Host Parent Interview With Lisa Sanabria

Host Parent Interview With Lisa Sanabria

This blog post 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 a 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.

Hi, my name is Lisa and I’m married to my amazing husband, Eric. We have 2 great kids, a boy and a girl, both elementary school age. We live in a northern suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.

So far we’ve only had one au pair from South Africa who joined us in August of 2019 and was due to leave this summer. We matched with our second au pair before things got crazy with COVID but now can’t get a visa. Luckily, our current au pair decided to extend 6 months, which takes us out to the end of January 2021. Our next au pair is thankful for our current au pair’s extension and is willing to wait.

Lisa Sanabria and familyI’ve had some unique experiences that have somewhat prepared me for my au pair. Since 2003 we’ve welcomed interns from a large company I used to work for. It’s hard to keep track, but at this point I’ve had more than 160+ college kids live with us. Most of our interns are from various parts of the US. We’ve also had quite a few international interns. They grew up in India, China, Portugal, Columbia, etc. and moved here for college or graduate degrees.

We are social people and have enjoyed the diversity in our life. Of course, there have also been some challenges (which make for some interesting stories over the years).

I also was a residence assistant (RA) in college and had over 500 girls per year on my floor to host, welcome, and oversee. It really feels like a lifelong passion to be a facilitator of young people.

Q: How did you find out about au pairs?

Before we had children, we would host lots of gatherings for the interns’ friends at our house.

I first learned about au pairs from some Swedish au pairs that worked for one of my colleagues. Years later, when we were pregnant with our first child, we remembered about the au pair program. We signed up with Cultural Care, based on that colleague’s recommendation.

We interviewed an amazing German au pair who helped her mom run a daycare from their home. Unfortunately, we learned that you could only schedule au pairs for 45 hours a week. With both of us working, we’d need more like 60 or 70 hours.

Then we learned that my husband’s employer, The Home Depot, was opening a brand new onsite daycare run by Bright Horizons. This solution was great while the kids were young.

When my son entered kindergarten we had to switch to a local after-school daycare. That’s when we started getting calls that he was getting in fights, etc. and we had to come get him. This was very unlike my child and it was also very disruptive for me at work.

We hobbled by until almost the end of his first grade year. At this point we’d been through at least 3+ after-school programs. None had the patience or oversight to watch and understand what was going on.

Then I remembered another colleague’s advice that getting an au pair became easier once both kids were in elementary school. With my daughter starting kindergarten and my son entering 2nd grade, I re-looked at the hours we would need. It was more like 30 hours. Much more doable, and we could add a few date nights or errands in.

We jumped right in and signed up with several agencies and began interviewing. The rest is history and we haven’t looked back.

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

Since we were already signed up with Cultural Care, we reactivated the search there. We also signed up for another agency, GoAuPair, to see what the differences were and to broaden our search.

We also signed up for Au Pair in America but were rejected due to having college interns who only stay for 4 months at a time. They saw this as instability for our au pair and thought it would be difficult for her to bond and then say goodbye. (Personally I thought this was ridiculous. Isn’t this what we do with au pairs?)

We ended up getting our au pair from GoAuPair. Cultural Care had a bigger database and slightly better search function but our best match was with a South African young lady with GoAuPair.

Our current au pair was supposed to go home on August 1, 2020. We asked her to extend in March but her family experienced a lot of tragedy this year and she felt she had to go home and comfort them.

We were all sad but I jumped back into the agency searches. This time I went even broader. My best chance of finding the best match is to have the biggest pool to search from. I reactivated Cultural Care and GoAuPair, then added Au Pair Care and Au Pair International.

This time we matched with another South African from Au Pair International. I was pleasantly surprised when I compared all four agencies. Au Pair International was the cheapest by almost $2000 when compared to Cultural Care.

We were all set, and then COVID wreaked havoc. My second au pair’s visa appointment on June 23rd was canceled and moved to mid-September. Luckily, my current au pair decided to extend 2 months which put her out to October 1st. Safe again.

Then more havoc, with President Trump’s Executive Order banning overseas au pairs until at least 2021. Luckily, my current au pair decided to extend again, so we’re good until January 31, 2021. Now we’re crossing our fingers nothing else happens. What a wild ride!

On the bright side, both my current and future au pair have been very communicative and understanding of everything.

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

As an engineer, I have a very analytical background. I did a ton of reading about au pairs and hosting. I read about not only regulations and life with au pairs, but how host families succeed and fail and all the learnings in-between.

A big help both times around was reading the blog aupairmom.com. I also joined several Facebook groups as this COVID mess blew up, to learn more, and get immediate feedback.

Armed with all this info, I printed out every list of suggested questions I could find and starred what I thought was most important.

Our first basic requirement was for an au pair with mastery of English, so we’d set the filter as mastery or just under. My oldest, who has ADHD, struggles to communicate well. We need someone who can jump right in and be the role model for communication.

We also wanted a strong swimmer since we have a lap pool in our backyard.

Beyond this, I read a lot of profiles. I sent our family’s profile to anyone who didn’t say something that sounded crazy and seemed to fit the basics, then let them decide if we should explore further.

Our profile is very detailed.

On the positive side, Atlanta is a big city with lots to do, but also close to mountains, waterfalls, and nature. Another big selling point is that we like to travel and will take our au pair with us.

On the other side, being an au pair for our family comes with some challenges. My son with ADHD needs a lot of patient repetition. Both my kids are close in age and have a love-hate relationship. My au pair needs to be a referee (unfortunately). I have the schedule detailed out so they can see that they need to work a few hours each weekend. Perhaps the biggest thing against us is that we don’t provide a car.

Armed with all this info we get a 60% acceptance rate.

One mom from aupairmom.com likes to call this method, “Dare to match with us.” A little extreme, but I like to weed out those who might be coming with rose-colored glasses and think their year is just going to be a party.

Once they get here, we shower them with love and make them family. But I need to get priorities and personality set up front.

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

As described early we put a lot of detail into our family profile and handbook.

Our current au pair was the first one we interviewed, and we had a good feeling about her but didn’t want to rush into it. We interviewed three or four more but each one we kept comparing back to her.

This is when it really sunk in that she was for us. We interviewed her 3 times, and at the end of the third interview we offered her the position. We all cried happy tears.

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

We looked up all the South African restaurants in Atlanta. We had our au pair inspect the menus and pick what sounded best, then we went and enjoyed the cuisine. It was enjoyable. My son loved his spaghetti…little did he know he was eating ostrich. =)

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

I think we got really lucky the first time around, as our au pair has immediately clicked in the family and is really mature. Overall, she’s been great.

A little over four months in, my son’s IEP teacher called. He mentioned during class one day that he was afraid to tell the au pair when his sister was being mean to him.

Apparently, the au pair had been trying to encourage them to solve their own problems. She told them if they were fighting they needed to figure out how to resolve it on their own. Sometimes when they earned free time she would put her headphones on. He didn’t know how to deal with his sister trying to hit and scare him.

I was shocked, because my au pair is so loving and patient with them. On the other hand, we all know that too much time with little ones fighting all day can drive anyone crazy.

So after kid bedtime one night, we sat down together. We let her know ahead of time we wanted to talk about how our son was doing in school. The first half of the school year just ended and we had completed teacher conferences, so I don’t think she was expecting any more than that.

We told her some general things that he was supposed to work on. Then I said I thought she was doing great, but that there was one story that the teacher told that we needed to talk about.

I shared the story and my au pair started crying. I hugged her and told her that I understood. The fact she was crying only showed how much she loved the kids.

We talked about an improved way to respond. They should learn how to resolve their differences. If they needed help she could be there with suggestions on how to work through it WITH them.

The three of us then talked with the kids and let them know the changes.

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

Overall I’m pretty happy with how this first au pair experience has gone. I’ve occasionally asked how things have been going, and my current au pair is thrilled.

I continue to read suggestions on how to welcome new au pairs, so next time I’m going to print my new au pair’s pictures from her profile and put them in her room.

I’m also going to warn her to bring an empty suitcase and think ahead about how much she buys when she’s here, and how she will be able to get it home.

Beyond that, not much.

I will ask my au pair one last time about a month before she leaves what my husband and I can improve. Maybe she can write a welcome and advice letter to leave for the new au pair.

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

Really figure out what’s most important to you about your au pair’s personality and skills. We all want the moon and stars for our children and family but no one’s perfect.

For instance, my au pair isn’t a slob but she isn’t much of a cleaner either. This is ok for me because she loves my children and actually enjoys playing with them, even when she’s not on duty. I can give up having a perfectly clean house for the extra play and joy my children get, and the extra few peaceful moments I get.

Also, realize finding someone just like you first of all is impossible and also might not be the best fit. I’ve read stories from people who are take-charge, detailed, in-control people and think an au pair like this might be good. But then they butt heads on who’s taking charge.

