find’. I was able to easily contact and message potential au pairs through their messaging system, and the cost was relatively inexpensive. I also like the fact that the searching and the decision making was entirely left to me as the host. I much prefer this concept over an ‘agency’.

Q: What criteria did you use for finding your au pair?

Generally I wanted au pairs who had no previous experience of  ‘au pairing’. This was mainly because I wanted the experience to be one that we went through together, and there was no comparison to others. I wasn’t concerned about childcare qualifications. I looked for a warm face and personality. I generally skipped over any au pairs who had a pouting ‘kiss blowing’ photo, or half naked photo as their profile pic. I looked for someone who was family orientated and loved animals as well as children.​

Q: How did you decide which au pair to match with?

I would ‘like’ and message quite a few au pairs that matched my search criteria. I looked for those that replied, and engaged rather than just sending a notification. I always tried to make my profile letter funny and honest. Most au pairs said they loved this and it stood out from people that just listed chores and needs. For me an au pair is not about the chores it’s about the engagement. Of course, helping with general household jobs is part of the role. But they would never be asked to do anything that I wouldn’t do, or that I wouldn’t give my kids to do. Both of my children help the au pair with the hoovering and polishing when they can. I am a bit of an OCD freak, so I would always do this when I can or do with the au pair.

Anyway, back to the question…I would whittle down the search by responding to those that asked questions and genuinely seemed interested in the children, their likes and dislikes, hobbies, interests, schooling, music etc etc. Both of my girls play the piano, one to a high standard. For a brief period, I looked for au pairs with musical knowledge, but I found that this didn’t work and it limited my choice. All the au pairs I have had joined in with the children and started to learn music for themselves, I loved this. 

Once I had the au pair choice down to three or four, I would Skype with them. Speaking clear and fluent English was a criteria I did look for…so Skyping gave me a good sense of their language skills. It also demonstrated their real interest and desire. For me, au pairing is about experiencing a new culture through a family and being part of that family – this, in the main, was what I looked for.

After I had chosen my au pair and offered them a home to come to, I would then get them talking to my previous au pairs. Each au pair was told to be 100% open and honest with the new family member. This meant good and bad. Each family has good and bad points and there is absolutely no point in trying to hide anything. 100% transparency is definitely the key to a successful relationship.

Once the new au pair had a few weeks engaging with the current and old au pairs, I would then start about four weeks of Skyping with the children. They would slowly build up a rapport with both girls and the current au pair. The girls would play games with them online, and generally build up a rapport. I always found this eased the transition for everyone. 

Photobooth costumes with host family and au pairsQ: What is something funny your au pair did that you didn’t expect?

Oh where do I start? We have sooooo many funny stories from each and every au pair. From first time drunken nights out, to wearing goggles whilst cleaning the shower. Spraying nappy poo’s when Megan was a baby, to dancing around the kitchen. I have endless videos of the girls and au pairs singing to songs, dancing, playing, camping, surfing, dog walking. You name it – we have done it. These memories are treasured. I have belly laughed with each of them… sometimes so hard that a little bit of pee (apologies for the graphic description) may come out. Honestly, the fun we have had is irreplaceable.

Q: What are some cultural experiences you’ve had with your au pair?

Vacation with past au pairsWe have had au pairs from Australia, Austria, Holland, and Sweden. The majority of our au pairs are Swedish, and our new au pair due to start after lock down is also Swedish.

Last May we traveled to Sweden and as one big group (au pairs and the Coleman-Humphreys family) we hired a big Airbnb in Gothenburg, right on a lake. We had a long weekend together and the Swedes showed us around. We ate Swedish food, visited national parks, and had a stunning and valuable few days away.

Here at home, we try to cook national foods. Most of my au pairs love to bake and cook. I’ve woken to the fresh smell of cinnamon buns, and eaten lovingly prepared dishes from their home country. The girls are introduced to games from each country, and we have had each set of au pairs parents and siblings also over to stay. Some au pairs have had their boyfriends to live with us for a few weeks. They have engaged with the kids just as much as the au pairs have – and my girls have grown really close to them also. We try to learn cultural traditions and celebrate their own national holidays.

I have always told my children that they are the luckiest children in the world – they can literally travel the world and have a second home to go to in each of the countries. I know that they are always welcome and will remain part of each au pairs family, forever.

Q: Have you had any trouble with your au pair? How did you resolve it?

Life is not a bed of roses. An au pair is a person who you watch and help grow, emotionally and mentally. They are away from everything they know and love, and whilst this is an exciting time for them, they can get home sick and feel sad. I have had au pairs feeling very low and down at times. It’s a really hard job at times. Overnight they are becoming a parents, friend, big sister, and more. It’s a lot of pressure for them and that has to be remembered. I loved Japan when I was younger, and I always tell my au pairs that it took me three months to stop feeling homesick. This is very normal. I find it takes time and patience for everyone to adapt. 

We have a complete open and honesty policy in our house. If there is something they don’t like, or worried about, they are allowed to say it. They won’t be judged, and vice versa… we will adapt and change accordingly. It took me a while to learn how to adapt, and there are mistakes I made with some of my first au pairs that I don’t make now. I guess as a person and family we have grown also.

I have had a couple of au pairs who have started and we have had to return home. We have had to find a new aupair very quickly and that’s made the transition harder. I say harder, because we have 3-4 weeks where the old au pair helps transition the new aupair. When one has been replaced because its not ‘worked out’ its been difficult to transition so seamlessly.

One example of such, was when I was pregnant with Emily. Sofie looked after Megan who was 4, me who had hyperemesis gravidarum and was very very ill, and also a poorly puppy (Rosie had IMPA). I would just like to add at this point, that the love and care Sofie gave us, made us not only very close, but exceptionally grateful. I love her like a child of my own, and she literally saved my life.

Hanna started with us when Sofie was due to leave. As the weeks went on, I started to get concerned about Hanna. She wasn’t engaging with Megan at all. When Sofie left – all communication stopped… and we agreed to part ways. I think it must have been very difficult for Hanna, seeing how close Sofie and I were, but also with me being very poorly and constantly in and out of hospital.

Q: What are some things you wish you did differently (or you plan to do differently with your next au pair)?

Our next au pair, Thea, starts with us in June and our current au pair, Mary, leaves us mid May. Unfortunately this is because of the restrictions of the lock down. It means that Thea will miss out on building a relationship with Mary, whilst gently being transitioned into the role. If the girls are home still and being home-schooled, it’s even more pressure on her. This is going to be a first for us, and we will just take each day as it comes.

As I have had more and more au pairs, I have learnt to park my OCD, and accept that the house doesn’t need to be spotlessly clean and tidy, timetables have a habit of going out of the window, and there are bad days as well as good days.

To start with – I think I expected too much. But with the help of my au pairs I have grown as a person and seen myself develop and  become more accepting. We have rows like any parent and teenage daughter would – but we have the respect and closeness to talk and park it. Learn from it and adapt.

I would urge any one having an au pair to just be ‘human’ and treat them as you would want someone to treat your son or daughter. Never forget that they are someone else’s son or daughter. They deserve to be treated with love, kindness, and fairness. They are not a housemaid or servant, they are part of your family. 

Q: What is advice you’d give to other host parents (or parents thinking of welcoming au pairs)?

Be accepting, open, and committed. Make the au pair part of you and your children’s lives. Embrace the experience. Become friends. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, but do it diplomatically. Take them with you on holiday and out for walks, bike rides, swims, meals etc. This is a relationship for life. They are here to learn and grow with you. Remember that they are new to this, and still young. Treat them as you would want someone to treat your own child. Enjoy the experience. My life is enriched because of my au pairs, and I owe them the world.

