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Au pairs, eating out and take aways

(53 Posts)
Artijoke Wed 11-Sep-13 14:10:18

We have our first au pair starting soon. Obviously I want to be welcoming and I understand au pairs eat with the family but I'm unclear on two things.

First, we often get takeaway once a week. Fairly pricey local restaurant which delivers. What do people do about their au pair's food when they get takeaway?

Second, we usually take the kids out to lunch at the weekend. On the au pairs first day we will be going out to lunch and inviting her and paying for her but subsequently I don't expect to pay for her accompanying us if she chooses to do so (she would not be required to come, just invited if she is bored). How do I handle this?

tywysogesgymraeg Wed 11-Sep-13 14:11:44

She's part of the family - of course you should include her, and pay for her!!!

Artijoke Wed 11-Sep-13 14:14:00

Really? Every time we eat out? Is that what people actually DO rather than MN etiquette not reflected in RL?

Thurlow Wed 11-Sep-13 14:15:03

If you're getting takeaway to eat as a family, and your au pair always eats with you as a family, it strikes me that it would be very rude not to include her. If you excluded her from that meal simply because it's pricier than the usual meal, that's not very fair.

For the lunch, I would just say that you are going out to lunch and she's more than welcome to join you if she wants to, or not if she has other plans. Say it nicely and make sure she understands that either choice is perfectly acceptable.

TakingTheStairs Wed 11-Sep-13 14:18:54

But if she chooses to come with you, you pay for her!!!
Au Pair's are meant to be treated as a part of the family.

Artijoke Wed 11-Sep-13 14:19:01

Kids don't have takeaway. I cook for them earlier and have takeaway after they are in bed.

GingerBeerAndTinnedPeaches Wed 11-Sep-13 14:19:07

No it is not MN etiquette it is, or should be, real life. You'll probably find that she'll want her weekends to herself, especially if they are her days off.

I don't have an au pair but spent a year as an au pair in France. After a week or so settling in I made friends and spent most evenings after dinner and all weekends with them.

tywysogesgymraeg Wed 11-Sep-13 14:22:09

We included our au pair in everything we did as a family - if she wanted to be included. I really don't think it's acceptable to invite her out for a meal and then not pay for her. Nor to order a take away and not include her - or provide a different, cheaper meal.

The idea with an AP is that they become like a kind of big sister to your DCs, and you will find that the relationship works best if you do your best to treat her as part of the family, whilst respecting the fact that she will develop her own social life after a while (just as a grown up DC would).

It's not her fault if you decide to buy a takeaway rather than cook a meal/go out to a restaurant. But if she declines either offer, you should be sure to provide a meal of decent quality instead.

If she opts of her own accord to eat elsewhere (ie with friends), then you are not obliged to pay for that (again, same as you would treat a grown up DC).

tywysogesgymraeg Wed 11-Sep-13 14:23:09

You could ask her whether she would prefer to eat with DCs, or share your takeaway after the DCs are in bed.

GingerBeerAndTinnedPeaches Wed 11-Sep-13 14:23:37

Ah, in that case on takeaway days she would normally eat with the children, but it would be nice to give her the choice.

Thurlow Wed 11-Sep-13 14:24:35

If you're not getting takeway for the children as well, I think the only way you could get away with it would be to explain that the night you get this takeaway is a sort of 'date night' for you and your husband and so make it clear that it's a way you spend time together alone. Then it might not seem so strange to have the au pair eating dinner with the children. But if I were you I would explain it, as otherwise it just smacks of "this is nice, expensive food and you're not worth it".

mrswishywashy Wed 11-Sep-13 16:18:14

Think how you would will feel in 18 years time and your children are taking a gap year as an au pair. Will you be happy that the family they are staying with exclude them from take outs and lunches out? What about when your children get to their teens, will they be excluded from take outs too? I'd give her a choice eat with the children or more than welcome to share take out with us. But make sure she does feel welcome or you will end up with an unhappy "au pair" who doesn't want to stay.