Think through some scenarios and how you want your au pair to fit in with your family. Write these skills and personality traits down and search for it.

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

Once we were down to our final two au pair candidates we asked our current au pair if she’d be willing to talk with them. We asked her to be a sounding board for whatever questions our new au pair might have about us.

Our current au pair didn’t have to tell us anything about the conversation unless there was something completely awful she felt we should know.

We requested they speak in Afrikans so they wouldn’t worry that we were listening in.

They talked for 15 to 20 min and my current au pair says she likes her. I know that we are all on social media together and they talk a little, but not a ton.

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

Our au pair has changed our life for the best, 100%.

One example: my son was at an end of Kindergarten level of reading when my au pair arrived in August 2019. Now, not quite a year later, he’s at a beginning 3rd grade level. He jumped two whole grade levels in one year! Amazing!

The few times we are not with our au pair, my kids say, “I wish she was here so I could show her this.”

My husband and I are also able to get a few more chores done, and a little more alone time together. Our stress level has definitely gone down. We are truly family, and will love her forever!

For all the reasons above, I started a new YouTube Channel, American Au Pair Host Mom. I share tips, tricks, advice, and the amazing opportunities families have with the au pair program. I’d love for the My Au Pair and Me family to check it out and share your feedback!

How has your au pair dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Our au pair is an old soul, we are so lucky again in this area. She has au pair friends through social media that she chats with.

Even before COVID, she wasn’t too keen on a lot of outings. Now that it’s hit, she doesn’t go out except to take walks or bike rides.

She’s very concerned about not getting sick and not getting us sick either. So we watch a lot of movies together and sometimes go out on a nature hike to a waterfall.

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Au Pair and Host Family Taxes

Au Pair and Host Family Taxes

Taxes suck! They are complicated, time-consuming, and financially draining. We know that you’d rather be off playing with your kids, so we pulled together some tax basics to help get you pointed to in the right direction – for your au pair’s taxes as well as your own.
 
This post was originally published March 8, 2019 and was updated on June 26, 2020.
 
DISCLAIMER: Please consult your tax advisor or the IRS for definitive answers about your personal tax situation and your au pair’s taxes. General tax information provided in this article does not constitute tax advice.

HOST FAMILY AND AU PAIR TAXES ARE SEPARATE

Keep in mind that host family taxes and au pair taxes are separate. The only thing that’s the same for both of you is the due date: July 15th, 2020. (Well, and that you both are dealing with the IRS.)

Everything else about the au pair’s taxes and the host family’s taxes are completely separate.

Separate forms. Submitted separately.

And no penalty to either person if the other person doesn’t file or files incorrectly.

TAXES FOR AU PAIRS

Let’s start with taxes for your au pair. Hopefully your au pair has been saving $20 per week (or about 10% of their stipend). If not, they may have some catching up to do.

Keep in mind that the US tax system is unlike any other in the world and the directions are complicated (and not in your au pair’s primary language). We strongly suggest you help your au pair along the way. This is a great way to build rapport and maybe earn some brownie points in case you get stuck in traffic on your way home from work next week.

Au Pair Tax Checklist

Here’s what your au pair will need to do her or his taxes:

IRS Form 1040-NR-EZ for Non-Resident Aliens

This form is not available to my knowledge in tax software such as TurboTax, Quicken, etc. so you’ll have to go to the IRS website (links above and below) and fill it out, or find an online company that specializes in foreign exchange student and expatriate taxes.

If you want a company to help you with your taxes, here are two options: Sprintax and Taxback.com. Abbie’s agency last year, Au Pair Care, suggested them in a notice to parents. If you know of any others, please let us know!

Here are some helpful resources right from the IRS about au pairs and the 1040NR form:

Sample Au Pair 1040-NR-EZ

Free download for one possible way to fill out an au pair’s 1040-NR-EZ.

DISCLAIMER: Please consult your tax advisor or the IRS for definitive answers about your personal tax situation and your au pair’s taxes. General tax information provided in this article does not constitute tax advice.

See our downloads page for a list of all the My Au Pair and Me documents.

Some Basic Au Pair Assumptions

Here are some of the assumptions we’re making for this article from reading the 1040NR-EZ instructions.

Your au pair:

  • Is single.
  • Is not claimed as a dependent, and has no dependents.
  • Has less than $100,000 in earnings.
    • $10,179 = the weekly stipend salary of $195.75 x 52 weeks (for au pairs who extended into their second year).
  • May have some interest from checking or savings account.
  • The only deductions are state and local income taxes.

Definitely consult a professional tax professional if your au pair was previously in the United States as a student, teacher, trainee, or researcher on an F, J, M, or Q visa. That might change their status and they might be subject to social security or Medicare taxes.

 

Calculating Taxes

Following our assumptions, let’s take the path that our example au pair, a woman, is considered a non-resident alien with pretty simple finances, and will fill out Form 1040NR-EZ.

She arrived in the United States for training on Monday, August 26th, 2019. She joined our family on Friday, August 30th and receives $200/per week stipend.

Using the date calculator, I can see she’s been here 128 days (remember to include the end date).  And if I scroll down on the website, it’s easy to count the weeks and calculate how much I paid her (14 weeks x $200/week = $2,800)

The tax table starts on the IRS 1040NR Instructions Page 22. By finding her pay, I can then see how much taxes she owes. If the payment is on the split between two rows, use the bottom row. See the red box in the screenshot below.

This au pair owes $281.

IRS 1040NR Instructions Page 22 Tax Table

IRS 1040NR Instructions Page 22 Tax Table

Paying Taxes

Once the tax forms are complete, your au pair will probably have to pay taxes. The IRS 1040NR Instructions Page 11 has information on all of the ways you can pay: online, phone, app, check, or money order.

Online Payment

If you pay online, either use the IRS2GO app or start at https://www.irs.gov/payments.

  • Direct deposit is only available with a bank checking account. You must have filed taxes last year for them to confirm your identity.
  • Payment by debit card or credit card is available for a fee.

After you’ve paid online, you still need to mail your 1040NR-EZ. Put your signed 1040NR-EZ form in a stamped envelope and send it to this address:

Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Austin, TX 73301-0215

Payment with Check

If you are sending a check or money order, put it and your 1040NR-EZ together in one envelope (remember to sign it!), and send it to this address instead:

Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 1303
Charlotte, NC 28201-1303

TAXES FOR THE HOST FAMILY

Did we already say the advice here is no substitute for the advice from a tax professional? We did? Good. 

Now let’s dive into the tax considerations for au pair host families. Remember that the advice here is no substitute for advice from a tax professional.

If you need specific support, please consult your tax advisor or the IRS for definitive answers about your personal tax situation.

Can host families deduct the cost of their au pair?

If the stars align just perfectly, the stipend you paid to your au pair, the costs of room and board, and the fees you paid to the au pair sponsor agency are all eligible expenses under federal tax programs.

There are two potential federal tax programs that you may be eligible for if an au pair is providing child care services in order for you to work or to look for work.

  1. The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit can be claimed when you file your taxes.
  2. Also, some employers offer dependent care reimbursement programs called a Dependent Care Flex-Spending Account (FSA) through pre-tax payroll deduction.

You will also need to meet the other qualifications to receive these tax deductions such as dependent qualifications and income limits.

These deductions are typically in tax software such as TurboTax, Quicken, etc. If you need help I still suggest that you consult your tax advisor or the IRS for definitive answers about your personal tax situation.

Some families (especially in Massachusetts) may also need to change their tax situations to include au pairs as household employees. Here’s the IRS link to Hiring Household Employees and Publication 926, Household Employer’s Tax Guide.

Au Pair Timecards Free PDF

Au Pair Time Sheet (Time Card) and Payment Receipts

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.

See our downloads page for a list of all the My Au Pair and Me documents.

Host Family Tax Checklist (not household employers)

Whether you’re using a tax professional or doing your own taxes (you go!), then here’s what you’ll need.

Must have to file:

  • Social Security number for your au pair.
  • Receipt for stipend payments to your au pair. (See our downloads page)
  • Receipt for payments to the agency. (See your agency portal page.)
  • Tax identification number for your agency (should be on your agency payment receipt).

Should have on hand in case you’re audited (but not required to file):

  • I-9 Form (Employment Eligibility Form): fillable PDF or paper version, and instructions.
    • For page 2 List A, it’s common to use Receipt Foreign Passport, work-authorized non-immigrant, then Form I-94, then Form DS-2019 as shown below in the partially-filled out form. If you look on List A in the instructions, it says, “For a nonimmigrant alien authorized to work for a specific employer because of his or her status, a foreign passport with Form I/94/I-94A that contains an endorsement of the alien’s nonimmigrant status.”
    • Use your own judgment and tax professional advice.

