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Can you ever leave an au-pair in sole charge?

(25 Posts)
Prufrock Mon 14-Feb-05 14:11:54

We may be moving soon, and I plan to get an au-pair. I don't really need one, as dd will be at nursery 5 sessions a week, so I'll just have ds to look after, but I will (hopefully) have a big house to keep clean, and decorate, a garden to sort out, a homeopathy course to do in my "spare" time and a dh who works a 70 hour week. We will have the space, and I've worked out that it will be cheaper to have an au pair than a cleaner/ironer, gardener and occasional babysitter.

Anyway, my question - my course may entail me being away 10 weekends a year. On some of those weekends Chelsea will be playing at home, and going to Chelsea is DH's one pleasure. So would it be feasable to leave an au-pair in sole charge of a 1 and 3 year old for 6 hours on those weekends? Obviously time off would be given in the week to make up for it.

Tanzie Mon 14-Feb-05 14:22:27

Depends on how mature and responsible au pair is and if she is prepared to do it, I'd say. A friend of mine left her 18 year old au pair in charge of her 5 year old daughter who had chicken pox when she went on holiday for a week.
Which was irresponsible and unfair.

hercules Mon 14-Feb-05 14:24:48

I though aupairs werent allowed to be given sole charge although I could be very wrong.

FairyMum Mon 14-Feb-05 14:30:47

I used to be an au pair hundreds of years ago when I first came to London and I know plenty of au pairs left in charge of small children and babies. I personally would never ever let an au pair into my home, but there is no law against it. Just a big risk IMO.

ChicPea Mon 14-Feb-05 14:35:40

Au Pairs "officially" are not supposed to have sole charge of young children but really it is up to the parents. I would say she would have to have your complete and utter trust if you were to leave her in sole charge of your children who are very young at weekends or indeed a weekday. Is that 6 hours per day or 6 hours per weekend when Chelsea is playing?
Re: your garden and about Au Pairs being cheaper, etc., not sure what you are hoping an AP will do/can do in the garden!!

Prufrock Mon 14-Feb-05 14:56:44

6 hours on one day. Matches usually entail DH leaving at 12 and being back by 6. I know au -pairs aren't meant to be left in sole charge, but don't see that this is such a difficult thing for them to do - I would be perfectly happy to have a babysitter for that period. (Obv. only if au-pair proved capable)

And I am going to be gardening/decorating - the house we are looking to buy has a bare expanse of grass that I can't wait to get my hands on - but with DH working so much I would need somebody else to occupy ds to allow me the time to do it.

ChicPea Mon 14-Feb-05 15:07:38

It obviously is up to you and no doubt there are some fabulous ones out there. A friend of mine had a Czech Peadiactric Nurse years ago when her twins were new born and she said she was a gem. Maybe you could specify a teacher, nursery school teacher, nurse, etc if you go to an agency so you know they have reached a certain educational level? I had a temporary Au Pair (borrowed from a friend) at Christmas who was a Nursery School teacher and she was fabulous. I didn't leave her in sole charge as it was the hols and I didn't need to but she was Rumanian (sp?) and I would have offered her a job had my friend decided to let her go. She was as good as my South African qualified Nanny, if not better!!

Ameriscot2005 Mon 14-Feb-05 15:46:47

Technically, you wouldn't give an au pair sole charge of an under-3, but lots of au pairs come with experience that you wouldn't have found 20 or 30 years ago. Practically, I'm sure most families with under-3s are happy to leave them with the au pair for maybe an hour or two on odd occasions. My au pair likes to take my 2 year old to school with her when she is taking the others, and I think this is fairly normal.

A longer period on a regular basis is more in the nanny camp.

lisalisa Mon 14-Feb-05 16:21:47

Message withdrawn

Prufrock Mon 14-Feb-05 16:24:49

OK - so it's probably a bad idea. So what would you wise people suggest I do with my children for 6 hours on a Saturday 5-10 times a year?

lisalisa Mon 14-Feb-05 16:30:29

Message withdrawn

hercules Mon 14-Feb-05 16:31:02

No family at all?

Uwila Mon 14-Feb-05 17:10:34

There is no law preventing you from leaving an au pair in sole charge. However, as already pointed out here by other, you would have to assess her and determine if she is up to the job. Personally, I would hire her for some weekend babysitting when you can be around but out of the way. She can then gradually take on more responsibility bit by bit, and you can see whether or not you are comfortable with a six hour unsupervised stint.

How well do you know any babysitter? Surely not as well as someone who lives in your house. I would probably shy away from overnight or long days one after the other. But,I think 6 hours is reasonable for someone in say their twenties. I used to babysit for that long when I was a teenager, and I certainly didn't have any formal qualifications/certificates.