And I wish that it was made illegal to use the "au pair" definition unless of the description by immigration. Too many people are using "au pairs" for what really is a full responsibility, low pay nanny position. If you employ someone cheaply to live in your home and do housekeeping/look after your children then the least you can do is treat them with respect.

Sorry, but I think you sound incredibly mean and petty about this. Au pairs are meant to be part of the family. If you have take away of course you should order for her too and pay for her. Or if she doesn't fancy it you should provide alternative food for her to prepare for herself.

As regards the lunch, she may want to enjoy her free time in any case. But the right thing to do would be to say she is welcome to come if she wants to, but make it clear she doesn't have to. If she comes, of course you pay for her meal.

Am a bit shock at your attitude tbh.

Artijoke Wed 11-Sep-13 16:31:26

I don't think you can judge my attitude so harshly from my two posts. I asked a question, was surprised by the answer but I am listening. I intend to welcome our au pair warmly, I've redecorated a room for her, bought her a new tv, a laptop, emailed her to ask what specific foods she likes and consequently ordered her favourite cereal and snacks in our delivery. She will have a good year I think.

NomDeClavier Wed 11-Sep-13 16:33:07

If you're paying au pair rates you have to treat them as a member of the family. The takeaway, if it's like date night, you can offer her the choice of eating with the DC or getting her something for her to cook for herself just like a babysit except you're not going out. Pretty much as you would with one of your own, grown-up DC. Or a niece or nephew staying etc.

As for going out for lunch at the weekend if you invite her, which as part of the family you should, then you pay for her. You can set the expectation from the off that she'll have her own social life at the weekends or lie in til 3 but really part of the deal of having an au pair is they get included in practically everything. It's part of the compensation for only getting £70odd a week - you get to live with the family, experiencing their leisure activities as well as looking after the kids.

Strix Wed 11-Sep-13 16:34:33

Our Au Pair does not normally eat with us. When we get a takeaway, she's not included. If we go out for lunch with the kids we don't invite her.... but she probably wouldn't want to come anyway.

I disagree that the ua pair is a member of the family. I guess you can establish the relationahip that way if you want to. But,I regard mine as an employee and I treat her as such.

However, if she normally ate with us as a family, then I would include her in the takeaway.

It is perfectly normal to expect the aupair to prepare the dinner for the children and eat with them. But, it would probably not be very nice for you to eat with the children and not invite the au pair to join.

When we ordered take away there's always been loads, too much for two. Surely there's enough for one more without "paying" any extra,

andagain Wed 11-Sep-13 16:42:38

OP, we have an au pair and we always include her in any takeways we have. To be honest it never occured to me not to nor to ask her to eat early with our daughter. She always eats dinner with us (if she is in) and that is the time when we can sit and chat and nobody is rushing to school, work etc
Weekendwise you will probably find she will be out with her mates having fun but you should offer to take her with you.

dufflefluffle Wed 11-Sep-13 16:43:30

I was an au pair, the family always paid for me and very much made me feel part of the family. When their eldest came years later to mind my children I did my best to be just as generous.

GingerBeerAndTinnedPeaches Wed 11-Sep-13 17:03:23

Strix the very definition of 'au pair' comes from the French meaning on equal terms, ie part of the family. Read the wiki history and concept sections. If you don't believe that they are supposed to be treated as part of the family what exactly do you think they are?

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Au_pair#Concept_and_conditions

idiuntno57 Wed 11-Sep-13 17:16:41

an au pair should be treated as a member of the family not an employee.

We sometimes have a takeaway and if that is our evening meal, the AP shares it with us. He eats with us, not the children in the evening.

Our last AP ate out with us on a few occasions - curry house, pizza, nice local restaurant (twice I think) - and we always paid. These were mainly things like DS's birthday meal, or a treat for the children for doing well at school, and he was included. If we go into London at weekends, the AP is generally doing his own thing, perhaps other than the very first visit, and so it would be unusual to expect her to accompany you for those events.

It sounds as though you are doing a lot to welcome the AP. I am surprised at the lap top and TV - all our APs have brought their own lap top, so that is perhaps an unnecessary expense. However, it will be the day to day existence that makes or breaks the relationship.