  

Options for Form I-9 Employment Eligibility List A

Do I Withhold My Au Pair’s Taxes?

Host families are NOT required to withhold the au pair’s taxes. However, they can on behalf of the au pair IF the au pair asks AND the host family agrees.

WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE A TAX PROFESSIONAL?

So, if you don’t have a tax professional and you still want some help, we always recommend speaking with your local area coordinator.

You can comment below, and we welcome questions and just general venting in the My Au Pair and Me Community Facebook group. (The standard “we are not tax professionals” disclaimer stands for the Facebook group, but sometimes it’s just nice to vent.)

You can always contact the source. The phone number for the IRS is 1-800-829-1040 within the US or 267-941-1000 outside of the US.

Regardless, we wish you the BEST OF LUCK!!!!

Abbie

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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

Help Your Extension Au Pair Renew Their J-1 Visa

Help Your Extension Au Pair Renew Their J-1 Visa

Update June 22, 2020: President Trump has issued an Executive Order barring approval of certain visa types, including J-1 visas. This order is effective until December 31, 2020. Au pairs currently in the U.S. are permitted to remain, and extend. New au pairs who have had visas approved will still be allowed to arrive in accordance with restrictions from the travel ban. Au pairs with active visas may travel outside of the U.S., though it is not recommended due to the travel bans and restrictions. Please work with your local coordinator and your agency. All of this is so new, the Department of State is still figuring out how to apply it. We’re certain there will be many updates ahead. Best of luck to everyone!

Hi, Abbie and Maddie here! There’s a lot of confusion about au pair extensions and visa renewals, so we’ve done some research for you.

After a year with Abbie’s family, Au Pair Y decided to extend with us. We were so excited to host her for a second year. Everything went smoothly with her extension paperwork…until she wanted to renew her visa. Then it became so confusing! Now it’s au pair C’s turn to renew her visa. Even though COVID-19 is making travel plans…murky…I still feel in a better place to help give her advice.

None of Maddie’s four extension au pairs had any plans to travel internationally during their extension year. Her au pairs only renewed their DS-2019s and none of them renewed their J-1 visas.

The DS-2019 and the J-1 Visa

The first thing to clarify is the DS-2019 and the J-1 visa.

The DS-2019 must be renewed for the second year (or any part of it).

The Department of State also reissues the DS-2019, which authorizes the au pair to both stay and extend their stay in the United States. (See j1vsa.state.gov link, as well as 22 CFR § 62.43 – Extension of Program and 22 CFR § 62.12 – Control of Forms DS-2019). The agency is considered the Sponsor and the host family is considered the Host/Employer.

Once the DS-2019 authorizes the extension, the J-1 visa permits re-entry into the United States. If your au pair doesn’t leave the US after their visa expires, it doesn’t matter. The DS-2019 has already authorized extended stay. The J-1 visa is only needed to authorize re-entry to the US.

Does an Au Pair Have to Renew Their J-1 Visa?

No. Not all au pairs choose to renew their visas. It is not required as long as they do not want to exit and reenter the USA in their extension year.

However, it might still be a good idea in case there’s an emergency or sudden need for the au pair to return home.

But if the visa doesn’t get renewed, your au pair can still travel between states within the US. Technically, your au pair can even travel to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean islands (minus Cuba) and still be able to return into the US if they:

  • Were gone less than 30 days.
  • Have their expired J-1 visa, a valid DS-2019, and an unexpired I-94 form.
  • Are allowed to travel to these countries without a tourist visa (based on their home country)

Au Pair and Host Kid on the Beach In MexicoHowever, not all border guards know about au pair rules. Your re-entry at the border or airport is ultimately up to the airline agent or immigration officer.

If you want to chance it, make sure your au pair has their passport, current and past valid DS-2019 forms (not copies), a recent printout of the I-94 form, and a copy of the Automatic Visa Revalidation provision.

Be prepared with extra patience, and especially try not to travel within 30 days of the end of the extension year. (Yes, this may make the au pair’s travel month more difficult if they want to take an international hop and then come back home for their stuff. Plan ahead with our host family and au pair departure checklist.)

Au pair J-1 Visa Renewal Process

It turns out that au pairs can’t renew their visas on U.S. soil. They must visit a U.S. embassy in another country (preferably their home country and a few months before their first year ends).

Make sure to plan ahead! U.S. Embassy wait times can be weeks away.

Au pairs are encouraged to renew their visa in their home country before their current visa expires. This is because there’s a possibility the embassy officer won’t renew the visa.

If the au pair renews their visa in another country after the original visa has already expired, their only option is to go home. That’s going to be an expensive, unplanned plane ticket.

1. Family and Au Pair Confirm Extension with the Agency

Both you and your au pair will confirm the extension. Your agency will have some sort of form for each of you to complete to make it official.

You’ll pay the agency fees to extend a second year, and the au pair will have to provide proof of the six educational credits and proof of the monthly contact with the LCC.

Part of the au pair’s extension fee is the $367 nonrefundable fee to the U.S. Department of State for the DS-2019 extension. Depending on the agency, the au pair may be asked to pay this fee. Some agencies charge this fee to the host family. Some agencies allow the family to pay the fee as a gift to the au pair. This is an excellent opportunity if you want to reward your au pair but can’t afford to give your au pair a raise.

2. The Au Pair Agency Sends the DS-2019

Au Pair Agency confirms all the requirements have been met, communicates with the US Department of State, and sends the new DS-2019 to the au pair.

The DS-2019 Form, also called a Certificate of Eligibility, is the document that allows the au pair to apply for the J-1 visa as part of the au pair program.

3. The Au Pair Schedules an Embassy Appointment

Next, the au pair schedules a U.S. Embassy appointment. Any U.S. Embassy will do, although their home country is preferred. The appointment will be at least a few weeks out, probably longer with COVID-19 (if at all). Check your chosen U.S. Embassy wait times.

In our case, au pair Y was from Japan but renewed her visa at the U.S. Embassy in Vancouver, Canada because we live close to Seattle. It was just like a long sightseeing trip for her and her friend.

Your au pair will start the process by filling out the DS-160, non-immigrant visa application form. At this point in the process, they’ll also schedule the appointment for their visa interview at their chosen embassy, and pay the visa application fee.

Once your au pair has their visa interview date, they can make travel plans. They’ll also need to plan their visit for a few days after the appointment to give time for the Embassy to process the paperwork. It’s not just walk in, walk out, and done.

They’ll also need to get another set of passport-quality photos (Costco is really cheap).

4. The Au Pair Attends the Embassy Appointment

When the au pair goes to their embassy appointment, they’ll need all the paperwork:

  • DS-2019.
  • DS-160.
  • I-94.
  • Passport with current J-1 visa.
  • New passport photos.
  • Money.

Then they wait for processing. In some locations they will be able to pick up the completed paperwork at the Embassy. In other locations they will need to figure out how to receive mail. Typically they can talk to the hotel/hostel staff to arrange for mail delivery.

Further Reading About Au Pair DS-2019 and J1 Visas

If you or your au pair knows you’ll need to travel outside of the United States during the au pair extension year, here are a few more articles to help:

If you’re not renewing the J-1 visa, become familiar with Automatic Visa Revalidation if traveling to Canada, Mexico, or Caribbean for less than 30 days.

If your au pair is renewing their J-1 visa, these links will help:

As always, check with your local coordinator and your agency. Here are links for some agency COVID-19 announcements and updates:

Did Your Extension Au Pair Renew Their Visa?

How did it go? Have any tips or tricks or stories to share? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Or if you’re a 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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Help Your Extension Au Pair with J-1 Visa Renewal

Help Your Extension Au Pair with J-1 Visa Renewal

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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Departure Checklist for Families and Au Pairs

Departure Checklist for Families and Au Pairs

Abbie and Maddie here. Sometimes in the shuffle and excitement of interviewing and planning for a new au pair, details with your departing au pair can get overlooked. How much do you expect your au pair to clean before they leave? Will there be overlap? Will you want to clean and set things up before your new au pair arrives? Will you give a goodbye gift? There are so many things to think about, so we created a departure checklist!

General Tips  – Saying Goodbye to Your Au Pair

  • Prepare your children for the transition between au pairs – Check out our blog for helpful tips.
  • Find or make a farewell gift for your au pair. Consider a photo book or other small keepsake that can be personalized.
  • Plan a goodbye party with your family and/or their friends.
  • Confirm your au pair’s transportation and travel month plans. How are they getting to the airport? When is their departure flight?
  • Make sure you save time for you and your children to say final goodbyes.
Offboarding Departure Checklist Free PDF

Offboarding Departure Checklist for Host Families and Au Pairs

Are you sure you’ve remembered everything before your au pair leaves? Have you and your au pair discussed his or her travel month? Have you set the expectation with your au pair about cleaning their room and bathroom before they go? Don’t be stuck unable to let your new au pair get an Uber because it’s still under the previous au pair’s login, and more!

