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What does your au pair do?

(44 Posts)
pollyanna Wed 01-Dec-04 16:36:27

I have recently got an au pair (my first)(I am a sahm with 3 children aged 5 and under) but she doesn't seem to do very much!? She picks up ds from school most days and does the kids' ironing, but not much else really. She doesn't cook, wash and the children play up too much to let her bath them. What should an au pair do? does anyone have an example of what theirs does each day/week? I don't think my au pair is messing me around, it's probably that neither of us are experienced enough to know what standard au pair duties are. Perhaps this is what I should expect, but I was really hoping that an au pair would be someone to share the load with a bit.

SantaandtheReindeer Wed 01-Dec-04 16:40:28

Have you told her what you would like her to do? Maybe you should be more specific with her about what you're wanting her to do. I assume you have her to help take care of the kids? In that case, maybe she needs for you to actually say to her that even when you're at home you would like her to entertain and interact with the children.

pollyanna Wed 01-Dec-04 16:43:45

I suppose I don't know what it is reasonable to expect her to do - I don't want to take advantage of her. I am 8 months pg with my 4th and would just like a bit of a rest really! Perhaps I am expecting too much from her? (you're right, I haven't really discussed this with her, I'm just getting more tired and resentful, which won't help either of us).

SantaandtheReindeer Wed 01-Dec-04 16:49:55

Does she have specific hours? During those hours she should take care of the kids (play with them, feed them, change them etc.) without you having to ask her first. But maybe she's waiting for you to ask. I think you need to make clear the expectations. It sounds like you yourself aren't clear, and you need to be clear first before you can communicate it to her.

By the way, I used to be an au pair, and that was how I saw it. Between 9am and 6pm I was "on duty", so I would take sole charge of the kids, unless their mother wanted it differently. And as a member of the family I would help to tidy up etc.

sponge Wed 01-Dec-04 16:51:49

My childminder picks up dd from school, cooks her tea and plays with her until I get home. I don't expect her to do any housework but she does clear up after dd's tea.
I think you need to decide what you want her to do and then be specific with her. If you want her to look after 3 small children then she can't really do that effectively and do a great deal else, but she should then do that well. You need to make it clear what your rules are so that she can be consistent with you over discipline which it sounds like she's struggling with. If your kids sense that they cen get away with things with her then they'll try it on so you have to let her know what you expect her to be firm about. She should be able to bath them and should be able to take responsibility for feeding them.

Ameriscot2004 Wed 01-Dec-04 17:39:28

I can tell you what mine is supposed to do...

Average of 3 hours housework and 3 hours childcare per day. Housework is light cleaning and tidying every room except ours, and washing/ironing for the children. Childcare is taking children to and from school and looking after children when I am out.

2 evenings of babysitting per week.

My au pair's hours are 8-11am and 3-6pm, or 8-9am and 1-6pm on language class days. If we are going out and I need the children fed before 6pm, I can ask her to do it.

I wouldn't ask her to prepare food outside of her normal work hours. Something that we don't get our au pair to do, but is a reasonable duty, is running to the shop for a pint of milk and loaf of bread.

My au pair doesn't do many of her duties very well, so we are letting her go at Christmas. She's our first au pair, and I can see how we made mistakes about communicating expectations - it's very hard to tighten up once you've become accustomed to a certain standard (especially with the language barriers). With our next au pair, we will not make the same mistakes.

With lots of small children, I think it would also be reasonable if you got help with the bed/bath routine, but obviously the work hours would have to be right for this.

I don't think you can really take advantage of an au pair unless you are making them work longer hours, making them do heavy work, leaving them for a long time in charge of young children, or not letting them go to language classes. I don't see that it makes a big difference as to their actual chores, as long as it doesn't run into their free-time.

pollyanna Wed 01-Dec-04 17:40:24

She doesn't have specific hours. She does go to college each day, so I fit around those hours. I do a schedule for her each week, which says when I expect her to be on duty. It is difficult because I am here I think. When I worked I had a nanny and there was no problem then - she basically took control when she was around, the children respected her and she did everything! As I am here, I don't feel I can just disappear when it is dinner/bath time (or perhaps I can?). I don't ask her to do anything except look after the children, other than the usual tidying things that I would have to do as I go along (like clear up after meals, load dishwasher, sweep etc) - I don't expect her to do any cleaning. Part of the problem is that she doesn't take any initiative, although she will do anything I ask her to do. And I don't really know what it is reasonable to ask an au pair to do - I know she isn't a nanny, and isn't paid as a nanny, but at the moment, quite frankly, she isn't worth it. I know this is mostly my fault as I am not allocating duties at all -and I wondered what other people's experience is.