Q: Have you had a gap or overlap when transitioning between au pairs?

Yes – we have four weeks of having two. The first week, I let them sleep and find their feet. They join in when they want…and generally get a feel for the house.

The second week I like to see them engaging more with the kids and just having fun. The current au pair takes them on dog walks and shows them the town. They go to after school clubs with the kids so they know where to go and get to meet any teachers etc.Looking up at kids and au pairs

The third week they muck in with the housework and kids, meal prep etc…pretty much helping out the current au pair with everything. We will have family nights, go to the cinema, or out for a drink/meal etc.

The final week they totally take over. The current au pair has the week to pack, say goodbye to her friends, do a bit with the children and just get used to the idea of leaving. When they do leave it’s always emotional for everyone.

By the fourth week – I find the new au pair is very ready for the old one to go, and for them to put their own stamp in things. But in this time, the new and old au pair have made a new friendship and become part of the bigger group.  This method has worked AMAZINGLY for us. I am not looking forward to not having this option on this transition, but we will go with it and do the best we can.

Q: Do your au pairs talk with each other?​

Oh yes – we have one big family group. As a group we talk every day. We share problems, or funny stories, recipes and cooking tips. We play online games… together we try to meet up as much as we can. I am so happy that we all get along and that each of them have found new friendships through us.

Q: Now that you have an au pair, how has it impacted your family, good, bad, or otherwise?

This has only been a positive experience for us. I cannot imagine my life without them. I have alluded to how much I love each one. I love them all for their own personalities, and what they bring to our relationship. As a group I love how we all gell and come together for Megan and Emily.  I love the au pair community, but it’s not all a bed of roses. It’s hard at times, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Having an au pair is a game changer in terms of family life, it gives you back quality time as a family…just never forget that they are part of that family.

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One Day at a Time: A Reflection on Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic

One Day at a Time: A Reflection on Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Hi Maddie here! Anyone who grew up in an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) family knows the phrase “One Day at a Time”. This is my go to phrase when life gets tough. Coronavirus makes life tough. Each day we wake up and do what we need to do to get to tomorrow.

I want to take this opportunity to slow down and reflect on life. I’m sure that years from now I will look back and fondly remember the time spent with family. But for now, here is a day in my life.

Good Morning

This morning I woke up before the alarm which is usually the case. I have a lot on my mind and I like to spend my quiet time on Facebook. It is comforting to know that I’m not the only one struggling to find time away from my children. Today I feel blessed to have children and a house full of life when so many live alone.

By 7:30 the alarm is going off, the dog is demanding attention, and my 2 year old barges in begging for “Nom Noms”. Time to start the day. Today I feel blessed to be in bed at 7:30 instead of getting off the shuttle and walking to the office.

Youn girl home schooling with au pairWe are doing everything possible to maintain our routines. I am showered, dressed, and in my office working by 8:00. My husband and I are both working from home. Today I feel blessed to be among the privileged few who are able to work from home and maintain a full time income.

I work in tech and I have been working from home since March 3rd. This was about a week before they requested that we work from home if possible. My kids were sick that week, they caught it from my husband who was sick the week before. Then I caught it. Was it a mild case of Coronavirus? We have no idea. They weren’t testing in my area at that time so I likely will never know. Today I feel blessed that we are all healthy again.

My husband makes the kids and himself breakfast until our au pair starts at 8:30. Then he disappears to the master bedroom where his makeshift office is set up on a folding table. Today I feel blessed to have a wonderful au pair living with us to care for our children.

Staying on Track

There are pluses and minuses to working at home. On one hand I love to see my kids more. I can hear them playing, and laughing, and learning. Unfortunately, they always seem to need my attention while I am on a video call. Today I feel blessed that my 2 year old needed me while I was in a meeting with a dad holding an infant while his wife chased their toddler out of the room.

Toddler playing with Amazon Fire Kids tabletLet’s be honest, even with the help of our au pair this is hard. Hats off to those who are juggling working at home between homeschooling and entertaining your kids. My first grader is working her way through a giant pile of worksheets. The pile keeps growing as her teachers send file after file. We do what we can to work through some of it, but some days are impossible. Today I feel blessed for Amazon Fire tablets and an extra 30 minutes of sanity.

Balancing Life

I live outside Seattle, Washington. We are only a few miles from the Life Care Center which was the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. Life here is oddly quiet. There is no traffic. Grocery stores are open but it is like shopping during the Superbowl. The few who venture out are preoccupied and wandering around like they don’t know who they are any more. Today I feel blessed that the stores are restocked, for the most part, after the mad rush for supplies two weeks ago.

By about 4:00 I need to get away from my desk for a while. My au pair is still on duty so I get in a quick workout from YouTube. I also have an opportunity to talk to a friend and my mother-in-law on a video call. My in-laws miss seeing their grandkids and my kids cried when we had to cancel their weekly grandparent day. I have tried to explain but they don’t understand why we can’t see grandma and grandpa in person. Today I feel blessed that my in-laws have been staying home and have remained healthy so far.

By 5:30 my husband wraps up his work. We head out for a walk around the park with the kids and our dog. Our neighborhood park is open except for the basketball court and the playground. The kids were devastated when the city closed the playground last week. They seem to be ok with it today. Many of our neighbors are out walking with their families, too. We take our time and talk across the street so we can maintain 6 feet of distance between us. Today I feel blessed to get to know my neighbors, we are usually too busy for anything more than a casual wave.

After a quick dinner I get the kids to bed while my husband does the dishes. After the kids are asleep my husband gets in a quick workout while I work more or write a blog like tonight. Other nights we just fold laundry and pick up the house on the way to bed. Today I feel blessed that the normal things in life are still getting done in the midst of the world turned upside down.

How are you holding up?

How are you doing during these difficult times? Are you taking life one day at a time like me? Are you working at home or have you been forced into unemployment? Are your kids doing ok with schools canceled?

Leave a comment below or if you’re an au pair host family, pop on over to our My Au Pair and Me Host Family Community on Facebook. It’s nice to talk to other host families and know you’re not alone!

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One Day at a Time: A Reflection on Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic

One Day at a Time: A Reflection on Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic
One Day at a Time: A Reflection on Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Should I Pay for That? A Guide to Au Pair Expenses

Should I Pay for That? A Guide to Au Pair Expenses

Hi, Maddie here. When I first became an au pair host mom I really struggled with the obligation to cover expenses for my au pair. The agency fees seemed astronomical, but there was nothing I could do about it. The direct expenses, on the other hand, I could control to some degree.

At first I turned to Google. This is one of the few times Google let me down. All I could find were vague guidelines on the au pair agency sites and general references to “room and board.”

Over time, I found that my au pair actually helped me keep the worst of my household expenses in check. Having a third adult to share in meal planning, preparation, and clean up helps us to eat at home. Also, my au pair has time during the day to run to the store and she largely sticks to the shopping list. My worries about the small expenses eased once these other larger expenses were under control.

Who pays for what can get a little complicated. I have put together the following lists as a guide to who is typically responsible for a given expense. In general, expenses fall into three categories:

  1. Education requirements, room, and board, which are the responsibility of the host family.
  2. Expenses incurred in the care of the children, which are the responsibility of the host family.
  3. Personal expenses, which are the responsibility of the au pair.

Below is a list of all the expenses, and also a discussion on how I’ve kept things straight.

If you have an expense in question, reach out to other host families in the My Au Pair and Me Facebook Community. You can also contact your local au pair counselor for advice.

What expenses should the host family cover for an au pair?

Au pair host families should pay for education expenses, room and board, and any expenses incurred in the care of the children.

Education requirements

  • $500 towards education expenses (tuition, fees, books, etc.).
  • Local transportation to and from classes.

