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Au pair & evening meals (rant sorry)

(25 Posts)
clare21 Sat 15-Oct-11 21:24:03

We are coming to the end of a 7 month stint with our first au pair, in Nov she will go home and a new au pair starts. We wrote out very detailed household instructions, detailing what we needed her to do and when, including that we would like her to eat with children, but welcome to have evening meal with the 2 of us sometimes. Since she's started au pair has eaten with children 3 times. After summer hols my hubby had a chat with her, saying we'd like to eat alone sometimes, but night after night I get home to put kids to bed to then cook for the 3 of us. Novelty has completely worn off. I absolutely know she needs to eat, and that's part of the deal, but 7 nights a week (she sometimes goes out, but only after supper) plus weekend lunches if we're here is doing me in. Not good for relationship with hubby either. I know we can go out - but that way we get to pay for meal & her babysitting... I'd like to get things straight from day one with au pair no. 2 - is it ok to say eat with kids 4 nights a week, can I be that perscriptive? Also, with babysitting, do you anticipate au pair will do it for free (we pay her £8/ hr for sitting, and she works an 18 hour week over 3 days) + ironing on top, so c 20 hours a week in all.

LaurieFairyCake Sat 15-Oct-11 21:27:33

Depends when the kids eat, if it's 5 o clock that would do my head in as it's so early.

But of course you can make it clear from the start.

MogandMe Sat 15-Oct-11 21:47:48

I work for a single parent so my meals are slightly different as we tend to eat all together at supper time.

However at the weekends I have the choice of; joining them, eating out (I try to spend a lot of time out and about) or making myself something when my boss is upstairs doing the bath/bedtime routine.

I think it is ok to ask that the aupair eats with the children during the week - unless they eat at 4pm or that they only eat dinosaur pasta and ragu sauce or fishfingers and cous cous (as some of my charges have!!) and you expect them to have the exact same thing. If they eat a varied diet, eat at a "normal" time then I see no issues. It might be nice to involve the aupair in 1 family meal at the weekend ie Sunday lunch or Saturday supper but again I think it's fine to ask that she sorts herself out, maybe get her some bits in like pasta, noodles, etc that she can make herself something with. Again I am more than welcome to help myself to things to make supper however I also buy nicer things for myself if I fancy something specific.

clare21 Sat 15-Oct-11 21:55:08

Kids eat at 6 - 6.30, and we tend to have the same food as them in the week. Cupboards are full of food - pasta, pesto, and fridge full of veg. I think the current au pair is not keen on cooking herself, and if she knows a meal will be served later then waits til then.

MogandMe Sat 15-Oct-11 21:59:10

Does she not cook for the children?

I am the nanny but I always sling on the dinner for me, dc and My Boss - Usually something from scratch - Although it has been known for My Boss to cook for all of us!

nbee84 Sat 15-Oct-11 22:17:58

As you are only asking the ap to do 20 hours a week I would definitely negotiate (or even expect) one night's babysitting in with that to bring it up to 25 hours a week - which is usual hours for an ap. This would usually be a week day night and not a Fri/Sat.

clare21 Sat 15-Oct-11 22:29:55

She cooks for us all once a week - two sittings as we're not back from work. Otherwise I cook food for her to reheat and serve for the kids. (MogandMe our nanny cooked for us at the end of her time with us and it was the best ever treat to come back too, your family's v lucky!)

JennyWren Sat 15-Oct-11 22:36:42

We ask for 25 hours plus up to 2 evenings babysitting (during term-time that probably averages out to one and a half evenings a week smile ) from our au pairs - that seems to be standard among people I've known who have (had) au pairs.

We are happy to have our au pair eat with us, although we really appreciated it when one of our au pairs took a weekly evening dance class and ate earlier on that day - I have considered asking our au pairs since to eat earlier one day each week but have never actually done it. But I do ask that the au pair prepare the adults' evening meal one day each week, and I don't have any qualms about saying sometimes that she needs to fend for herself - we often do that if DH and I have eaten out at lunchtime at the weekend and just want a sandwich or beans on toast-type meal in the evening.

None have minded cooking once a week - I tell them that it is their opportunity to cook their favourite recipes from home, or to try out recipes I've shown them. I don't even mind if they bung a pizza in the oven to heat up - as long as I don't have to cook it! I do buy the ingredients, of course, but they have to write them on the shopping list before I do the weekly shop, so they do have to plan ahead unless they want to go for something we have in the larder or freezer. I have found that this makes me feel much less put-upon smile

Julesnobrain Sat 15-Oct-11 23:45:33

We have AP plus so 35 hours a week. Ours all eat with the children at 6pm, they all eat the same but we feed our children an adult menu which they have to try but can leave if they hate.