Smurfgirl Wed 16-Feb-05 13:51:08

I used to au-pair and I was on my own with the kids for 6 hours a dat, every day. I think it depends on the person, and your children.

hattiel Thu 17-Feb-05 16:47:32

Purfock don't dismiss the idea yet ! Last year i had a 24 year old Au pair who had done the job many times before, However i didn't feel comfortable leaving her in charge of youngest, but quite happy to leave her in charge of a 3 and 5 year old. She did have much insight into why babies do what they do.

I now have a much younger Au pair, she was 19 when she joined us. She has sole charge of 1 year old twins 2 afternoons a week. She has had sole charge of her sisters new born, in her own country and you can really shows. she extremely safety conscious, know what stimulates children at this age, has took them to toddlers groups, ensures they eat good food and she has first aid training. It obvious the twins really like her.

Before I let her have sole charge we talked about safety issues, what she would do in an emergency, who she would ring. I did check up on her in the begining.
I have also had 25 year old NNEB nursery nurse with 3 years experience who lasted two days then asked her to leave - thats another thread

Pamina3 Thu 17-Feb-05 16:52:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Prufrock Sun 20-Feb-05 15:17:31

aaagh - ds just lost my post.
But thanks for the hope.
Pamina- dh got his tickets then asked if it was OK for him to go! But they are doing it in one day.

ljcooper3 Sun 20-Feb-05 19:59:37

Au Pairs are not supposed to have sole charge of children, but it depends on what you feel, age of your children, experience they have etc.

I know alot of families that give their au pairs sole charge but they have school age children, so the au pair takes them and collects them from school. They are also only supposed to work up to 25 hours a week.

beachyhead Wed 23-Feb-05 11:19:57

Hi Prufrock

A friend of mine who has an aupair will leave her kids in her sole charge, but will tell her parents/good friends so there is someone who is around as a back up ( I know her mum sometimes 'pops in' on those odd days when the AP is there on her own....

Might give the AP a bit more confidence knowing she has a back up, so to speak....

But I agree, completely depends on the person and your confidence in her. You will know very quickly after getting her whether this is a possibility or not. It will be a gut reaction.....

KateandtheGirls Wed 23-Feb-05 11:24:21

Would you be happy leaving your daughter with a trusted, responsible babysitter for 6 hours? If the answer is yes, then I don't see a reason that you couldn't leave her with an au pair, assuming the au pair was happy to do it.

Personally I wouldn't hire an au pair if I didn't trust her enough to babysit the kids, even if it isn't technically what they're supposed to do.

Ameriscot2005 Wed 23-Feb-05 11:37:18


I don't think the issue is as much child safety - as you say, you wouldn't want an au pair you weren't confident in, and most au pairs will do their 2 nights a week babysitting which is sole charge, by definition.

I think the main issue is the question of responsibility and pay. Even though they are capable of the responsibility, you are not paying them the right wage for it. Long periods of sole charge would be the territory of a nanny, with the much higher wage.

I do think that it is possible to bend the "rules" to suit your unique situation - after all, flexibility is one of the things you look for in an au pair.

The key thing is to be confident that the au pair is up to the job (and you can't really determine that until you get to know her). Then you decide what exactly she's allowed to do and not do with the children, whether she is to take them out of the house or not. After that, you negotiate a reasonable level of remuneration/time off in lieu.

Bozza Wed 23-Feb-05 11:49:11

To me it seems a perfectly good idea. Agree with KATG about not hiring an au pair who isn't up to babysitting. Presumably you could make occasional Saturdays part of the contract, maybe replacing the evening babysitting that week. And seeing as you are a SAHM she is probably not going to be overworked the rest of the time. I looked after a 3yo and a 1yo when I was an au pair with no problem. And shock yes it was sometimes on a Saturday because the Mum was a flight attendant (so sometimes working weekends) and the Dad worked long hours in a stressful job (bit like your DH) and so sometimes wanted time out at the weekend.

Ameriscot2005 Wed 23-Feb-05 12:36:46

My au pair works Tuesday - Saturday, with Sundays and Mondays off. I think it is OK to include Saturdays in their core hours, as long as they can have some whole weekends off.

My au pair has quite a good set-up because if we don't need her to babysit on Saturday evenings, she can work the whole morning and then basically have 2.5 days off.

Prufrock Wed 23-Feb-05 12:44:58

Thanks for the continuing reassurance that it might work. I would be very careful to make sure that an au-pair was happy with the situation and give plenty of time off/exra wages to compensate.
It is a hypothetical siuation now though - we've spent so much on our dream house that I can't really afford the course fees this year, let alone an au-pair. But after next February .....

Bozza Wed 23-Feb-05 14:55:38

Oh well prufrock. By then at least DS will be that bit older and easier to leave with the au pair.

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