Room and Board

  • Rent/mortgage and any associated housing costs (HOA dues, wear and tear, etc.).
  • Car purchase/payments, maintenance, and insurance (if the family owns the vehicle).
  • Utilities (power, water, internet, tv/Netflix, etc.).
  • Home phone or a basic cell phone with a cell phone plan.
  • Furnishings for the au pair’s room (furniture, mirror, bedding, hangers, etc.).
  • Basics for the au pair’s bathroom (towels, mats, toothbrush holder, etc.).
  • Meals at home.
  • Snacks and beverages kept in the kitchen.
  • Household products (light bulbs, toilet paper, hand soap, tissues, laundry soap, cleaning supplies, etc.)

Child care expenses

Child care expenses are a special category. These expenses are the obligation of the host family only if they are for the care of the children. In the corporate world these expenses are analogous to business expenses.

  • First attempt at the drivers tests and the drivers licenses fees. (If you require your au pair to drive.)
  • Transportation costs when working or with the family (gas, tolls, parking, bus, Uber, etc.).
  • Supplies for the children.
  • Activities when working or with the family.
  • Meals out when working or with the family.
  • Vacation expenses (if you require your au pair to work at any point during the trip – airfare, hotel, meals, etc.)
  • Any fees related to the children – even if you felt the au pair was responsible (children lose the library books, etc.)

What expenses should the au pair pay for?

Of course you can always offer to help your au pair with a personal expense or two. Some families cover expenses like a gym membership or bath products as an added bonus for their au pair. But you are by no means obligated to cover them.

  • Program fees billed to the au pair.
  • Personal expenses (clothes, bath products, cosmetics, etc.).
  • Personal activities (gym, concerts, sports, etc.).
  • Meals out when not with the family.
  • Transportation costs when not with the family (gas, tolls, parking, bus, Uber, etc.).
  • Fees, fines, and tickets (parking and traffic violations, late fees, bank fees, etc.).
  • Alcohol, energy drinks, fancy beverages.
  • Snacks and beverages kept in the au pair’s room.
  • Food for the au pair’s friends.
  • Personal vacations.
  • Cell phone extras (apps, overage charges, roaming charges, international calls, etc).
  • Damage to the car and home beyond normal wear and tear (up to the agency limit).
  • Expenses over the $500 provided for education (tuition, fees, books, etc.).
  • Medical and dental costs (they have their own insurance).
  • Income tax.
  • Excess baggage fees and/or shipping costs to bring their belongings home.
  • Postage.

How do you keep the money straight?

It is important to set expectations about expenses and keep the money straight with your au pair. Managing expenses poorly can quickly drive a wedge between you and your au pair. I do everything I can to make expenses easy to manage and transparent to my au pair.

Set expectations for expenses

The best time to discuss expectations for expenses is before your au pair arrives. By addressing it early your au pair can better plan for her year with your family. It also prevents conflicts and hurt feelings over money. We created this expense responsibility guide for you to share with your au pair.

Responsible party pays for the expense when incurred

The best way to keep expenses straight is to have the responsible party pay for the expense at the point of sale. If you are with your au pair they can pay for their own personal expenses at the register. That way there is no debt to settle between you and your au pair.

Inevitably, your au pair will need to spend money while in the care of your children. This may be for art supplies for your kids, picking up a few groceries for the family, or taking the kids to the museum. It is unfair to expect your au pair to front these costs on your behalf.

Instead, provide your au pair with a mechanism to keep the family expenses separate. I issue a low limit credit card to my au pairs which we closely track. Abbie gives her au pairs a pre-paid card which she can load with funds as needed. Another option is to give your au pair the necessary petty cash ahead of time. You can ask her to bring you the change and receipts.

Whichever mechanism you choose for your family, keep an eye on the spending of your au pair. If your au pair spends money that you don’t expect, address it right away.

Work out a plan for shared expenses ahead of time

Some expenses, like gas for the car or cell phone charges, aren’t easy to divide. For these expenses, it is best to work out the details and expectations with your au pair ahead of time.

Over the years, we have managed paying for gas for the car in two different ways. Sometimes it has been easiest for us to pay for every other tank of gas for our au pairs car. Other times it has been easier for our au pair to fill the tank on our card at the end of her work week. Then fill the tank again with her card at the beginning of her work week.

Cell phones are an essential expense in modern life and are another shared expense you will need to address ahead of time. Because your au pair needs to call you in case of an emergency, you need to provide a cell phone and pay for a basic plan. Do you require your au pair to drive? If so, you will also need to pay for some amount of data for GPS navigation if it is not available in the au pair’s vehicle. You may also want your au pair to be able to take pictures and send them to you at work.

Cell phones can be expensive. The cost of the phone, the accessories, and the usage plan really add up. But there are a few ways to keep these costs straight and in check. See our blog 3 Tips for Controlling Au Pair Cell Phone Expenses for the details.

 

Au Pair Timecards Free PDF

Always pay your au pair the entire weekly stipend

The US Department of State requires host families to provide their au pair with a weekly stipend of at least $195.75. You need to pay your au pair their full stipend every week regardless of whether they owe you for money. If you pay the weekly stipend to your au pair in cash, we recommend the use of a payment log.

Download the Free Au Pair Time Sheet PDF to keep track of your au pair’s hours worked. Also, document when and how much your au pair was paid. Also, see our downloads page for a list of all the My Au Pair and Me documents.

Pay day may be a good opportunity to reconcile personal expenses with your au pair. The repayment of expenses needs to be a separate transaction from the payment of the stipend. In other words, make the full payment first (and record it), then have her/him pay you back. Do NOT pay a reduced paycheck.

How much should I expect to spend on an au pair?

The short answer is “it depends.” The cost of expenses for an au pair can vary widely. The cost of goods and services in your area and how generous you choose to be drive the majority of the differences.

We break down the host family costs in our blog How much does an au pair cost.

Did we miss something?

Are we missing something off our lists? Share your experience with au pair expenses in the comments below.

Have a question about who should cover a particular expense? Join our group of host parents in the My Au Pair and Me Facebook Community. We would love to hear from you!

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Guide To Au Pair Expenses
Guide To Au Pair Expenses
Guide To Au Pair Expenses
I'm Giving My Au Pair a Raise

I'm Giving My Au Pair a Raise

Hi Maddie here! We are in the wake of the Massachusetts legal ruling of au pairs as domestic workers. I find myself thinking about how much I pay my au pair. Sure, we cover her room and board. We are also generous beyond the requirements of the program. We pay for her cell phone bill and personal use of the car, among other things. But is the $195.75 per week really fair? My husband and I have decided that our au pair deserves a raise.

Keep in mind their are many ways to reward your au pair even if this is not the right time to give your au pair a raise.

I’m giving my au pair a raise because the Au Pair Stipend has not been adjusted for inflation

Currently our au pair receives $200 per week in stipend. We came to this number by rounding the minimum weekly au pair stipend of $195.75 up to an easy number. This is the same amount our first au pair made in 2013. In fact, the minimum stipend amount for au pairs has been the same since 2009!

Have you ever wondered how the US Department of State came up with $195.75 as the minimum weekly stipend for au pairs? It’s because that’s 60% of the federal minimum wage for a 45-hour work week. The idea being that the missing 40% was deducted for room and board expenses. Also, the federal minimum wage was set at $7.25 per hour in 2009 and has not been updated since.

$7.25/hour x 45 hours/week = $326.25/week

Then deducting 40% from the minimum wage: $326.25/week x 0.6 = $195.75/week

The reality is that a dollar in 2009 could buy a lot more than it can today. Even if you consider the stipend to be pocket money for an au pair to spend having fun, it is no longer enough.