Uwila Wed 01-Dec-04 17:41:37

I think anything related to childcare/housework/cooking/cleaning is fair game for an au pair. Of course, she can't do it all and look after 3 kids. But she could say do the children's laundry, keep their rooms tidy, b-sit during certain pre-determined hours, including a set weekend night if you and your dh/dp want to go out. (assuming the kids are old enough to be looked after by her -- not sure if you give her sole charge)

I would probably give her bathtime as well.

The only thing I don't like to delegate to my nanny is getting up and going to bed. That is my priviledge as a working mum. I actually get a bit cross if she gets to DD in the morning before me.

Ameriscot2004 Wed 01-Dec-04 17:42:38

Why aren't you getting her to do any cleaning? Do you have another cleaner?

You aren't doing the cleaning while she is playing with your children, are you?

pollyanna Wed 01-Dec-04 17:45:24

ameriscot, are you there at the same time as your au pair? Would she cook a meal from scratch for the children? (mine doesn't know how to cook toast!). all my au pair has done today is take ds to school (at 9) and pick him up at 4.45. I had the 2 other children all day, and have made dinner, although I have left her with them now (in desperation really) while they eat dinner.

I wonder whether any au pair, who is, basically, just a young girl, will ever live up to my expectations.

Uwila Wed 01-Dec-04 17:56:20

oh, pollyanna, hope you don't mind me being frank. But I think you would be a lot happier if you took on some delegation/management skills. You may have to teach her to do the things you want her to do, but you can expect her to do them. For example, if she doesn't know how to cook, start by making some meals that you know your kids like and show her how to do it. Like, you could every Sunday make dinner together, and after a couple of month she should know how to make a least a handful of recipes that you know your family likes. And, at 8 months pregnant, I would definitely have her cooking meals.

Also, if she doesn't know how to do laundry, show her. Then let her pick it up. Of course, you probably can't teach to be a gourmet cook and starch your sirts in a day. But, little by little, you'll have a good helper. And, it will make your life easier, which is what you need with a newborn on the way.

Oh, and definitely get her to do the baby bottles (if you use them) and keep the kitchen clean while you are recovering from birth.

posyhairdresser Wed 01-Dec-04 17:58:04

I would say it's fine to ask you aupair to do any household duties but only to work for about 4 hours in total a day, plus a bit of babysitting in the evenings sometimes.

You might need to show her how to do things the way you like them done/ teach her a few recipes!

Ameriscot2004 Wed 01-Dec-04 18:00:43

Yes, I am at home.

My au pair can cook, and she is quite good (she made us a few meals at the beginning). However, she doesn't realise that children have certain specifications with their food - ie no parsley sprinkled over it. She has made the same mistakes over and over and wonders why the children won't eat what she makes.

Now, I just ask her to make sandwiches - or supervise the children while they make their own. I've also asked her to peel potatoes to help me out.

I can't see how an au pair can ever be great (although I know they are out there). They have come here to learn English and have a bit of fun. Au pair work is just how they pay their way - it's not a career for them;there is no promotion. I don't think you can ever have very high expectations - and if you get one who does do a fantastic job, it is a huge bonus.

I think you need to be more formal about your au pair's hours and duties. It's madness to have her in your house and give her pocket money for simply accompanying your DS back and forth to school. I don't know your circumstances, but from what you've said here, I'd get her cleaning and also get her to take your other kids out to the playground (or the garden) for 30 minutes or so per day.

You should pick her hours so that she will be maximum benefit to you - presumably early morning and late afternoon for the school runs, and pack her duties into these times. I do two three-hour batches which gives her a decent amount of free-time in the middle of the day.

SantaFio2 Wed 01-Dec-04 18:02:51

breakfast
gets kids ready, takes dd to school
looks after ds
dyes my hair for me
helps me whilst I go shopping
babysits when we go out
see's to my husband when needed

she is a lovely girl

pollyanna Wed 01-Dec-04 18:04:56

We do have a cleaner once a week, but there is always plenty of cleaning to do! She will hoover whenever I ask, but would never do it without. And she has never,say, cleaned the bathroom. I did say at the outset that she should always check the children's washing basket and do their washing, but she shrank a load of clothes and hasn't done any washing since.
What kind of cleaning duties could be included?