Download our Free PDF to help you out! We also offer editable versions in Word, PowerPoint, Google Docs, and Slides if you want to customize the checklist for your departing au pair.

Abbie’s Stories

Abbie AvitarHi, Abbie here. We planned to have a two-week overlap between our first and second au pair. Sadly, our first au pair’s grandparents passed away right before the second was due to arrive so we sent her home early. We told her to focus on her family and that we would take care of everything.

Our first au pair had already been selling her extra clothes and paring down her belongings. She wasn’t planning on taking advantage of her travel month, and was planning to go home as soon as her contract ended. She had an easy time packing. I took care of the few things she left behind like some backpacks, hiking shoes, and some clothes she couldn’t sell. I figured that either the new au pair could use it or I would donate it to a thrift store.

After a few months on the job, our second au pair had trouble getting an Uber or Lyft account set up. Our family reused the same phone and phone number for au pairs, and the phone number was already tied up from the first au pair. Luckily we were still in contact and got everything straightened out, but that’s when I realized I needed a departure checklist.

Our second au pair was also quite organized. We had an overlap between our second and third au pair. Not only did they get a chance to meet each other, we all had the opportunity to spend Labor Day weekend at a friend’s cabin and go to the rodeo. (Welcome to America, new au pair!) Then my second au pair went on her travel month, but ended up coming home early. She had packed everything up, with the exception of what she took with her for her travel month. It was at my house for a while, but my parents live about an hour closer to the airport so they agreed to take her suitcases for a while. It took a bit of effort and coordination to reunite her and her luggage for her flight home, but in the end we made it.

Even though this was my second time saying goodbye to an au pair, it still felt more chaotic than it should be. Together, Maddie and I agreed we needed a departure checklist. And if we needed one, then other host parents probably needed one too.

Maddie’s Stories

Maddie AvitarHi, Maddie here! Each of my five au pair departures have been as unique as my au pairs themselves.

On one end of the spectrum, I had an au pair who packed two weeks early to figure out exactly what she could bring home. She also had her travel month planned out to the minute. She added all her plans to the family calendar let us know exactly where she would be two months in advance.

On the other end of the spectrum, I had an au pair packing 30 after she needed to leave for the airport. Her friends came over to drive her to the airport and ended up shoving everything they could into her suitcases for her. She ended up leaving some important things behind and left a mess for me to clean up.

And in between I had an au pair who did a great job cleaning the bedroom and bathroom but totally forgot to clean the au pair car. My new au pair only mentioned how bad the car was when she arrived when she was getting ready to leave herself. I felt terrible that it didn’t even cross my mind to check the au pair car.

Abbie and I made this departure checklist to avoid another last minute disaster!

Offboarding Departure Checklist Free PDF

Offboarding Departure Checklist for Host Families and Au Pairs

Are you sure you’ve remembered to do everything before your au pair leaves? Do you have your house key and garage door remote? Does your au pair know how they get to the airport and when they need to leave to get there on time? Did your au pair remember all her personal items from the au pair car and clean it for the next au pair?

Download our Free PDF to help you out! Want to modify the checklist for your own family? Editable versions in Word, PowerPoint, Google Docs, and Slides are also available.

Further Reading About Au Pair Departures

How Did Your Last Au Pair Departure Go?

How about you? What things did you do when your au pair left? Have any tips or tricks or stories to share? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Or if you’re a 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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Departure checklist for host families and au pairs pin

Departure checklist for host families and au pairs
Host Parent Interview with the Jones Family

Host Parent Interview with the Jones Family

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.

Jones FamilyHello, we are the Jones family! We have two children, our girl is a toddler and our boy is a pre-schooler, two dogs, and our au pair from France. This is our 3rd au pair and they have all been from France (and yes the kids are learning French, but no my husband and I don’t know French!)

Our household is very busy with the many activities that we like to do to enjoy life in Denver, Colorado. We live within walking distance to downtown Denver. Both my husband and I work in technology and mainly work from home, however, we have outside hobbies as well.  We partly own a restaurant/gas station and several homes in downtown Denver that we rent. We love enjoying life and being active.

Q: How did you find out about au pairs?

We found out about the au pair program from a family member who had many au pairs and raved about the program.

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

We chose to use an au pair for several reasons. We loved the idea of being exposed to a new culture and language for our children and ourselves. We like having a busy and full house.

Additionally, we wanted flexibility in childcare hours as we enjoy various activities while we’re not working. This flexibility affords us date nights or to play a sport on the weekend. Our lives are full and we get to all enjoy different activities because we have this flexible coverage.

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

Our first au pair agency was Au Pair Care. I chose them because they had a wide selection of French au pairs.

We then switched to Cultural Care for the last two because they ended up having a wider selection of French au pairs. We stuck with French au pairs because initially we heard great things. After our first was such a success and the children were learning French we decided to commit to French au pairs (but who knows, we may switch at some point.

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

When finding an au pair, I had an initial screening before interviewing; pictures with children, good driver, no smoking/drugs, no boyfriend, knows how to cook

Secondly, during the interview, I try to find out how kind and loving they are with children. I ask about their childcare experience, their discipline techniques, and activities they would do with the children.

I also ask if they like to be active, how well they drive, what their relationship is like with their parents, and what they like to cook.

From all of these questions I can also get a sense of their personality. I prefer, loving, responsible, energetic, and positive people.

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

It’s always a tough decision for me and it always ends up with two great candidates. I write all the pros and cons of both and then I ask several questions.

First, will they take care of my children very well (safety, love, care)?

Second, how compatible are they with our family as a whole?

Then, I follow my gut and which person feels lighter. My husband always leaves the final decision to me because I am the one interacting with the au pair the most, but this is a lot of pressure. The decision has never been easy. Thankfully, because I already had two great candidates that I have always ended up with great au pairs. I couldn’t go wrong either way.

For my current au pair, I also had two great candidates. However, I didn’t like some of the pictures that I saw on one of the au pair’s social media accounts. To be frank, the pictures were very provocative and excessive, not the same person that I interviewed with several times. I did approach her about it and let her know that I didn’t feel comfortable with those pictures. It was a tough conversation. I didn’t end up choosing her. I wasn’t sure which persona I could trust as her social media was vastly different.

Q: How has your au pair dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic?

I cannot rave enough how grateful we are to have our current au pair during this difficult time.

We’ve had our ups and downs over the last several weeks of self-quarantine. She has made the best of the situation. The children do several activities during the day and are getting some nice outdoor time in the backyard. Seeing her smiling face and positive attitude is tremendous. We know we are lucky!

Most of our schedule is the same in that my two children are not in school yet. However, our au pair was taking them on an outing once per day (ie. zoo, karate, gymnastics, children’s museum, swim class).

We’ve talked about the situation almost daily, discussing our concerns, fears, and future plans. She knows au pairs that have gone home. She wants to stay for at least 2 more months and if the quarantine remains then go home. She is looking at the positive in that she can focus on learning English and shopping online. However, her main attraction is traveling the US.

We understand where she is coming from and support her in whichever direction she chooses as this unfolds.

Q: What is something funny your au pair did that you didn’t expect?

My au pair made porcupine shaped cupcakes with chocolate chips as the quills. She said it is our family of quarantined porcupines.  It was a nice pick-me up with all of the current news of covid-19.

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

We always take our au pairs to the yearly western stock show. The western way of life is a large part of Colorado history. 

During the fall we visit a pumpkin patch and run the corn maze. None of the French au pairs have experienced anything like this before and they think it’s pretty cool. 

Last Christmas our au pair and her au pair friends made an authentic French Christmas dinner.  It was amazing!

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

I’ve learned that reviewing the house manual every week for the first month is very important, then every few months after that. There is a lot of information to remember and reviewing the manual reinstates what it takes to have a successful year with your family.

One reason is because the au pairs English improves over time and they understand more as time goes on.

Secondly, it avoids any conflict as it has been written down and agreed upon from the beginning.

For example, we have several child-related chores every week; diaper bag emptied on Tuesday, laundry on Monday and Thursday, new sheets on the beds every Monday. If any of these chores slip then it can be easily reiterated during that weekly review.

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

I let other host parents know what a great program it is! There are so many advantages from cultural sharing to someone helping with household, child-related chores.

I also recommend using the program to its fullest. The agencies I have used talk about au pairs helping out with cooking a few meals a week, some grocery shopping, and some light household cleaning that relates to them being part of the family. This extra help is tremendous with our busy household and we appreciate it.

We also stick with the rules: <45 hours per week, <10 hours per day. I’ve heard from other host parents and au pairs that some don’t utilize the cooking or others do 45+ hours. We respect the rules and our au pairs.