“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, today’s prices in 2019 are 19.89% higher than average prices since 2009. The U.S. dollar experienced an average inflation rate of 1.83% per year during this period, meaning the real value of a dollar decreased.” Source: CPI Inflation Calculator

This means that $200 in 2009 is equal in purchasing power to about $240 in 2019.

I’m giving my au pair a raise because I live in a high cost of living area

I live in the state of Washington outside the city of Seattle. As of January 1st, 2020 the minimum wage will be $13.50/hour. Unlike Massachusetts, Washington State exempts live-in employees from overtime. Although SENATE BILL 6247 aims to bring additional protections, including overtime pay, to domestic workers in the state of Washington starting in July 2021.

So, if our au pair was considered a domestic worker under the current law we would pay her Washington state minimum wage of $13.50 per hour. For the maximum of 45 hours she would make $607.50 per week. This is before room and board deductions.

$13.50/hour x 45 hours/week = $607.50/week

Now, let’s look at the deductions for room and board. Massachusetts limits this deduction to $77 per week. Washington state does not have this limitation.

There are two possible ways to calculate the room and board deductions. First, I will use the 40% deduction from the State Department for au pairs. Second, I will take the estimated cost of room and board for my area into account.

Room and board deductions at 40% of wages

Using the 40% deduction from the Department of State, the au pair minimum wage in my area would be $8.10/hour.

$13.50/hour x 0.4 = $5.40/hour deduction for room and board

$13.50/hour – $5.40/hour = $8.10/ hour

This means that if our au pair works 45 hours her wage after deductions for room and board will be $364.50/week. At 24 hours per week or less she would make the minimum stipend of $195.75 required by the Department of State.

$8.10/hour x 45 hours = $364.50/week

Room and board deductions at estimated costs

Looking at Craigslist and Roomates.com the cost of renting a room in my area ranges from $800 to $1500 per month. Conservatively, rooms comparable to our au pair’s room rent for about $1200/ month. Our au pair has a large furnished room with a walk-in closet, a private bathroom, and her own entrance.

According to smartasset.com the monthly recommended food spending for a Seattle resident is $399.69. This is nearly $75 more per month than the $324.20 national average.

Combined, the room and board estimates for my area work out to about $1600/month or $369/week.

$1200/month + $400/month = $1600/month

($1600/month x 12 months) / 52 weeks = $369/week

This means that if our au pair works 45 hours her wage after deductions for room and board will be about $238/week. At 42 hours per week or less she would make the minimum stipend of $195.75 required by the Department of State.

$607.50/week – $369/week for room and board = $238.50/week

(I also double checked these deduction estimates against the Living wage Calculator from MIT for King County Washington. MIT estimates typical food expenses at $3,573 per year and housing expenses at $16,356 per year for a single adult. Combined, this works out to $383 per week which is $14 higher than the $369 per week calculated using the method above.)

I’m giving my au pair a raise because she deserves it

The bottom line is that I’m giving my au pair a raise because she deserves it. She works hard! Everyday she goes above and beyond what I expect.

My au pair is great at the basics. She is always on time and often early. I never have to worry about regular tasks like the children’s laundry. The lunches are always packed and the homework always done. It is so nice to come home at the end of a long day to my clean, happy babies. She knows when the evenings will be especially busy so she plans ahead. Then she finds time to surprise me!

I love to come home to gifts from my children. Sometimes it is art projects they created for me. Other times it is a homemade dessert or a cookie from the bakery. It is always special and appreciated.

What do you think?

Do you think au pairs should make a higher stipend? Have you considered giving your au pair a raise? Let us know in the comments below or reach out to My Au Pair and Me Host Family Community on Facebook. It’s nice to talk to other host families and know you’re not alone!

Maddie

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I'm Giving My Au Pair a Raise
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Halloween Jack: An Au Pair Love Story

Halloween Jack: An Au Pair Love Story

Meet Halloween Jack

Halloween Jack is a fun-loving guy who recently immigrated to the US from China. He was hanging out at Costco when we met him. Somehow he just stood out from the crowd. I’m not really sure why, but there was something about him…my 6-year-old daughter just couldn’t resist.

My six-year-old finds Jack the skeleton at Costco

“Please, Mom? Bea needs a new boyfriend and he is so cute!”

First Trip to Costco

6-year-old: “Please mom, he is so cool! Look at his eyes! Can I have him?”

Me: “He is super cool, but we don’t need more Halloween stuff. Put it back, please.”

Second Trip to Costco

6-year-old: “Mom, my giant inflatable dragon needs a friend can we please bring him home?”

Me: “No, your giant inflatable dragon already has a small inflatable dragon friend. Come on, let’s go.”

Third Trip to Costco

By the third trip to Costco, she figured out exactly what to say.

6-year-old: “Please Mom, Bea needs a new boyfriend and he is so cute!”

I figured that if my 6-year-old couldn’t resist Jack, neither could my au pair, Bea. And it was about time she met someone of quality here in the US.

So into the cart he went with my toilet paper, vegetables, and the thousand other things I didn’t need.

(If you’ve ever shopped at Costco you know exactly what I mean. Where else can you go for eggs and end up buying a giant TV, a pack of 24 fresh-baked croissants, a case of motor oil, a 4-pound bag of shredded cheese, a box of 48 granola bars, and a leather jacket?)

*This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, we may earn a small commission if you purchase through these links. For full details, see our Disclaimer Page.

The Back Story

In case you are not familiar, an au pair is kind of like a foreign exchange nanny. Host families provide room, board, and a small weekly stipend. In exchange, au pairs provide up to 45 hours per week of child care and child related chores. It can be a pretty sweet deal for both sides if you get along well.

What is an au Pair?

We have hosted au pairs since my daughter was 4 months old. Over the years we have learned that it is really difficult for our au pairs to find men who want more than just a good time. Maybe it’s their exciting foreign accents. Or maybe it’s that au pair visas only last a year so long term commitment is not on their minds. I suspect it is also partly to do with using Tinder. Either way, breakups are common for our au pairs. And my 6 year old has picked up on this trend.

Our current au pair, Bea, had just been through a series of bad dates after a tearful breakup. Bea had swarn off American men and Tinder (thank goodness!). When my 6 year old found Jack, I thought she might be on to something. Sure Jack is a little creepy at first, but once you get to know him he is a pretty great guy. He is low maintenance, clean, and quiet. He is also not from America and not on Tinder.

The Introduction

Jack settles right in

Jack settles right in

Jack cleans up after his long journey

Jack cleans up after his journey

Once we got home we gave Jack some time to unpack his box and stretch his legs.

He settled right in. Jack was even polite enough to turn on the fan and clean the toilet when he was done.

Feeling a little dusty from his long journey from China, he took the opportunity to relax in the jacuzzi tub. Who doesn’t enjoy playing Viking ducks versus Pirates now and then?

Later, when Bea came home after an evening with her friends, Jack greeted her with a smile.

Let’s just say it was not love at first sight.

Bea throws in the towel

Bea throws in the towel

Persistence is key

Jack waited and waited for a second chance to talk to Bea. He even tried on a new hat hoping it would make him more presentable.

Halloween Jack is on the lookout for Bea

  Jack on the lookout for Bea

Jack waits patiently for Bea on the porch

Jack waits patiently for Bea

Finally, Bea agreed to a date!

Please, Bea. Give me a second chance!

Please, Bea. Give me a second chance!

Bea and Jack head out on their first date

Bea and Jack head out on their first date

Jack and Bea started their date off at the theater for a special screening of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Next, they headed to Tony Roma’s to split a rack of legendary ribs. They both had a great time and agreed to go out again.