NomDeClavier Wed 11-Sep-13 19:13:22

Treating then as a member of the family doesn't prevent you from having an employment relationship at all. The law is one thing (and is pretty clear) but it simply gives them rights and protection. Being treated as part of the family is what makes the au pair experience into an au pair experience rather than spending a year as a badly paid live in nanny. People who aren't prepared to offer the whole family package tend to pay a bit more.

In fact the pastoral burden is significantly greater than the legal one IMO.

grabaspoon Wed 11-Sep-13 19:13:46

I am a live in nanny - sometimes my boss offers to treat us to a takeaway - Chinese, Indian or Dominoes and sometimes my boss orders one just for the family and I have a rummage in the fridge for something later.

Metrobaby Wed 11-Sep-13 19:59:34

If you include your AP in a takeaway it will make her feel welcome. If you don't, she will feel left out. However if you don't feel you want her to join in your takeaway, I think it is only courteous to tell her in advance that you intend the takeaway as a date night - as NomDeClavier suggests.

You'll probably find that your AP will be out during the weekends anyway. However if you do invite her to join your family for a restaurant meal, family activity day etc, you should definitely pay for her as you would your own children.

hettienne Wed 11-Sep-13 20:23:37

You get to pay her less than minimum wage because she lives as part of your family and shares in family meals - that's the legal loophole!

If you want to avoid buying her a takeaway, then explain up front that you and your DH will eat later/alone on a Saturday night so she can either eat with the children or get herself something.

If you invite her to lunch on the weekends, then pay for her. If you don't want to pay for her, don't invite her!

Artijoke Wed 11-Sep-13 20:27:07

To be fair it's not less than minimum wage when you factor in the normal rent for a loft suite in our part of London, plus all bills taken care of, plus all food, plus £90 a week, all for 20 hours work. But I take your general point about pay.

NomDeClavier Wed 11-Sep-13 20:31:14

Accommodation offset doesn't take into account what normal rent would be though. The Govt just sets a rate whether that's central London or the Outer Hebrides, a loft suite or a box room.

hettienne Wed 11-Sep-13 20:31:37

The legal offset for accommodation is pretty small when it comes to calculating minimum wage - £35 a week or so.

pukkapine Wed 11-Sep-13 20:35:53

We've had 6 au pairs - we've always included them in take aways and if they join us on a meal out/day out we've paid. It's part of treating them as a member of the family which is really crucial to you feeling at ease with them in your home/family just as much as it is for them.

Artandco Wed 11-Sep-13 20:42:16

Artijoke - a full time live in nanny in London can be on £600 net a week. If live in accomadation and food still paid for exactly the same as an au pair except they are paid per hour rather than 'pocket money'

GingerBeerAndTinnedPeaches Wed 11-Sep-13 20:45:35

The whole point in au pairing is not cheap childcare, accomodation provided. It is to allow a non national to experience life in another culture and in exchange they provide nanny-lite child surveillance and a bit of light housework.

hettienne Wed 11-Sep-13 20:47:22

£600 net a week for a live in would be extremely generous though.

GingerBeerAndTinnedPeaches Wed 11-Sep-13 20:51:18

What I mean is that it is not to be seen as a cheap nanny. It's a cultural exchange. When I was an au pair they had a full time housekeeper/cook, plus another chef who came in for special dinners. I was a big sister who did the school run and supervised homework. I also helped tidy their rooms and babysat a couple of nights a week. THAT is as much as you should expect. It was actually hard to fit in with a family at 18 in a foreign city.

Artandco Wed 11-Sep-13 20:55:02

Hett- sure £600 is high end, but the point is whether someone pays £50 or £500 a week, the accomadation being provided isn't really that much off set. The majority of high end nanny employers want a live in nanny for convience of late/ early finishes/ overnights etc, not to save on costs .

£90 seems low for London also even as au pair. Does that include a full travel card ontop? ( as they would spend Half that otherwise on tube)

MissStrawberry Wed 11-Sep-13 21:05:09

You sound quite up yourself with your "pricey restaurant food" and "she'll have a good year I think." If you begrudge her enjoying nice food occasionally and a nice job maybe you shouldn't have help.