We make sure to make them feel part of the family and recommend including your au pair when doing various family activities. At the end of the program you will have another family member!

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

With our second au pair we overlapped. It was nice to have the first au pair explain things in French when her English was in the beginning stages. Plus, it made her feel comfortable being in a new country. 

The third au pair did not have any overlap. The nice part was that everything was fresh and a new beginning. However, I noticed having overlap was more helpful than not due to language barriers and comfortability.

Q: Have you had an au pair take a travel month? How did that go?

Yes! Our au pair took a travel month and really enjoyed it. She was able to explore and come back and see us one more time before she left. It was very special for her to explore and be free from all obligations yet feel like she had a family in the US she could rely on during her travel month.

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

Yes, yes, yes…weekly our second au pair would call our first.  Now, our third au pair calls the other two. It’s amazing and they get to talk in French about their experience (hopefully all good). This last week during our toddler’s birthday the first two au pairs were on Zoom while we sang happy birthday. It was very special. We plan to do a small tour of France and visit all of our au pairs in a few years.  We are truly grateful!

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

Our family has been positively impacted by hosting au pairs. My children are exposed to another culture and language. My husband and I enjoy getting to know our au pairs and having a young adult in the house with fun energy.

Additionally, we have flexibility with our child care. My husband and I are able to schedule date nights.

Lastly, we end up becoming a 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
Help Your Kids Transition Between Au Pairs

Help Your Kids Transition Between Au Pairs

Abbie and Maddie here. We’ve both had multiple au pairs transition out of our lives and on to greater things. No matter how old your children are, caregiver transitions can be difficult. Au Pair transitions are emotional and stressful. Not only are you loosing your support system, you are also loosing a member of the family. Children in daycare can also experience caregiver turnover, but it’s more ad hoc. At least with au pairs, it’s a planned (if inevitable) change.

Here are our tips and tricks for helping kids (and you) transition between caregivers.

General tips to help your kids transition between au pairs

  • Talk with your children. Acknowledge it’s sad to say goodbye, but exciting to say hello.
  • Help them name their feelings.
  • Keep in touch with your old au pair (if you want) using social media and video calls.
  • Ask the outgoing au pair to make keepsake for your children. Consider a photo book or a Build-a-Bear that can be personalize with her voice saying a phrase.
  • Involve older kids with picking the new au pair.
  • During the transition, try to keep other changes to a minimum.
  • Reassure them and love them.
  • Take care of yourself. This is a big change for you, too (happy or sad).

Abbie’s Story

Abbie AvitarHi, Abbie here. A few months ago, I read this Daily Mail article about a woman’s feelings when her au pairs left her when she was a child. After reading this article, I felt so sad. Her feelings of loss and insecurity could have easily been avoided. I can also tell she blames her mother for a lot.

So at dinner one night before we started looking for our second au pair, I asked the boys, “Who do I love the most?”

They were surprised because I take great pains to let them know I love them all equally for their individuality. Was this a trick question? Did I really have a favorite child?

Then I explained that our first au pair was coming up on the end of her second year and her visa was going to expire. We needed to choose a new au pair.

But just as I love each of my children, we can also love each of our au pairs. We don’t have to love just one au pair at a time. We also don’t have to love one au pair more or less than another. We can love both of them equally for who they are.

It was nice that our au pair was also at the family dinner table, and got to hear the affirmation that she was loved.

After that, it was much easier to talk about our au pair interviews. Our current au pair was curious how we looked at profiles and made decisions who to contact. The boys also enjoyed sitting down and looking at profiles, reading about all the people who could possibly join our family in the coming year.

We also would include the boys in Skype interviews, after we had vetted our initial list into the top choice through email.

I had also asked our au pair if she would be willing to talk with the new au pair, and all of them have been willing to talk with each other.

Even now, our third au pair will help the children draw pictures for and write letters to our first and second au pairs.

Maddie’s Story

Maddie AvitarHi, Maddie here! We have had au pairs since my daughter was 4 months old so my kids are used to transitions. My 6 year old daughter has welcomed 6 au pairs to our family. My 2 year old son has welcomed 3 au pairs.

We talk about the process openly as a family as we go through it. My kids like to watch the au pair videos with me. My daughter loves all the au pairs and tells me why each one would be great for her. My 2 year old son is curious but would rather play with trucks.

I usually interview the au pairs first and then bring the kids in to say hi if I like them. When we make a match my kids get to know the new au pair a little before she arrives. When my au pairs are preparing to depart my kids like to help them pack, although they are not actually very helpful.

Every transition for us has been a little different. Our first au pair, M, loved to play the piano. After our first au pair left, my daughter would get really excited when she heard someone playing the piano. She was heartbroken to see that it was not au pair M.

When our second au pair left my daughter was almost 3 years old. Au pair D was dating a bro pair at the time and for months my daughter would ask “Where is bro pair T?” Even after au pair D and bro pair T broke up, my daughter would ask au pair D about bro pair T. Awkward…but au pair D took it in stride.

When our 3rd au pair, R, arrived, my daughter refused to call au pair R by her name. When we asked her the name of the new au pair she said “You’re my D.” (The name of the second au pair.) It’s as if D’s name was now the label for all au pairs.

Now that my daughter is older she wanted to make our new au pair a sign for the airport. She was also really excited to “teach her to take care of the kids” and “help her know the rules.”

Further Reading

How do you help your kids transition caregivers?

How about you? How have you prepared for changes between nannies, daycare providers, or au pairs? Have any tips or tricks to share? Then comment below.

Or if you’re a 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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HelpYour Kids Transition Between Au Pairs

HelpYour Kids Transition Between Au Pairs

HelpYour Kids Transition Between Au Pairs

Worried about new au pair laws? Take Action!

Worried about new au pair laws? Take Action!

Hi! Abbie and Maddie here. If you have been keeping up with the au pair news, then you already know about the Massachusetts ruling including au pairs in their domestic worker bill of rights. Are you worried about the changing domestic worker laws in your area and how they may affect the au pair program? We are! So, we decided it was time to take action.

In total, there are 9 states and two cities across the USA with a domestic worker bill of rights. The state of Washington currently has two open bills, SB6247 and HB2511, providing labor protections for domestic workers.

We started taking action by writing letters to the Washington state senators and representatives about the au pair program. Our au pairs wrote letters, too! On January 21st, we ventured to Olympia, Washington to speak with our state senators and representatives. We support the domestic worker’s rights bill, but we are concerned that it may have unintended consequences on the au pair program. And where the bills don’t explicitly include au pairs, they also don’t exclude them either.

Taking Action in Olympia

Monday morning we woke up super early and ventured out into the cold, winter rain. Olympia is about an hour and a half from the Seattle area on a good day, and we were fighting morning commute. Luckily Maggie’s husband also came along, which made us a carpool and able to go a little faster.

This was our first time ever at the capitol. We knew what to expect from reading the instructions and tips from the Seattle Host Family Facebook group and the Cultural Care emails. We also joined a group chat with other host families going to Olympia for the hearings.

Meeting people in real life after talking with them online is sometimes weird. It’s that feeling of seeing someone’s face that looks familiar but you’re not quite sure from where. After we registered to speak, we figured out we were all together and headed out to a cafe to chat before the first session.

Tip: If you are attending a government session in person coordinate with other host families and au pairs before hand. It really helps to have people posting times and places of where to meet, emails who to send your letter to, and give you friendly faces to look for in the crowd.

Maddie and Abbie at the Washington State Capital

The session begins

When we returned from breakfast, we lined up outside of the designated room until they let us in. The room was completely packed, maybe 100 to 150 people, and many more in the overflow room. Over 50 people signed up to testify.

Immediately the committee moved our issue to the front of the line because of its popularity. The chair also specifically mentioned they received dozens of written statements from au pair families, au pairs, and agencies. It seemed to made an impact. Letters and emails work!

Because the bill was about passing rights for all domestic workers, about half of the testimony was really sad stories of abuse. This included stories of sexual harassment and assault, under paying and refusing to pay for work, threats to call immigration authorities, etc.

Others spoke out in support of the amazing jobs that domestic workers do and how important it is to pass this bill. Many domestic workers are women and people of color, groups that are easily exploited.

An AARP representative asked for further legal clarification and exemption for family members who get paid a small amount for taking care of elders. For example, a college student who goes over to grandma or grandpa’s house once a day to clean the house and administer medications or cook.

It’s pretty eye-opening to realize how many people will be affected by this bill!

Tip: If you are attending a government session in person arrive and check in early. They called us up to speak in the order that we checked in. They gave more time for the first speakers than they gave to the later speakers.

Finally our turn

When it came to the au pair issue we were very well represented. The VP of Cultural Care was the first to speak. We addressed issues of jurisdiction, protections, adequate compensation, mothers in the workplace, hosting an au pair being different than hiring nanny, affordable and alternative childcare, and more.