Romance Blossoms

Bicycle built for two

Jack Laundry

Jack Helps Bea with the laundry

It turns out that Halloween Jack is a hopeless romantic.

Over the next few weeks Bea and Jack started spending more and more time together. They explored town by bicycle and hung out at sidewalk cafes.

Jack became a regular member of the family. He visited the pumpkin patch with us and started helping out around the house. Even mundane tasks become tolerable when Jack and Bea did them together.

Jack danced with Bea. Spinning and swaying to the sounds of his favorite band, The Killers.

The more time they spent together the more Bea started to love his creepy stare.

Jack and Bea dancing in the street

Jack and Bea dancing in the driveway

Starring into each others eyes

Jack reads poetry to Bea by the fire

As the days got shorter and the weather turn chilly, Jack and Bea headed indoors. A glass of wine by the fire is the perfect way to enjoy classic poetry.

Happily Ever After

Eventhough things are not always perfect, Jack and Bea make it work.

Jack is not an approved baby sitter

Jack is not an approved baby sitter

No dear, those pants don’t make you look fat. Your fat makes you look fat.

Jack gives the dog a bone

And we are so pleased that Jack and Bea have both decided to join our family!

Bea says yes

Bea says yes!

The lovely couple

The lovely couple

Wishing you a happy Halloween

Follow the adventures of Halloween Jack

Like Halloween Jack? Curious what he will be up to next?

You can follow his adventures on Facebook at My Au Pair and Me or pick up a Halloween Jack of your own. We would love to see what your Jack will be up to next.

4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 4 – Make the Most of Your Time

4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 4 – Make the Most of Your Time

Hi, Maddie here. I used to laugh at the term work-life balance. As a young professional my idea of work-life balance was to work, then figure out how to fit the rest of my life around it. Then, in my late twenties I decided to add graduate school to my more than full time job. At this point I thought I had work-life balance all figured out. I could dial into my classes wherever I happen to be in the world, I worked on homework whenever I could fit it in, and I could do cardio while reading. No problem!

Then entered my first management position and a year later we decided to start a family. At this point I had finished graduate school and I wasn’t traveling much. It seemed like as good a time as any for our first child. I was so unprepared to actually manage my work-life balance!

In this 4 part blog series I will detail the techniques I now use to reclaim my life when things get out of control. It is an ongoing battle, but one I happily fight to stay sane and fulfilled. Check out step one Say “NO”, step 2 Engage Your Village and step 3 Make a Plan and Stick to It.

*This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, we may earn a small commission if you purchase through these links. For full details, see our Disclaimer Page.

Make the most of your time

Time has become a form of currency in my life. With the addition of children to my already busy life, I have had to pinch and save time like pennies to make ends meet. In the same way that I hate to waste money, I also hate to waste time. I use automation to streamline tasks like email and creating lists. I multi-task to fill the time I would otherwise waste by myself. Most importantly, if I devote time to someone, then I try to be present. Put down my phone, tune out the other distractions in my life, and make the most out of our time together.

How do you make the most of your time at work?

When I first started my career as an engineer I was timid and had a hard time connecting with others in my office. I was 22 years old and one of a handful of women in a sea of men with 25 or more years of engineering experience. My manager pulled me aside one day and gave me career altering advice – never eat alone. Eating with others in the office provides more than a break. This is a prime opportunity for team building and networking. I make the most of my time at lunch and coffee breaks. The personal connections gained in this otherwise solitary time helps me to solve problems, get to the source of issues, and advance in my career.

I also make the most of my time at work by only checking outlook a few times per day. I use a simplified one touch approach like “Inbox Zero”, starting with a series of rules to filter and sort my incoming email. First, I unsubscribe from all the emails I can. Then rules move email notifications that I can’t turn off but don’t care about into folders.

Next, I have a series of rules to sort my emails into categories: Status, Project 1, Project 2, Project 3, and Uncategorized. This allows me to quickly scan and delete the emails in the status category. Anything that catches my eye I move to uncategorized or the related project. Then, I sort by meeting notices to accept or decline. I go back to my calendar later when I am ready to make a plan. The next sort is by subject line. That way I can see what email chains are trending, delete the extra versions, and respond if necessary.

By this point I am usually down to around 30 emails in my inbox. Now I go through the emails one by one. If I can quickly solve or answer the email I take care of it right away. If it will take longer to solve then I flag it for action and categorize it into the appropriate project. This allows me to keep my train of thought and action on one project at a time.

How do you make the most of your time at home?

I try to make the most of my time even on my way to and from home. On the way to work I listen to podcasts or listen to news radio. On my way home I make phone calls. Usually I call my husband. One or two days a week I call my blogging partner, Abbie. I also try to call my mom and dad, but I should make an effort to talk to them more.

At home I use technology to save me time and energy. We have an Echo Show in our kitchen which is the hub for all our home automation. The Echo Show links to my Nest cameras so I can watch my kids play when I am cooking, cleaning, and going through the mail. I use Alexa voice control to adjust the temperature, manage my shopping list and calendar, control music and the TV, and answer anything I would Google on my phone.

Be present

Being present is the easiest and most important change you can make to reclaim your life. After saying “no” to non-value added activities, engaging your village for support, and making a plan for the activities you want to attend you should make the most of your time by tuning out the distractions. Simply put down your phone and live in the moment.

My husband and I put our phones down from the time we get home until the kids go to bed. We get so little time with the family we try to make the time we have count. We keep each other accountable and admittedly things come up, but we try!

When I’m at work I focus on the meeting I’m in instead of checking my email or messaging someone who is not in the room. If you have somewhere more important to be then reschedule or delegate so you can handle the hot issue.

How do you reclaim your life?

This brings an end to the 4 Steps to Relcaim Your Life series. Have you started to reclaim your life? Commit to taking one small action towards bringing your life back into balance today.

Leave a comment for us below or join our group of au pair host parents in the My Au Pair and Me Facebook Community. We would love to hear from you!

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4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 3 – Make a Plan and Stick to It

4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 3 – Make a Plan and Stick to It

Hi, Maddie here. I used to laugh at the term work-life balance. As a young professional my idea of work-life balance was to work, then figure out how to fit the rest of my life around it. Then, in my late twenties I decided to add graduate school to my more than full time job. At this point I thought I had work-life balance all figured out. I could dial into my classes wherever I happen to be in the world, I worked on homework whenever I could fit it in, and I could do cardio while reading. No problem!

Then entered my first management position and a year later we decided to start a family. At this point I had finished graduate school and I wasn’t traveling much. It seemed like as good a time as any for our first child. I was so unprepared to actually manage my work-life balance!

In this 4 part blog series I will detail the techniques I now use to reclaim my life when things get out of control. It is an ongoing battle, but one I happily fight to stay sane and fulfilled. Check out step one Say “NO” and step 2 Engage Your Village.

*This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, we may earn a small commission if you purchase through these links. For full details, see our Disclaimer Page.

Make a Plan and Stick to It

When it was just me and my husband planning was easy. I made the plans and he went along for the ride. Everything changed when we started a family. All of a sudden I needed to know the whereabouts of my daughter and her many caregivers to complete a plan as simple as getting to work on time. And as a new mom with a chaotic and oppressive work schedule I had to learn to make a plan and stick to it. Bottom line: if it is important to you, then add it to your schedule.

How do you make a plan and stick to it at work?

Unless you are one of the lucky few with an administrative assistant, then you will need to find time to manage your own calendar. I have always managed my own calendar at work. I start and end each day with a review of my meetings for the next few days. It helps me to plan and prioritize.