We have tried various methods and times and we have found this works best for all of us. We tend to eat later and usually AP's want to skype or go out. I would advise to start this with your next AP from day 1

Re baby siting. Included is 2 nights a week one night being a sat night per month. In reality we use it less but it is nice to know we have it if we need it.

blueshoes Sun 16-Oct-11 00:04:34

Interesting. Except for my first aupair, all my aupairs did not eat dinner with us. They would start politely at first, and soon it would either not wanting to eat at all or me leaving a portion a dinner portion aside for them to eat at lunch. I don't think my cooking is that bad, but it is quite varied so they might not be used to it.

My aupairs have really strange eating habits. Maybe girls of that age (late teens, early twenties) are like that.

Perhaps you could leave food aside for her to reheat to eat with the children. That way she gets a hot meal (in microwave) and you get your privacy.

catepilarr Sun 16-Oct-11 01:07:40

it might not be the case with this ap, but it took me a good few years to understand the british concept of parents wanting to eat on their own/separately from the children. in my culture it is usual that everyone eats together in the household and it is rude not to join in if you are in.
i guess you can suggest she eats with children, but it might not suit her timewise/foodwise (i know thats not your case)/for whatever reason. i think it would be better to say you want time on your own and then suggest options when/waht she can have for supper.
when i had a family like that, my mb always made sure she bought stuff for me to have and sometimes we would cook one thing and jsut eat separately.

and it is usual for an aupair to have /up to/ two babysittings a week included in her duties, ie not paid extra, not on her days off though.

xmyboys Sun 16-Oct-11 08:46:46

Definitely include two nights babysitting a week in your agreement, this is the norm and expected.
And yes you can state they are welcome to join for a family meal once a week and also one night you you two (optional) and remaining meals with the children. Not unreasonable at all. The meal with you is also good chance to chat about the kids etc.
I had a friend who had to say the same thing about tv time, as her ap plonked herself in front of family tv every night and took charge of the remote control angry
Mine thank goodness would happily hide away or go out grin got to watch my trash tv in peace!

xmyboys Sun 16-Oct-11 08:47:55

Meant to say babysitting is included! Half the reason why we got an ap actually. Ours was 2-3 per week but usually only used one night.

Beckyboo4 Sun 16-Oct-11 11:05:22

This thread reminds me of when I was an aupair in Washington and my host family asked me not to eat with them at dinner as it was family time. I looked after 1 child who ate with the family at the family dinner time but lucky me I got to cook healthy meals for the family every night and my host family brought me a box of frozen burgers and a microwave for the basement where my room was. I was also asked to use the front door and not the side door to enter the house that way I could go straight to my room in the basement without talking to the family. I didn't last much longer than that as their aupair as I felt unwanted and lonely.

Maybe your aupair just needs to find more friends in the area. My aupair sometimes eats with us but is often out with friends so luckily we don't have this problem. Maybe you need a few more things added to your manual.

harrietthespook Sun 16-Oct-11 11:36:24

Firstly 2 nights' babysitting during the week included in the deal. We personally pay for Saturday nights (but not Friday.) We pay £5 p/h for the babysitting.

OP: it sounds like you've had the discussion with her and she's kind of ignoring it for whatever reason - the cooking thing may be the reason.

There's a big difference between Becky's scenario (and that horrible Upstairs Downstairs thing of making her use the separate door - honestly, did these people have dilusions of grandeur?) and what you need to carve out for yourself.

We're on third AP. First AP ate with us most nights (not w/e) but went to bed right after dinner giving DP and me some couple time. After XMAS she tended to eat on her own or went out w/friends. We wondered whether a worse diet contributed to the regular colds she hda but generally speaking the arrangement worked.

Second AP - lovely personality but ate with us virtually every night (not EVERY weekend night too but many) and stayed up with DH and me until 11.30 until XMAS. One time we had friends round and she stayed up with all of us until 1 am. Did my head in, drove me mad initially. Big gasp of relief when this all stopped after XMAS But we got to know her well and I felt she really understood us and the girls. SHe had a lovely personality and if she hadn't been as lovely as she was - and interested in the role and being a good au pair - I might have lost it completely. I have learned to value this enthusiasm...

Thrid and current AP - eats by herself, including taking her meals upstairs to skype with her boyfriend/fiance who is also an AP almost straightaway when we get back. Part of it is she is prioritising the relationship and is a nervous about stretching herself when it comes to learning English. We have had to carve out seeing her more often for meals as the downside to her never being around is that we end up only seeing her when we have to have a 'chat' about something, which makes us seem difficult, and she wasn't getting to know us very well - understand our thinking about the girls, priorities, etc. I think her commitment to us is less than the others felt. DH actually loves this arrangement because we get lots of free time together but there are downsides.