I wouldn't clean while she looked after the kids, but I do at other times. If she is there at teatime, one of us might tidy toys away while the other helps the children, and then one of us would start bath time while the other clears up the tea things.

Actually I have come to the conclusion that she is pretty crap and I have been very wet about delegating duties. She is actually leaving at christmas as she has a full time job connected with her degree and I want to avoid the same problems again both by getting someone who would be able to take the initiative, but also by being much better at specifying duties.

it is helpful to know what other au pairs are expected to do.

pollyanna Wed 01-Dec-04 18:11:18

Uwila, I'm aware I'm being completely crap with her too!! Honestly, i'm not wet when I'm working or in any other area usually, but I know I am being pathetic with her!!

ssd Wed 01-Dec-04 19:02:03

pollanna,give yourself a break! You're VERY! pregnant with 3 little 'uns and it sounds like you've had a bad experience with a (too young?) au pair! I think childcare is a learning experience, from both sides of the fence!

Good luck next time! and of course with baby no. 4

pollyanna Wed 01-Dec-04 20:48:23

oh ssd thanks! You're right, I'll know better next time. Just need to find someone before Jan 1st (when baby no 4 is due).

redshoes Wed 01-Dec-04 21:06:50

Pollyanna, I am 37 weeks pregnant with my 4th, a SAHM and have just employed my first au pair! I did have an informal arrangement with a nanny 'friend' over the summer which didn't work out, but made me realise that I had to spell things out at the start - a steep learning curve...anyway, my au-pair is fantastic, although she is unusual in that she is English. I drew up a timetable for her which has worked well. I also suggested toddler groups etc for her to attend with younger child. She cleans twice a week. She is happy to pitch in with cooking. I think you have to be quite hard at the interview/initial stage in stating what you need, no point otherwise. Also you need to 'train' her in what you expect - she will probably be waiting for instructions...do think it's a bit of a lottery tho and have already put up my au pairs wages as I am so impressed with her! hth

redshoes Wed 01-Dec-04 21:08:29

oh and she does bathtime but I am around too at the moment as it is early days and the hardest job of all! I am sure she will be able to cope alone at some point tho...

pollyanna Wed 01-Dec-04 21:23:51

Redshoes we're in very similar positions! How old are your other three? do you leave her with your other children while you take a break?

I do have much more idea now what I want from an au pair based on this experience and will be more precise next time. and it sounds as though I could reasonably ask an au pair to do more, and expect more too.

oxocube Wed 01-Dec-04 21:29:33

I know I shouldn't really add to this thread as I've never had an au pair, but I do know plenty of mums who have and feel the need to stick up for au pairs here. I don't think its fair to say all au pairs are bound to be rubbish as they are basically just doing the job as a stop-gap to learn English (or another language). Most of the au-pairs I have met have been really lovely girls and their host families have been really happy with them. One of these girls is now our babysitter and our kids love her. I do think it is hard to be precise about duties and that it must be very much a learning process on both sides though. Hope it works out for you pollyanna.

pollyanna Wed 01-Dec-04 21:43:45

Oxocube, I didn't mean to slag off au pairs - I feel that my problems with my au pair have been caused by me and I have learnt what I need to do to get more help. I am always mindful of the fact that my au pair is a young, inexperienced girl earning not very much money which is why I am very anxious not to exploit her. I suppose the point was that nannies etc choose their jobs based on the fact they want to work with children, whereas many au pairs (mine included) do not intend to work with children in the long term. That doesn't stop them being good with children, but their motivation might be different.

Bozza Wed 01-Dec-04 21:55:01

When I was an au pair I was told by the agency that anything child related goes - so doing all their laundry, changing their beds, tidying and cleaning their rooms, tidying their belongings in the living areas, taking them to/from the school run and to other clubs/activities, to the park etc, cooking for them, playing with them, bathtime etc. Also expected to do general household things like run the dishwasher if it was full, buy a pint of milk if requuired etc. Like to think I took a bit more iniative than your au pair mind you.

lisalisa Thu 02-Dec-04 13:04:30

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