This is the process I use to maintain my work calendar:

  1. Are there any conflicts? I start by declining the meetings I don’t plan to attend. Then I reschedule the meetings that can move. If I still have a conflict I will check the agendas to see if I can attend part of one meeting and then go to the other. If you are in a bind remember to engage your village.
  2. Check each meeting notice for attendees, conference room location, dial in information (if needed), and an agenda. I make sure I include this information in the meetings I schedule. If someone else owns the meeting I will ask them to send me any missing information. I will also let them know if I think someone important is missing from the invitation. If everyone is in the room you can have the conversations once instead of wasting time repeating it for folks who are missing.
  3. Make meetings a short as possible. Say “no” to hour long meetings covering a 15 minute topic. Even better if you can answer a question over your messaging platform and avoid the meeting altogether. It is a waste of everyone’s time to sit though unnecessary chatter.
  4. Add travel time before and after meetings if you need time to transition. That way you can make sure you get there and back on time.
  5. Add recurring meeting notices to you own calendar to help you remember weekly and monthly deadlines. I also use recurring meeting notices so that I remember to leave work on time.
  6. Develop a color coding system for your calendar. That way you can tell at a glance if your next meeting is important or not.
  7. Schedule breaks into your calendar. My calendar fills up fast so I schedule breaks to make sure I have time to eat, take a breather, and catch up.

Now that your calendar is under control, you have to be disciplined in following it. It is rude and career limiting to not show up to meetings. This is doubly true for meetings you schedule. Then at the end of the day, you have to learn to put it all down and head home. The work will be there in the morning.

How do you make a plan and stick to it at home?

At home I depend on my Google Family Calendar. All the important caregivers for my children have access: me, my husband, my parents, my in laws, and my au pair. The best Google Family Calendar feature is access from any device: iPhone, Android, tablets, and laptop web access.

We all have access to add and remove events, but for the most part, it is my job to manage the family calendar. I do most of the family calendar management on my smartphone after everyone is in bed. I use recurring meeting notices as much as possible. For deviations to the schedule I will edit a single event. I include everything important in my family calendar:

  1. School calendar, including half days and holidays
  2. Caregiver schedule for my kids
  3. Everyone’s activities and classes
  4. One-off appointments (including who needs to attend)
  5. Special events and holidays
  6. Everyone’s travel plans

What Is An Au Pair

Having everything in one place helps to prevent last minute child care emergencies. Everyone knows long in advance when I am depending on them. It also helps me to prevent over planning and to say “no”. I try to schedule only two events per day on the weekends. This allows us time to spend time together as a family and get everything ready for the upcoming week.

The family calendar also helps me delegate and better engage my village. My mother in law schedules fun events for my kids during her time with them. My husband knows to not schedule vet appointments at the same time he is dropping my daughter off at school. And best of all, my au pair knows which nights we will be home late. She helps me with dinner prep and bathing the kids before I get home. If you have kids and a spare room consider hosting an au pair. There is no way for me to get everything done without my amazing au pair!

How do you reclaim your life?

How do you manage your plans? Leave a comment for us below or join our group of au pair host parents in the My Au Pair and Me Facebook Community. We would love to hear from you! 

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4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 2 – Engage Your Village

4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 2 – Engage Your Village

Hi, Maddie here. I used to laugh at the term work-life balance. As a young professional my idea of work-life balance was to work, then figure out how to fit the rest of my life around it. Then, in my late twenties I decided to add graduate school to my more than full time job. At this point I thought I had work-life balance all figured out. I could dial into my classes wherever I happen to be in the world, I worked on homework whenever I could fit it in, and I could do cardio while reading. No problem!

Then entered my first management position and a year later we decided to start a family. At this point I had finished graduate school and I wasn’t traveling much. It seemed like as good a time as any for our first child. I was so unprepared to actually manage my work-life balance!

In this 4 part blog series I will detail the techniques I now use to reclaim my life when things get out of control. It is an ongoing battle, but one I happily fight to stay sane and fulfilled. Check out part one of this blog series in Say “NO”.

*This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, we may earn a small commission if you purchase through these links. For full details, see our Disclaimer Page.

Create a village to improve your work life balance

You can’t have it all if you plan to do it all by yourself. There are simply not enough hours in the day. Look around at the people in your life. Chances are they are looking for help as well. By coming together to create a village you can gain economies of scale and save everyone time and energy.

How do I engage my work village?

One way to engage your professional village is networking. Have a hard problem to solve? Start asking around. I very rarely find a problem that someone in my network hasn’t already solved. I refuse to spend time reinventing the wheel. More likely than not, my colleagues are happy to share their process and tools. They are also honored by the spread of their hard work.

As I progressed up the career ladder, I learned to effectively delegate. Transitioning from a strong independent contributor to a manager was eye opening. Faced with tight deadlines, I had the choice to work ridiculous hours or effectively delegate and trust my team to deliver. By setting a clear vision and empowering my team we were able to deliver without burning out in the process. Need help? I recommend reaching out to your mentor. Mine gave me a copy of the book Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders By L. David Marquet. Marquet highlights the impact of a leader’s actions on their team in this quick read. He helped me to reflect on my behavior and offered techniques to help me become a better leader.

How do I engage my personal village?

Start to build your village at home by asking for help. I’m not talking about a one off request like ”honey, will you please take out the garbage.” I am talking about completely handing over a task from planning to completion. When I started traveling two or more weeks a month I asked my husband to take care of paying occasional bills. This worked fine for a while, then we missed a homeowners insurance payment. Oops. Our bank notified us of the oversight several months later. They had taken out a homeowners insurance policy for us at a significantly higher rate. My husband figured out how to fix the insurance mess while I was in Europe. We also decided that it was time for him to take over all the bills. He takes care of everything, now. Including our budgeting and working with our financial advisor.

Another way to engage your village is to offer help to your neighbors or close friends. I offer to take on tasks when they are convenient for me and my friends offer the same in return. We have a friend join us for dinner every Tuesday night. She appreciates the hot meal and the excuse to leave work on time one night a week. In return, she picks up a few things at the grocery store for me and helps to get my kids to bed when my husband is traveling. We also both get the added bonus of seeing each other and venting about life.

How do I grow my personal village?

Are you finding that your village is too busy or too small? I have two solutions: make friends with your neighbors and outsource where possible.

There are many ways to get to know your neighbors. I joined my local Buy Nothing group on Facebook. Buy Nothing allowed me to reduce my clutter and gave me the opportunity to meet new people. Now that I have children, I make an effort to talk to the other parents at the bus stop and school functions. I have also made friends by going to my local gym at the same time every week.

What Is An Au Pair

You can also grow your village by outsourcing. Of course, this assumes you have some extra income to devote to freeing up your schedule. I started by hiring someone to clean my house once a month. Eventually, we added a second monthly cleaning. Next, I hired someone to take care of my yard maintenance. Instead of cleaning and mowing, I now spend my weekends on adventures with my husband and kids.

If you have kids (and a bedroom to spare) I highly recommend hosting an au pair. My au pair watches my kids up to 45 hours a week and we pay less per month than daycare for my two children. I come home to clean children with packed lunches and picked up toys. My au pair takes care of the kids laundry, manages their activity schedules, and starts dinner for the family. New to au pairs? Check out our blog What is an au pair?

How do you reclaim your life?

Have you created a village to help bring your life back into balance? Leave a comment for us below or join our group of au pair host parents in the My Au Pair and Me Facebook Community. We would love to hear from you!

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4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 1 – Say “No”

4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 1 – Say “No”

Hi, Maddie here. I used to laugh at the term work-life balance. As a young professional my idea of work-life balance was to work, then figure out how to fit the rest of my life around it. Then, in my late twenties I decided to add graduate school to my more than full time job. At this point I thought I had work-life balance all figured out. I could dial into my classes wherever I happen to be in the world, I worked on homework whenever I could fit it in, and I could do cardio while reading. No problem!