The best scenario IMO is where the AP eats with you a few nights a week but goes up to her room at a sensible time afterwards - say ten - (if it's big enough) or out to see friends or to a class, etc.

I think what you need to do is the following:
1) One night during the week, text her and tell her that you need her to eat with the children as you and DH have something to discuss and need some time on your own. When you come in go: "You've eaten, right?" It sounds like she needs you to be quite direct.
2) Tell her Friday and Saturday evenings are your catch up time with DH and you would like her to make her own arrangements. If she doesn't seem to be preparing anything, remind her to do so even if it means you eat later. I think it is reasonable to carve out Fri and Sat as 'date nights' for you and your husband.
3) One of the sunday meals arrange to be out for a couple of weeks on the trot but ask her what she needs to prepare her food for her dinner/sunday lunch.

The other nights, I would leave alone really and eat with her.

It sounds like it's too late for this girl, but we try to get very involved in helping our APs make friends locally (we have an AP barbeque!), introduce them to people, get to an English class, get involved in a hobby (our other APs have all done stuff locally.) This really does help.

Good luck.

blueshoes Sun 16-Oct-11 11:57:26

It is a good point that Becky and Harriet make about your aupair needing to go out more. The sociable aupairs have their own plans and don't really need to hang around the family. Even if they don't go out on a weekday night (which you do not want to happen to much anyway), they are frequently on the internet in their room after I come home. And out at weekends, so meals are not an issue.

Perhaps for your next aupair, you could look out for a more outgoing personality. If she has previous aupair experience, check with the family what her eating and socialising habits were.

PaulaMummyKnowsBest Mon 17-Oct-11 09:43:08

our au pairs ate with us as we all eat as a family but at weekends it was made very clear that if they wanted to eat "the family meal" then they were expected to help with the making of the meal and tidying up after the meal.

We included 2 weeks babysitting into their contract but in reality only used 1 or 2 nights a month but it gave us the flexibility if we needed it.

kelly2000 Tue 18-Oct-11 15:14:16

If the normal hours are only 20 hours a week (including everything), then I would add on an evening of babysittting so long as she is getting paid in the £80-100 a week area. If it is 18 hours plus the ironing regardless of how long that takes then I would pay extra for babysitting. As for meals I would say she is welcome to join you, but generally she can eat with the children or on her own. But try to help her make friends as she may be lonely eating by herself.

SootySweepandSue Tue 18-Oct-11 15:21:52

I think it's a bit mean not to include her in dinners. Surely with an au pair there is the element of being part of a family and learning about another culture? I would be upset if I had to eat alone, especially if all my time was spent with children.

LittleMyMoomin Tue 18-Oct-11 18:59:50

I'm a live in nanny and never eat with my bosses, which suits us all!

My bosses usually cook a meal when they come in from work, then will call me down to grab a plate and I take it to my room. I like my own space and privacy, and they like their couple time.

chloeb2002 Fri 21-Oct-11 21:48:09

Our aps eat with us.. however noramlly only evenig meal and they sort whatever else they want. weekends they are normally out so we get our own space. I guess a little like Harriet i find its a good way to get to know your Ap.. talk bout any issues of the day.. then they or we all head upstarirs and have our own space.

dikkertjedap Sat 22-Oct-11 22:04:13

All our au pairs always ate with us - we all eat together as a family. In the weekends she could choose whether to eat with us (including her friends as she usually has friends staying in the weekend). It has never been a big issue and soon after dinner they go to her room. Luckily she has a huge room, so it is easy for her and her friends to stay there, chat, watch TV, use laptop etc. On Saturday and Sunday they usually have a lie-in and make breakfast/lunch themselves.

Karoleann Sun 23-Oct-11 21:46:26

If you don't want them to eat with you - just say beforehand, there's a wealth of au pair experiences, some will want to eat with the family some won't.
I was (a very bad) au pair for about 3 months in paris 20ish blush years ago and I hated eating with the family.

LadyHarrietDeSpook Sun 23-Oct-11 22:48:40

is that because it was challenging with the language? or some other reason?

ConstantlyCooking Mon 24-Oct-11 18:27:02

Our AP contract includes 2 nights babysitting per week. We usually manage to use 1 night per month but include the nights in the contract in case we have two parents' evenings or lots of invitations suddenly.
re meals: our aps eat with us/with the children or cook for themselves as suits them. However, we do flag up that Friday evenings DH and I like to have a meal together - just the two of us. That has always been fine.

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