Artijoke Wed 11-Sep-13 21:23:04

Thanks for some of your advice. I'm signing off this thread now as I find the aggression and judgemental tones of some posters quite astounding.

kangarooshoes Wed 11-Sep-13 21:55:16

Include her and pay for her. And trips out to the zoo, afternoon tea etc.

Strix Thu 12-Sep-13 09:10:36

I am surprised at the number of people insisting an au pair is strictly a cultural exchange where the au pair lives as an additional member of the family -- effectively another child to be responsible for. If that is how the host family wishes to establish the relationship I guess that's fine.

It's not what I do, and not what several of my friends who also have au pairs do. My au pair is an EU citizen. She is not here in the UK on any Au Pair visa. She is treated as my live-in employee (and indidentally I don't take employer advice from Wikipedia... surely you jest?).

We don't exclude her from outings or take aways. Part of her job is to prepare food for the children, and to eat with them so she can lead by example on matters of nutrition and appropriate table manners. I get home from work at about 7:00pm after they have eaten. I fend for myself at that point. DH works away during the week so he is not there most evenings. I hae three children who are at time very hard work. When the day ends she heads up to her room to sype with her boyfriend / mates. Its always like this, with all of our au pairs / nannies. Some hang round in the kitchen and chat with me while I make my dinner, and some go out. But, we have never done mealtime, and no one has ever complained.

In our house, the difference between an au pair and a nanny (and we have employed several of each) is thus:

A nanny comes with experience and training and is expected to hit the ground running wothout a whole lot of guidance from me. I expect her to be well informed on all matter of child safety, appropriate toddler care and education, etc. I also expect her to be well versed in the employee / employer relationship. This means I expect her not to be surprised that I expect these things.

An au pair works fewer hours, may be asked to do non-childcare related tasks (say, picking up my shirts from the cleaner), and generally requires an awful lot of direction / training.

So, we used to have a full time live in nanny. We had two small children who were not yet in school. Now we have one small child (aged 2 1/2) and two in school (aged 8 and 10). We have an "au pair" and a childmindre who looks after the toddler while the older two are in school. In practise this au pair is somewhere between an au pair and a nanny, and she is paid somewhere in between as well. She is not "cheap childcare" but her pay does reflect her level of experience. And her hours are fewer than they were for our full time live in nannies.

I think in any job, your pay reflects your experience and level of expertise. And it is perfectly fair for someone to make less money as an au pair than as an experience nanny.

I hope this is helpful and clarifies some of the differences of an au pair and a nanny from an employers perspective.

Oh, and the au pair visa is a thing of the past. So, I really don't require the French translation for an arrangement which no longer exists, either in the home office (or whoever issues visas) or in practice.

Strix Thu 12-Sep-13 09:17:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mrswishywashy Thu 12-Sep-13 09:33:11

This is where I get confused as an au pai legally has a definition in regards to au pairs in fact I think in the UK only two countries are eligible for an au pair visa. Maybe there needs to be another category or as Strix mentions "live in employee". Although I'd just like to see anyone looking after children be called an in home carer maybe even nanny. Nannies starting out in their career do fit in the job description you define strix and therefor I wouldn't class as an au pair at all.

If you are employing an live in carer then as long as you meet all legal requirements especially relating go tax, holiday pay, fair pay for work, a written contract then that's fine you can also have the carer eat separately as long as you provide food. The problem is the word "au pair"!

mrswishywashy Thu 12-Sep-13 09:37:08

Basically as you say the au pair visa is a thing of the past so let's not use the word at all. It leads to confusion and murky waters on expectations. Use live in carer, or nanny, or mothers help and make it clear that they will be treated as a employee from the start.

But please do make them feel at home, I've worked in a variety of homes for the past 15 years and there is nothing more upsetting or unsettling to feel out of place.