Then entered my first management position and a year later we decided to start a family. At this point I had finished graduate school and I wasn’t traveling much. It seemed like as good a time as any for our first child. I was so unprepared to actually manage my work-life balance!

In this 4 part blog series I will detail the techniques I now use to reclaim my life when things get out of control. It is an ongoing battle, but one I happily fight to stay sane and fulfilled.

*This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, we may earn a small commission if you purchase through these links. For full details, see our Disclaimer Page.

Say “No” to Reclaim your life

It sounds so simple, just say “no” to the added stressors and everything will fall into place. We all know this can not be farther from the truth.

There are things in your life that bring you more joy than others. The first step in reclaiming your life is to cut (or at least reduce) the things in your life that take more time than they are worth.

How do I say “no” at work?

At work I am fiercely protective of my work statement. I will not take on more scope unless the work that’s already assigned to me is well under control. Last fall my manager asked me to step in on a high profile project. I gladly accepted. Then we had the difficult conversation of what to do with my existing work statement. We agreed that some of my work would be handed off to my peers and some would no longer be supported. I retained a small piece that no one else could take on. Most importantly, I documented the conversation and emailed it to my boss. Later, when one of my peers dropped the ball, I had a written record of the decision to transfer that work off my plate.

I find that the best way to say “no” is to communicate early and often. I constantly prioritize to ensure that I complete the important things first. And sometimes there are things that don’t get done. I am transparent about my decisions and communicate my priorities so there are no surprises. Then, at the end of the day I go home.

If you find that your job will not allow you to make priority decisions, then it might be time to move on.

How do I say “no” at home?

At home I strive for balance in my priorities between self care, my husband, and my children. It has taken me years to reduce everything that doesn’t fall into one of these three categories.

I stared by eliminating time sucking activities which did not add value to my life. Dropping cable TV had the added bonus of saving us $200 per month. Grocery delivery and Amazon Prime replaced my weekend schlog from store to store. I also stopped attending big social events and hosting elaborate parties. My social obligations had become more stressful than enjoyable.

After dropping the obvious non-value added activities, I still felt like I needed more time for my priorities. This is when I had to start making hard decisions.

Next, I sat down with my husband. Together we listed all our commitments and time consuming activities. We ordered them into two priority buckets: Required and everything else.

 

What Is An Au Pair

Honestly, there wasn’t much in my “everything else” bucket. This was the year I decided to give up my greenhouse. I replaced my solitary, time consuming garden with trips to the farmers market with my family. My husband decided it was time to give up his obligations to the community band. He replaced his weekly rehearsal with trips to the playground, allowing me to get to the gym one extra night a week.

Next we started setting limits on the tasks in the required bucket. We realized that we were spending 2 hours a day making and cleaning up from meals. We decided to simplify our food choices and found ways to use less dishes. My au pair was really helpful in this transition. By simplifying our food preparation, she was able to help more. Don’t have an au pair? Check out our blog about au pairs.

 

Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing motivated me to simplify the objects throughout my home. I simplified my morning routine by simplifying my wardrobe. Also, with less clutter I have fewer things to waste time putting away.

Eventually, we decided it was time to move. It didn’t make sense for us both to commute over an hour to work in the same direction. The time we saved by not commuting was worth more to us than the added cost of living (and the loss of space).

Prioritizing your life is humbling. It will require you to make decisions that are right for you and your family that are not popular with others in your life. This might mean declining invitations from your friends or extended family. It might mean that you eat off paper plates for a while. When you look back at your life, you will remember the time you spent playing with your kids, not the fact that the laundry didn’t get folded.

How do you reclaim your life?

Have you made hard choices to bring your life back into balance? Leave a comment for us below or join our group of au pair host parents in the My Au Pair and Me Facebook Community. We would love to hear from you!

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3 Tips for Controlling Au Pair Cell Phone Expenses

3 Tips for Controlling Au Pair Cell Phone Expenses

Maddie here! Cell phones are an essential expense in modern life. Because your au pair needs to call you in case of an emergency, you need to provide a cell phone (if they don’t have one already) and pay for a basic plan. These are one of the costs we talk about in How Much Does an Au Pair Cost.

Do you require your au pair to drive? If so, you will also need to pay for some amount of data for GPS navigation if it is not available in the au pair’s vehicle. You may also want your au pair to be able to take pictures and send them to you at work.

Cell phones can be expensive. The cost of the phone, the accessories, and the usage plan really add up. But there are a few ways to keep these costs in check. These are my tips for controlling cell phone expenses for your au pair.

*This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, we may earn a small commission if you purchase through these links. For full details, see our Disclaimer Page.

1. Talk to your au pair about cell phone expenses before arrival

Set expectations for cell phone expenses with your au pair before he/she arrives.

You can ask your au pair to pay for part of his/her phone bill, but make sure you’re super clear with that upfront. Remember to include the expectation that they need to pay for international calling, roaming, and in-phone purchases. You also need to be clear upfront if you expect your au pair to replace the phone if he/she breaks or loses it. Good communication is key!

For years I included my au pair in my family phone plan with unlimited talk and text. Data on this plan was shared across four phones and my au pair had 2G per month.

I sent my au pairs this information in the interview process and let them know extra data would cost them $15 per gigabyte.

When they arrived I showed them how to view their data usage and talked about the use of wifi when available.

I also set up text message alerts for when we reached 75%, 90% and 100% of data allocated for the month. None of my au pairs paid for data more than once.

Abbie has unlimited data on her family plan, so she pays the extra $20/month for her au pair’s extra line. This is a much easier way to go if you have the option.

I know another host family who contributes towards their au pair’s pay-as-you-go phone plan. I would worry that my au pair will run out of minutes/texts/data but they have yet to have any issues.

2. Don’t buy your au pair an expensive phone

You don’t have to provide your au pair with the latest and greatest phone on the market. I don’t even have the latest phone model. They do need a phone that is good enough to perform necessary the functions (call, text, navigation, pictures, etc.)

When my au pairs first arrive, I give them $150 towards whatever cell phone they want. My au pairs have wanted pricey iPhones and this allows them to pay the difference towards the phone they choose. I recommend refurbished phones from amazon.com. They are certified and have a 30-day return policy (just in case). When my au pairs leave, they take the phones with them (my part of the cost is a farewell gift).

Abbie took the opportunity to get herself a new phone and reset the old phone to factory settings for her first au pair. It became the family phone. When the first au pair left, she gave back the phone for the second au pair.

A third option if you don’t want to upgrade yourself and pass your old phone down is to buy a family phone for your au pair that stays with the family. You can also buy pretty reasonable phones on amazon.com, gazelle.com, or other sites for $150 to $200.

For both of us, accessories are their responsibility. If they break or lose the phone, it is also their responsibility.

One word of caution: When bringing your own phone to a plan, make sure you research your carrier’s stores. Some stores are resellers and not actual stores. The resellers will do things like charge you $20 for a SIM card where if you drive to your carrier’s store maybe a little farther away, the SIM card is free. And if you buy a basic phone from your carrier, the reseller store won’t be able to give you the same protections as a core store. Call and ask ahead, or check your carrier’s website.

3. Disable international services on your au pair phone

Although I have never had any issues, I have read horror stories of au pairs running up phone bills with international calls and/or roaming charges. This is really easy to prevent if your au pair is on your family plan. All you need to do is call your carrier and disable international services for the au pair line. This completely removes the ability for your au pair to rack up a bunch of unexpected charges.

But just because you disable international services doesn’t mean your au pair will be completely cut off from her family. Most au pairs will already have WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Viber, Line, and others that they can install on your phone and make international calls using a data or WiFi connection, not minutes.