As host parents, we tried to divvy up the topics. Some host parents tackled the emotional side. They told stories about how au pairs are family, not just employees. They hang up Christmas stockings for former au pairs, and send presents overseas. Other parents told stories of bringing second or third languages and cultures into their homes.

Other host parents tacked the logical side. They explained the program protections and how the matching and rematch processes work. Abbie shared how her local coordinator came and inspected her house and sat down at the kitchen table to go over the contract step-by-step before they even matched with an au pair. Maddie shared about her rematch experience. She also talked about her current au pair who had left a host family that was asked to leave the program. Another host dad talked about how this bill could financially hurt au pairs because of increased taxes. Under the proposed law, taxes would be calculated including the money that goes towards room and board.

The MOST impactful testimony came from two current au pairs. Au pair testimony is FAR more impactful than host family testimony. One dad commented he could see a noticeable body language change in the senators and representatives when au pairs spoke. The au pairs shared that they came to the USA for a cultural experience, not to make a lot of money. They also talked about how their host families provide all the essentials. The stipend is enough for them to travel and have good experiences. Where they wouldn’t mind a little more money, they didn’t want the au pair program to become a transactional relationship. The room burst into applause and the chair had to settle us down.

Tip: If you are attending a government session with other host families it helps to coordinate your testimony. The law makers grew tired of hearing the same things over and over again. We also could have covered more points if we had decided who was going to address which topic before hand.

Au pairs vs domestic workers – our opinions

Although au pairs perform domestic work, they already have as many or more protections as domestic workers. We were there to ask that au pairs be exempted from these important bills.

As au pair host parents, we realized that it was our job to explain to our senators and representatives about the au pair program protections. Au pairs already have written contracts, federal wage protections, and resources such as the local area coordinator and a toll-free hotline. If au pairs go into rematch, the host families are contractually obligated to house and feed them until they depart. Au pairs also have the agency to help them find a new placement quickly. Live-in nannies and house keepers don’t have help or guarantees if something happens between them and the family.

Domestic workers, like house cleaners and local nannies, need at least minimum wage so they can pay for their own food and housing. Au pairs already have all food, housing, and at least a portion of their transportation costs covered. The au pair stipend is only a portion of the overall compensation package.

One of the parents among us works in finance. He calculated that paying an au pair minimum wage is actually harmful to the au pair’s bottom line. By raising their direct income, they pay a higher income tax which is calculated before living expenses are deducted. The current stipend system is the best tax deal for au pairs because they don’t pay taxes on living expenses. The tax on the stipend portion of their income is minimal.

Maddie did some calculations to confirm:

  • Assuming $369 per week in room and board deductions (allowed under the Washington state bill)
  • Assuming an average working week of 43 hours: 40 hours at the minimum wage of $13.50 per hour and 3 hours at $20.25 per hour
  • Her au pair would earn $600.75 in wages, $231.75 after room and board deductions ($36 more per week than at the minimum stipend today)
  • Her au pair would keep $163.32 after paying $68.43 in taxes. (Today she pays $19.83 per week in taxes at the minimum stipend)

Maddie will pay her au pair an average of $36 more per week, but she will actually make $12.60 less than today because of higher taxes!

Did our actions make change?

On February 6th, 2020 the Washington State Legislature voted to pass a substitute bill providing labor protections for domestic workers. This substitute bill does not explicitly include or exclude au pairs. However, it focuses on really important protections like retaining documents, discrimination, and retaliation. It does not include protections for minimum wage, over time, and requiring meal and rest breaks.

 Our letters and testimony made a difference!

Are you ready to Take Action?

If you are ready to take action, start by joining other host families in Facebook groups:

Next, write a letter and have your au pair write one, too. Write about your experiences in the au pair program and what it has meant for you and your family. Also, write about any changes you would like to the laws or proposed laws in your area or any changes you would like to see for the federal au pair program. Send your letters to your local and state lawmakers.

You can also advocate for the au pair program at the federal level. According to an email from Cultural Care, “the court ruling in Massachusetts invites the US State Department to take action in issuing a regulation that expressly preempts the program from state and municipal labor laws.” You can send your letters to the Office of Designation at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at jvisas@state.gov.

Abbie and Maddie

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Worried about new au pair laws? Take Action!

Worried about new au pair laws? Take Action!

Worried about new au pair laws? Take Action!

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
Tropical sunrise over the ocean with the caption
Massachusetts Legal Decision: Are Au Pairs Domestic Workers?

Massachusetts Legal Decision: Are Au Pairs Domestic Workers?

Hi! Abbie and Maddie here. The Massachusetts Attorney General ruled that au pairs are protected under the Massachusetts Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Among other things, this legal decision means that au pairs in MA must be paid the local minimum wage. Cultural Care appealed and the First Circuit just ruled in favor of Massachusetts.

One of the many reasons we started this blog is to save other host parents time. And to provide a central place for unbiased information. We also believe in reading original documents, not just other people’s interpretations.

Below we have a quick summary of the issues, what it means, resources and links, and more information about domestic workers in general.

DISCLAIMER: Please consult your attorney about your personal legal situation. General, publicly available information provided in this article does not constitute legal advice.

Quick summary

On December 2nd, 2019, the First Circuit United States Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Massachusetts over Cultural Care.

There are two main questions addressed in the lawsuit:

  • Are au pairs domestic workers or cultural exchange visitors?
  • Do host families need to pay au pairs the state minimum wage or the federal minimum wage?

The National Domestic Workers Alliance has been working at the state level to create laws. Someday they’d like to have a national bill of rights. So far, nine states have passed laws extending labor protections to domestic workers: Oregon, California, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and Nevada. Some cities, such as Seattle, have also passed their own laws.

Massachusetts believes that au pairs are domestic workers rather than exchange visitors or students. Because they are workers, they must be paid at the higher state minimum wage.

Cultural Care has promised to appeal again and is in contact with host families in Massachusetts on what to do.

Resources and Links

Here are the links we’ve found so far, both primary sources and news articles. If we’re missing any, please feel free to email us at hello@myaupairandme.com

  • Universal HUB Summary – This article is a great, concise summary of the ruling itself. It includes quotes from the ruling, as well as a PDF copy of the ruling itself at the end of the article.
  • First Circuit Court of Appeals – Search for case number 17-2140. That will lead you to the full court Opinion (publicly accessible) and the Docket Sheet (requires PACER login).
  • Boston Globe  – This article talks about the affects of the law on both the host families and the au pairs.
  • MS Magazine This article describes the background of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and their feelings of victory after the ruling.
  • PageSuite General summary, nothing much more than the other articles say. PageSuite is a digital publishing solution, so not too sure where this article is coming from. The byline at the end is from The Globe.
  • State, city, and general domestic worker links:

New Links Published After 12/17/2019

 

I have an au pair in Massachusetts, what do I do now?

Are you a host family in Massachusetts?

The first thing you need to do is seek legal counsel. The penalties for violating the MA Domestic Workers Bill of Rights are extremely steep. Workers can be awarded up to three times their entitled wages plus legal fees! It also looks like the law may be retroactive for up to 3 years. You need to talk to a lawyer!

Make sure you’re in contact with your agency and local area counselor. If you are with Cultural Care, you may call 1-800-333-6056 or email followup@culturalcare.com

Massachusetts families are also encouraged to contact Senator Elizabeth Warren and Attorney General Maura Healey’s office. They need to hear about the impact this decision will have on your family. You might also want to include your concerns about the impact of this ruling on the au pair cultural exchange program.

How does this change the stipend for Massachusetts au pairs?

We want to start of by saying that this decision only affects au pairs and host families in the state of Massachusetts.

The current au pair stipend of $195.75 is based on the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour. If you take $7.25/hour x 45 hours then you get $326.25. If you take away 40% for room and board, then 60% of the weekly wage is their stipend. (0.60 x $326.25 = $195.75)

For Massachusetts au pairs, the new stipend might be as high as $570 per week. The state minimum wage today is $12/hour (it will go up to $12.75 starting January 1st 2020). Also, host families must pay overtime (time and a half) for any hours over 40 hours per week. So an au pair’s maximum weekly wage is $570. ($12/hour x 40 hours = $480, $18/hour x 5 hours = $90, $480 + $90 = $570). The minimum weekly wage is still $195.75 as set by the State Department.

Also, if you meet the requirements you can deduct for room and board. But it is a flat dollar amount, not a percentage. The deductions are $1.50 for breakfast, $2.25 for lunch, $2.25 for dinner per day. Housing deductions are $35 per week. If you take $6/day for food x 7 days per week = $42, add $35 for housing and you can deduct a total of $77 per week. 

Here are some sample stipend changes. Each case uses $12 per hour, minus the room and board ($77), and overtime is time and a half. 