GingerBeerAndTinnedPeaches Thu 12-Sep-13 09:47:23

The wiki link was not employment advice, was just a definition of what an au pair is intended to be. It's a shame that it has turned into a way of getting cheap childcare, it really wasn't supposed to be like that.

kronenborg Thu 12-Sep-13 13:50:23

"Artijoke Wed 11-Sep-13 14:10:18

1) What do people do about their au pair's food when they get takeaway?

2) [at a weekend family lunch out]...I don't expect to pay for her accompanying us if she chooses to do so (she would not be required to come, just invited if she is bored). How do I handle this?"

this thread has meandered about with respect to what "should" or "shouldn't" be included with respect to au pairs. PERSONALLY, i think it entirely depends on the way your family operate.

specifically, with respect to question 1, if your au pair eats with the family every day (and i have no idea what your particular arrangements are) - then it would seem completely reasonable that if you wish to have this as a special family meal WITHOUT the au pair, even as a weekly occurance, then this seems to be totally fair, so long as she is aware, and understands the reasons why, and she has provisions in the house to sort herself out with something else to eat.

specifically with request to number 2, if she is not working at weekends, then again, PERSONALLY, i would neither expect nor wish for her to attend a family lunch out - inclusion of the au pair in family activities is great (within reason), but dependence of the au pair on the host family is something altogether different, and i would encourage her to have her own interests and activities during her time off.

clearly inclusion of the au pair in 1 & 2 also does have some cost implication for the host family, which may be a greater or lesser consideration depending on the host family's finances.

irrespective of the opinions aired on this board, or any definition of the term "au pair", or preconceptions of the role past and present, it is a fact that plenty of au pairs are not included in family activities, and some NEVER are given the opportunity to eat with the family. i'm not commenting on the appropriateness or otherwise of this, its just the way it sometimes is - if you are including your au pair in other aspects of family life, then keeping one or two meals a week as special time for your partner and children, this is absolutely your right.

on the other hand, the more you include an au pair within your plans, and the the more flexible you are, one would hope this would be reciprocated.

regarding the more general off topic comments about au pair pay & benefits, i think the pay levels are pretty well established (give or take), as are the benefits, and these are (again, in my opinion) fair given the level of experience and skills required for an au pair to do their job - so the big variable is the way things are going to work within that particular host family, which is something that should be established as much as possible during both the interview process, and the induction, to avoid problems downstream. easier said than done, i know.

good luck with whatever you choose. whatever anyone here might have you believe, there is no right or wrong, and i hope some of the more aggressive responses here haven't/won't deter you from posting. noone is born a "professional" host family, and we all can learn from each other.

MrsDibble Thu 12-Sep-13 20:26:07

I think you need to include her in your takeaway definitely. However, she might not always want to join you, and may decide to make something else.

I think with the going out, you should invite her but make it clear she does not HAVE to come - it is an invitation. But I think you should pay for her if she does come. As others have said, she will probably be out quite often on weekends. You will almost certainly find that after a little while she does not want to spend all of her time with the family and will be quite glad of some time to herself on weekends, even if she is not out.

I don't think you have to include her in everything you do on weekends - for instance I recently took my daughter to Legoland on a Saturday but couldn't possibly have afforded for the au pair to come too - it would have doubled the price as we had a two-for-one for my daughter and myself. But I think when it comes to food in particular you should include her.

MrsDibble Thu 12-Sep-13 20:33:06

however, I agree with Kronenberg also that there is no fixed right or wrong - just trying to think of what would make everyone most comfortable.

I think after a week or two you could easily get away with saying re: the meals out "we would like to do this as a family" - probably as long as you invite her sometimes she will understand that you need some family time alone.

The first au pair we had was away all weekend, ever weekend staying with a cousin so we were a bit spoilt for family time. However, on the other hand we always felt terrible if we asked her to babysit on a Saturday as a result, because we knew she wanted to be somewhere else, even though it was part of our original agreement that she would do this from time to time. So there are always pros and cons to every arrangement.

MrsDibble Thu 12-Sep-13 20:39:07

Final thought - our first au pair also hated nearly all food and therefore made her own most of the time!