All of our au pairs have always brought their own phone with them with the SIM card removed, and then only use the phone over WiFi only. Your phone is the one they use for day-to-day communication needs. But they like having their own phone and apps when they’re relaxing at night in the house.

How do you do it?

How do you manage cell phone expenses with your au pair? Have a question about cell phones for au pairs?

Leave a comment for us below or join our group of host parents in the My Au Pair and Me Facebook Community. We would love to hear from you!

Check us out on Feedspot, we are #18 on the list of top au pair blogs!

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Let’s Talk About Rematch

Let’s Talk About Rematch

Hi! Maddie here. Recently I had to rematch, which means that we cancelled our au pair’s contract before her year was up. Even though our au pair was a nice person and wonderful with the children (especially with the baby), she couldn’t be on time to save her life. Even after months of working with her, she continued to struggle with time management. We had to make a choice…to stay with her until the end of her 12 months, or to rematch.

This is a hard topic the write about, but I hope that my experience will be helpful for other au pair host families when faced with this difficult decision.

In comparison to other rematches, my experience was rather mild. My au pair had been with us for 8 months already. She fit in really well with my family and my kids loved her. Unfortunately, she just could not manage her time.

Even in my friendly rematch, we experienced a lot of strong feelings. On one hand, things were not going well and I needed resolution. On the other hand, I depended on my au pair. The possibility of losing that support, for even a short period of time, was daunting.

What is Rematch?

When issues arise between the host family and an au pair that can not be resolved through mediation with the local community counselor, then the family and the au pair will go into rematch.

Remember, rematch isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It does not mean that you are bad host parents or bad people. It is simply an end to a contract that didn’t work out for whatever reason.

In rematch the host family will be free to select a different au pair and the au pair will be free to match with a new family provided that the sponsor agency agrees.

Be warned, Au pair sponsor agencies can bar host families from selecting another au pair.  This is especially true if the host family violated U.S. government regulations, federal, state or local laws or their obligations under the au pair program contract.

What is Friendly Rematch?

In a friendly rematch the au pair and the host family are still on good terms. In my case, I still cared deeply for my au pair. I also had to acknowledge that it was not working well. I was willing to give her a good, but honest, reference for her next host family. She continued to try her best while she was still with us. 

Why would a host family consider a rematch?

Why a host family would consider a rematch is complicated and varied.

The cases on the far end of the spectrum are easy to identify. As an example, something terrible may have happened requiring immediate action. I would consider situations where an au pair intentionally put a child at risk or broke a major law to be in this category. As would sexual advances between an au pair and a host parent. I have also heard of cases where an au pair is placed into rematch because a host parent lost a job or a host family was displaced by a natural disaster. However, most situations are not this clear cut.

In some cases, the desire to rematch is mutual. For whatever reason, the au pair and the host family are not getting along and not able to come to a resolution. Communication issues can also be a reason to rematch. If the au pair and the host family cannot figure out how to communicate with each other, then it is not a good match.

In other cases, the rematch may be one-sided. Typically in this situation the au pair did not fulfill some aspects of the host families expectations. I have heard of rematches because of an au pair not passing the drivers test or having a series of car accidents. Other families have gone into rematch because their au pairs repeatedly failed to be on time or complete their duties.

One-sided rematches can also be initiated by an au pair. All of these situations I have heard of involved the host family repeatedly violating the program rules.

Should I Rematch?

Knowing when it was time for a rematch was the hardest part of the process for me. I was an experienced host mom by this point. I had been through any number of issues with my previous au pairs and I had never needed to help of the community counselor to work anything out. But this time I just could not bring the problems to resolution without help.

My advice for struggling host families is to think it through carefully, talk it out with your au pair, and move quickly to find resolution.

Think it Through

It is natural to run into adjustment issues or cultural differences with your au pair at some point during the program year. But how can you tell cultural differences apart from real problems?

Safety is the number one concern. Are you worried about the safety of your children when they are in the care of your au pair? Did your au pair get caught breaking the law?

Take some time to consider how much your issues really bother you. Have you talked to your au pair about it? If not, is it really a concern for rematch if you haven’t even bothered to bring it up? Is it such a difficult topic that you can’t even have the conversation with her?

What does your spouse think? Do you have any other close friends or family who might be able to help you think it through? Maybe your community counselor can give you some advice? You can even reach out to other host parents on our My Au Pair and Me Facebook group.

Talk it Out

After giving the situation a good long thought, try resolving the concerns by talking to your au pair. Be honest! Calmly and slowly let her know how you feel and why you feel that way. Then STOP and listen to her side of the story. What happened from her point of view? How does she feel? Why does she feel that way?

Try to seek a mutual agreement to resolve the issue. Does she have any ideas of how to resolve the issues? Once you determine the go forward plan together, you need to clearly tell her your next steps if the plan isn’t followed. This is especially true if you are considering rematch.

Move Quickly

If the concern persists after talking with your au pair, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local community counselor for support, advice, or to start the rematch process. Don’t wait, the longer you wait the worse the situation will get.

How does the rematch process work?

After you reach out to your community counselor and request a rematch, they will likely schedule a mediation between you and your au pair. You will both be asked to talk about your top concerns and why you feel they are so important. Next, you will develop a plan to resolve the issues. If a plan cannot be determined or the plan is broken, your local community counselor can officially file the rematch process.

Once my decision to rematch was official, things started moving really quickly! Within 24 hours my local and regional counselors called offering help in finding a new au pair. They opened up my access to search for a new au pair and sent me extra information on the in-country au pairs. Within 72 hours I had interviewed the in-country au pairs I thought might be a good fit and luckily found one I really liked. It then took a few days to finalize the match and book a plane ticket. Our new au pair arrived 10 days after officially declaring the rematch.

Do host families have to continue hosting the au pair after rematch?

In most cases, host families are required by contract to continue hosting the exiting au pair. In my case, the agency required me to host my exiting au pair until she departed for her new host family or for home. She continued to live with us for 2 weeks.

Check the contract with your au pair sponsor agency for the details of this obligation. You should reach out to them directly if you have any concerns about continuing to host your au pair.

Do au pair sponsor agencies guarantee continuous childcare coverage if something happens to my au pair?

No, au pair sponsor agencies do not guarantee continuous childcare coverage if something happens to your au pair. However, most agencies will do what they can to help you select a new au pair quickly and minimize the impact to the host family.

Will I get a refund if I rematch?

Every au pair sponsor agency has different contractual terms about refunds and credits. You should check the fine print of your contract. Most agencies offer credits towards your next au pair or partial refunds if it is within the first 3 months of the contract.

In my case, I was matching with a new au pair from the same agency so they applied a credit for the remaining months on my contract towards the program fees of my next au pair.

Was rematching worth the trouble?

I get asked this question all the time. For me the answer is a resounding “YES”, rematch was worth it. My only regret is letting things go for as long as I did in the hopes that it would get better.

In retrospect, I’m not sure why it was such a hard decision for me. Those who were close to me had been urging me initiate the process with the au pair agency for quite a while before I actually did.

I was worried about a gap in child care coverage (I didn’t have a gap). The financial burden of starting a new au pair contract was also a concern (my refund covered the difference). Most importantly, I was worried about the impact on my kids (they loved my new au pair and easily transitioned). On the other hand, not every rematch goes as smoothly as mine did.

Every situation is different, you will need to make the decision that is right for your family. If you are struggling, I suggest that you think it through carefully, talk it out with your au pair, and move quickly to find resolution.

If you have questions or need a second opinion don’t be shy. Reach out to other host parents on our My Au Pair and Me Facebook group.

 

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