  • 10 hours: $120 – $77 does not equal the federal minimum so stipend = $195.75
  • 20 hours: $240 – $77 does not equal the federal minimum so stipend = $195.75
  • 30 hours: $360 – $77  = $283 weekly stipend
  • 40 hours: $480 – $77 = $403 weekly stipend
  • 45 hours: $480 + $90 (overtime) – $77 = $493 weekly stipend

Some of the articles online say that the stipend is increasing by $250 per week, which means the new stipend is roughly $450. We’re not sure how they’re calculating their numbers. Probably they’re calculating $12 / hr times 45 hours per week (no overtime)?

How Much Does an Au Pair Cost?There are some other legal requirements as well (signing a timesheet and keeping it for three years, can’t make deductions without agreeing first in writing, etc.)

The stipend is still in addition to the agency fee, educational component, and all the rest. (See our post on How much does an au pair cost?)

DISCLAIMER: Please consult your attorney about your personal legal situation. General, publicly available information provided in this article does not constitute legal advice.

What does the Massachusetts Domestic Workers Bill of Rights actually say?

Here’s a summary of some things that apply to Massachusetts au pairs and host parents from the page for Domestic Workers in MA.

The host family is the employer, not the au pair agency. The agency just coordinates the visa and ensures program requirements are met.

The easy requirements:

  • “Every domestic worker must receive a notice of their employment rights
  • “Employers must give domestic workers … a written agreement…in a language the worker easily understands, signed by the worker and employer, and made before work begins.” Sample employment agreement
  • “Employers of domestic workers must keep payroll records and provide paystubs.  Records should be kept for 3 years.” Sample timesheet for domestic workers
  • “Domestic workers who work 40 or more hours a week must get at least 1 full day (24 hours) off each week and 2 full days (48 hours) off each month.” (meets federal au pair requirements)
  • “The employer must pay for all meal, rest, and sleeping periods, unless the worker has no work duties and is allowed to leave during those times.”
  • Workers have the right to privacy and the freedom to come and go. This includes not monitoring private spaces, limiting or recording private communications, taking belongings or passports, and acts of force.
  • “Employers must not discriminate in hiring, pay, or other terms of employment”
  • “Employers who have phone or internet service must give workers free and reasonable access to those services. If they do not have phone or Internet service, they must allow reasonable opportunities to access those services elsewhere at the workers’ own expense.”
  • “An employer must not punish or discriminate against a domestic worker for exercising his or her rights.”
  • “The Earned Sick Time Law requires employers to track the accrual and use of earned sick time.” “Employers with fewer than 11 employees must provide earned sick time, but it does not need to be paid.”

Overtime and Minimum Wage

“If the worker then works more than 40 hours during the week, then the worker must be paid overtime.”

“Overtime pay is at least 1.5 × the regular rate of pay for each hour over 40 hours.”

Effective Minimum Wage

January 1, 2019 $12.00 per hour
January 1, 2020 $12.75 per hour
January 1, 2021 $13.50 per hour
January 1, 2022 $14.25 per hour
January 1, 2023 $15.00 per hour

Deductions for meals and housing

“Food and drinks – Deductions are allowed only if the worker can bring, prepare, store, and eat and drink the foods s/he prefers. If the worker cannot do so because of household dietary restrictions, then the employer may not charge for the food or drink provided to the worker. The employer may charge for the actual cost of the food and drink, up to $1.50 for breakfast and $2.25 for lunch or dinner.”

Housing – An employer must not deduct the cost of a room or other housing if the employer requires the worker to live in that place. An employer may deduct the cost of housing only if the worker chooses to live there and the housing meets the local and state health code standards for heat, water, and light.  The employer must not charge more than $35 a week for a room with 1 person”

Live-in workers: termination

“Unless a domestic worker is fired for cause, the employer must give the worker:

  • Written notice; and
  • At least 30 days of housing where the worker is now or in similar housing OR severance pay equal to average pay for 2 weeks.  If the employer chooses to provide housing at another location or severance pay, the worker must have at least 24 hours to move out.

If the employer fires a domestic worker for cause, the employer must provide:

  • Advance written notice; and
  • A reasonable opportunity of at least 48 hours to move out.

If the employer makes a written statement in good faith saying that the worker did something that harmed the employer or his/her family or household, the employer can:

  • End the employment without notice, and
  • Give the worker no severance pay or time to find new housing.

Important! No matter what the reason for ending the employment, the employer must pay the worker all wages owed, including all earned, unused paid vacation time, on the last day of work.”

Injuries at work

“A worker who gets hurt while on the job may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.  Even if the employer does not have worker’s compensation insurance, workers who miss more than 5 days of work because of work-related injury or illness may be able to get compensated for medical care and lost wages.”

Need a place to vent?

Are you as worried about this ruling as we are? We welcome questions and just general venting in the My Au Pair and Me Host Family Group on Facebook. (The standard “we are not law professionals” disclaimer stands for the Facebook group, but it’s just nice to talk to other host families.)

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Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Au Pair

Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Au Pair

Hi! Abbie and Maddie here. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or anything else, December is a time for holidays and gifts.

It’s hard enough to buy for in-laws and your kids’ teachers, you also want to get a really nice gift for your au pair. But what to get? We have some ideas for you here and on our Pinterest board.

*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.

Are “things” a good gift for au pairs? Maybe

Remember your au pair is only here for a year (or hopefully two years). But then will have to shove everything back into a suitcase or find a way to send it back to their home country.

Holidays with Au pair D and Bro Pair TIf you are going to buy a major thing as the only present, make sure it’s special, useful or something she/he needs but wouldn’t buy themselves. For example, photo gifts or customized jewelry to remember the time with your family. He/she may need a new coat or a good sturdy pair of winter boots. Or another camera lens if interested into photography. (Those can be pretty expensive for an au pair!)

Don’t buy something that belongs with the house like an electric blanket. Although it’s thoughtful if he/she’s constantly cold, it makes a bad gift because it’s not theirs to keep. Similarly, think twice before buying something like a subscription to a meal service. It’s like a husband buying his wife a vacuum cleaner.

If you are considering a gift card, experience, or digital item then add it to a small package to open around the tree. Check out Amazon or Etsy, they have an interesting selection of gifts for au pairs and bro pairs. Some ideas include:

  • A warm scarf or fuzzy socks.
  • A nice framed picture with your family.
  • Local swag like a coffee cup or ornament.
  • Sweets or other consumables.

Should I give my au pair a gift card? Maybe

If your au pair loves going out to eat consider a gift card to a local restaurant to enjoy with her/his friends. Does your au pair love coffee? Consider a gift card to Starbucks or another local coffee shop.

If your au pair loves shopping, they might enjoy a gift certificate to a clothing store or the mall. Even though your au pair will likely have to sell or give away the clothes, he/she will enjoy them while here.

If your au pair prefers to shop on line consider a gift card to Amazon or their favorite online store.

If you are leaning towards a gift card remember that your au pair will only be in the US for a short time. It is best to pick a gift card that they will want to use right away so they remember to use it before they head home. If you’re not sure where your au pair will want to spend it, then consider a visa gift card (or cash) instead.

Will my au pair like an experience instead of a gift? Yes

A common reason people become an au pair is to travel (and improve their English). Gifting an experience is a great way to help them towards their travel dreams.

Abbie has contributed toAu Pair I in the snow

  • A portion of a New Year’s trip to New Orleans (from Seattle).
  • An REI photography trip photographing Mount Rainier in the snow.
  • Tickets to a medieval banquet near where we live.

Maddie has contributed to

  • Concert tickets.
  • A foodie tour and paddle boarding in Hawaii.
  • Sporting events like the Seahawks and Mariners.

Other ideas include theater tickets or admission to local attractions. For us, it would be a ride to the top of the Space Needle (not necessarily cheap).

She might also appreciate a day at a spa, or something else she otherwise wouldn’t do for herself.

Are consumables a good holiday gift for au pairs? Yes

Most consumables are somewhat small and make great stocking stuffers.

Are there “things” you can get for your au pair that don’t involve loading her down with stuff she/he can’t pack home at the end of the au pair year? Are there things they use and need to replace? Maybe your au pair has a passion for art and could use a new sketchpad and a nice set of charcoal pencils. Maybe they need a new backpack or a new suitcase.

And don’t forget about sweets. American chocolate may not be as good as European chocolate, but by golly, we have Oreos!

 

Would my au pair appreciate a digital gift? Yes

Another set of “things” that don’t take up space are digital or online services.

Perhaps your au pair is studying photography and would love a year’s subscription to Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.

Or they are constantly buying music and would appreciate iTunes or Amazon gift money. Your au pair probably shares your family plan of Netflix or Spotify, but maybe you could give money on Audible or another e-book service.