She started off eating with us, and I tried to make vegetarian food etc during the week which was fine for me, but it just petered out and she preferred to do her own a bit later, which would just be something like toast or hot chocolate. This was all fine as it didn't really interfere with me.

However, new au pair likes everything, although she doesn't eat large portions, and it has actually be really nice to have her eating with us - I've been making Thai food and things because she isn't familiar with it and it's been quite fun. She even tried Marmite, which I've never seen a French person do before. OK she didn't like it, but I admired her for trying!

So again, I'm just saying all kinds of arrangements can work out.

(You can probably tell from this, if you've read my earlier thread, that things have improved with new au pair a lot since the other day!).

MGMidget Sun 15-Sep-13 10:50:51

I would expect to invite AP to be included in both 1 and 2. Unless she is a big eater the additional cost for an extra person in a takeaway won't be that high. I agree though that you could plausibly make it a 'date night' just for you and DH if you explain in an advance what you are planning and have other food in the fridge or the AP. definitely not ok to have takeaway for the DC as well and not include the AP.

At weekends it's likely your AP will be out with friends once her social life is established so, although you should invite her to join you for meals out, most of the time she will have other plans.

TootiesFrootie Sun 15-Sep-13 12:31:27

I would include the AP in takeaways and meals out. It would be mean not to include her.

mikulkin Wed 18-Sep-13 16:26:06

Artijoke, I am sorry you encounter agression. Your initial questions did sound a little bit judgemental, but you were clear afterwards that you are willing to listen, so no need to be agressive!

When it comes to Sunday lunches, my experience is that au pairs feel lonely and would like to join family's activities in the first weeks of their arrival. So i take them with us and pay for them. It lasts maximum 4 weeks, and then they are out of the door before we even make plans as family or having very late lie-in after partying the night before.

On take aways I always include them too mostly because of the smell around the house.

Strix, I also come home around 7, sometimes even 8 and both aupair and DS have already eaten by that time. We live in the same house and whether she is your employee (which I don't think she is, but it is another story) or part of the family I find it strange to get food in with all the smell around the house and not let her it eat.

WetGrass Mon 23-Sep-13 12:16:53

Takeaway - you cook for her with the children. Then ask her to babysit - and go out with your husband to eat your nice meal!

Lunch out - either tell her it's her day off & e.g. offer to drop her off somewhere - or take her & pay. Remember - she'll be eating with your squawking kids - it's really not a 'meal out' how a normal person would choose to eat if they paid for it!

Emmaroos Mon 30-Sep-13 22:15:12

We almost always include our au pair in take aways - the children eat separately. It's expensive, but it keeps us on the straight and narrow as we are less inclined to eat take aways than pre au pair!
We sometimes but not always invite her out to Saturday lunch (pizza express) but generally she doesn't have any interest. Equally if we are having friends over for a meal she is sometimes included and sometimes told it is a dinner party and to help herself from the freezer (I keep a supply of homemade ready to reheat meals on ice in the freezer).
I think you have to find your own balance in the relationship...some au pairs want to be more independent - one even ended up giving me a grocery list and doing her own cooking - and some want to be treated like an older child. At the end of the day you want a happy au pair looking after your children.

blueshoes Mon 30-Sep-13 23:05:42

Artijoke, you have to be thick-skinned to be on an aupair thread - I mean that kindly. These aupair threads bring out a certain 'purist' strand which does not really exist any more with the advent of EU aupairs.

Like Strix, I treat the aupair as an employer-employee relationship with pastoral care thrown in simply because I have a young lady working in my home away from her own family. I am an experienced aupair employer by necessity, not choice, and pretty much seen it all. I cope by being very clear at the interview and at the outset what my expectations are.

I think it is more confusing for an aupair and the employer to fudge the aupair-big-sister-member of the family relationship. After the first week or two, I have never had an aupair want to spend time with the family. They invariably prefer the company of their friends. As the host family, do I feel snubbed? Hell No! It is what the aupairs want to do - this is their version of cultural exchange. So feel free to set your own rules as a family, with fairness in mind, but not necessarily 'member of the family'.

Good luck.

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