Does she/he play online or mobile games? You can give credits to use on the platform they prefer: Google Pay, Apple Pay, V-bucks (for Fortnite), Xbox Live Credit, Amazon Coins, to name a few.

If you need more ideas…

We’ve rounded up some other blog posts to help inspire you this holiday season:

Have another great gift idea?

What have you given your au pair for the holidays? Did they love it? Share your great ideas below in the comments or in the in the My Au Pair and Me Host Family Community on Facebook. It’s nice to talk to other host families and share your experiences!

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78 Reasons I’m Thankful for My Au Pair

78 Reasons I’m Thankful for My Au Pair

Hi Abbie and Maddie here. The holidays are approaching and the pace of life is starting to get busier. This is the time of year we are most thankful to have an extra set of hands to help with the kids. We are reminded daily why hosting an au pair is such a valuable experience. Thank you au pairs for all your hard work. And a special thanks to our au pairs for supporting us through thick and thin!

1. Thank you for joining my family. We have all grown from the opportunity to get to know each other.

2. Thank you for loving my children. They are the light of my life and I can see that you feel the same way.

3. Thank you for starting dinner. You are the reason we can find the time to enjoy healthy meals together as a family.

4. Thank you for making me laugh. I love that we can share in special moments that no one else will understand.

5. Thank you for teaching me patience. I watch you with my children at the end of your 45 hour work week and am astonished that you are so calm and collected.

6. Thank you for potty training my toddler. You stuck with it even after being peed on for the third time in one day.

7. Thank you for holding my babies when they cry. It breaks my heart to leave them every morning and your love for them helps me through my day.

8. Thank you for giving my children baths. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes its torture. Either way it seems to take forever.

9. Thank you for reading to my children. When you first arrived I could see your struggle with learning English. Now you are confident and it shows.

10. Thank you for not breaking the car again. The first time was plenty.

11. Thank you for cooking us your favorite foods from home. I will always be reminded of you when I eat creme brulee, crepes, lemon pie, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, and shish kabob.

12. Thank you for sending me pictures during the day. I love to see my babies having so much fun with you.

13. Thank you for allowing me time to take care of myself. Because you are with my children and help me with chores I am able to find time to go to the gym and salon.

14. Thank you for trying my cooking. I know it is not what you are used to and I’m not a gourmet chef.

15. Thank you for teaching my children to read. I know it is frustrating but they will eventually figure it out.

16. Thank you for helping with the kids’ laundry. How do such tiny humans produce so much laundry?

17. Thank you for picking up the house before I get home. After a long day it is so nice to not have to step on Legos and trip over toys.

18. Thank you for noticing we are almost out of milk. You have saved breakfast from milk meltdowns more times than I can count.

19. Thank you for holding my sick baby when I can’t be there. I will never understand why my children are always sick when there is a big presentation scheduled at work.

20. Thank you for putting up with my attitude when I was pregnant. I swear it was the hormones talking. Or maybe the sleep deprivation.

21. Thank you for convincing my kids to try new foods. I know they always want macaroni and cheese and it is hard to say no when they give you that look.

22. Thank you for quietly sneaking away when I fought with my spouse. I’m so sorry that you saw that side of my marriage.

23. Thank you for staying late when I got stuck in traffic. I even left work on time today.

24. Thank you for getting my kids to school on time. And with full bellies, matching shoes, warm coats, and packed bags.

25. Thank you for holding me while I cried. Every day can’t be the best day of my life.

26. Thank you for loving my pets (even though it is not your job).

27. Thank you for being you. I am a better person for having spent time with you.

28. Thank you for teaching my children to say “please” and “thank you”. A one year old saying “thank you” is about the cutest thing I have ever seen.

29. Thank you again for helping with the laundry. SO MUCH LAUNDRY!

30. Thank you for running to the store during the day. We always seem to be missing one ingredient for dinner and the lines are always really long on my way home from work.

31. Thank you for noticing that the kids’ pants are too short and shirts too snug. The kids are always growing like weeds.

32. Thank you for helping during the holidays. I love it when my children’s eyes light up with with the wonder of the season.

33. Thank you for reminding my kids to take their muddy boots off by the door. I am so tired of cleaning prints off the floor!

34. Thank you for getting my kids out of the house. There are so many fun things to see and do.

35. Thank you for keeping my kids off their tablets. I know it is easier and they whine, a lot!

36. Thank you for telling me when you need something. We want you to be happy and comfortable.

37. Thank you for cleaning out the back of the fridge. I have no idea what that was or how long it has been there.

38. Thank you for organizing the kids’ toys. Ponies are more fun with brushes and trains are more fun with tracks.

39. Thank you for being safe. With my kids and in your personal time.

40. Thank you for celebrating your birthday with me. I swear I’m fun!

Au Pair C41. Thank you for driving my kids all over town. Why did I sign them up for so many activities?

42. Thank you for being polite to my crazy neighbor. We want to slam the door in her face, too.

43. Thank you for bringing in the mail. I am jealous that you receive things other than bills and junk.

44. Thank you for keeping in touch with my last au pair. I love that my kids can still talk to her, even though It is impossible for us to talk regularly with the kids because of the time difference.

45. Thank you for making yourself comfortable in my home. We want you to feel like this is your home too.

46. Thank you for cleaning up those little disasters. Was it poop or chocolate? Do I really want to know?

47. Thank you for doing crafts with my kids. I have been saving fun projects to Pinterest for years and never find time to do them.

48. Thank you for being consistent. My kids thrive when they have a regular routine.

49. Thank you for being ready to work a few minutes early. It is a relief to know that I will be about to get out of the house on time.

50. Thank you for sharing your culture with us. I am very curious about what life is like in other parts of the world.

Au Pair D51. Thank you for teaching me about new forms of social media. Old dogs can learn new tricks

52. Thank you for being flexible. I try to create your schedule ahead of time but sometimes life happens.

53. Thank you for making sure their homework is completed and returned to school on time. This is just one less thing for me to worry about between dinner and bed. And it’s nice not to worry about one more deadline.

54. Thank you for signing for my packages and meeting with the cable guy. I really needed to be at work and they gave me a 4-hour service window in the middle of the work day.

55. Thank you for maintaining my rules with the children even when I’m not around. I wouldn’t have made it a rule if I didn’t think it was important.

56. Thank you for asking questions. I can’t help you be successful if I don’t know where you are struggling.

57. Thank you for continuing to try, even when I can tell it’s hard for you.

58. Thank you for all the little things. They do not go unnoticed.

59. Thank you for making it the recitals and the big games. It means so much to my children when you can see them perform and they don’t understand what it means to be “off duty”.

60. Thank you for keeping us all together at the airport. One of the kids always heads in the opposite direction.

Au Pair B61. Thank you for stashing snacks in your purse. My kids can’t seem to survive 10 minutes without something to eat.

62. Thank you for cleaning dog poop off my child’s shoe. Their little feet are drawn to dog poop like a moth to a flame.

63. Thank you for letting me have one-on-one time with each of my children.

64. Thank you for bringing me things I forgot at home. Like my lunch one day, my phone another day, my computer that one time….

65. Thank you for taking all of my quirks in the ways I want things done in stride. I try to let things go, but there are some things that I want done just so.

66. Thank you for taking my kids outside at least once a day, even when it’s winter, cold, and wet. The fresh air is good for them.

67. Thank you for watching movies with us as a family when you probably want to go to your room. It’s super sweet when my kids want to cuddle with you instead of me, and share your blanket and popcorn.

68. Thank you for discovering in my city. Your tips inspire my own adventures.

69. Thank you for watching light-hearted chick flick movies with me. My husband is not interested and the kids aren’t yet old enough to understand.

70. Thank you for not being (too) jealous when we start interviewing our next au pair. We wish you could stay with us forever, too!

71. Thank you for keeping in touch even after you go back home to your family. I wish I wrote you more often. At least you can still see pictures of the family on Facebook and Google Photos.

72. Thank you for being young and full of energy. I may not be that old, but sometimes I feel old.

73. Thank you for being my secret stash of ice cream buddy. My husband just doesn’t understand.

74. Thank you for sharing your playlists with us and for making playlists with my kids. They love asking Google and Alexa to play their songs.

75. Thank you for making it your mission to visit every single library in our library system. And for doing a tour of the parks to find the perfect one. I love that you get my kids out and about!

76. Thank you for finding ways to get my kids’ energy out, like running them around outside or taking them to the children’s museum. If only we could harness that energy…we could power cities with it.

77. Thank you for listening to my children’s jokes. Don’t worry, they don’t make sense to me either. 

78. And thank you again for helping with the laundry!

What about you?

Why are you thankful for your au pair? Leave us a comment below or head over to the My Au Pair and Me Host Parent Community on Facebook. It’s nice to talk to other host families and know you’re not alone!

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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?

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